Minister’s Column September 2021

Dear Ones:

Welcome to the 2021-2022 congregational year! I am hoping beyond hope that in the coming year UUS:E continues to be a place of love, nurture, healing, creativity, spiritual growth and public witness for you. I am hoping beyond hope that UUS:E meets your spiritual needs, meets your family’s spiritual needs, meets our collective spiritual needs.

I want to express my sadness and my anger that the pandemic is continuing to disrupt our functioning at UUS:E. As most of you know by now, given Connecticut’s current public health data (which we track on, the UUS:E Policy Board, working with the UUS:E Emergency Response Team, decided at its August 17th meeting to postpone our transition to hybrid services, originally scheduled for September 12th. While Connecticut is in far better shape than most states, we agreed that an infection rate well over 1.15% and nearly 20 new cases per day per 100,000 residents present far too much risk to our collective safety.

I am sad because I was really looking forward to more of us being physically together in community as the congregational year begins. How sweet it would have been to physically “come home” for homecoming! While I have the opportunity to interact with many of you online, we all know it’s not quite the same thing as being in each other’s physical presence. So, I am sad.

I am angry because the spread of the delta variant in the United States was preventable. The evidence is clear: we are now living in a pandemic of the unvaccinated. I understand some people aren’t able to get vaccines (children, the immuno-compromised, etc.). I get it: there are some good reasons not to get a vaccine. But politics and political party aren’t good reasons. Gubernatorial ignorance isn’t a good reason either. Believing in conspiracy theories doesn’t count. Machismo? Not an excuse. Faith in the power of Jesus? Newsflash: Jesus wants everyone to get their vaccines! (If the vaccines aren’t miracles, I don’t know what is!) The bottom line is that too many people who could’ve followed the guidance of public health experts refused to do so, and it has impacted everybody else. So, yes, I am angry.

I will get over it. And one of the ways I hope to get over it is to figure out how UUS:E can start advocating in the wider community to raise the vaccination rate in Connecticut. For me, it’s beginning to feel like a justice issue. As long as the coronavirus remains present, the most vulnerable, elders, essential workers, frontline workers, emergency responders and health care workers continue to be at risk.

On a different but related topic, 18 months of pandemic living have led me to focus my theological reflections on what it means to live in a physical body. Lockdown, masking, social distancing and online communicating can be very disembodying, and I find myself longing for a spiritual life that centers the body. During my summer study leave I have been exploring questions about the spiritual dimensions of the body. Some of the books I’ve read include Annie Murphy Paul’s The Extended Mind: Thinking Outside the Brain, Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies (thanks to Lisa Sementilli or the rec!), Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, and two novels: Rivers Solomon’s Shadowland and Richard Powers’ The Overstory. More to come. Always more to come!


Rev. Joshua Pawelek

With love,

Rev. Josh