Minister’s Column for May 2020

Hallelujah!

Dear Ones:

I hope and trust you are well. I write these words as we begin approaching the end of April. The COVID-19 infection curve in Connecticut appears to be flattening at this time, though the data isn’t consistent enough for us to know for sure. I am hopeful that by the time you read this we’ll have slightly greater clarity. And I am hopeful that as we enter more fully into May, we’ll start to hear reasonable, scientifically-based predictions of when we might safely open our meeting house to more regular activity.

Having said this, please know I don’t expect we will be able to resume regular activity in the very near future. Some statistical models suggest July as an earliest possible time. Others suggest much, much later. There are still so many unknowns. Even when we finally are able to return, we will likely do it in phases. Only small meetings at first, always with social distancing. Safety will be our highest priority. Can we return safely? What is our definition of safety? How will we measure safety? These will be our questions. Even though return is likely still many months away, the UUS:E Policy Board will begin discussing return scenarios at its May meeting. We want to be ready when the time comes.

For now, we continue in lockdown. We continue with social distancing. We continue trying to figure out how to be of service to those who are struggling. We continue trying to figure out how to live in this strange, isolating reality. In my pastoral conversations with many of you, and in my small group meetings and virtual office hours, I often ask the question, What are you looking forward to? Some of you respond that you are looking forward to online gatherings with family and friends, favorite TV shows, going outside for a hike, moments of creativity. Some of you respond with “I’m looking forward to going back to UUS:E!” Understandably, some of you have trouble answering the question. Especially now that we’re two months into the lockdown and the days and weeks are starting to blur together, it’s sometimes hard to know what we’re looking forward to. There’s another question I am starting to ask, which is a more difficult question to answer. What are you grieving? I started asking this question when I recognized that my oldest son turned 18 in April. That fact alone is hard to believe. But turning 18 feels like such a milestone. It signifies a transition to adulthood. There should be some public right-of-passage. High school graduation? Well, he’ll graduate, but it won’t be the quintessential high school graduation. There won’t be a public celebration. There won’t be a big party. I realized I am grieving the loss of this moment in his life. I was looking forward to it. As his parent, it’s my achievement too. It’s my time to feel pride. I’ve lost that.

I’m sure you’ve lost something to COVID-19 too. Or perhaps you’ve lost someone to COVID-19. What is the content of your grief? It’s important to ask what we’re looking forward to. Answering that question keeps us hopeful. But I don’t want to underestimate the loss we are also experiencing. We know it is good and right to grieve when we experience loss. We know it is spiritually healthy to feel the loss to its fullest, to let it live in us so that we can learn to live with it. So I ask you this questions as well: What have you lost? As always, I am available to talk further with you about this. I welcome your calls or emails. And I also encourage you to talk to each other. Naming our losses is part of the healing. And, ultimately, it will be part of our return to our beloved meeting house on West Vernon St. in Manchester.

With much love and care,

—Rev. Josh

 

Minister’s Column April 2020

Dear Ones:

Let me begin with a heartfelt expression of love and care for all of you. This coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives in ways none of us could have anticipated just a few months ago. To say the least, it is frightening. As I write these words in mid-March, we don’t yet know how long it will last. We don’t yet know the scope of the economic impact, though we know for sure it will be massive. There are still so many unknowns. I’m mindful that there are times when I’ve preached a message of “embracing the unknown.” Well, that sounds a bit romantic right now, perhaps even naïve. This pandemic is not an unknown any of us wants to embrace. Yet, we also have little choice. The pandemic is here. It is frightening. In the midst of it, please know that I love each and every one of you. I love our congregation. I love our UU faith. I will do whatever I can to keep us connected, to keep us caring for one another, and to keep us resilient as a spiritual community.

As I write we are in the midst of a transition to “virtual church.” We are learning as we go. Already there are many meetings and small groups happening online, usually using Zoom. By the time you read this, I hope we have ramped up our capacity for online engagement so that many more of you are able to connect on a regular basis. If you are at all unclear about how to use Zoom or how to engage with UUS:E’s emerging online life, please do not hesitate to contact me at minister@uuse.org, (860) 652-8961or Annie Gentile in the UUS:E office at office@uuse.org, 860-646- 5151.

We are getting good advice from congregations in hard-hit areas like Washington state and New York City. They are telling the rest of us not to try to replicate normal congregational life online. People aren’t necessarily looking for the same kinds of programs. They are looking for experiences and interactions that address our immediate situation. If you have an idea for a kind of online experience you’d like to have with others from UUS:E, please let us know. We will help you set it up and publicize it so that others who are looking for something similar can have access to it as well.

Regarding Sunday services, we conducted our first livestream service using Zoom on March 15. As I write these words, we have been addressing some of the technical issues we encountered that morning, especially the sound quality of the music. Special thanks to Jane Osborn, Dan Thompson, Phil Bognar, Gina Campellone and Mary Bopp for their work on addressing this particular issue. They’ve done such a good job that we are planning to start a weekly virtual concert series on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM with Mary and some of the UUS:E musicians. By the time you read this we will likely already have held a concert or two.

We are not going to plan Sunday services too far in advance. For example, you won’t see in this newsletter any blurbs about upcoming services. This will allow me, Gina, Mary and the Sunday Services Committee to design live stream services that are as relevant as possible to what we are going through as a community, nation and planet. But please be assured our plan is to have a consistent live-stream service every Sunday morning at 10:00 AM. Instructions for logging in or phoning in will be sent every Saturday.

For sharing Joys and Concerns on Sunday morning, we now have a specific email address. Send your brief joys and concerns to joysandconcerns@uuse.org. We will share them during the service.

This is so hard. I am praying. I am praying for health care workers. I am praying for first responders. I am praying for grocery store workers and everyone else whose work supports food production and distribution. I am praying for all those who have lost jobs who were already living from paycheck to paycheck. I am praying for all those who are trying to figure out childcare now that their children are home from school. I am praying for all those who are and will be sick with COVID-19. I am praying for the families of those who have died. I don’t know what impact my prayers will have, but I hope that as I pray I orient myself toward doing what I need to do for me, for my family, for my neighborhood, for the most vulnerable in our region, and perhaps most importantly, for all of you, the members and friends of the Unitarian Universalist Society: East. As a reminder, you called me to be your minister exactly 17 years ago (March, 2003). So now I begin my 18th year as your called minister. I begin in prayer that we may endure this global pandemic with as much grace and integrity as we can muster. I begin in prayer that we will get through this difficult time, and carry on for all the days to come.

Indeed, I pray:

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.

With love,

– Rev. Josh

UUS:E Special Message — Coronavirus

Dear UUS:E Members, Friends, and Visitors:

With sadness and an abundance of caution in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I write to inform you that the UUS:E Policy Board and staff have made the decision to suspend all large-group programming at UUS:E until further notice. This suspension includes Sunday morning services and religious education. For now, we are postponing or canceling any events or meetings with more than ten people, including the Annual Appeal pot luck meals. However, the meeting house will be accessible. If you have a small event or meeting planned at UUS:E and you would still like to hold it, you may do so. Even so, we urge you to consider using online meeting tools like Zoom, Facebook, Skype, etc. We can offer support in setting up online meetings. We have made this decision not out of fear or panic, but out of care, concern, and love for our community.

Given the strong advice from Governor Lamont, state health officials, the Centers for Disease Control, and our own Unitarian Universalist Association, we feel not only that this is the right decision, but that we have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to help reduce avenues for transmission of the coronavirus.

As UUA President, Susan Frederick-Gray, wrote on March 12, “we believe it is our moral obligation to follow the guidance of health professionals who recommend early action even before cases have been confirmed in an area because it is most important to protect public health and the most vulnerable people in our communities. This moment indeed reminds us of the interconnected web of which we are all a part. It also reminds us of our responsibility as religious communities to be mindful of our need to care for our whole community.”

This is a heartbreaking — but necessary — decision. It’s important to remember that it is only for the time being. This crisis will pass and in time we will be together in person in our beloved meeting house on Elm Hill in Manchester, east of the Connecticut River. And we will be proud that we made this decision to care for each other, our families, our neighbors, and our communities.

We are currently exploring how to hold a virtual worship service on Sunday mornings. Our best guess at this time is that we will hold one service at 10:00 a.m. We will use the Eblast to send information about how to login or call into the service.

We are also exploring how to continue offering religious education programming for children online. Families with children can expect to hear more from our Director of Religious Education, Gina Campellone.

Finally, we want to keep you connected to each other as best we can. The UUS:E Pastoral Friends Committee members will be reaching out to many of you in the coming weeks to check-in. We also urge you to reach out to each other. Make calls, send texts and emails, write letters. And if you have ideas for how our congregation can stay connected during this challenging time, we want to hear them. Please feel free to contact me at minister@uuse.org or (860) 652-8961. And if you are not receiving the weekly eBlast, please click below to sign up.

With love and care,

Rev. Josh

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Minister’s Column March 2020

Dear Ones:

I’d like to share some thoughts about raising MONEY at UUS:E!

First, our annual appeal kicks off on March 1st. Those of you who’ve been around UUS:E for more than a year know how this works. Sign up for a pledging pot luck. If you can’t, please expect an annual appeal steward to contact you for a one-on-one meeting. Please get back to them in a timely fashion. They want to know why and how UUS:E matters in your life!

The cost of operating a nearly 300-member congregation never seems to decline. It only seems to rise. So, as always, we’re asking for increases in financial pledging for the next fiscal year. What drives our projected increases? The Policy Board has set a number of important goals: matching our staff compensation and benefits to UUA guidelines; supporting initiatives to enhance building security; paying dues to the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance, and providing sustainable funding for our Membership Coordinator (we hope to rehire this position over the summer).

But making a generous pledge for the coming year is not just about reaching these short-term goals. It’s also an ongoing investment in our spiritual home. Indeed, your investment ensures there will be a home for liberal religion east of the Connecticut River for many years to come—a home for the free and responsible search for truth and meaning; a home for our children to develop their religious identities; a home for beautiful music and compelling visual art; a home for the growth of heart, mind, soul, and relationships; a home that sends us forth to work for justice and equity in the wider community. Our theme for this year’s annual appeal is “Building Beloved Community Through Generosity.” Please plan to make as generous a pledge possible for all we do to build beloved community at UUS:E.

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Second, as some of you are aware, our congregation, like many congregations around the country, is regularly harassed by scammers. They typically pose as me or our president, Rob Stolzman. Using fake email addresses, they send requests for gift cards to UUS:E members and friends. Please ignore these messages. And please know that we will never ask anyone at UUS:E for any kind of donation in this way.

Third, thanks to everyone who participated in February’s sixth annual UUS:E Chocolate Auction. Thanks to the bakers and the bidders. We had everything from good old-fashioned chocolate cake, to chocolate meringue pie, to black bean chocolate brownies and much, much more. The auction earned just under $1300 for UUS:E.

Finally, speaking of fundraisers, the UUS:E policy board is looking to develop our fundraising efforts over the next year. We’re about to put together a team to manage the UUS:E virtual tag sale on eBay. If you’d like to be part of that team, let me know. We’re also in the early planning stages for a vendor-based fair, the “All Creatures Great and Small Festival.” This is a day-long event scheduled for September 26th. It will showcase animal-related services: medical, training, adoption, therapy, etc. There will be live-animal demonstrations, crafts for sale, an art show, raffle and much more. We need volunteers for publicity, set-up, clean-up, parking, managing finances, food prep, and foodservice. We need you! Contact our office at uuseoffice@uuse.org to get involved.

There’s still more. Want to cook a gourmet meal for the UUS:E community to have a night out at Chez UU? Want to work on a team exploring how to rent out our kitchen to local food vendors for off-hours food prep? Contact me.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the end of winter and beginning of spring!

With love,
—Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column February 2020

Dear Ones:
Our February ministry theme is resilience. Certain questions come to mind. What keeps us resilient when we encounter challenging times in our personal or family life—the death of a loved-one, news of a difficult diagnosis, loss of a job? What keeps us resilient as we encounter and witness the brokenness in our human family stemming from deep-seated oppressions—racism, sexism, homophobia, classism? What keeps us resilient as climate change continues to progress and our leaders seem incapable of taking action to address it? In my view, one of the purposes of a church like UUS:E is to help each of us answer these questions well.
Our Soul Matters resources remind us that resilience comes “from the Latin re ‘back’ and saliens ‘the beginning, the starting point, the heart of the embryo.’ Saliens also holds the suggestion of movement; to leap, to flow, to run, to hurry.” They point out that “one definition of resilience is the ability to return to one’s original shape after it has been unexpectedly jolted, stretched, flattened, bent, etc.” They ask, “Where are you in the journey of resilience? Starting to feel pulled? Already significantly bent? Stretched and worried about snapping? Slowly returning to form? Still trying to figure out what’s causing the kink? Gratefully back? Realizing there’s no going back to that original shape?” I like this line of questioning and I offer it to you for your contemplation during this cold, winter month.
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I want to highlight a few things I am looking forward to this month:

First, I am excited to be working with Rabbi Richard Plavin who will be offering a course at UUS:E on the Jewish Liturgical Year. While we discuss various Jewish Holy Days during Sunday morning worship, Rabbi Plavin will provide more depth and explain how it all fits together. Classes take place on Thursdays, Feb. 13, 20 and 27 from 4:00 to 5:30. Sign up in the UUS:E office.

Second, I will be running the UUS:E Chocolate Aauction on Sunday the 16th, following the 11:00 service. Always fun. Do not miss it!

Third, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s “common read” this year is Roxanne Ortiz-Dunbar’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. From the UUA website: “This extraordinary book challenges readers to learn US history through a narrative that centers the story, the experiences, and the perspectives of Indigenous peoples. In 2019, Beacon Press published an adaptation for young people by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese. Upending myths and misinformation that have been promulgated by leaders and media, it asks readers to reconsider the origin story of the United States taught to every US school child.” Our Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee will be coordinating book discussions in the spring. Now is the time to purchase the book and begin reading!

Finally, as many of you will remember, a year ago our Growth Strategy Team (GST) took a comprehensive survey of all UUS:E members and friends in an effort to discover what keeps people engaged in the life of our congregation. On Saturday, February 29 from 9:00 to 11:00, the GST will present the findings. All are welcome and highly encouraged to join us. On that same day from 11:00 to 1:00, the GST will work with UUS:E leaders and anyone else who is interested on how to respond concretely to the survey results. See our Policy Board Column in this newsletter for more info. I hope you can make it!

With love,
—Rev. Josh

Ministers Column January 2020

Dear Ones:

Happy New Year! I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to begin 2020—UUS:E’s 51st year! Sorry, no big anniversary celebrations this year! But now that we’ve spent a year dedicating a good portion of our collective energy to reviewing the past five decades of our existence, it’s time to look forward. UUS:E leaders are beginning to envision a new strategic planning process. This process will be informed by the results of last year’s congregational survey. I am excited for us to now take a very intentional look at the future of our congregation!

Speaking of the new year, I’ve always loved a reading from the 20th-century Christian mystic Howard Thurman called “The Work of Christmas.” It’s #615 in our hymnal. He writes:

When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the [siblings],
to make music in the heart.

This reading says to me: “You’ve celebrated your values. Now that the festivities are over, put your values into action!”

Our ministry theme for January is integrity. Putting one’s values into action, living one’s values—which is what Thurman’s post-Christmas reading is about—is a definition of integrity. Our theme-based ministry resource, Souls Matters, reminds us that “Integrity stems from the Latin word ‘integer’ which means whole and complete. So integrity requires an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of character. When you are in integrity, people should be able to visibly see it through your actions, words, decisions, methods, and outcomes. When you are ‘whole’ and consistent, there is only one you. You bring that same you wherever you are, regardless of the circumstance. You don’t leave parts of yourself behind.”

It has always been my hope that being part of the UUS:E community helps each of us to live with integrity—to be whole and consistent, to be fully ourselves. That is also my hope for us as a congregation. Within the context of our UU principles and our congregational covenant, what are our core values and how do we live them out? How do we put them into action? What is the shape of our integrity? How do people in the wider community recognize it? I suspect these will be ongoing, underlying questions for us as we begin taking that intentional look toward our UUS:E future. In the meantime, if you have thoughts about integrity, I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to reach out to me.

Once again, happy new year! Here’s to a great 2020 at UUS:E!

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Ministers Column December 2019

Dear Ones:
When I explain Unitarian Universalism to people who have no familiarity with our faith, it is predictable that those who have at least some exposure to Christianity will ask some version of this question: If you do not believe Jesus is the son of God, why do you celebrate Christmas? It might also be this question: If you do not believe in the virgin birth (or the star, or the wise men, etc.,) why do you celebrate Christmas? A corollary question, which is even more difficult to answer: If you do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, why do you celebrate Easter?

I am not sure why, but this year, I am finding these kinds of questions frustrating. It is not the people who ask them—they are usually genuinely curious. What is frustrating is the uncritical assumption that a full-on, heartfelt embrace of Christmas requires a very specific set of beliefs. I am frustrated at having to explain (or at anticipating having to explain) that belief is only one pathway into Christmas. So much of what happens at Christmas has nothing to do with belief. It has to do with culture, family traditions, and the survival of ancient pre-Christian rituals. And it has to do with hope. The earth begins tilting its northern latitudes back toward the sun on the winter solstice. For millennia that phenomenon inspired hope in human hearts. Christianity came along relatively recently in the grand scheme of human history and grafted its stories and beliefs onto a more ancient and diffuse set of celebrations.

I do not read the Biblical stories about the birth of Jesus through the lens of belief. I read them as stories of hope—hope for peace on our planet. And that is all I am going to say when people ask me this year. I am a hopeful person. Moreover, our Unitarian Universalist faith is a hopeful faith. We celebrate Christmas—we worship on Christmas Eve—because we are hopeful people. And like everyone else, we hunger for hopeful messages, hopeful stories, hopeful visions. Like everyone else, we need that reminder that love keeps breaking into the world, repeatedly, bringing healing, transformation, and peace.

Yes, that is what I am going to say this year. We are hopeful people. We celebrate Christmas as, among other things, a way to affirm hope, to instill hope in our hearts, and to spread hope into a hurting world.

****

On another note: A friend of UUS:E is looking for housing, preferably an apartment with one bedroom that can accommodate two twin beds in the Manchester, Vernon or Rockville area, and preferably on or near a bus line. She can afford a maximum of $700. If you know of any leads, please let me know, and I will forward the info.

****

Friends: I wish you the very best holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and a very happy new year.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

 

Ministers Column November 2019

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for November is attention. Paying attention is, at its most basic level, a spiritual practice: paying attention to your body, your feelings, your thoughts as they arise and recede; paying attention to whatever is right in front of you, whatever is happening in the present moment; paying attention to the blessings in your life; playing attention to the ugliness and pain in your life; paying attention to beauty; paying attention to evil. Paying attention in any of these ways connects us to something that matters. That’s why I say paying attention, at its most basic level, is a spiritual practice.

In her poem, “Gratitude,” Mary Oliver asks a series of questions that invite us to pay attention. She asks:

What did you notice?

What did you hear?

When did you admire?

What astonished you?

What would you like to see again?

What was most tender?

What was most wonderful?

What did you think was happening?

(By the way, this poem appears online on a number of websites. It’s worth reading. I found it here: http://www.findingsolace.org/gratitude-by-mary-oliver/.)

I offer these questions for your contemplation during the month of November. Keep a record of your answers—Daily? Weekly? After a Thanksgiving meal? After the UUS:E holiday fair? After a Sunday service at UUS:E? What do you notice when you pay attention? I’m curious. Feel free to share your answers with me.

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There are some events I’m really excited about coming up this month. These are all worth paying attention to! First, on Tuesday the 5th at 7:00 PM, Pamela and Bishop John Selders of Moral Monday, CT will be at UUS:E to talk about the state of the

  • Black Lives Matter movement. UUS:E has made a congregational commitment to BLM—please come out for this informative event.
  • On Sunday the 10th in the afternoon, the CT Council for Interreligious Understanding will host an event at UUS:E, “To Love Your Neighbor, Get to Know Your Neighbor.” We will have guests from a variety of local faith communities speaking to us about their traditions.
  • On Wednesday the 20th, the Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford will host Transgender Day of Remembrance. (See the announcement in this newsletter). This is a very important event for demonstrating our love and support for our transgender and non-binary siblings.
  • Finally, on Sunday the 24th at 4:00 pm at Temple Beth Shalom B’Nai Israel in Manchester, we will participate in an interfaith Thanksgiving Service featuring our good friend Diane Clare-Kearney as keynote speaker. (See announcement in this newsletter.)

I hope you can participate in some of these events, and the many other events happening at UUS:E in November.Rev. Joshua Pawelek

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column October 2019

Hallelujah!

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for October is belonging. Consider this set of questions from the 20th-century Quaker teacher, Douglas Steere:

The ancient question, “Who am I?” inevitably leads to a deeper one: “Whose am I?”—because there is no identity outside of relationship. You cannot be a person by yourself. To ask “Whose am I” is to extend the question far beyond the little self-absorbed self, and wonder: Who needs you? Who loves you? To whom are you accountable? To whom do you answer? Whose life is altered by your choices? With whose life is your own bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways?

Steere’s premise is correct: “You cannot be a person by yourself.” Yet my sense is our larger society invites us more often than not to respond only to the question “Who am I?” as opposed to “Whose am I?” I feel this most poignantly right now as my high school senior goes through the process of applying to colleges. The fundamental question he is invited to answer in this process is “Who am I?” Similarly with any effort to find a job these days: Who am I? What value do I bring to this workplace? And certainly with the rise of social media over the last decade, people have more and more opportunities to broadcast to the world their answer to the question, “Who am I?”—their brand, their unique version of self, etc. Even in Unitarian Universalism we focus on this question. We contend that each person is free to choose their own spiritual path, their own beliefs. We build our own theology. “Who am I?”

To be sure, it is a good thing to know who we are. But if we only focus on knowing who we are, we risk forgetting where we are from, what forces have shaped us, and how various communities hold us, support us, and send us forth into the world. We risk forgetting whose we are. So, I’d like to suggest an exercise for the month of October. Notice how often you are encouraged to answer the question “who am I?” vs. how often you are encouraged to answer the question “whose am I?” “Who am I” questions will have to do with being your best self, or speaking your truth, or sharing what you are passionate about.

“Who am I” questions will have to do with you as a unique individual. But “Whose am I” questions will attempt to understand you as a member of groups—family, neighborhood, town/city, church, etc. These questions will sound more like Steere’s questions: Who needs you? Who loves you? To whom are you accountable? To whom do you answer? Whose life is altered by your choices? With whose life is your own bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways?

Please let me know what you learn from engaging in this exercise. I suspect we aren’t invited to answer the “Whose am I” questions enough. That is, we aren’t invited to reflect on and share with others the deeper, interconnected parts of ourselves. And yet we need to be in touch with these parts of ourselves. We need to have the “Whose we are” questions in our lives, because we have no life without them. You cannot be a person by yourself.

As UUs were are well-practiced at asking “Who we are.” But we need to work on “Whose we are.” We do have answers to this question: we belong to the Earth. We belong to Nature. We belong to the divine. We belong to spirit of life. We belong to our wider community. And, perhaps most importantly, we belong to each other. Whose are you?

Rev. Joshua PawelekAmen and blessed be.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column September 2019

Dear Ones:

September arrives and our congregational life kicks into high gear. We return (on September 8) to two Sunday services at 9:00 and 11:00 AM. Children’s religious education classes begin later in September, and our program year commences. And that’s just the beginning. Here’s a brief list of some of the major activities we’re anticipating in the coming year:

  • We continue to celebrate UUS:E’s 50th anniversary year. Please mark your calendars now for our Friday, October 4 gala at Georgina’s.
  • We are launching a new partnership with the Verplanck Elementary School in Manchester. Watch for announcements in this newsletter and elsewhere.
  • Our work continues with the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA). Watch for announcements about GHIAA’s Monday, October 28 Public Meeting in Hartford. We are hoping to bring between 85 and 100 UUS:E members and friends to this event.
  • Our Sanctuary Team now switches its focus to preparing Rocky for life beyond UUS:E now that a federal immigration judge has granted him asylum.
  • We look forward to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly which will take place in Providence, RI in June—we hope for a large contingent from UUS:E to attend.

I hope you can plug into some of these activities in some way. And, as always, if there’s something missing from congregational life that you’d like to see, please don’t hesitate to speak with me.

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Our ministry theme for September is expectation. There are many ways to talk about our expectations for our spiritual lives and for our congregation. In reflecting on my own expectations, I notice a tendency to think and speak in terms of an ideal future state. For example, I hold an expectation that, in time, and with much continuing education, I will have learned enough about ministry to arrive at some still-too-abstract level of excellence in ministry. I hold an expectation that, in time, we will achieve our congregational vision. I hold an expectation that, in time, we will become the “beloved community.” I hold an expectation that, in time, we will have contributed to the emergence of a more just and loving society, state, nation, world, etc. My point is that the theme of expectation often leads us to contemplate a future state. What do we expect will be the fruit of our present efforts?

Having said that, I’ve been recognizing during this past summer—perhaps more than ever—that focusing on the future state, though important, can sometimes distract us from the very hard work of the here and now. What is that hard work? Here are a few ideas: 1) doing everything in our power to be as inclusive as possible in our decision-making and programming; 2) centering the voices of those on the margins of congregational life; 3) making sure that when someone says “ouch,” we pause to listen and understand the hurt; 4) making sure that, when we’ve hurt someone, even if our intentions were good, we apologize. That’s a preliminary list. I’ll be focusing on this tension between the future state and the present moment in my preaching in September. I have, as always, great expectations!

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!

With love,

—Rev. Josh