The Glass is Refillable: Community Care During Difficult Times

A Workshop with CB Beal
Saturday, June 4th, 9 am to noon

Who and What: CB Beal will lead participants in a grounded, thoughtful experience with humor and a light touch about the complex reality of engaging in community care during difficult times. (Sponsored by the Adult Religious Education Committee and Rev. Josh Pawelek)

When and Where: Saturday, June 4th, 9:00 to Noon in the UUS:E sanctuary

Register

Why: Human physiology—our brains and bodies—reacts to the damaging and dangerous events in our lives such as pandemic, police violence, personal injury, or loss of bodily autonomy in our legal system. Humans can regulate our emotions together, whether by accident of circumstance or with intention. Humans often get upset together and we can ground and calm together.  Intentionally co-regulating is a community skill many of us were never taught in families that prioritized pretense or image over emotional presence, or in a culture based on white supremacy and patriarchy that prioritized denial and compliance over emotional processing.

How:  CB will facilitate an experience that invites us to engage one another, bear witness, and enjoy fun learning activities. Community Care means that we mindfully tell the truth about what is difficult, and that we listen carefully to others and affirm their experiences. We will breathe together, practice slowing down, choose to prioritize need over preference, and then slow down more when needs appear to be in conflict.

Note: This will be the first in-person congregational workshop CB has done since before the pandemic. Being in-person will enable us to be present with one another, to be reflective and curious, to move our bodies together in space and learn together, present and grounded — practicing community care.

For the Sake of Inclusion:

  • Childcare will be provided upon request. Please contact Rev. Josh Pawelek by Tuesday, May 31st to request childcare.
  • Please come to this workshop wearing no fragrances (other than the natural scents of some body products such as coconut or jojoba oils.)
  • Please come to this workshop wearing a well-fitted N95 quality mask to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect those most vulnerable to Covid. (Two-way high quality masking increases the safety for vulnerable people between 10-100 times—depending on how well fitted they are—over that of a single vulnerable person wearing an N95 quality mask.)
  • There is a $10 fee to attend this workshop. If you are not in a position to pay for the workshop, please contact Rev. Josh Pawelek. Nobody will be turned away for lack of fund!

Register

Opinions on the Pace of Loosening our Covid Protocols

UUS:E Emergency Preparedness Team, Covid-19 Questionnaire Results – Part 1

147 questionnaires were returned offering different opinions of the work undertaken over the past 2 years to make people safe.  The results are still being tallied, but one conclusion based on the written responses has been identified and is ready to share – guidance on the pace we need to follow as we remove restrictions or have to tighten them if there is another surge in the future.

Of the 147 returns, 51 (35%) offered comments in the written portion about the pace of reopening in the face of ever-fluctuating risk in the number of Covid-19 cases that rise and fall.

Analysis: In the future, these respondents would likely accept changes that would be slightly less restrictive than we have made before.  But that edge is narrow, and dramatic moves to remove or impose restrictions are not indicated.  Those on either side can easily see that not everyone feels the same way that they do.

This analysis will be used as we develop future changes to our policies and protocols. 

(There are more analyses yet to be reported.  Stand by!)

Answers to last question on April’s Safety Survey

Please share any additional thoughts on UUS:E gathering safely during these ever-changing Covid times.

Note: Answers are ranked from first respondent to last respondent.

1. nope
2. wear hazmat suits
3. N/A
4. I feel that we should continue to mask and distance to protect our most venerable and give them the option of attending. Without masks or distancing, we are excluding them from attending.
5. If the BA.2 variant gets out of hand many of some of my responses here would change.
6. Please continue hybrid events, both because of COVID issues and because some of us like Zoom better.  Thank you!
7. Appreciate having access on line during the pandemic.
8. .
9. Let’s not be in a hurry.
10. Zoom options have been essential
11. Did attend one Sunday service. Considering how many people may not be bothered by B2, I have to say that Zoom works for me. I dont think i would feel comfortable coming to a full house with no masks. It really is a tough call…
12. The access to fresh air is difficult with hospital mask. Those of us with repiratory issues do need the open windows. I guess I am comfortable with our services and less public events with optional masks. I will wear one for now, so I am protected. I trust our community. Perhaps that’s not smart, but I do feel our group is cognizant of issues and cares about others.
13. x
14. I appreciate the Emergency Preparedness Team’s work on behalf of our congregation.
15. COVID risk has become more personal than societal.  Some people take all the vaccinations possible and take reasonable precautions.  Those cautious people, like myself, now feel more comfortable relaxing around others who we believe to have been vaccinated and cautious.  I would love to have the pleasure of their company; and I would take the modest increased risk that goes with their company.  This rather than live in anxiety and without their company.
Those people who find the cautions not enough should stay away, attend only by Zoom, keep their distance.  I respect their concerns and their cautions.
However, I believe the extent of the cautions at UUSE now appear excessive given all of the circumstances.
I can see continuing to wear masks when we gather.  I can see cracking open the windows when we start a service.  Some things are easy to do.  But to limit attendance, to continue keeping us all apart, to maintain many of the now excessive precautions – No.
16.
17.
18. Your committee is making the best decisions they can with the data at hand.
19. All of my answers could shift depending on the BA.2 variant, increases in hospitalization & death rate, etc.   Currently, although it is very contagious, it does not seem to increase hospitalization rates or be very lethal. If we learn new information that alters this current knowledge, my thoughts could change.
20. Given the high levels of vaccination, the risk is very low. Time to move on.
21. The reason for my conservative view is because 2 of my friends recently contacted COVID.  Although they were not seriously ill, they did feel pretty bad for a few days.  One contacted it when lunching with a friend who “didn’t think she had COVID,” but did have it; the another attended a large memorial service where people did not mask.  Unfortunately, this new variant appears to be very contagious and easily transmittable.
22. I personally am in favor of masks until BA2 peaks and goes down, but would be happy to reduce social distancing so more people can come.
23. It is important to encourage attendance in order to maintain a sense of community.
24. I’m in the middle on this issue and will leave it to UUS:East to formulate ongoing policies. Meantime, I’m quite happy with Zoom.
25. I appreciate UUSE’s conservative approach
26. I prefer to keep masking and ventilation protocols in place until we see what the BA.2 variant brings us. I do not find these requirements to be a burden.
27. I will feel comfortable with a slow, measured continued reopening based on current COVID status.  As one active in the kitchen, I strongly feel that the serving of coffee after services should be delayed for the time being.
28. Wondering how you will assimilate high risk members into congregational life.
29. Answering definitively is difficult given so much that is unknown about the future of Covid.
30. These issues are tough to assess independently. I’m fine with refreshments outside. Two of the churches I visit regularly have done this in good weather for many years. I don’t see how we maintain social distancing if we lift the 60 person max. If doing so is a primary goal, then I believe we must require masks. It’s a matter of prioritizing the inconveniences. I think we need to maintain any two strategies: social distancing/limited attendance OR masks and windows open for services.
31. I mind masks and social distancing LESS than the average church attender and that gives rise to the appearance that my fear of COVID is greater.
32. It seems like everything is back to normal except UUSE. I think people should be smart and not come to service if they don’t feel well. I would imagine most people in our congregation are vaccinated & boostered.
33. I continue to like the zoom services and I would come to selected events in person.
34. I feel comfortable being around UU members as they are responsible,  caring people and therefore mostly vaccinated and reasonably cautious
35. Attendees who have not been vaccinated.
36. Our restrictions have been successful in creating an atmosphere of safety for the community. Now that in person services are available we have not been overwhelmed with large numbers attending. People decide for themselves as to comfort/safety level. Many are still more comfortable doing zoom which is fine, people have choices. I’m good with in person attendance and feel safe doing so.
37. To be honest, my desire to be with the UUS:E family, and my confidence in members getting vaccinated keeps me pretty confident about my safety.
38. I would love to see some outdoor services, weather permitting.  I would be much more comfortable attending in person services outdoors.
39. I feel that we are now living with an endemic disease and have to accept this new reality.
40. I continue to be confused about the real risks involved and am not sure there is enough reliable information available to make these choices with any kind of certainty. I am generally still avoiding large gatherings of unmasked people but also, like most, am very tired of wearing masks so find myself avoiding attending larger gatherings when masks are required so will likely continue to attend SS on Zoom and not attend larger indoor gatherings until there is better, reliable information about the risks, efficacy of vaccines/booster vaccines etc.
41. I am vaxed, boosted, had Omicron in January, and do not have any comorbidities. So I feel pretty protected. That said, I understand that not everyone is coming from the same place. I hope this survey gives us a better idea of where the congregation stands on lifting precautions. Also, research is revealing that ventilation is vitally important in dispersing aerosolized virus droplets. Let’s continue to improve our HVAC systems.
42. I trust that the precautions in place are suitable for the times and that even lifting some restrictions such as masks is fine too.
43. None
44. I think with windows open, attendance limited, fans going and masks on, we face minimal risk for contagion. We need to pay close attention to the metrics as we have been doing and adjust accordingly.
45. Although I live in Cromwell and cannot attend as often as I like, I am glad you are continuing Sunday services. Whe I lived in Manchester, I was able to attend on a more regular basis. I would be comfortable with the current level of restrictions but look forward to the day when they could be lifted.
46. Windows in Meeting Room should be open with ceiling fans running unless it is so warm that AC is needed or if rain would blow in.
47. N/a
48. I am happy with virtual services.
49. I have been happy with the way the safety committee has been conducting the Covid restrictions for UUSE.
50. I am likely to continue wearing a mask, regardless of UUS:E policy/requirements.
51. I think we have been doing a good job thus far.
52. i am looking forward to more in person events
53. none
54. No additional thoughts
55. I trust that caution will be balanced with a realistic assessment of current covid trends.
56. I am comfortable with anything the board and safety committee decide.
57. I’m mostly concerned with the possible uptick of the new B variant.
58. Vaccination is key.
59. Unless a new variant that will not respond to our present vaccinations and boosters comes along, I would like to get back to normal as much as possible and sooner than later.
60. Much as I would like to be done with all precautions, I still feel there is a need. What if we required everyone to be boosted? That would make me more comfortable.
61. I work in healthcare. We have a substantial outbreak right now
62. I’m high risk so I still have concerns, esp. with BA2. So I plan to continue to wear a mask in any event. I like zoom services so expect to attend via zoom more than in person.
63. Prefer church be open with precautions as necessary rather than only Zoom options.
64. Many folks are not wearing N95 masks which was what I thought was agreed on. I have seen many surgical masks and cloth masks
65. I think it is fairly safe and I plan on attending in person when possible.
66. None at this time.
67. It’s important to keep up to date on progress of new variant and it’s risks.
68. No additional thoughts
69. FYI, I don’t attend services regularly.  … I’d love it services were held outside.  Perhaps under a tent.
70. I hope we’ll continue the online services/events and consistent messaging that people with any symptoms should stay home.  I take care of sick patients so my view may be skewed but it seems like people with mild symptoms explain away those symptoms when there is something fun they don’t want to miss.
71. Good ventilation (not necessarily windows open but air circulation through the heating/cooling system) and masking (especially when numbers are climbing) are most important to me
72. I’ve been visiting my father (93) each Sunday, which is the primary reason that I have yet to physically return to UUSE.
73. Still would prefer social distancing and masking.
74. None
75. I firmly believe that the CDC COVID-19 Community Risk Levels (Green, Yellow, Red) and the guidelines associated with each category should be the primary source for UUSE’s approach going forward. Vaccines and therapeutics are widely available now, and UUSE has invested extensive time and financial resources into building a state of the art technology platform that provides accessibility to those who are not capable or comfortable attending services in person. I no longer believe there’s a need to keep windows open or restrict eating or drinking in the building.
76. I appreciated and fully supported the cautious, conservative safety parameters UUSE initially set, particularly prior to the availability of a vaccine. Given that vaccines are now readily available, and given that we now have the technology to stream services and other events to Zoom, which makes attending more accessible to those who can’t or won’t be vaccinated, I feel like opening up more fully is a reasonable expectation.
77. I feel that it is important to continue to gather in person
78. Again address no hugging unless first asking the other person.  Elbow bumps could work.  Personally, without all wearing masks I would want to have space.
79. I feel we will have to learn to live with this.  If the CDC is lifting mandates, we need to trust their science-based recommendations for coming out of the pandemic as we did for the CDC’s science -based recommendations as it began.
80. UUSE has been a beacon of sanity!!!
81. The church has done a good job with precautions during the pandemic.
82. My feelings would vary depending on the specific events. Having individually packaged snacks in RE with social distancing feels ok for me. People gathering tightly upstairs for coffee hour eating communal food feels very unsafe to me. If masks were optional but we were still social distancing, that feels kind of ok to me, but lifting the attendance limits and having people packed in elbow to elbow, even in masks, feels unsafe to me. The new variant does not concern me specifically, but covid in general still has a significant impact on my involvement in UUSE activities. I am still masking in all social situations unless in very small groups of people very well known to me who are also careful and vaccinated. Thank you for all you are dong to continue to keep our congregation safe!
83.
84. I am proud of your work and of our community’s conservative, considered response to COVID these past years.  I believe now that it is time to take further steps to gather more fully and to share food and drink.
85. It’s time to move out of fear. The new variants are less harmful,  the vaccines are working, let’s move forward.
86. While things are gradually improving, it’s too soon to start eliminating precautions.
87. No concerns
88. I feel comfortable being in the church family because I think  most are vaccinated.
89. For me, personally, wearing a mask is the most important factor when in a social situation
90.
91. I think the above covers most of my concerns
92. I appreciate being back in person for service and RE
93. I believe that UUSE has done a good job of assessing the risk and acting accordingly. I watch the numbers and decide for myself which activities to attend. But knowing that there is a mask mandate and that windows will be open is critical in making my decision. I think food and drink outside is not unreasonable while the weather is good, but as long as transmission is high and variants abound I am not interested in attending events where masks are optional.
94. I have all my shots.  If I felt that I needed to wear a mask, I would.  I just use my own judgement based on how crowded a place is and how long I’ll be there.   If a “variant’ was raging and I went to service and there were a lot of people – I’d probably put a mask on AND if it were nice outside I’d suggest going outdoors to chat so it could be done without a mask.
95. Whatever is decided,  i hope we just keep an eye on numbers and v transition based on that data
96. The masking is most important to me.  If people are wearing masks properly, then I am much more comfortable with attending.  Ventilation is next.  If we can open windows, then I think we should.
97. I have autoimmune disease and attending any indoor activity is risky without taking precautions while we are still in a pandemic.
98. Agree with the current approach, and tracking covid trends to make changes.
99. My husband had COVID in early March, and 6 more members of my extended family have had it in the last week. It’s not yet time to lift restrictions at services, considering that we are there for over an hour. Thanks for asking for our input.
100. Ever-changing is the key.  For now, I’m pretty comfortable.
101. I am comfortable with easing restrictions.
102. The most vulnerable populations for Covid (plus, children) also pay the highest price for precautions in terms of psychological impacts, isolation, etc. It made sense to try to break the Covid cycle in the outset, but now we know that there are also many negative consequences. Continuing indefinitely with precautions is not sustainable and is in fact harmful. Things like ventilation make sense. Things like requiring everyone to wear a mask no longer do.
103. Honestly don’t know what to think or do.
104. I think if all other mitigation was lifted – distancing, windows open etc, we’d still want to wear our masks. A few weeks ago I had said I was more comfortable but now I am seeing friends get covid for a second time etc.
105. I am comfortable with lifting all COVID restrictions, but understand if others do not feel the same way.
106. I will probably continue to attend services on Zoom.
107. I feel very strongly that wearing masks is the best protection each of us can do to protect others. If I wear a mask, it protects other people more than it protects me.  I’m in favor of everybody keeping their germs to themselves, which is exactly what masks do.
Having said that, I am over 70 and I don’t think that my feelings about the covid policies should necessarily dictate what happens with everybody. As long as I can attend services and some of the other groups on Zoom, I think people who feel more comfortable should be able to do what they want to do. I don’t have to go to everything. And younger people don’t have a lot to worry about, but older folks do. During summer months, of course, a lot of events can take place outside which certainly helps. I appreciate the caution that UUSE has taken so far, and I trust the judgment of the people making the decisions. Thank you for asking.
108. At some point we need to be able to accept some level of risk in order to be together again as a congregation.  Those of us who are in good health and vaccinated should be able to safely gather again.  We should, however,  continue to practice safety measures to protect the most vulnerable among us.
109. It’s uncomfortable to have the windows open. Is there any proof that open windows reduce risk? Just wondering.
110. Certainly I might look at things differently if the new variant becomes a significant issue
111.
112. I have no other comments or suggestions
113. I am vaccinated and double-boosted and looking forward to normalizing services and events at UUSE. I strongly feel that it is time for this.
114. Continued monitoring for the foreseeable future.
115. I am at high risk, as some others may be.  Until we are no longer in pandemic, I will not return to in person service. Once it becomes like flu with yearly shot, then I will return.  This holds true for meetings as well.
116. Personally, I am still being super careful, but I understand that others are less concerned. Its just going to take me a while to readjust my comfort level. I am not attending indoor events at this time. I would not even consider attending indoor events if everyone is unmasked.
117. Although it has been frustrating to have these restrictions, I am grateful that safety had come first.
118. I am not comfortable attending indoor crowded events at this time. Numbers are increasing. More people in my circles have recently gotten sick with covid just as I was starting to feel more safe. The masking and social distancing requirements that we currently have allow me to feel safe attending service. Otherwise, I would likely not attend at this time.
119. Outdoor events might be beneficial.
120. .
121. We had a recent Covid infection in our family. I suspect that our child, who continues to wear a mask to school, was infected by a classmate during lunch, when it’s not possible to wear a mask. Until we have gone several months without an outbreak, I’ll most likely continue to stay home.
122. n/a
123. i do not have any
124. n/a
125. I have appreciated the care & concern UUS:E has shown during this time. I wish we could dispense with masking and all that, but my granddaughter just came down with covid despite being fully vaccinated and being very careful with masking, hand sanitizing, etc. It’s really difficult to know what the best approach is! I prefer to err on the side of caution.
126. None
127. How about requiring proof of vaccination for those over 12?
128. My only concern is singing with no restrictions. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, singing is one of the best things we do, on the other hand it seems like the best way to spread COVID.
129. Members need to be able to see each other, but masks are an EASY protection
130. I am comfortable with distancing, masks and our nearly fully vaccinated community.
131. I would like to continue having Sunday services even if attendance is limited.
132. If not done already, consider installing ultraviolet light sanitizers in the ventilation ducts.
133. As a member who signed the book during the pandemic, I feel robbed of the opportunity to fully embrace the community. Numbers are way down. I think we should come back.
134. I think it’s important to keep underscoring that if people don’t feel well they shouldn’t attend church events
135. I’m glad you are doing this survey.  I think it should have been done at least a year ago to guide Policy Board in making decisions for the whole community, with community input.
136. If we see the BA.2 variant begin to increase I would prefer to keep our current protocol. The question is how much of an increase.
137. You’re doing a good job
138. Members who do not feel comfortable with in person services have the option of attending via Zoom.
139. This is not the time to loosen restrictions.  We are in a pandemic; CT positivity rate is at 7.68% and rising.
140. I feel that people will still mask and distance themselves as they feel appropriate based on their risk tolerance and health.  I feel safe comfortable with ceiling fans running and doors in the sanctuary open to the rest of the building during services and RE events.
141. I think we are still in a pandemic, not an endemic situation. I won’t feel comfortable dropping precautions until at least we see the positivity rate and numbers trending downward for some time.  I am very grateful that Zoom has been a viable option through this time and going forward.  Thank you to all those who have been looking out for our safety!
142. Must wait and see what the BA.2 does, see if it has much impact.
143. None
144. Looking forward to a return to normalcy. As long as we’re following CDC guidance I think we’re okay to move forward.
145. I hope you will continue zoom service.
146. NA
147. Thanks for all you do!

 

UUS:E featured in CT Mirror article on CT’s broken healthcare system

YEHYUN KIM / CTMIRROR.ORG

UUS:E is featured in a recent CT Mirror / Hartford Courant article by the “economic development” reporter Erica Phillips. Phillips interviewed UUS:E staff-members and UUS:E Personnel Committee chair, Vivian Carlson, in mid-March. She uses our experience purchasing health insurance for our staff as a starting place for an in-depth analysis of why it is so difficult for non-profits and small businesses to continue offering insurance to their employees.

Read the May 1st CT Mirror version of the article (with pictures) here.

Read the May 4th, Hartford Courant version of the article here.

Toward Redemption: Responding to Margaret Renkl

At the beginning of this morning’s service I shared with you excerpts from “An Open Letter to My Fellow White Christians,” by the New York Times’ Nashville-based contributing opinion writer, Margaret Renkl.[1] I call this sermon, “Toward Redemption: A Response to Margaret Renkl.” I wouldn’t be preaching on Renkl’s letter, except Stan and Sue McMillen purchased a sermon at last years’ UUS:E Goods and Services auction; after going back-and-forth about a topic, Stan finally landed on Renkl’s open letter, and this is the sermon (and a reminder that if you prefer a different sermon, be sure to come to the auction on May 14th and bid high!).

Stan had actually forwarded the letter to me when it was published two years ago. He re-forwarded it back in March, saying: “I really love this [letter] and it is as true today as it was when it was written…. Since then, [conservative] states have passed draconian laws. We’ve seen increased violence against Asians, Jews, and homeless people. Where is Christ in Christianity? Hopefully you can build on this and reflect not only on violence to humans, but also to Mother Earth and all the creatures that [share the planet with us.] What do you think?”

What do I think? Honestly, my first thought was, that’s about ten sermons worth of material, Stan, but you only purchased one.

Renkl’s open letter is powerful. She names White Christianity’s historical and ongoing collusion with White supremacy culture in the United States. “When we arrived,” she writes, “on our big ships and decimated this land’s original peoples with our viruses and our guns, when we used our Christian faith as a justification for killing both ‘heretic’ and ‘heathen,’ we founded this country in flames.” She writes about White Christianity’s complicity with slavery in the past and a racist criminal justice system in the present. She pleads with White Christians to look squarely at what has happened and is happening, to refuse the retreat into indifference, to seek redemption. To that end, she names White Christian leaders who have engaged or are engaging in redemptive, antiracist ministries. She concludes: “We are not yet beyond redemption. It is time to act on what we say we believe…. Remember the words of the prophet Isaiah: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks….” Remember the words of Jesus — “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake.” She challenges White Christians to “join the righteous cause of the protesters. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

At first I balked at this sermon idea. Renkl is writing to her “fellow White Christians.” But is she writing to us? As people of faith who largely don’t identify personally as Christian; who don’t automatically regard the words of the prophet Isaiah or Jesus as sacred scripture for us; who often regard Christianity with wariness based on difficult and painful past personal experiences; and as people who don’t necessarily have the authority to say where the Christ in Christianity is—we Unitarian Universalists can easily assume we’re not part of Renkl’s audience. She’s writing to them, not to us. The risk is that, consciously or unconsciously, we’ll start to point self-righteous fingers at White Christians for their racism, as if we have no redemptive work to do as Unitarian Universalists. So I balked at first. But it’s Stan and Sue’s sermon, so I got over it.

We are included in Renkl’s audience, because we cannot, and should not evade our own history. Most of us may not identify theologically as Christian today, but our spiritual forebears, the New England Puritans, where precisely those White Christians who, in Renkl’s words, “arrived on our big ships and decimated this land’s original peoples with our viruses and our guns … found[ing] this country in flames.” And as much as we can and should point proudly to our historical, faith-based legacies of activism and organizing against slavery, against poverty, for civil rights, for women’s rights, worker’s rights, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, immigrants rights, and for environmental justice, we can also point to Unitarians and Universalists connected to the slave trade through ship-building and sailing, connected to New England’s sweatshop textile mills, connected to Indian boarding schools, not to mention a history of general White church indifference to the plight of oppressed people. So it would be disingenuous for us to exclude ourselves from Renkl’s audience.

Renkl’s letter first appeared on June 8th, 2020, two weeks after the May 25th police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. When Renkl urges us to join “the righteous cause of the protestors,” she’s referring to that incredible movement that swept the nation—and the world—in the wake of Floyd’s murder. Many of you participated in the protests, marches and rallies here. We can prove it. We have pictures!

What is truly striking to me today is how different the nation’s energy feels two years later. I’m sharing a feeling more than an analysis. It feels like the nation hit a high-water mark for justice and liberation in 2020. That summer there seemed to be a widespread consensus across the political spectrum that what happened to George Floyd was wrong and should never happen again. Suddenly every business, every corporation, every local government, every congregation was figuring out how to say Black Lives Matter, was expanding training for diversity, equity and inclusion. I also point to the November, 2020 election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They represented then—and now—a multicultural, religiously pluralistic, people-centered America. They shared then—and now—a vision of a more just and fair America. They shared then—and now—a commitment to addressing climate change. They understand and care about policy in a way their predecessor did not. They both have extensive experience in government and are competent administrators, especially in response to the pandemic. They are kind people.

I also point to what felt like the solidity of longer-term gains for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people—marriage equality, military service, representation in school curricula—including a general national consensus in support of GLBTQ people and communities. There was certainly still a long way to go at the end of 2020, and some parts of the country were more proactive than others, but those longer-term gains, by and large, seemed to have survived by the end of that year, despite some horrendous Trump-era assaults.

There’s certainly more I could name, but I’m trying to articulate the positive, progressive energy that was palpable in the nation in the second half of 2020.

What we—or at least I—didn’t know then was that we really were at a high-water mark. There’s a new energy now, a fury, circulating through the nation in response to whatever progress we might have made. Of course, ‘new’ isn’t quite the right word to describe it. This fury is an always-present dimension of the fabric of American life. Over the decades we’ve seen it in our politics, our culture, our churches, sometimes muted, sometimes loud. Right now it’s explosive. It’s a reactive fury, nativist, White, patriarchal. Versions of it get preached in many Christian pulpits. We see it in the passage of what Stan called draconian laws restricting voting access, restricting abortion access, restricting what schools can teach about gender identity and sexual orientation, restricting what schools can teach about race and racism. In Connecticut we see it in the so-called Safe Streets movement, attempting to roll back progressive juvenile justice reforms. We see it in unruly town hall meetings, people shouting, throwing punches, harassing town council and board of education members. We see it in Nazi literature being distributed around West Hartford, Manchester and other Connecticut towns. This fury has transformed peoples’ pandemic exhaustion into a potent political tool. Case in point: in the Virginia governor’s race last November, fury at pandemic restrictions became synonymous with fury over unfounded fears of critical race theory being taught in public schools. They became the same fury.

In thrall to this fury, so many people have rejected sound public health strategies for responding to the pandemic, and have instead privileged a warped understanding of personal freedom above even the most remote concern for the well-being of their communities, let alone for the most vulnerable members of those communities. Speaking of the Christ in Christianity, I have enough authority to say with confidence that the kingdom of heaven does not belong to those who ignore the most vulnerable. But that’s not the dominant energy in our nation right now.

Of course, it’s not our energy here at UUS:E. We are not a people of fury, and ours is not a furious faith. Yes, we share in all the legacies of White Christianity which Renkl’s letter describes, but we’re not defending them, as if our lives depend on them. We’re not arguing that they no longer impact our lives, and that therefore we should not talk about them. We’re aware that we have to account for them, that we have to continually work at transforming them into something that looks and feels like redemption—a church, a people, “a world made whole,” as we sang earlier. That’s why we talk about racism and other oppressions, a lot. That’s why we’re studying the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Widening the Circle of Concern report. That’s why we’re beginning a conversation about the proposed 8th Unitarian Universalist principle.

There are many ways to move toward redemption. Renkl names a number of White Christian leaders who have been or are engaged in redemptive, antiracist ministries. I have a few thoughts about how we ought to engage, especially in light of the fury I’ve been describing.

First, trust that for most people, fury is a very difficult emotion to sustain. Fury burns brightly, then burns out. Its energy is fleeting. It thrives most when it has opposition, when people react to it. The less we react, the less fuel we provide, the less capacity it has to sustain itself over time. I’m not saying we ought to ignore it, as it does have power and it is causing harm. But I’m less concerned about addressing it directly, in a reactive way, and more concerned about supporting the people it targets.

This new fury almost always targets vulnerable people. That’s it’s tell-tale sign. So I say, let’s focus our energy on the most vulnerable people in our communities. The “Plowshare Prayer”  we heard earlier from the singer/songwriter/church-worker Spencer LaJoye points us in this direction: Amen on behalf of the last and the least / On behalf of the anxious, depressed, and unseen / Amen for the workers, the hungry, the houseless / Amen for the lonely and recently spouseless / Amen for the queers and their closeted peers / Amen for the bullied who hold in their tears / Amen for the mothers of little Black sons / Amen for the kids who grow up scared of guns / Amen for the addicts, the ashamed and hungover / Amen for the calloused, the wisened, the sober / Amen for the ones who want life to be over / Amen for the leaders who lose their composure /  Amen for the parents who just lost their baby / Amen for the chronically ill and disabled / Amen for the children down at the border / Amen for the victims of our law and order.[2]

Ask yourself, even if you are vulnerable in some way, how can you position yourself—your body, your gifts and skills, your money—in proximity to vulnerable people such that you can offer help, support, caring, compassion? When we respond to the world with this kind of energy, we are saying “no” to fury that would exclude and deny and erase, and “yes” to love, “yes” to community, “yes” to life. When we respond to the world with this kind of energy, we’re also doing what I understand to be the core of Jesus’ ministry: From the book of Matthew, Chapter 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’”[3]

When we respond to the world with this kind of energy, we’re actually bringing a very specific kind of Christianity to life: Universalism. We’re saying everyone is entitled to inclusion, not just some. Everyone is entitled to love and care, not just some. Everyone’s life is sacred, not just some. When we respond to the world with this kind of energy, we move toward redemption.

Finally, remember, the kind of redemption Renkl is talking about—this making right and just and fair our nation that was founded in flames—doesn’t happen overnight, but rather takes decades, if not centuries. It comes slowly as systems and culture change. And what changes systems and culture? It’s not any one thing that you or I do, though each thing we do matters. It’s what we do together. It’s what we as a congregation do together with other congregations, which is why it matters that we’re part of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance, in solidarity with nearly fifty other congregations across the region, organizing our people and our money to make positive social change. It’s why we partner with Moral Monday CT, Power Up CT, the Domestic Worker Justice Campaign and the Recovery for All Coalition. It’s why we partner with the Inter-Religious Eco-Justice Network and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. There’s wonderful energy in these partnerships. It’s not the energy of fury. It’s the energy of love and liberation. And though it takes time, and requires enormous patience, and we lose battles along the way, engaging in that collective work of love and liberation is the most sure path toward redemption.

Amen and blessed be.

[1] Rankl, Margaret, ”An Open Letter to My Fellow White Christians,” New York Times, June 8th, 2020. See: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/08/opinion/protests-white-christian-racism.html.

[2] Cholst, Rachel, “Spencer LaJoye Turns Prayers Into Plowshares on Their New Song,” Adobe and Teardrops, March 1, 2022. This piece includes an audio track of LaJoye’s song on Soundcloud: https://adobeandteardrops.com/2022/03/spencer-lajoye-turns-prayers-into-plowshares-on-their-new-song.html.

[3] Matthew 25: 35-36.

Commentary on the Proposed 2022-23 Budget

Commentary on the
UUS:E  2022-2023 FY23 Proposed Budget
Randy Kurker-Stewart and the UUS:E Finance Committee

The FY23 (July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023) budget projects expenses of $537,070 and income of $481,900, a shortfall of $55,170 that will need to be covered by increased fundraising, transfers from our Endowment and Reserve accounts, and a possible second pledge drive in the fall.

Our Stewardship Campaign fell short of our goal by $18,000. Pledges are down 2% from FY22. Fundraisers are budgeted lower than historical levels due to the negative impact of COVID and the uncertainty of the pandemic recovery. Total income of $481,900 is lower than this year’s budget by $14,100 and expenses are up by $9,520.

Historically we have tended to end the fiscal year better than projected as we receive unexpected additional donations and gifts and spend slightly less in various expense categories. However, our projected deficit has never been this large. We are budgeting drawdowns from reserves of $55,170, which includes $10,000 from our endowment fund. Our reserves cannot sustain continued losses and we must creatively address increased fundraising. Again, we may need to  conduct a second pledge drive in late fall.

Expenses include a 2% increase for our staff, with no new positions added. We have achieved our goal of compensating our staff according to UUA guidelines. We are proposing to offer long term disability insurance (LTD) to our employees, which will cost us $3,660. This is a benefit offered by most congregations our size and recommended by the UUA. Currently our employees pay 100% of this important coverage. Next year includes twenty-seven pay periods, one more than typical. The individual salaries reflect twenty-seven pay periods, the HR total includes an offsetting payroll accrual for the 27th pay period.

Expenses other than Human Resources and fixed costs have increased approximately 5% to reflect projected inflation. Total administrative expenses are decreasing $1,210. Our UUA annual dues are up $660 to $28,460, offset by a reduction in Technology as our expenses relating to  improvements for Zoom services taper off.

The Building and Grounds budget is flat, as a vendor change has reduced elevator maintenance, offsetting the inflation adjustment.

Program expenses are increasing by $745, based on increased music license fees for streaming services. The Religious Education budget is increasing by $1,550 as we provide additional funds for recognition of the critically important, numerous dedicated volunteers that make our RE program so successful.

UUS:E 2022-2023 Slate of Officers and Leaders

UUS:E 2022-2023 Slate of Officers

Vice President: Anne Carr

Treasurer: Jerry Myers

Clerk of the Policy Board: Jean Mamonas (second term)

Personnel Committee Chair: David Luchetti

Member-at-Large [One-Year Term]: Laurel Hennebury

Member-at-Large [Two-Year Term]: Peg Darrah (second term)

Member-at-Large [Two-Year Term]: Ellen Williams

Communications and Technology Chair: OPEN

Building and Grounds Committee Chair: Lynn Dove

Social Justice and Anti-Oppression Co-chair: Maureen Flannigan

Membership Committee Chair: Sylvia Ounpuu (second term)

Sunday Services Co-chair: Sandy Karosi

Stewardship Committee Chair: OPEN

Adult RE Committee Chair: OPEN

Program Council Clerk: Nancy Thompson (second term)

NLDC: Beth Hudson-Hankins (third term)

NLDC: Stan McMillen (fifth term)

NLDC: Kristal Kallenberg

NLDC:Sid Soderholm

NLDC: Kate Kimmerle (third term)

NLDC: Gail Crook

Completing their terms or stepping down

Randy Kurker-Stewart as Treasurer

Pat Eaton-Robb as Communications and Technology Committee Chair

Vivian Carlson as Personnel Committee Chair

Kevin Holian-Borgnis as Vice President

Ellen Williams – Member-at-Large (moving from one-year term to two-year term)

David Luchetti – Member-at-Large (moving to Personnel Chair)

Azucena Minaya Llantoy as Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee Chair

Martha Larson as Sunday Services Chair

Lynn Dove as Adult RE Chair and member of NLDC (moving to Building and Grounds Chair)

Cressy Goodwin, NLDC

Deb Gould as Building and Grounds Chair

Leaders Continuing their Terms

Peggy Webbe as President

Carrie Kocher as Chari of Denominational Affairs

Dorothy Bognar as Chair of the Music Committee

Jim Adams as Co-chair of the Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee

Desiree Holian-Borgnis as Chair of the Religious Education Committee

Marsha Howland as Co-chair of the Sunday Services Committee

Sheila Foran as Co-chair of the Membership Committee

Mary Lawrence as Chair of the Sustainable Living Committee

Rhona Cohen as Member of the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee

 

Proxy designation Form

Proxy Designation Form
Unitarian Universalist Society: East
153 West Vernon Street
Manchester, CT 06042

I, ________________________, hereby designate  __________________________

                                                                                           (print name of proxy voter*)

to vote as my proxy at the UUS:E congregational meeting scheduled for 12 Noon on Sunday, May 15, 2022.

Signature: ___________________________     Date: ____________________________

                   (signature of voting member)

* Proxy voter must be a member of UUS:E

 

Mail/Email Voting Form

Mail / E-Mail Voting Form
UUS:E Annual Meeting
May 15, 2022

 

1) Do you approve the budget as presented – yes or no  (circle, write or type your answer)

 

2) Do you approve the slate of officers/leaders as presented – yes or no (circle, write or type your answer)

 

                                                                        _________________________________________________________________________

             Signature (may be typed if sent by email)

 

8th Principle Learning Opportunity

Sunday, May 1st at 12:30 PM
UUS:E Sanctuary and online

Join Rev. Josh and members of the UUS:E Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee for a viewing of portions of Paula Cole Jones’ March 20th workshop, “Creating a Culture of Inclusion.” This will be an opportunity for members and friends of UUS:E to learn about and discuss the 8th Unitarian Universalist principle. Please contact the UUS:E office at (860) 646-5151 or [email protected] to let us know you are planning to attend, and whether you will join us in person or online.