February Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

My four-month sabbatical is winding down. The sabbatical has been a very positive experience for me, and I want to express my deep gratitude to you, the members and friends of the Unitarian Universalist Society: East, for providing this opportunity to me. In particular, I’d like to thank the members of the Policy Board and Program Council for their ongoing leadership during my absence—especially our new president, Rob Stolzman, and vice president, Sylvia Ounpuu. I’d like to thank the members of the Sunday Services and Pastoral Friends Committees—chaired by Lorry King and Patricia Wildes respectively—who’ve been covering my regular worship and pastoral duties since October. And I’d like to thank the UUS:E staff—Gina, Mary, Jane, Annie, and Emmy—who’ve been functioning with their usual excellence.

During my sabbatical, I continued writing the novel I started on my first sabbatical in 2007. While I have not been able to complete it to my satisfaction, I do expect to have a readable rough draft finished by the first week of February. Writing a novel is a very different discipline than writing sermons, meditations, prayers and newsletter columns. It requires different modes of thinking, feeling, imagining, planning, expressing and creating. It has been very important to me over the past four months to explore and practice these different modes. Having had this opportunity, I am hopeful that I am returning to ministry refreshed and rejuvenated, and ready to provide high-quality spiritual leadership to our thriving congregation.

When I return in February, I am looking forward first and foremost to being with all of you in person, reconnecting, and getting back to the daily and weekly tasks of ministry. I am also looking forward to establishing a new Humanist discussion group (the first meeting is Feb. 14, 4:30 PM in my office), updating UUS:E’s Safe Congregation policy in light of new best practices, working with the Policy Board to finalize UUS:E’s vision statement, working with the Social Justice/Anti-Oppression Committee to make UUS:E a charter member of a new, regional interfaith coalition, and hopefully adding a part-time Membership Coordinator to our staff.

I’d like to hear from you. First, if there has been a significant event or change in your life (family, career, health, etc.), please feel free to tell me about it. Contact me to make an appointment. Call me. Send me an email, text or Facebook message. My home office phone is still 860-652-8961. However, I have a new email address. My old address will work for a few more months, but the new address is [email protected].

Second, in my last sermon before my sabbatical, I said that “the congregation has the opportunity to notice, by virtue of the minister’s absence, what it does well, what it does not do so well, where it excels, where it needs improvement.” I am genuinely curious to know whether you have had any insights along these lines. Specifically, are there ways we can do things differently, more effectively, more meaningfully? One thing I’ve come to understand about myself during this time is that trying new things in congregational ministry is important to me. As much as it is easy to do things the way we’ve always done them, I have always assumed that the ongoing experience of health, vitality, meaning, and purpose for the minister and for the congregation depends on a willingness to reinvent ourselves from time to time. Our primary ministries and our core values are more or less permanent, but how we do things must continually evolve. So, if you’ve had insights about how we might do things differently, I want to hear them!!

Rev. Joshua PawelekThat’s it for now. But there’s much more to come. I can’t wait to be with you at UUS:E!

With love,

–Rev. Josh