Bridging / Thoughts on Reopening — UUS:E Virtual Worship, May 17, 2020

Friends: You can watch the video of our May 17th service, including our bridging ceremony,  on the UUS:E Youtube channel.

The test to Rev. Josh Pawelek’s homily is here:

I want to share a few thoughts on what it means for us to get back to normal. By “us” I mean not only those of us in this service – but us as the wider communities of Manchester and Greater Hartford, us as the people of Connecticut, us as a nation.

Earlier we conducted our bridging ceremony. I want to offer congratulations again to John, Sarah, Nate and Mason. And I want to affirm that it’s a very strange and unnerving time to be bridging into young adulthood. The University of California announced this week that it would only be offering online learning for the coming academic year. I suspect each of you will be encountering similar decisions by the schools you are planning to attend this fall. There are many unknowns, and yet one thing we do know is that you will not be launching into young adulthood the way high school graduates always have. Please know that whatever happens, we are here for you. We are committed to supporting you, along with all the other UUS:E young adults who are experiencing disruption at this formative time in their lives.

What about the rest of us? What kind of future are we bridging into?

On Thursday the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Safe Congregation Team released guidance on how to safely return to in-person congregational gatherings. While that guidance is not definitive for us, we need to take it seriously. And the bottom line is sobering. They recommend not returning to regular in-person gatherings until May of 2021. In making this recommendation they are asking us to account for the most vulnerable people among us – not only in our congregation, but also in the wider community. That is, if our UUS:E community were to gather too soon and become instrumental in the spread of a new outbreak, it would not only negatively impact our people, which for me is unacceptable; it would negatively impact people in the wider community. That is also unacceptable. The UUA’s guidance is grounded first and foremost in “our abiding care and concern for the most vulnerable, inside and outside our congregations” and the “recognition that we are part of an interdependent web and, as such, our risk-taking and our protective actions affect far more than just ourselves.”[1]

We won’t be re-opening any time soon, which means we’re going to have to be innovative and creative in all the ways we offering programming, and especially in how we keep our congregational community connected. And when we finally do re-open, we will not be the same community. This social distancing time is going to change us. We are not bridging back to our old ‘normal.’ Something new awaits. We will discover this ‘something new’ as a congregation over the coming year.

The UUA’s guidance flies in the face of the widespread impulse to re-open the country. Connecticut begins re-opening on Wednesday. Other states have already begun re-opening, even states where the infection rate is still on the rise. Here’s my question: Are those in charge of re-opening taking the most vulnerable people into account? Are those in charge of re-opening acting out of an “abiding care and concern for the most vulnerable?” Do those pushing the hardest for re-opening recognize “that we are part of an interdependent web and, as such, our risk-taking and our protective actions affect far more than just ourselves?”

Ten days ago I was in a meeting with clergy from the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance. It was so striking to hear urban and suburban faith leaders compare notes on their experience of the pandemic. Case in point: the membership of our largely white, suburban congregation has had very little exposure to the coronavirus, and only a few positive tests. We have had no deaths. Yet my colleagues serving largely black, urban congregations report widespread infection and multiple deaths. One highly community-oriented pastor said he was getting at least a phone call a day to conduct a memorial service for someone who had died of Covid-19. Other pastors reported widespread food insecurity and economic hardship. The pandemic has exposed beyond a shadow of a doubt the many race-based economic, social and health disparities in our nation. The high infection and death rates among people of color aren’t a novelty. They are a clear-as-day symptom of the old normal. On the GHIAA call this pastor, speaking through quiet tears, said “we cannot go back to that.”

Friends: I don’t know what the future holds. None of us does. But as a society we cannot bridge back to the old normal. We cannot go back to being the wealthiest nation in the world without understanding that for that wealth to exist the way it does, tens of millions of low-wage workers, immigrants, undocumented people, Black and Latinx people must live with intolerable insecurity, just a breath away from economic ruin or personal health crisis or both.

We’ve been trying to help, raising money to address food insecurity, to support undocumented people facing ICE proceedings, to support domestic workers who’ve gotten sick, and now to support non-union rest stop workers who’ve lost their jobs. These efforts matter because they help vulnerable people survive the pandemic. But let’s be clear: they don’t change the old normal. Are we ready to be in the fight for a new society?

I hope we are. The old normal was a moral failing on the part of our nation. Now, with the coronavirus, it’s a moral catastrophe unfolding before our eyes. We cannot go back to where we were. In all your conversations about re-opening, and in every interaction you may have with officials who have a role to play in the re-opening, demand two things:

All re-opening decisions must be grounded in a demonstrable and “abiding care and concern for the most vulnerable.”

All re-opening decisions must start from a “recognition that we are part of an interdependent web and, as such, our risk-taking and our protective actions affect far more than just ourselves.”

If these values can be brought to bear in the re-opening phase, we will be on our way to a better future for everyone. In my view, fighting for this future now is a moral imperative. May we find our way into this fight.

Amen and blessed be.

 

“Bridging” — UUS:E Virtual Sunday Service, May 17, 2020

Gathering Music (Begins at 9:50)

Welcome and Announcements

(Special thanks to Dorothy Bognar is providing our piano music this morning!)

Prelude “Rhythmic Etudes #30” (by Allen Vizzutti) (Performed by bridging senior John Slogesky)

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words  “Cusp of a New Day” (Patrice K. Curtis) (Spoken by youth group member Casey Campellone)

Divine Universe,

here I stand on the cusp of a new day.

All may seem the same at first, a simple continuum of the day before.

I do not know what this day will bring for me.

Yet what I do know: I am one day older.

I am one day closer to that final breath.

May I carry within me then times of quiet

so that I may feel the pulse of my connection to all beings,

that I may hear the whisper of Earth in my bones.

May I use my hands, head, and heart in service

to heal hurt and to spread light.

 

Opening Hymn “Though I May Speak With Bravest Fire” (Trad. English Melody, words by Hal Hopson)

Though I may speak with bravest fire, and have the gift to all inspire,
and have not love, my words are vain as sounding brass and hopeless gain.

Though I may give all I possess, and striving so my love profess,
but not be given by love within, the profit soon turns strangely thin.

Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control, our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed; by this we worship, and are freed.

Bridging  Ceremony

Congregational Response to our Bridgers

We bless you today.
May your mind be on fire with wonder and wisdom;
May your heart be aflame with love for this life;
May your hands be ignited with purpose;
And may your spirit be aglow with courage and compassion.
Wherever you may go, our steadfast love goes with you.

Whenever you return, you have a spiritual home here.

We bless you.
We love you.
May you be blessings to the world.

Song “Go Now in Peace” (Natalie Sleeth)

Go now in peace, go now in peace

May the love of God surround you

Everywhere, everywhere, you may go.

Joys and Concerns

Offering  

This morning we begin taking a community outreach offering that is a bit different for us. In the coming two weeks we are raising funds for specific workers who have been identified by the area labor organizers. Specifically, we are going to raise funds for a  group of workers who lost work at the rest stops on I-95 due to the coronavirus. These are non-union workers who were in the middle of a campaign to form a union. Without union membership, they have been treated horribly by their employers. A number of them contracted COVID-19 due to their employers not taking their safety seriously. A few of them have died, leaving their families in dire straights. Our goals is to  spread the funds we raise among these families. Further: if individual UUS:E members want to “adopt” a specific family, they have the option to do that. You can inform Rev. Josh  if you’re interested.

Offering Music  “More Than This” (Miles Mosely) (Performed by bridging senior Mason Pawelek)

Homily  “Back to Normal?” (Rev. Josh Pawelek)

Closing Song “There’s a River Flowin’ in My Soul” (Rose Sanders, aka Faya Ora Rose Touré)

There’s a river flowin’ in my soul

There’s a river flowin’ in my soul

And it’s tellin’ me, that I’m somebody

There’s a river flowin’ in my soul

 

There’s a river flowin’ in my heart…..

 

There’s a river flowin’ in my mind….

 

Extinguishing the Chalice

Closing Circle

May faith in the spirit of life

And hope for the community of earth

And love of the light in each other

Be ours now and in all the days to come.

 

Coffee Hour / Chat