June 2020 Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for June is celebrating blessings. For so many reasons, this is a critical theme for us to reflect on. We ought to take time to celebrate our blessings, lest we forget the good things in our lives! But having said that, I must confess I am not feeling particularly celebratory. Like many of you, I am dreading the demise of Roe v. Wade and the coming loss, in so many states, of women’s freedom to make decisions about their own bodies. And I am dreading what will likely be attempts at the national level in future years to curtail or end those freedoms in states where they still exist. I am not feeling celebratory. I am preparing emotionally and spiritually for a long struggle. Maybe the blessing I and we need to celebrate is our capacity to know what matters most, and to do whatever is in our power to protect it. Certainly women’s freedom to make choices about what happens to their own bodies matters most. Certainly women’s health care matters most. Certainly resources for family planning, pre-and post-natal care, and a robust social safety net matter most. Yes, I can celebrate that blessing.

I am deeply saddened, enraged and fearful, in response to the May 14 White supremacist mass shooting in Buffalo. I am in touch with so many colleagues—ministers, rabbis, and imams who are similarly saddened, enraged and fearful. For weeks now, the interfaith clergy conversations have not been about mission, vision, justice, compassion and service as they usually are. The conversation has been about building security, especially for Black churches, synagogues and mosques. In the days following the Buffalo shooting, I had the privilege of helping to write a response on behalf of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance. That statement is included in this newsletter. It features a link where you can donate to Black led organizations in Buffalo who are holding their community together in the wake of this atrocity. Maybe the blessing I and we need to celebrate is our many relationships in the wider community, relationships that serve as a source of strength and mutual aid in difficult times; relationships in which we hold others, and others hold us. Yes, I can celebrate that blessing.

I am not surprised that we’ve already had 100-degree days in May. I know a few record-breaking heat waves aren’t proof that the planet is warming, but we have the proof 1,000 times over. At the time of writing this column, I am about to meet with my UU clergy study group (our first in-person meeting since the fall of 2019). For this session, we are studying faith-based responses to the climate crisis. I am looking forward to being with colleagues, but I am dreading (there’s that word again) that feeling of overwhelm that arises when we learn just how bad the crisis is. Maybe the blessing I and we need to celebrate is that we humans, who have caused this crisis, do still have the capacity to reduce the severity of its inevitable impacts, if we can find the collective, global will. And maybe that is a blessing worth celebrating. There is something in the human spirit that can do this! Yes, I can celebrate that blessing. But it comes with a prayer: may our celebration lead to concerted, sustained, faithful action. There is much at stake.


With love and care,

Rev. Josh

Rev. Joshua Pawelek