Child’s Pose — UUS:E Virtual Worship, August 30th, 2020

Photo by Jennifer Ford

Friends: You can view the entire August 30th service on the UUS:E YouTube channel here

The text to Gina Campellone’s reflection, “On Wearing Masks,” and Rev. Josh’s homily, “Child’s Pose,” are below. 


“On Wearing Masks” by Gina Campellone

Today I thought we’d talk a little bit about masks. By now I think we all know that wearing a mask is really important to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. I’m sure most of you already have some experience wearing a mask for a short trip to the grocery store, or to visit a grandparent. Beginning this week and next week, many kids and teachers will be going back to school, and that means getting used to wearing a mask for a whole day. That’s going to be a big adjustment.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t love wearing a mask. Sometimes they are hot, or itchy, or just plain annoying. But I know that wearing one is the right thing to do. I’ve learned that I like some masks more than others. I don’t like the kind that make my glasses fog up, or the kind with the elastic that digs in behind my ears. But I do like the kind that feels soft and smooth on the inside, and the kind with the little wire that you can shape around your nose to make it fit just right.

Can I show you a few of my favorite masks?

This is my hedgehog mask. See how it’s covered with cute little hedgehogs? I like it because my best friend made it for me, and I am very fond of hedgehogs.

Here’s another one. I like this mask because it’s silky and colorful, and it has a UU chalice on it.

And then there’s this one. I like this mask because it’s pink, my favorite color, and it has a tiny cactus embroidered on it.

Oh, and just a second. Let me show you a mask I wear A LOT. (Pretends to put on an invisible mask,)

What? You don’t think I’m wearing a mask? Actually, I am. It’s called my BRAVE FACE MASK. And I wear it a lot these days. I bet lots of you have a BRAVE FACE MASK, too.

Sometimes life feels scary, especially during a pandemic. Nothing feels normal, and we never quite know what to expect. When I’m feeling scared, sometimes putting on my BRAVE FACE MASK helps me feel – well, a little braver. When other people see my BRAVE FACE, I think it might help them feel a little braver, too. Having a BRAVE FACE MASK can be really helpful!

But you know what? Sometimes wearing my BRAVE FACE MASK makes me feel really, really tired. Sometimes I need to take a break from being brave. Sometimes I just need to remove that BRAVE FACE MASK and show my real, true unmasked face. I need to show my face that might be frowning if I’m angry, or my lip quivering if I’m scared, or maybe even tears running down my cheeks if I’m sad.

I don’t always need to wear my BRAVE FACE MASK.

And neither do you.

It’s okay not to be brave all the time.

You are loved exactly as you are: happy, angry, disappointed, scared, sad, brave, or all of the above!

Wear your masks wisely, my friends.


“Child’s Pose” by Rev. Josh Pawelek

It is back-to-school time in Connecticut. While I want to be feeling excitement, joy and pride—and to some extent I am—I cannot escape feeling unsettled, unnerved, ungrounded. As many of you know we dropped our oldest son off at UCONN two weeks ago to begin his freshman year. Last week my wife, a high-school teacher in Glastonbury, went back to work for professional development and room set-up. She starts simultaneous in-classroom and virtual teaching tomorrow morning—that’s the hybrid model. Our youngest son starts his freshman year at Glastonbury High School tomorrow morning as well, although tomorrow morning he will be logging into his classes from home.

I’m feeling unsettled. Not just for our family, but for all of us. Even for those of you with no immediate connection to a child starting school this week, or with no immediate connection to an adult working in a school system, this is a high-stakes moment. The back-to-school decisions of school systems, local colleges and universities, and daycare centers impact all of us. And right now I still see too many people in my community, including students, not following best practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. I am hoping for a safe, positive and productive return to school for students, parents, teachers, paras, administrators, food, custodial, counseling, coaching, nursing and central office staff. I am hoping, which I admit is not quite the same thing as hopeful.

I am no expert on opening schools in the midst of a pandemic, but I have been paying very close attention over the past few months to two systems—Glastonbury public schools and UCONN—as their leaders have shared plans with the public, debated those plans—sometimes receiving withering criticism—changed, adapted, and amended those plans. Just this week a number of school systems have been forced to move all learning online in response to local coronavirus outbreaks, or because they’ve realized they simply aren’t prepared to open safely. My heart goes out to administrators trying to shepherd these plans in response to wildly divergent family, teacher and staff concerns, and in response to constantly changing virus data. This planning has been nothing short of excruciating.

My heart goes out to teachers, many of whom still feel unheard, unsafe, unprepared—some of whom are still organizing to stop in-person learning.

My heart goes out to parents and guardians who have had to strategize in response to whatever the latest re-opening plan is—how to oversee a child’s e-learning, how to procure childcare if and when they have to work outside the home on days their kids are learning from home; how to find some sense of confidence that their children are safe at school, that the virus prevention protocols will be reliably and strictly enforced; how to ensure special education needs continue to be met; how to transport kids to school. The list is long. Sometimes items on the list compete with each other. For example, if I keep my children home, they will be less exposed to coronavirus, but they will be isolated from their peers. As one parent said the other day: “these are impossible choices.”

All of us who’ve had to make these choices are doing the best we can based on health officials’ recommendations, on our own assessment of available data, on our understanding of best practices to prevent spread of the virus, on our tolerance for risk. More fundamentally, we base our choices on our love and our aspirations for our children; on our love and respect for our teachers; on our love for and trust in our administrators and public officials. I am trying to remember that love. I am trying to stay grounded in that love. And I am still unsettled, unnerved, ungrounded.

Whenever impossible choices confront us, whenever circumstances force us to choose one deeply held value over another, or to choose which risk is best for a family, the connections between body, mind and spirit begin to fray. That’s the spiritual danger we’re in right now. We begin to grow distant from critical pieces of ourselves—our regular, comforting routines, our principles, our passions, our techniques for self-care and healthy living, our feelings. I ought to be be feeling pride, joy and excitement right now, but I am stuck in unsettled, unnerved, ungrounded.

At least for me, as I consider the latest version of our re-opening plan, the latest available data, the latest risk assessment; and as I do so on screen after screen, a constant flow of online two-dimensional meetings, I grow distant from my body. Sitting in a chair, watching a screen for hours on end, is a disembodying experience. Wearing masks, social distancing, screen-based learning, the absence of physical touch, the absence of hugging, the inability to know whether the person wearing the mask is smiling at the joke you just made—these are disembodying experiences.

Yet we need our bodies in this moment. We need our bodies to let us know how we’re really feeling. We need our bodies to experience life’s simple pleasures, life’s beauty, life’s melody, harmony, rhythm. We need our bodies to experience sunlight, cool evening breezes, walks in woods, late summer New England tomatoes and corn on the cob. We need our bodies to experience connection to other people, to Nature, to the earth, to the cycles of day and night, to the slow turning of the year. We need our bodies for mystical experience, for those aha apprehensions of relationship to realities larger than ourselves that hold, nurture and sustain us. We need our bodies to remember, in those words of Starhawk we spoke earlier, Earth mother, star mother / … we are cells in your body / … [dancing] together.[1] In this disembodying moment we need our bodies to help us counteract all the ways our spirits may be suffering.

I call this homily “Child’s Pose” in reference to one of the most common, relaxing, grounding yoga poses I know. For those who aren’t familiar, in child’s pose you essentially sit with shins on the ground, knees and tops of feet on the ground; you stretch forward, torso on the ground, forehead on the ground, arms stretched out in front of you; elbows, forearms and hands on the ground. Sometimes the instructor invites the students into child’s pose as a way or resting and recuperating after a more challenging pose. I love this pose because it feels so good to be so utterly grounded. Of course, I’m mindful not everyone can or should do this pose; not all bodies work the same, not all bodies work the way they used to. I’m using child’s pose somewhat metaphorically—a relaxing, resting, grounding pose. What movement, what stretch, what use of your body relaxes you, lets you rest, grounds you?

We know children tend to live more embodied lives than adults. If a kid feels like running, they run (sometimes even when they’re not supposed to). If a kid feels like jumping, they jump, like dancing, they dance. Giggling, hugging, bike-riding, tree-climbing and anything kids feel like doing, they do.

Kids: especially those of you who are going back into school buildings, there are going to be a lot of new rules related to wearing masks, keeping distance from your friends, learning on screens, even how to eat at lunchtime. We need you to follow these rules to help keep yourselves and everyone else healthy, but we also know these rules are going to limit your ability to move. Some of you may feel these rules are holding you too tightly, holding you back, holding you in the opposite of a relaxing child’s pose. You aren’t going to be able to live as fully in your bodies as you’re used to living. So to all the kids who are listening to me this morning: I want you to be very intentional about being physical when you’re home. I want you to go outside if you can, run around, hike, bike, throw a ball, play with your pets. And when you’re inside, what can you do that uses your body? Practice a musical instrument, draw, paint, color, build things – Lego kits, pillow forts, doll houses, race tracks. Even doing your chores is good physical activity. Make sure you dedicate time each day to living fully in your body. And make sure your parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and neighbors do the same. Inspire them all to be physical!

Adults: mindful this is a difficult, challenging, uncertain time; mindful that you, like me, in the face of schools re-opening, may feel unsettled, unnerved, and ungrounded, ask yourself: What is your child’s pose? What are your ways of living fully in your body? What practice, what stretch, what walking route around your neighborhood, what work around your home or yard feels good when you engage in it? What fabric feels soft on your skin, what foods you’re your taste buds sing, what tea or coffee makes your morning special, what fragrance recalls memories of a different, less harrowing time, what music sends chills up and down your spine, what song have you been longing to sing, what scene have you been longing to bring to life on canvas or paper? What work with the hands are you able to do? What quilt, jewelry piece, what photo, what wood-working project is waiting to make your hands dirty? Indeed, what is the dirt you’ve been longing to reach into? What earth still rests solid and sure beneath you? Go to that earth. Strike your child’s pose. Ground yourself. A cell in the larger body. Let that earth knit mind, body and spirit back together.

Go to that earth. Strike your child’s pose. Ground yourself.

Amen and blessed be.

[1] Starhawk, “Earth Mother, Star Mother,” Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: UUA and Beacon Press, 1993)  #524.