February Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for February is “Widening the Circle.” This language comes explicitly from the 2020 report from the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Commission on Institutional Change (COIC), entitled Widening the Circle of Concern. COIC, which convened in 2017, was charged with “supporting long-term cultural and institutional change that redeems the essential promise and ideals of Unitarian Universalism.” The work of the commission included conducting an audit of the power structures within Unitarian Universalism in an attempt to understand how they perpetuate systemic racism and white supremacy culture. A group of about 15 UUS:E members and friends is studying the COIC report during the first half of 2022. If you would like to join that group, the invitation is open. (See the announcement in this newsletter.)

I know it sometimes feels like all we talk about is racism and white supremacy culture. We spent a year educating ourselves in advance of passing a resolution in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. We spent a year educating ourselves to become a Sanctuary congregation. We promote antiracism workshops and build partnerships with antiracist organizations such as Power Up, Moral Monday CT, the Domestic Worker Justice Campaign and Recovery for All. We are beginning to build relationships with indigenous groups in CT, such as UConn’s Native American student organization. Soon we will be exploring whether or not to adopt the proposed 8th UU principle, which asserts that we will conduct the life of our congregation in antiracist, anti-oppressive ways. That’s a lot! Trust me, I know people don’t necessarily come to church to have this conversation. I know it is sometimes a very uncomfortable conversation. I know the conversation can grow tiring, not only for White people but for People of Color as well.

There is an existential reason the Unitarian Universalist Association is focusing so much time and energy on antiracist and anti-oppressive transformation in our congregations. The writing is on the wall, so to speak. Racial demographics are changing rapidly in the United States. If our congregations don’t figure out how to move beyond a White, European-centered culture, we won’t stay relevant. In fact, we won’t survive. I don’t say that to be dramatic. I say it because it’s true. We owe it to future generations of Unitarian Universalists to engage in antiracism work now.

There’s also a spiritual reason for this focus. When we consider our current racial demographics, it becomes obvious that Unitarian Universalism is failing to extend its good news, its free faith, its liberating message to all but a handful of Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Somehow we aren’t advancing the promise of our principles. The truth is, we do have good news! We do have a free faith! We do have a liberating message. We owe it to the world to figure out how to extend that message in culturally relevant ways. I don’t claim to have the answers. But I know we have to be in the conversation—in multiple ways, often, even when it is tiring, even when we’d rather just sink into the comfort of our community as it currently is. Widening the circle is a spiritual imperative. So we continue, as best we can, in faith and with love.

If you have thoughts or instincts about ways in which you’d like to participate in the work of widening the circle at UUS:E, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or 860-652-8961.


Rev. Joshua Pawelek

With love,

Rev. Josh