Reflecting Pool

Reflecting Pool

Trash Day

By Coryn Clark, 27 May 2020


I try to get out before the garbage trucks arrive,

my pockets bulging with single-use plastic bags once banned

and now considered cleaner than my own reusable bags

sitting idly on the back seat of my car.

I carry bamboo tongs to pluck bits of trash

from empty sidewalks where painters’ tape marks

every six feet for the queue to pizza take-out,

past sandwich boards for curbside pick-up #1, #2, #3

at the dog grooming salon,

past the new ice cream shop,

closed by the pandemic before it opened –

essential businesses, all.

I target the debris of despair:

nips, needles, beer cans, gloves, masks, dryer sheets…

and shiny stuff that will not rot:

plastic bottles, metal caps, cellophane, foil…

but not the cigarettes –

I’ll not get past the bus stop if I pick up all the butts.

I hope when we wake from this coma

and when children are let outside to play

they won’t see how we trashed the world;

they won’t know that in our despair we didn’t care about tomorrow.

I walk home under a bright blue sky after filling all my bags,

leaving many other bits of trash for another day,

except one:

a small square tequila bottle perfect

for a few sprigs of lily of the valley,

yesterday’s trash,

today’s treasure.


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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.


UUS:E 2020 Congregational Meeting Minutes

1:00 pm – May 17, 2020

Present – Rob Stolzman, Randy Stewart, Larry Lunden, Anne Carr, Josh Pawelek, Participating members represented by proxy

Meeting called to order at 1:06 in Zoom by Rob Stolzman.

Format of Meeting. The world is experiencing a pandemic of Corona virus.  The governor has ordered the cessation of gatherings, such as our Annual Meeting, for protection of public health.  As a result we are using an alternate form of meeting.  We have sent background information, on the matters that need to be decided, to our voting members.  Various forums have been established for our members to discuss the issues. Our voting members have sent in their proxies naming the Clerk to represent them and providing instructions on how to vote.

The Membership Committee reports receiving 136 proxies in good form from voting members.  They also report the total number of voting members is 306.  The minimum for quorum is 46, which is met.

First item: Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. The Annual Appeal has raised a total of $436,757 so far, which is less than our goal.  Some additional pledges may come in and some expenses will be finalized in the coming months.  The Finance Committee has proposed, and the Board has recommended to the congregation, a provisional budget within the resources available.  If restrictions are lifted in the coming months, we may have another Congregational Meeting to further discuss the budget.


The Clerk casts all ballots as directed by the proxies.  The Membership Committee reports the tally of 133 votes to approve, 1 votes to disapprove, and 2 votes abstain.  THE



Second Item: Election of Officers, Members at Large, and Chairpersons of the Policy Board and Program Council. The NLDC Committee has proposed, and the Board has recommended to the congregation, the following slate of candidates for their respective positions:

Vice President:  Kevin Holian-Borgnis

Personnel Committee Chair:  Vivian Carlson

Treasurer and Chair of Finance:  Randy Kurker-Stewart

Policy Board Clerk:  Jean Mamonas

Building and Grounds:  Deb Gould

Member at Large (1 year):  Peg Darrah

Member at Large (2year):  David Luchetti

Program Council Clerk:  Nancy Thompson

Sunday Services co-chair:  Martha Larson

Membership Chair (2 year):  Sylvia Ounpuu

Membership Chair (1 year):  Carolyn Gimbrone

NLDC Members:  Stan McMillen, Peter Marotto, Lynn Dove, Kate Kimmerle, Beth

Hudson-Hankins, Cressy Goodwin


Congregation Min 2020-05-17 draft Page 1 of 2      5/17/2020 POSISTIONS, by Anne, seconded by Randy.

The Clerk casts all ballots as directed by the proxies.  The Membership Committee reports the tally of 134 votes to approve, 0 votes to disapprove, and 2 votes abstain.  THE



Third Item: Election of officers from the floor. The following candidates have been nominated from the floor to their respective positions:

Social Justice co-chair:  Jim Adams

Sustainable Living co-chair:  Vacant


The Clerk casts all ballots as directed by the proxies.  The Membership Committee reports the tally of 131 votes to approve, 2 votes to disapprove, and 3 votes abstain.  THE



Meeting adjourned at – 1:12

Respectfully submitted

Larry Lunden, Clerk


Congregation Min 2020-05-17 draft     Page 2 of 2                                            5/17/2020

Finding the Good Things — Virtual Sunday Service, March 29, 2020

Since Rev. Josh forgot to hit the ‘record’ button on Sunday morning, March 29th, we don’t have a video of the service to share with you. However, we would like to share a few of the elements from that service.

First, we used these words for the chalice lighting, written by the Luchetti family:

Brown skin or / white skin, / it doesn’t matter / which one you are. / It matters that / you love each other.

Second, here’s a video of Gina sharing her thoughts in response to her reading of Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With a Problem?”

Third, here’s the video of the UUS:E children’s choir which was put together by Pat-Eaton Robb, Jenn Richard, and Dan Thompson.

Finally, here are the words I shared, also in response to Kobi Yamada’s book.

“Finding the Good Things” by Rev. Josh Pawelek

“Every problem has an opportunity for something good. You just have to look for it.” Words from the children’s book author, Kobi Yamada, which Gina read earlier. The book is called “What Do You Do With a Problem?” And as Gina said, we have a big problem right now – this COVID 19 pandemic.

I think it’s true statement: every problem carries with it an opportunity for something good to reveal itself to us. I certainly think it’s true with this pandemic. I have faith, that even in our most difficult moments, even in the midst of our struggles to adjust to isolation, lock-down, social distance, even in the midst of encountering our deepest fears, there are opportunities for something good waiting to reveal themselves.

I hear myself say these words, and my own inner critic says ‘Josh, how can you say that? It sounds naïve. It sounds unrealistic. It sounds unhelpful. People have lost work. People have lost income. People have become sick and more will become sick. Some have died. Some truly don’t know how they are going to get through today, let alone tomorrow. It’s frightening.’ So to say to someone who’s really struggling, ‘there’s an opportunity for something good waiting to reveal itself to you,’ – that may not be helpful in the moment. That may not meet them where they are in the moment. That may not get them through the day. I get that. I know you get it too.

But I’m telling you about the faith I am finding over these early weeks of social distancing. I have faith that every problem brings with it an opportunity for something good to reveal itself to us.

Maybe the good starts small. For example, Gina found that staying home is an opportunity to learn something about herself. She found out that she really needs some structure in her life, a routine, a schedule. Having that makes her feel happy and energized. I think a lot of the children are learning that having a daily schedule is something that really helps when you have a problem like the one we’re in.

I am learning a lot about myself. I’m learning that it’s OK for me to be afraid. It’s OK for me to be anxious. It’s OK for me to be stressed out. These feelings are entirely normal and expected in a situation like this, and I don’t have to hide the fact that I’m feeling them from anyone. In fact, it helps when I talk about these feelings. They have less power over me when I talk about them. That’s something good that has revealed itself to me.

I am also learning that when I have things to do around the house – cleaning the bathrooms, scooping the cat litters, working in the yard – I can really sink into these tasks. They become meditations. I meditate on the tasks and only the tasks. And as I meditate, my fear, anxiety and worry seem to fade away, and I feel better. I feel energized and happy. I know the negative feelings will come back—there’s no way around that—but I’ve learned that I can get a break from them. That’s a good thing that has revealed itself to me.

But we’re still at the beginning. Right now we’re just over two weeks into this life of social distancing. We’ve got many more weeks to go. That means there are many more good things waiting to reveal themselves to us. Even in our most difficult moments the good things are there. What might those good things be?

Might we learn that we are stronger than we realized? Might we learn that we are more resilient than we realized? Might we learn that we are more courageous than we realized? Might we learn that we are more creative than we realized? Might we learn that we are more patient than we realized? Might we learn that we are more compassionate and caring and loving than we realized?

We know that the people in our UUS:E congregation care deeply about each other, but might we discover in new ways just how deep that care goes?

We know that the people in our UUS:E congregation have special connections to each other, but might we discover in new ways how truly important those connections are?

We know that the people in our UUS:E congregation care deeply about people in the wider community, but might we gain new insights into how deep that care goes? Already this past week we’ve organized a few people in our congregation to drop food on the porches of people in Manchester who are stranded at home with very little or no food. In all my time as a minister I never imagined I would be organizing that kind of ministry. Food drops! But that’s what’s needed right now. People who are able to do it have volunteered to help. What an amazingly good thing. (And by the way, if you are willing to participate in a food drop for somebody who lives near you, send me an email. I’ll add you to the list.)

I urge you to look for the good things that come along with this pandemic problem. Have faith that good things are there despite how bad things are. Have faith the good things are getting ready to reveal themselves to you. When they come, pause and notice them. Express gratitude. Then carry on, strengthened in the knowledge that there is good in midst of this very challenging problem.

Amen and blessed be.




Virtual Order of Service, UUS:E, March 22, 2020

Gathering Music (Begins at 9:50)

Welcome and Announcements

Prelude “Minuet in C” (performed by Simone and Ryan Ford, with special guest appearance by Izzie)

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words “Warmth and Light” (Valeria and Valentina Celadita)

Candle flame bright,

thank you for lighting the world.

Thank you for lighting Mother Earth.

Thank you for warming my heart.

Hymn “Morning Has Broken” (Eleanor Farjeon)

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning

God’s recreation of the new day.

 Prayer / Meditation

Musical Meditation

Story  “Ruby Finds a Worry” (Tom Percival)

Joys and Concerns

Offering “Duets” by Jacques Féréol Mazas, (performed by Margeaux and Ryan Ford with special guest appearance by Izzie)

Reflection “Deepening Connections”

Closing Song “Love Will Guide Us” (Sally Rogers)

Love will guide us, peace has tried us,

Hope inside us, will lead the way

On the road from greed to giving.

Love will guide us through the hard night.


If you cannot speak like angels,

If you cannot speak before thousands,

You can give from deep within you.

You can change the world with your love. 

(Repeat first verse.)

Extinguishing the chalice

Closing Circle

May faith in the spirit of life,

And home for the community of Earth,

And love of the light in each other,

Be ours now, and in all the days to come.

Pasta Dinner with the Youth Group

Hungry for Some Fun?

Saturday, March 14 at 5:30 – 7 PM

Join the Youth Group for a pasta dinner fundraiser, Saturday, March 14 at 5:30 – 7 PM. All ages welcome! The youth will be cooking and serving, as well as entertaining you during the meal with music and laughs. Watch for more information in yellow sheets, e-blasts, and flyers. All proceeds to go to Youth Group trip to General Assembly in June 2020. Contact our office at or 860-646-5151 for more information.

Imbolc Ritual

Join the UUS:E Pagan Study Group for a Multigenerational Ritual of Imbolc

Sunday, February 2nd, 3:00 – 5:00 PM at Unitarian Universalist Society: East Main Room
All are Welcome!

Imbolc or Imbolg also called (Saint) Brigid’s Day is a Gaelic traditional festival & pagan sabbat marking the beginning of spring and celebrating the goddess Brighid. It is held on February 1st or 2nd, or about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  Please join us as the Wheel of the Year turns, the ice and snow begin to melt, and we begin to come out of our burrows!

Please bring a dish or light snack to share after the ritual, when we can exchange experiences and ideas.  Milk and cheese dishes are traditional for Imbolc, but whatever you bring will be fine.  We hope you can join us in the celebration.

If you are planning to attend, please RSVP at or 860.646.5151 to make sure we have enough supplies for all.

Chosen Times: Understanding the Jewish Holy Days

A three-session course with

Rabbi Richard Plavin, Ed.D.

Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Beth Sholom B’nai Israel

Thursday Afternoons, February 13, 20 and 27, 4:00 to 5:30

Location: Unitarian Universalist Society: East,153 West Vernon St., Manchester, CT


Rabbi Plavin will provide an overview of the year as practiced and experienced in the Jewish religion. The instruction will deal with rituals and the values they promote. Topics include:

  • How the calendar works and the Sabbath
  • The Days of Awe: Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur
  • The Three Pilgrimage Festivals: Pesach, Shavuot and Succot
  • The minor Biblical and post Biblical festivals

This course is offered free of charge. Participants will be asked to pay a small materials fee. To register, or for more information, contact the Unitarian Universalist Society: East office at (860) 646-5151. Need childcare? Let us know that too!


Minister’s Column October 2019


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

FAQs about our upcoming 50th Anniversary Gala:

Q. I’ve been hearing a lot about the gala. When and where is it being held?

A. The gala will be on Friday, October 4, 6:30-9:30 pm at Georgina’s Restaurant in Bolton.

Q. I’ve never been to a “gala.” What will be going on?

A. It’s a chance to celebrate 50 years of UUSE, and liberal religion east of the river. There will be a short program, delicious food, and music from every decade since our founding. You might even want to get up and dance!

Q. What’s this I hear about a wine game?

A. Our members can donate bottles of wine until the end of September. Guests buy raffle tickets at the party, with each winning ticket holder receiving one of the wines. There are a couple of very valuable bottles hidden in among the rest!

Q. I’m kind of new and I feel like I won’t have anyone to sit with.

A. There are no assigned tables, so you’ll meet people wherever you sit down. Feeling shy? When you pick up your nametag, ask one of the “hosts” to introduce you to a couple of people.

Q. Do I buy tickets in advance?   

A. Yes, you can buy tickets after every service until September 22. You can also call the meetinghouse and buy tickets from Annie. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for teens, free for children age 12 and under with a $60 family cap. But don’t let the price keep you away! Let Rev. Josh know if you would like one of the tickets provided through fundraisers and generous members.

Q. Are children welcome?

A. Absolutely! There will be on-site childcare for kids 5 and under, by advance reservation. Older children are welcome to participate in the full evening with their parents.

Q. I have special dietary concerns. Will I find food I can eat?

A. There is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free food available. Talk with Lesley Schurmann, the event chair, if you need a different accommodation.

Q. I’d like to come to the party but I don’t like to drive at night.

A. We have members who would be happy to pick you up! Send an email to and we’ll take it from there.

Q. What do you wear to a gala??

A. Anything that feels special to you – from a special dress to your favorite hoodie!

Return to the 50th Anniversary Information Page