Minister’s Column December 2021

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for December is joy. I thought it might be interesting to review my newsletter column the last time I wrote about joy, which was five years ago, December of 2016.

I said that joy was “not high on my emotional list these days.” That comment was a response to the 2016 presidential election. I don’t like to admit it, but after nearly 2 years of pandemic living, and after every demoralizing, painful, unnerving, frightening thing that has happened since December of 2016, that comment remains true and, if possible, is more true. Joy—real, genuine, heart-felt JOY—is hard to come by. In 2016 I urged us to cultivate joy in the midst of our blues. I said “cultivating joy is essential … not only as a foundation for engagement in the wider world, but [for sustaining] our health and well-being … our sense of confidence … our sense of self-worth, and our capacity for hope.” Then I shared my responses to the question “What brings joy to my life?”

Some of the answers I gave then have not really been available during the pandemic, like “playing the drums in worship,” “hearing people laugh when I’m preaching,” and “a good night’s sleep.” But for the most part, my sources of joy continue to bless my life. In that list I included:

  • Working with the UUS:E staff.
  • Yard work, as long as everyone’s willing to help.
  • A day off.
  • A meaningful pastoral visit.
  • Watching my sons do something creative I don’t expect them to do.
  • Watching leaves fall.
  • The darkness of this late autumn/early winter season.
  • My wife’s rock-solidness—mind, soul, body.
  • A good book.
  • Great colleagues, UU and non-UU alike.
  • 153 West Vernon St. on Elm Hill in Manchester, East of the Connecticut River.

There were more items on the list, but these stand out to me from five years ago.

I wondered if living through the pandemic has brought different kinds of joy to my life. I don’t think it has. But certainly there are new sources of joy—most importantly, the joy of watching my kids slowly become adults. The older one is discerning who he is after high school, finding his place on a college campus and figuring out his academic major. The other is challenging himself to succeed in a number of sports, making new friends, and participating in the Affirmation class at UUS:E. Watching them mature brings me joy. Perhaps this joy is more intense because of the pandemic, but I suspect I would have experienced it even if there’d never been a pandemic.

Let me ask you: What brings joy to your life? Send me a note. Give me a call. I’d like to hear your answer to this question. And more than that, as we are entering the “season of joy,” can you bring your answers into the forefront of your living in this season and beyond? I really do believe cultivating joy is essential for our health and well-being, our confidence and self-worth, and our capacity for hope.

My prayer for each of us this holiday season is that we may experience abundant, unbridled joy!

With love,

Rev. Joshua Pawelek

Rev. Josh