Ministers Column October 2018

Dear Ones:

Our October ministry theme is sanctuary. We’ve been talking a lot about sanctuary as the peace of mind and physical protection we expect to offer to people seeking to avoid deportation—and, of course, we will continue to talk about it that way. But I also think it’s important to explore sanctuary in all its meanings. I’m mindful that we often refer to our main meeting hall at UUS:E as “the sanctuary.” I’m mindful that we sometimes refer to those “joys and sorrows that remain unspoken in the sanctuaries of our hearts.” I’m mindful that for so many members and friends of UUS:E, our meetinghouse and our congregational community offer sanctuary from the stresses of a chaotic nation and world, from the rush and crush of busy lives, from the everyday anxieties we carry with us. A sanctuary is a place of safety and protection, a place of retreat and reflection, a place of beauty and creation.

UUS:E is a sanctuary for all of us.

My colleague, the Rev. Angela Herrera, writes: “All that you need / for a deep and comforting peace to grow / lies within you. / Once it is in your heart / let it spread into your life, / let it pour from your life into the world – / and once it is in the world, / let it shine upon all beings.” These words appear in Rev. Herrera’s 2012 meditation manual, Reaching for the Sun. They speak to me about the value of a sanctuary like UUS:E. Indeed, I think of UUS:E as a place where each of us can peer within and find what we need for a “deep and comforting peace to grow.” (Find that place in you, where you may go, when you yearn for peace.) And I think of UUS:E as a place that encourages us to pour the peace in our hearts out into the world—to “let it shine on all beings.” (That place from which you reach out to others who are suffering.)

How has UUS:E been a sanctuary for you? Has it provided refuge at a time in your life when you were vulnerable? Has it offered direction at a time in your life when you felt aimless? Has it offered solidarity at a time when you needed to not face life alone? In a culture whose values skew toward the material, the technological and the crass, has UUS:E helped you raise your children to value spirituality, human connection and love? I’m not just asking a rhetorical question. I really want to know your answers. Please share with me how you’ve experienced UUS:E as a sanctuary. You can email me at revpawelek@gmail.com or call at 860-652-8961.

And then there is the question many of you have asked: When will UUS:E provide sanctuary to a person seeking to avoid deportation? The truth is, we don’t know. We’ve been “on alert” three times since we voted to become a sanctuary congregation in May. But in each case, the person or family in question was able to resolve their legal issues and remain in the United States. Still, we know from news reports that people are being deported in record numbers. While we actually shouldn’t want to ever have to offer this kind of sanctuary, now that we’ve made it known we are ready, it’s only a matter of time before someone in profound need will accept our offer. I wish we didn’t live in a world where congregations had to make such offers. But since we do live in such a world, I am proud that we are ready.

With love,

—Rev. Josh