Minister’s Column February 2023

Dear Ones:

Love is our ministry theme for February. As I begin to contemplate this theme, I am immediately drawn to the proposed changes to Article II in the Unitarian Universalist Association’s bylaws. [As a reminder, Article II is the section of the UUA’s bylaws where we find the seven UU principles and the 6 sources of our UU living tradition.] I preached about the proposed changes in January. I am planning to say yet more about the changes in my February 19th sermon. This is entirely in keeping with our ministry theme, since the proposed new Article II places love at the center of our faith. Here’s an excerpt from the proposal:

Love is the enduring force that holds us together. As Unitarian Universalists in religious community, we covenant, congregation-to-congregation and through our association, to support and assist each other in engaging our ministries. We draw from our heritages of freedom and reason, hope and courage, building on the foundation of love. Love inspires and powers the passion with which we embody our values.

I say ‘YES!” I say “AMEN!” I say “HALLELUJAH!”

Of course, assuming our General Assembly accepts the proposed changes, there is much about the current Article II I will miss. I will miss the language of the seven principles, though I feel confident that the new “statement of values” is an excellent replacement. I will likely miss the language of the six sources more. I have always loved the way we name a multiplicity of specific sources for our faith—awe and wonder, prophetic words and deeds, wisdom from the world’s religions, Jewish and Christian teachings, Humanist teachings, Earth-centered teachings. The new language of “inspirations” is fine, but it isn’t nearly as specific. We haven’t lost the concept of multiple, specific sources, we just won’t be naming them in the new Article II.

I say YES to the proposed changes precisely because they put love at the center of our faith. I’m mindful that the seven UU principles make no mention of love. That absence has always created dissonance for me. The principles are excellent expressions of the modern, liberal religious identity and worldview. But for me, the primary purpose of our Unitarian Universalist faith—indeed, the purpose of any faith—is to help people:

  • To feel love in their hearts (for other people, for creatures, for the Earth, for divinity)
  • To feel loved by a community of peers, i.e., a church, a temple, a mosque, etc.
  • To manifest love in the world as justice, compassion and equity.

There are many ways to achieve this purpose of experiencing love and putting love into action. I believe our congregation, and Unitarian Universalism in general, have been pursuing this purpose all throughout our history. And I am excited that we are finally naming love as the central value of our faith. Will this change, assuming it happens, change us in any appreciable way? That’s one of the questions I want to ask in my February 19th sermon. Maybe naming something that’s been with us all along won’t lead to a noticeable change. I suppose time will tell. But for now, please know I am very excited to find out.

 

With love (genuine, heart-felt, enthusiastic, raucous, boisterous love!),

Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek

Minister’s Column January 2023

Dear Ones:

The numbers 2-0-2-3 feel somewhat inauspicious to me as far as years go. 2023 is no 1999 (“party like it’s…”), 2000 (new century) or 2020 (pandemic, George Floyd, etc.). It certainly doesn’t have the smooth, quarter-century feel of 2025. Nope, 2023 feels like a non-milestone year. Meh. Blah. Ho-hum. Except that for Unitarian Universalism, it’s a big year, in a funky, congregational way. 2023 is the year when the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly (Pittsburgh, third week of June—anyone interested in joining me there?) debates wholesale changes to Article 2 of its by-laws. (Actually, as members of a member institution, they are OUR BYLAWS!) Article 2 is where the 7 UU principles live. Article 2 is where the sources of our living tradition live. And if the new Article 2 proposal passes, both the principles and the source language will disappear.

Our ministry theme for January is Finding Our Center. There are, of course, many ways to approach this theme. In my January 8th sermon, I’ll be talking about the concept of “shared ministry,” which is a critical “center” for our congregation. At our January 15th Sunday service, Gina and I will talk about the 1963 “Children’s Crusade” to end segregation in Birmingham, AL. We will emphasize another important “center” of our congregational life: social justice activism. And in my January 22nd sermon, I will be preaching about the proposed changes to the UUA’s Article 2. Certainly, the seven principles and the sources live at the center of Unitarian Universalism. They have lived there comfortably for many years. We should not give them up lightly. We should feel confident that the new language serves just as well as an enduring and inspiriting center for our faith.

I am persuaded that the proposed new language, if accepted, will indeed serve as such an enduring and inspiring center for our faith. I am most heartened by the way the writers of the Article 2 proposal have put love at the center of Unitarian Universalism. While I am deeply committed to the 7 principles, I’ve always felt that the absence of any reference to love is problematic. To be sure, I have some concerns about the new proposal, which I will discuss in my January 22nd sermon. But my support for the changes far outweighs my concerns.

Regardless of why I think about feel about the changes, I recognize that this change may be unfathomable to some of you. While a small number of you were Unitarian Universalists before 1985 when the current Article 2 was adopted, the vast majority of you became Unitarian Universalists after 1985, and you have never experienced our faith without the principles and the sources at the center. Hear me: this is a HUGE change. It’s important that we pay attention to and, where possible, participate in the Article 2 conversation in the larger UU community.

I’ll leave you with a reminder about the nature of liberal religion. As liberal religious people, we recognize the reality of change. We recognize that change is inherent in the natural order. We agree that “change alone is unchanging.” We do not preach an unchanging theology. We allow our theology to change in response to changes in society, culture and the natural world. The UUA’s Article 2 is written with the assumption that it will change over time, precisely so that our center can continue to respond to our times. And that is the question I leave for you as we search for our center. Does the proposed language for Article 2 respond more effectively to our times than the current language? As we move through this month and through the first half of the year toward the General Assembly in Pittsburgh, I invite you to share your thoughts with me. How do you answer this question?

With love,

Rev. Josh

Rev. Joshua Pawelek

December Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for December is wonder. Most of us recognize that the stories, imagery, decorations, and lights associated with the holiday season are designed to fill us not only with a sense of wonder, but also with joy, awe, peace, and the desire to be good people, to be kind to others. My hunch is that, for many of us, our sense of wonder during the holiday season is linked to positive childhood experiences. It is indeed in the nature of children to experience wonder in this cheerful time. And that experience doesn’t end when we graduate from high school. It journeys with us into adulthood. As adults, the holiday stories, imagery, decorations, and especially the lights, easily take us back to that often unexamined childhood mix of holiday wonder, awe, joy, peace and anticipation.

Except this isn’t the case for everyone. Holiday-inspired wonder is not universal. Not everyone can reflect back on positive holiday experiences in childhood. Not everyone welcomes the holidays as a time of joy, let alone wonder and awe. We sometimes refer to this as “Blue Christmas.” I am grateful to Beth Hudson Hankins and Vivian Carlson, members of our Sunday Services Committee, who will offer a special vespers service on Tuesday, December 13 at 7:30 PM, to address those for whom the holiday season is not a wondrous time. Are you grieving the death of a loved one? Are you estranged from family in some way? Are you someone for whom the holidays just create more stress? Are you someone whose family of origin didn’t—or couldn’t—muster cheer in the holiday season? If so, our December 13 vespers service may be for you. Please watch our weekly eblast for more information.

Finally, many of you know that I often try to look beyond the stories, imagery, decorations and lights of the holiday season, and to peer into the darkness. Indeed, I try to welcome the December darkness and discern what it has to teach. We light lights in the midst of the darkness, but I sometimes feel we focus too much on the significance of light, and not enough on the equally powerful significance of darkness. For my December 11 sermon, I will be reflecting on how we experience wonder in the darkness. It’s a different species of wonder. It’s not the wonder associated with the birth of a savior, or the advent of peace on earth and good will to all. It’s not the wonder associated with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, gifts, caroling, hot chocolate and Frosty the Snowman. It’s not the wonder of a guiding star. Indeed, the wonder that comes with darkness is mysterious. There are fewer words to name it. In fact, in trying to name it we often miss its essence. It defies naming. It’s a response to absence more than to presence. It is an apprehension not of what is, but of what isn’t. It is an affirmation of empty space, a silencing of the impulse to fill it up with color and sound. It is the vast backdrop for the light; and to experience it we must be very intentional about how we look. We must be willing to sit outside of the light, sometimes in the chilly late Autumn air. We must be willing to sit with unknowing. We must be patient. There is wonder in the darkness, and it will come if we are patient.

That’s just a taste of what I plan to preach about on December 11. For now, I welcome you to the holiday season at UUS:E and in the wider community. In this holiday season I wish for you joy. I wish for you peace. I wish for you opportunities to name pain, sorrow and loss, so that these pieces of you aren’t lost in the midst of holiday cheer. Most of all, I wish for you moments of wonder not only in response to the lights, but also in response to the darkness. May wonder feed your soul.

 

With love,

Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek

November Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for November is change. While there are many ways to talk about change, I want to say a few words about social change. Our UU principles call us to build a more just and loving community. The work of social change is a large part of who we are as a congregation. Thus, as your minister, it’s important for me to periodically name the variety of connections I have to social justice organizations in our region and around the state. Members of the Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee get regular updates from me; but most of you don’t attend those meetings, so don’t necessarily know what I am up to.

I am up to a lot. Our shared worship ministry makes this possible. Many of my colleagues prepare worship liturgies and write sermons every week, a process which takes me an average of 20 hours. But with our shared worship model, I only preach twice a month. This sharing of the worship leadership with lay people affords me time to be involved in the wider community. For this reason I remain exceedingly grateful to UUS:E for its shared worship ministry, and especially to the members of the Sunday Services Committee.

What am I up to? Here’s a list:

  • I serve on the Strategy Team of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Committee (GHIAA). Note elsewhere in this newsletter that GHIAA is planning a huge “Power Summit” on December 7 at Central CT State University. Can you attend?
  • I serve on the Coordinating Committee of Recovery for All, a statewide coalition of labor, community and faith-based organizations dedicated to expanding state revenue so that more investments can be made in critical public services.
  • I serve on the board of a new Connecticut think tank called “A Better Connecticut Institute,” whose mission tracks very closely with Recovery for All.
  • I provide faith-based support to the HUSKY for Immigrants campaign.
  • I provide faith-based support to the Domestic Worker Justice Campaign.
  • I dedicate time and energy as a faith leader/ally to Moral Monday CT, our state’s oldest Black Lives Matter organization.
  • I dedicate time and energy as a faith leader/ally to Power Up CT, a Manchester-based Black Lives Matter organization.
  • I am participating in Equality Connecticut Clergy, the faith-based arm of Equality Connecticut, the new statewide LGBTQ rights organization.

There’s more, but these are the primary organizations and campaigns to which I dedicate time and energy during the course of the year. I am proud of these connections, and proud that UUS:E and UUism are represented in these critical change efforts. To find out more, consider yourself invited to attend meetings of the UUS:E Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee (1st Tuesday of the month at 7:00). Or reach out directly to me to learn more about ways you might participate in any of these efforts.

 

With love,
Rev. Josh

Rev. Joshua Pawelek

October 2022 Minister’s Column

Dear Ones,

In my September 18 sermon on belonging, I spoke about the challenge of learning to ask for help. I quoted a passage from Emergent Strategy, the 2017 book by writer, activist, facilitator, and organizer, adrienne maree brown. In this passage, brown talks about learning to ask for help. It wasn’t easy. It took practice. There were a lot of cultural norms around not sharing that got in her way. But she learned to ask, even when she knew there was no way she could return the favor to the person helping her. It changed her life. She writes: “The result of this experience is that I feel so much more woven into the world. I still anticipate independence, my default can-do self space. But I don’t want to sever any of this connecting fabric between myself and all of the incredible people who held me … saw me, corrected me, held me in my contradictions, met my needs. I want more of my life to feel this interdependent, this of community and humanity.” (I highly recommend this book!)

In a similar vein, I’d like to share with you some words from How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community, by Mia Songbird, another writer, activist, facilitator and organizer. She quotes Amoretta Morris (a wise woman she knows), who wrote: “It’s okay to ask for help. In fact, by doing so, you are taking part in the divine circle of giving and receiving. While we often focus on what the request means for the asker/recipient, we should remember that giving can be transformative for the helper…. By not asking for help when you need it, you are blocking that flow.” Mia Songbird adds: “This is one of the most liberating things I’ve ever read. We have a responsibility to each other to ask for help when we need it. Instead of listening to the fictitious lone wolf in us, we must listen to the wolf in the pack, and tap into the impulse that moves us to co-create opportunities for mutuality, opportunities to care for and be there for one another.” (I highly recommend this book!)

I’m going to continue talking about asking for help, naming our vulnerabilities, addressing our feelings of isolation, etc. As we move more fully into this post-pandemic era, our congregational community will benefit as we learn to ask for, receive, and give help. I suppose this ties in nicely with our ministry theme for October: courage. As I said in my September 18 sermon, asking for help, confessing our vulnerabilities, naming how we don’t feel like we fully belong—these are not our natural inclinations. They require practice. They require intentionality. They require courage. But the benefit, as both adrienne maree brown and Mia Songbird point out, is that we live more fully into interdependence. We feel more secure in the world. And that matters.

For now, if you’re feeling isolated, or if you’re living with vulnerabilities that you have trouble sharing, I encourage you to tell someone at UUS:E. Tell me. Tell a member of the Pastoral Friends Committee (Sally Gifford, Ellen Williams, Sid Soderholm, Sue McMillen, Gene Sestero, Ann Stowe, Peg Darrah, Laurie Semprebon). Tell someone to whom you feel close. It very well may take courage. Indeed, such feelings are often difficult to name openly. But naming them gives others a chance to respond in creative ways. And even if there is no way for us to fully address how you feel, at least someone else will know. You will be seen, held, loved. And that matters. Take courage friends!

 

With love,

Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek

September 2022 Minister’s Column

Let’s cut right to the chase: I begin my 20th year as UUS:E’s minister this summer, August 15 to be precise. No mincing of words: This is a huge milestone, not only for me, but for all of you. The average length of a parish ministry these days is ridiculously brief, 4 – 5 years. I’m not entirely sure why the average tenure is so short. It may have something to do with all the headwinds facing traditional congregations in our era—headwinds which the pandemic exacerbated. Whatever the cause, it hasn’t impacted UUS:E. Twenty years is indeed a huge milestone, and for that reason I am feeling celebratory! (I’m sure we’ll find time to celebrate at some point.)

As I have been reflecting on twenty years of ministry, two features of my experience at UUS:E stand out to me. First, UUS:E is committed to shared ministry on Sunday mornings. The full-time minister is not a full-time preacher. This means that the congregation hears wisdom and insight not only from me, but from its own members and guest speakers on a very regular basis. I firmly believe (and I’m being completely serious when I say this) my ministry has lasted so long because you don’t hear from me every Sunday. My voice is certainly prominent, but it is one voice among many. There’s a balance, a multiplicity of perspectives and approaches, a very natural and inherent worship democracy. If it were me in the pulpit every single Sunday for twenty years, no matter how much you appreciate me as your minister, there would be no balance, no pulpit diversity. It would be much harder to sustain a long-term parish ministry.

Second, over twenty years, it is possible to develop strong personal relationships with many members of the congregation. I know you. I know your stories. I know your struggles. I know your joys. I know your children, especially if they grew up at UUS:E. And not only do I know you, I know the wider community. I have strong personal relationships with clergy from many faiths, leaders from community organizations, town and state workers, activists, politicians, labor leaders, social workers, teachers, therapists, medical providers, nursing homes, funeral homes, and more. These relationships are a natural outcome of serving as a minister in one place for twenty years. They are assets one simply cannot develop in a 5-year ministry.

Along those lines, “relationship-building” and “community-building” are going to be important themes for me this year. During my study leave hours I’ve been reading writers who focus on these themes as responses to the challenges of White Supremacy culture, patriarchy, and hyper-capitalism: Mia Songbird (How We Show Up), Adrienne Marie Brown (Emergent Strategy), Alexis Pauline Gumbs (Particle and Wave and M Archive: After the Fall of the World). I was drawn to these and other resources because it is clear to me that as we slowly move from COVID as pandemic to COVID as endemic, the possibility for isolation is strong. COVID has changed our ways of interacting; and while some people are thriving in terms of community engagement, others are feeling more isolated than ever, more lost, more forgotten. It is important to me that UUS:E does everything it can to address that risk and potential for isolation within our congregation and in the wider community. You can expect to hear much more from me on this topic. As I begin my twentieth year as your minister, I am excited for the transformative ministries that we have yet to build. I hope and trust you are excited as well.

 

With love,

Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek

July 2020 Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

The following reading appears in Hear the Earth Call, a collection of prayers and sermon excerpts that Duffy Schade, Sharon Gresk and I produced a number of years ago. It’s called “Digging in the Dirt,” and it strikes me as important advice for engaging with summer:

My younger son, Max, who is eighteen months old, likes digging in dirt. Over the past few months, whenever we go outside, Max grabs a plastic shovel from his shelf in the garage and enthusiastically bobs and waddles over to the three small pine trees lining our driveway. He squats at the base of the middle tree and digs in the dirt. He puts his shovel in the ground and loosens a scoop of brown, sandy earth. He lifts it slowly; he studies the scoop intently—his gaze pierces; and then very slowly he slides the dirt off the shovel back onto the ground—again and again and again. Peter Mayer has given me words for what Max is doing. He is memorizing “the pages of gravity.”

I don’t know what question Max’s young mind is really asking as he conducts this almost daily ritual, but he’s clearly asking one. His stare is so fixed, as if he’s looking for something—not something in the dirt—not a worm or a mole or an acorn or some other buried treasure. It’s as if he’s looking for the nature of dirt itself. I’ve seen him touch it, smell it, taste it, share it with others—but it’s that intense gaze which says, “I need to know what this stuff is. It’s hard and solid underfoot, but in my shovel it becomes a billion tiny pieces that flow like water. How does it do that?”

I hear it said a lot, “young children are sponges.” They are learning the world around them, taking in vast amounts of data and integrating it into their knowing. Their quest for information is very natural, very much a part of who they are. They are open, quizzical, experimental, self-directed, uninhibited, compulsive, and at times obsessive. They are firm believers in the notion there are no bad questions. They love to ask “why?” “what?” and “how?” They are sponges. We might also say they are searchers.

When it comes to adult spiritual searching, I contend the most important model we have may be that of young children learning the world for the first time. And this is good news. In some way or another, we’ve all been there before. Our bodies remember. Do you remember digging in dirt?

 

Between early July and mid-late August I will be taking approximately 6 weeks of vacation and study-leave. Stephany and I have no big plans this summer, but I certainly am looking forward to some much-needed down-time. During the summer Ellen Williams will be serving as the chairperson for the Pastoral Friends Committee. (Her contact info is in the UUS:E directory or at the UUS:E office.) You can contact her for pastoral needs. She will be in touch with me as necessary.

For now, I wish for you a wonderful summer. I wish for you many good questions—Why? What? How? I wish for you many opportunities for digging in the dirt, for returning to your spongey, childhood self, your searching self, the self that has never fully disappeared. I pray you can encounter that self this summer

 

With love,

Rev. Josh

Rev. Joshua Pawelek

 

 

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

May 2022 Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

First: Annual Meeting! I want to remind everyone that our Annual Meeting takes place after the second service on May 15th. The meeting should be relatively short, as we are only voting on the proposed budget and slate of officers, board members and committee chairs. All voting members should have received the call to the meeting in late April. If you are a voting member and you didn’t receive the call, please contact our office.

Second: the 8th UU Principle. It had been our plan to vote at the Annual Meeting on whether or not to adopt the 8th UU principle as a congregation. However, after careful consideration, the Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee has recommended that we postpone the vote minimally until the fall. In March we had a wonderful 8th Principle workshop with Paula Cole Jones, but the workshop helped us recognize that May 15th is too soon to hold a meaningful vote. Indeed, a vote this momentous requires that we have many opportunities for study, questioning, learning and debate.

In the interest of generating understanding of and enthusiasm for the 8th Principle, the Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee will be offering a variety of avenues for learning. On May 1, following the second Sunday service, they will host a viewing of portions of Paula Cole Jones’ March workshop. They will also provide monthly columns in this newsletter on “Why the 8th Principle Matters to Me,” as well as links to helpful resources in our weekly eblasts.

The 8th Principle calls us to address all the ways various forms of oppression—racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, etc.—live in our institution, and to truly center the work of confronting oppression in all aspects of our congregational life. This is a challenging but liberating call. But that is also true of the call implicit in the current seven UU principles! I hope you will take the time over the next six months to learn about the 8th Principle and why so many other congregations have adopted it.

 

Finally, our May ministry theme: Nurturing Beauty. I likely won’t be preaching directly on this theme, so I want to take a moment here to urge you to contemplate that which is beautiful in your life, to surround yourself with that beauty, and to revel, unapologetically, in that beauty. It goes without saying that life has been difficult these past few years, and there is likely more difficulty in the future. But difficulty is not, and never has been, an excuse to deprive ourselves of beauty. Wherever you encounter beauty—in nature, in a meal well-prepared, in the arts, in music, in worship, in meaningful relationships, in community, in a good book, in a unique experience—my prayer for you at the beginning of May, is that you may encounter it in abundance, that it will feed your soul, and strengthen you for whatever difficulties lay ahead.

And if you have a spare minute, please send me a note about beauty at [email protected]. I’d love to learn about the beauty that surrounds you!

 

With love,

Rev. Josh

Rev. Joshua Pawelek

 

April 2022 Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

For this month’s column, I am reaching back to a meditation I wrote about April in the early years of my ministry. This mediation appears in the book, Hear the Earth Call, which Duffy Schade, Sharon Gresk, and I published in 2017. I find it speaks well to our April ministry theme of awakening, and to all the layers of meaning we encounter in spring. It’s called “April Rains and Breezes and Muddies.” Enjoy!

***

April rains and breezes and muddies its way into our New England lives. April’s sun shines on our backs, bringing warmth, bringing moments precious, joyful and serene. We proclaim to strangers, Ah, what wonderful weather, finally, though our hearts long to say even more: I feel so alive! I am full of life. I am filled with life. I am alive all over. I am thankful, thankful, thankful for this gift of life.

Like ritual fire April purifies. Like ritual water April cleanses. April wipes our eyes clear of winter grime and grit, winter sand and salt. April wakes us up fresh and alert. Like Passover, April calls us to leave all our states of bondage, to wander, to embrace the wilderness. Like Easter, April releases us from all our blue tombs, releases us from old, outworn anxieties, leaves behind old selves, looks us forward to our lives in new shapes with new challenges.

April is a proclamation. Hear ye, hear ye! It is time to let go of those old, painful ways, those old, unfounded fears, those tired winter bodies, those touching but untenable childhood dreams, those unworkable situations that no longer serve us well. Let go and live again, a new self, a wiser self, a healed self, a truer self. Let go of that which does not matter, and in the new spaces you create, listen as April rain pours down on hard dark pavement. Listen to the rhythm of rain, the voice of Creation—Nature’s voice—and know the most important things in life—the eternal things—will always be with you through all your times of letting go, through all your times of change and transition. Listen for a moment to April and blend your spirit with the vastness. Listen for a moment to April and know you belong in this universe. Listen for a moment to April, and know you belong to life. Listen for a moment to April and know you are home.

Amen and Blessed Be.

***

As pandemic restrictions and fears continue to recede, as we continue the slow, bumpy transition to post-pandemic life, as spring arrives fully in New England, my prayer for each of you as that you will experience the spiritual potency of this season, that you will awaken. From winter’s rest into spring’s rebirth, may you awaken!

With love,Rev. Joshua Pawelek

Rev. Josh