Minister’s Column November 2021

Dear Ones:

I hope you are well as we enter into the heart of autumn in New England, 2021. As I write in mid-October, the Connecticut COVID data is spiking. Maybe it’s an anomaly, but who knows? During the period between September 15 and October 15 the data had been hovering just above the “low risk” zone on We had been looking forward to re-starting our soft re-opening as early as mid-November. But given this new, late October spike in the infection rate and in new cases per 100,000 residents, I don’t see that happening. As I write, I frankly have no idea what to expect, as it is difficult to identify any reliable trends after this current spike. I am left with frustration, sadness, anger, tiredness. I know you feel all these things too.

Thank you for your ongoing patience. Thank you for understanding our “covid cautiousness” at UUS:E. Thank you for helping the staff and our leaders prioritize safety for all members of our community, and for the wider community. Thank you for sticking with us! And if you have the opportunity, please take a moment to tell our staff—Gina, Jane, Annie, Mary and Heather—how much you appreciate everything they are doing to keep UUS:E running during the pandemic. I don’t have words to name just how hard they are working, day-in and day-out, on our behalf. But please trust me when I say, they are doing an incredible job!


Our ministry theme for November is holding history. I see this as an invitation to wrestle with Thanksgiving. While Thanksgiving is not a specifically religious holiday, it resonates with all the spiritual descendants of the Puritans, who settled in (some say invaded) Turtle Island in the 1620s. Those descendants include the congregational churches of New England; and of course, Unitarian Universalists still practice a version of that “congregational way.” In short, we are among those descendants. So, what do we do with that history, that traditional Thanksgiving narrative that speaks of a mutual respect between the indigenous people and the settlers? What do we do when we know the traditional narrative hides a bloodier, deadlier truth? I’ll be digging into this question (with a little help from some of you) in our 11/14 and 11/21 Sunday services.

Indeed, as liberal people of faith in the United States, what do we do with painful historical truths? What do we do when public school teachers address the reality of oppression in US history, and critics accuse them of “indoctrinating” our children? What do we do when politicians claim it is un-American to name the reality of oppression in US history, because the naming contradicts their sense of innocence and purity? What do we do with the painful truths in the history of our own faith?

I say, with conviction, care and love, let us strive to always speak the truth about our history. And in response to the truth, let us strive to improve our communities—church, neighborhood, town, state and nation—so that the pain of the past is not extended into the future. This is, of course, challenging. I believe we have always been, and will continue to be, up to the challenge.

Rev. Joshua Pawelek

With love,

Rev. Josh