Minister’s Column June 2019

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for June is beauty. I find myself struggling with this theme. I struggle because there is so much ugliness in the world. So much hatred. So much corruption. So much suffering. So much exclusion. So much inequity. So much environmental degradation. So much apathy and indifference. I struggle because a central pillar of my call to ministry is naming and confronting the ugliness. That’s why I dedicate a significant amount of my time as a minister engaged in community and interfaith organizing, antiracism work, social justice work and legislative advocacy. I have found these to be the best vehicles for “naming” and “confronting.” But there’s got to be room for beauty as well.

I don’t feel comfortable remaining silent in the face of what I’m calling ugliness. (I also call it evil.) Silence really does equal complicity. When I pause to consider how the Unitarian Universalist principles inform my ministry, well, they don’t allow for silence either. Along with so many of my colleagues in ministry, I interpret the principles as a call for us to name and confront violence, oppression, injustice and hatred—all those forces that suppress the inherent worth and dignity of people, that reduce justice, equity and compassion in human relations, that prevent the emergence of a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. We are indeed called to name and confront the ugliness in the world. But there’s got to be room for beauty as well.

We cannot go about our lives as if the ugliness isn’t there. We cannot live in denial. It isn’t a spiritually sound way to live. But neither can we go about our lives as if beauty isn’t real. Neither can we live in denial of the beauty all around us. That isn’t spiritually sound either.

So, I need some help. I want to preach a sermon called “O, the Beauty in the World.” That’s a riff off hymn #182 in our hymnal, Bishop Toribio Quimada’s “O, the Beauty in a Life.” Please write to me at revpawelek@gmail.com and tell me about the beauty in the world. What do you find beautiful? It could be a natural phenomenon, a person, a piece of music, a painting, a town or city, a vacation spot, a room in your home, a mountain, a river, a tree. It could be an act of creativity. It could even be the act of naming and confronting evil.

Tell me what you experience as beautiful. I will compile your comments into a reading in the June 30 Sunday service.

This isn’t an idle exercise. Naming and reveling in the beauty of the world has the power to carry us through difficult times. Naming and reveling in the beauty of the world has the power to generate joy in the midst of despair. Naming and reveling in the beauty of the world has the power to inspire us when we are feeling lost and directionless. Naming and reveling in the beauty of the world may be exactly what we need to ground us and sustain us in the struggle for justice.

So, please let me know what you experience as beautiful.

With love and many blessings for a wonderful summer.

With love,

—Rev. Josh