Minister’s Column April 2021

Dear Ones,

Our ministry theme for April is becoming. I can’t imagine a better theme for this springtime moment. As we slowly begin to emerge from pandemic restrictions, as we slowly begin to contemplate how we can start sharing congregational life in person, I urge us to contemplate who and what we are becoming.

I assume the pandemic has changed us. Our congregational life won’t return to exactly the way it was prior to COVID-19. That is, some aspects of congregational life will be pretty much the same as before; some will be different. We need to prepare ourselves for both. And the best way to begin that preparation is to contemplate, together, who and what we are becoming.

As a way into this contemplation, I’d like to share a set of questions from the nationally recognized church consultant, Susan Beaumont. (Special thanks to Gina Campellone for bringing these questions to my attention!) Beaumont divides her questions into three categories. First, she asks about loss. For so many of us there has been extraordinary loss during the pandemic. We need to grieve our losses before we can enter fully and authentically into the next stage of our life—before we can become! What has our congregation lost? Let’s try to name it. Consider these questions:

  • What were we on the verge of discovering or accomplishing before the onset of the pandemic? What needs to move forward in different ways now?
  • What was possible before that may not be possible for some time—if ever?
  • What seemed important before that feels superfluous now?

Second, Beaumont asks about our assumptions. The pandemic has likely undercut the power of at least some of our assumptions about congregational life. What assumptions have lost their power? Consider these questions:

  • What was undervalued before that may hold greater value now?
  • What mattered about geography before that no longer matters?
  • What new abundance are we experiencing now? Where are we experiencing scarcity now that was not evident before?

Third, what is emerging? The pandemic has not only forced us to adapt and innovate in the short-term, but also to welcome new ways of being in the long-term. Consider these questions:

  • What is our greatest asset now?
  • What relationships will we need to build on or strengthen in the months ahead?
  • What unique role might our congregation play in local, national, and even global recovery?
  • What long term changes in the bigger picture would we like to be part of bringing to fruition?

I urge each of you to spend some time with these questions. I invite you to share your responses with me, either by email, phone, Zoom meeting, or outdoor in-person meeting. Let’s get together! Then, in the coming weeks, I hope to organize a series of group conversations (virtual and in-person) to gather and hone your collective responses. Watch the regular eblasts for times and locations. We are in a mode of becoming, and it is wise for us to articulate.

With love,Rev. Joshua Pawelek

—Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column March 2021

Dear Ones,

Our ministry theme for March is commitment, a very appropriate theme for the month in which we conduct our Annual Appeal. Due to the pandemic, we’ll be conducting the appeal differently this year. Everyone will receive a small packet in the mail with the annual appeal materials. As always, we ask you to consider the value UUS:E holds in your life and your family’s life. In particular, what has it meant to you to be connected to UUS:E over the past year of pandemic and civil unrest? You are always welcome to share your answer to that question with me directly at [email protected] or 860-652-8961. Even if you’ve felt more disconnected during our move to online church, I am always interested to hear from you.

And as always, we ask that you return your pledge form in as timely a manner as possible so the Stewardship Committee can do its work on behalf of the congregation.

The Policy Board’s goals for this year’s appeal are modest. One goal is to insure that we pay our staff in accordance with the UUA’s guidance for our geographic area. A second, stretch goal is to hire, once again, a part-time Membership Coordinator (once we’ve returned to in-person church). While our first attempt with this staff position did not work out, we still feel strongly that a Membership Coordinator can help UUS:E continue to grow—in numbers, in spiritual depth, in participation, in connection. If you have any questions about these goals, please feel free to contact me or any UUS:E board member (listed in the directory.)

It is typical for me to preach an Annual Appeal sermon on the first Sunday in March. This year I will play around with the idea that our faith doesn’t claim to have secret knowledge. We don’t claim to possess some spiritual truth the rest of society doesn’t know. We don’t believe we are favored by God because we confess a certain set of beliefs. We aren’t conspiracy-minded people. Instead, we strive to know and address the world as it is. In an era where fake news, “alternative facts,” opinion masquerading as reporting, and multiple conspiracies abound, a religion that strives to know and address the world as it is holds very high value in my life. I hope and trust it holds such value in your life.

This year, the UUA has created a Stewardship service which we will experiences as a congregation on Sunday morning, March 14. I am very excited for this as one of the service leaders, the Rev. Chris Long, is a dear friend and former mentee of mine. Another service leader, the Rev. Mariela Pérez-Simons, is a former student of mine. Both are fantastic ministers. I can’t wait for all of you to experience their worship ministry.

Once again, please feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk about the value UUS:E holds in your life. Thank you for your continued commitment to UUS:E and your generosity toward this year’s annual appeal. We can’t do what we do without you!!

 

With love,

—Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek

Minister’s Column February 2021

Dear Ones,

Our ministry theme for February is beloved community. Upon realizing this, and mindful that February is Black History Month, I found and re-familiarized myself with a book I’d read for a class in seminary, bell hooks’ 1995 Killing Rage: Ending Racism. In the final chapter, called “Beloved Community,” hooks critiques Martin Luther King’s vision of beloved community. King argued that the United States would become a beloved community only when race had been transcended, forgotten, when no one “saw” color anymore. Hooks disagreed. She argued instead that:

Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world. To form beloved community we do not surrender ties to precious origins…. The notion that differences of skin color, class background, and cultural heritage must be erased for justice and equality to prevail is a brand of popular false consciousness that helps keep racist thinking and action intact.

Still powerful words.

I think it’s important for us as a congregation to ask, always, whether our UU church culture tends to erase differences or emphasize and celebrate them. If we tend to erase our differences (for the sake of always getting along, reducing conflict, being “like-minded”) then it’s possible that some of us are keeping important pieces of ourselves out of our community. Is it really safe to talk about one’s mental illness? Or about one’s hidden (or visible) disability? Or about what it’s really like to be an elder (or a youth) in U.S. society? Or about what it’s really like to be a person of color (or a white person) in U.S. society? Or about growing up poor (or wealthy)? Or about coming from a conservative political family? Or from a conservative religious family? Obviously, if there are aspects of ourselves we can’t bring fully into congregational life, that’s not good. It may enable us to avoid conflict and difficult conversations, but I think bell hooks is right: it’s not beloved community.

We are not beginners when it comes to being a beloved community. I can think of many Sunday services, programs, committee meetings and small group meetings over the years when we’ve dug deeply into our differences; when we’ve tried to emphasize and celebrate different perspectives, different cultural backgrounds, different racial identities, different understandings of gender and sexuality, different life experiences. And, of course, we can and must continue to grow in this critical aspect of congregational life. I want UUS:E to be a place where no part of ourselves is left out. Furthermore, I hope we can learn to anticipate the kinds of human differences (different languages, for example) that aren’t currently present at UUS:E. How can we prepare to welcome people whose differences may be keeping them away? (That’s the topic of our February 28 Sunday service with C.B. Beal: “Preemptive Radical Inclusion.”)

No, we’re not beginners when it comes to being a beloved community. But we don’t want to become complacent either. Let’s not underestimate the power of our differences to deepen and strengthen our community. Thanks for the reminder bell hooks!

With love,

—Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek

Minister’s Column January 2021

Dear Ones,

Our January ministry theme is imagination. From late December to late January, we will have the opportunity to imagine what it means to be one among many Unitarian Universalist congregations in Connecticut. As we did this past August, we’ll be visiting the services of other congregations (Hartford on 12/27, Hamden on 1/3, New London on 1/10, and West Hartford on 1/31.), and they will all be visiting us on 1/24. Not only will this sharing of services provide a wonderful opportunity for us to hear other ministers preach and to experience how other congregations conduct online worship; it will also provide the staff in each of the congregations a much-needed, post-holiday break.

All services will be at 10:00 AM. Login information will be provided in our regular eblasts. On some Sundays we will be logging into our regular UUS:E Virtual Sunday Service Zoom room and watching from there. On other Sundays we will join the host congregation in their Zoom room. We will attempt to be as clear as possible with instructions.

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Speaking of imagination… As we enter into 2021, I’m wondering how you imagine life will be different as the worst impacts of the coronavirus pandemic begin to subside. Of course, we can’t say with complete certainty that things will improve. However, with the arrival of multiple vaccines, and a new administration in Washington, DC that will be much more unified with public health experts in its approach to fighting the virus, it is reasonable to assume that the worst impacts of the virus will be behind us by late spring or early summer. (Geez, that still feels so far away!)

So I’m curious: how will life be different for you? We’ve said many times that “we can’t go back to the old normal.” For me, that statement refers primarily to social, economic and racial conditions in the larger society. The new normal must address fundamental, systemic injustice. Too many lives are at stake. But for the purposes of this column, I’m wondering what you imagine will be different for you specifically? For example, are there new life patterns or rituals you’ve developed during the pandemic that you plan to continue as it subsides? Are there insights you’ve had over the last nine

months—about yourself, your family, your work, your down-time, your spiritual life—that suggest new ways of living once the pandemic winds down? The pressure to return to life as it was will surely be intense. How do we resist that pressure and live our best new normal?

When I say I’m curious, I really mean it. I am inviting each of you to share with me your imagining of how life will be different for you because of something you’ve realized during the pandemic. Send me an email at [email protected]. Or leave a message on my home office phone, 860-652-8961. I look forward to hearing from you.

And lest I forget to say it, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Given how awful 2020 was, I think it’s safe to imagine that 2021 will be better on all fronts! Or here’s another way to look at it: If the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine data are accurate, then 2021 will be at least 94.5% better than 2020! I like those odds.

Amen and blessed be.

With love,

—Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek

Minister’s Column December 2020

Dear Ones,

Our ministry theme for December is stillness. I can’t imagine a more essential theme for us in this beautifully dark season in this extraordinarily difficult year. A pandemic rages around us. Our safety—and the safety of our communities—depends on our staying home as much as possible, staying isolated as much as possible, and restricting our movements in the wider community as much as possible. Our safety depends on our capacity to remain still.

As we commenced our congregational year back in September, I was fairly confident the coronavirus would come surging back in New England with the arrival of colder weather. I wasn’t confident because I had some special knowledge or inside information. Every infectious disease specialist in the country, along with doctors, nurses, and public health officials were predicting we’d be here now. This was public knowledge. And the experts were telling us what to do to limit the worst-case scenarios: wear masks, avoid large indoor gatherings, stay socially distant, wash hands often. My goal here is not to lay blame for this largely avoidable public health crisis. Laying blame won’t change reality at this point. What’s done is done. We are where we are as a nation. Our challenge is to stay safe, vigilant, resilient, patient … and still.

In a meditation entitled, “There is a Time to Let Go,” my colleague, the Rev. Gretchen Haley, counsels us to “study stillness and joy.” I like the way Rev. Haley links these two states of being—stillness and joy—as if one lives within the other, and vice versa. So often stillness and joy feel like two separate experiences of the holiday season. We typically encounter holiday joy in gatherings of family and friends, in holiday parties, in singing in the holiday choir, in our holiday music and Christmas Eve services—in being together. We encounter stillness when the sun sets at 4:00 PM, when the snow falls gently on newly frozen ground, when we wake early into the darkness of the pre-dawn, when Christmas lights around the neighborhood touch that ancestral knowledge deep in us—that knowledge that the sun returns, that our working toward a better world is not in vain.

This year, of course, the usual sources of seasonal joy are limited, mostly to Zoom. Our usual opportunities for hugs, touch, eye contact, cooking together, sharing meals, giving gifts, and singing are actually dangerous this year. We need to find joy through other avenues. It’s time to study stillness and joy.

Can you find joy in the stillness? I hope you can. I hope you can study stillness and joy, as Rev. Haley advises. I hope you can discover how stillness and joy live within each other. In the absence of physical connection and togetherness, I hope you can find the peace and contentment that come with being still. I hope you can encounter the many ways the sacred speaks through silence. I hope you can experience how the darkness holds, consoles, and nurtures us. And within all of it, I hope you find joy.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukah, a blessed solstice, and a happy New Year. Through it all, I encourage you to study stillness. And I pray that you find joy in that stillness.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column November 2020

As we approach the 2020 elections on November 3rd, life in the United States, no matter who you are, is disorienting and painful. Each day seems to bring with it a new cut, a new bruise, a new indignity, a new insult, a new threat to democracy, a new broken norm, a new spike in positive tests, a new largest fire, most damaging flood, strongest hurricane. Of course, different people are impacted differently by each new thing, but the little traumas accumulate in everyone. The loneliness of isolation grows in everyone. Patience runs thin at times in everyone.

Our ministry theme for November is healing. As I sit down to write these words in mid-October, I confess I am finding it challenging to contemplate healing. Healing from what? The list is long: healing from all the interrelated health, economic, educational and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic; from our nation’s foundational sin of racism; from persistent and pervasive sexism that has also become glaringly visible during the pandemic (most notably in the Labor Department’s early October report that women have lost work at four times the rate of men since March); healing from profound ideological polarization in our nation, from vitriolic campaign rhetoric and misinformation campaigns; from blatant abuses of political power; from all the ways our democratic systems and institutions have been harmed by attacks on voting rights, the census, and the postal service, just to name a few; from natural disasters with heightened severity clearly due to human-caused climate change on planet earth.

Ughhh. You know this list. I trust you understand why I am finding it challenging to contemplate healing at this moment. Where is one to even begin?

Maybe healing begins with us. With our community. With our principles. With our covenant. Maybe healing begins with us being available to each other for simple connection and conversation. Available to hear each other’s frustration and anger; to witness each other’s tears without shying away; to offer virtual hugs, because so many of us miss physical touch so much. Maybe healing begins with us being present to each other as we each search for our sources of inward calm, peace, strength, resolve—our inner voice.

I’m contemplating ways we can be more connected. Three thoughts:

First, I encourage every one of you—every UUS:E member and friend—to reach out to me for connection and conversation. While it isn’t always easy—or wise—to meet in person; and while Zoom or the phone are inevitably poor substitutes for face-to-face engagement, there is immense value in meeting however we can. I’ve spoken to many of you in person, by Zoom or by phone since the pandemic began, but certainly not all of you. I mean this from the bottom of my heart: I want to hear from you! You don’t have to be in crisis to contact me. You don’t need to have anything pressing or urgent in order to reach out to me (even conversation about the mundane events of our lives is a good thing in these trying times). You certainly won’t be bothering me if you reach out for conversation! I am available!

Second, because the election is upon us, and because we have no idea what will happen on and immediately after November 3rd, we are organizing two, virtual post-election vigils on November 5th—the first at 1:00, the second at 7:00. Watch the eblast for login information. No matter what happens, we will have a space to be together as a spiritual community in the wake of this very high-stakes election.

Finally, one of the things I love about UUS:E is that so many of you are in touch with each other. So many of you are watching out for each other, listening to each other, caring for each other. When I hear stories about the kinds of support you offer to each other, it warms my heart. It reminds me of the many strengths of our congregation. Keep doing that! Do it even more. Connect with people you may only know a little bit. Get to know them better.

We have much healing ahead of us – as people, as members of local communities, as citizens and residents of a nation, as members of the global community. Our capacity to heal begins with strong relationships. No matter what happens in the world around us, and no matter what other activities call for our attention, let’s take the coming months to focus on our UUS:E relationships. Reach out. Connect. And when the time is right, heal.

Amen and blessed be.

With love, —Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column October 2020

Dear Ones,

Our ministry theme for October is deep listening. For me, this theme brings many possible questions to mind for personal and collective spiritual exploration. For example, how do we listen deeply to people with whom we disagree radically when it comes to politics and “culture war” issues? We may never agree with them, but can we listen for their deepest fears and anxieties? Their hopes and dreams?

How do we listen deeply to our fellow UUS:E members and friends? Especially in this pandemic time when we must keep our distance, when our regular modes of face-to-face interaction are unavailable, how do we listen to one another? Then there’s the practice of listening to ourselves, to our inner voice, our conscience, our heart, our soul. What conditions are necessary so that we can listen deeply to ourselves?

Somehow I am feeling called right now to listen deeply to the land. This may be because, like so many of us, I love the way the leaves change colors during autumn in New England. (I’m looking forward to singing “Turn Scarlet, Leaves,” – words from the late UU minister, Raymond J. Baughan, set to music by UUS:E Director of Music, Mary Bopp.) Being present to the changing seasons— listening deeply—has always been the source of spiritual experience for me, a way to connect with realities greater than myself.

There’s more to this call than just the changing seasons. Some of us have been talking about conducting an official UUS:E “land acknowledgment” as a way of honoring the indigenous people who originally lived in our region of Connecticut—Podunks, Wangunks, Nipmucs, and others. In light of this, I’ve been spending some time walking around UUS:E’s property, proud of the way we have taken care of it over the years, but also listening for how things might have been in ages past. Wondering. Imagining. Listening. As of writing these words, I don’t know if we’ll be able to conduct an official land acknowledgment this month. But we can certainly begin preparing. We can certainly begin listening.

Finally, I am aware that smoke and ash from the west coast wildfires are now passing through the skies over New England. Even here in Connecticut, some areas are experiencing serious drought conditions and the risk of east coast fires is growing. We know the ever-increasing destructiveness of fires, hurricanes, floods, and other weather-related phenomena is directly related to climate change. Are we listening to the land? Are we listening to the earth? I suppose I am offering a prayer: For the sake of our lives and the lives of all those who are coming after us, may we who live today listen deeply to the land. May we who live today listen deeply and respond well, so that the blessings of the land will not be lost to future generations. May we listen.

Amen and blessed be.

With love, —Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column September 2020

Dear Ones:

And so our 2020 – 2021 congregational year begins. Welcome home! I really mean that. Even though I can’t welcome you back to our beloved UUS:E meeting house on Elm Hill at the Manchester-Vernon line, east of the Connecticut River; even though I can’t welcome you back to that physical space where the ashes of our deceased friends and loved ones are interred, where hawks fly, where deer forage, where an ancient spring hides in the woods; even though I can’t welcome you back to our beautiful, green, accessible building, I still say “welcome home.” It’s always been true that the congregation is not the building. The congregation is those of us who gather for worship in whatever form it takes, education in whatever form it takes, performances in whatever form they take, community time in whatever form it takes. I wish we could gather in person, face to face. But as you know, prudence, safety, an abundance of caution, and the guidance of our principles counsel otherwise.

While I wish I could say “welcome home” in person, there’s a part of me that is relieved I cannot do so. As I write these words, so many of us are bracing for a return to in-person school. So many of us, whether parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or friends have had to contend with the excruciating process of deciding if in-person schooling is the right path for our children. Some of us are teachers or school administrators who’ve had to prepare for in-person school knowing there is no guarantee of safety, knowing there is risk even under the best circumstances. So many of us are waking up with knots in our stomachs, wondering how back-to-school is going to play out, wondering what detail we may have forgotten to consider. I’m mindful of those words in our hymnal from the poet Wendell Berry: “When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound of what my life and my children’s lives may be.…” I’ve had my share of these moments in the lead-up to sending Mason off to college, and now getting ready to send Stephany off to teach and Max off to 9th grade. “When despair for the world grows in me.…”

I am relieved that we aren’t trying to make in-person church happen in the middle of a pandemic. I am relieved I don’t have to convince any of you that it’s the right thing to come back to in-person programming at UUS:E. Churches are proving to be frequent sources of outbreaks across the country. In my view—and certainly in the view of our leaders at the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston—we have no business returning to in-person services, especially not right now. I am relieved that at least one important touchstone in our lives doesn’t have to wrestle at all with the decision to re-open. We remain virtual!

With that, let me write the words again: Welcome Home! Welcome to the 2020 – 2021 congregational year at UUS:E. To be sure, it will be different. My prayer is that it will be spiritually nourishing for all of you—a source of comfort, sanity, peace, love and, within the bounds of safety, engagement. May it be a good year.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column August 2020

Dear Ones:

I’m very excited to share with you our Sunday Service schedule for August. In short, we will be virtually visiting a number of different congregations in the region. Here’s the schedule:

August 2nd: We visit the UU Society of Bangor, ME, where UUS:E member, the Rev. Drew Moeller, serves as the minister. (Rev. Drew and the folks from Bangor visited us on July 26.)

August 9th: We visit All Souls UU Congregation in New London, CT. They are offering a service jointly created with the UU congregations in Chelsea, MA and Groton, MA.

August 16th: We visit the Universalist Church of West Hartford.

August 23rd: We visit the Unitarian Society of Hartford.

August 30th: We return to UUS:E, and welcome our friends from the Hartford, West Hartford and New London congregations.

For each of these services, instructions for logging in will be sent in our regular Wednesday and Saturday eblasts. For most of them, you will be able to log in to the UUS:E Zoom site (as you regularly do on Sunday mornings) and experience the service from there. If there are any changes to this procedure, we will do everything in our power to get the word out in a timely manner!

I’m excited about this sharing of worship services for a few reasons. First, this sharing of services will enable our UUS:E members and friends to experience how online worship looks, sounds and feels at other UU congregations. It’s not like having a guest minister visit us in our meeting house for the morning. It’s literally having another congregation’s entire worship experience for the morning. This will be a different for all of us!

Second, at least for some of the services, we will be able to interact with members of other congregations, either through the Zoom chat or through the breakout rooms following the services.

Finally, this sharing ensures that our staff and lay-leaders who regularly work on our Sunday services will get a break. (It also ensures that the staff and lay-leaders at the other congregations will be getting breaks too!)

For most of us, our primary experience of Unitarian Universalism is through our local congregation. This sharing of online services reminds us that we are part of a larger association of congregations. It reminds us that we can work with other congregations to fulfill our purpose. It reminds us our congregation is not alone, that there are others very much akin to us on the religious landscape. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic we rarely, if ever, would have thought to share services in this way. It just wouldn’t have happened. But given that we’re all living with the pandemic, and we’re all conducting online worship, it makes perfect sense that we would begin to share services on Sunday morning. A pandemic silver lining perhaps….

I am very curious to know what your experience of these other worship services. Please feel free to let me know what you like about the services at other congregations. And please let me know if you’d like to do more Sunday morning sharing as long as we’re still conducting services online.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Minister’s Column July 2020

Dear Ones:

We come to the end of the 2019-2020 congregational year. Our congregational life now slows down for a few months. I’m looking forward to time off for vacation (“staycation”) and study leave. I desperately need some time off at this point. And while using the world “desperately” in that last sentence, in a regular year, might seem overly dramatic, I trust you all understand that I— and all our UUS:E staff—desperately need some time off this summer. I am tired after these last three-and-a-half months of pandemic church. I am feeling raw, drained, worn out, worn down, not at my best self—not even close. Many of you feel these things too.

How could it be otherwise? We’re making our way through a global pandemic that will likely result in more than 200,000 American deaths—many that could have been prevented had we had competent national leadership. We’re making our way through the pandemic-related hyper-exposure of racial and class inequities in our nation, and vowing not to return to that old normal. And we are making our way through a national Black Lives Matter uprising in response to police violence, figuring out our place in it, figuring out how to work for substantive change. As liberal and progressive people of faith, we face these difficult and painful realities. They draw our attention, and we feel called to address them, called to engage, to struggle, to fight. This call is inherent in our seven UU principles. It is a central part of the mission of our UU faith. And of course, in order to pursue our mission, in order to uphold our principles, we also have to run the day-to-day operations of our congregation, manage the finances, maintain the building, educate our children, tune our pianos. And since March we’ve had the added challenge of working with new technologies, dealing with weak Wi-Fi signals, figuring out how to teach classes online, how to organize food drives, how to respond to a local police shooting, how to keep in touch with each other. So, yes I am feeling tired, raw, worn down, worn out, etc. How could it be otherwise?

But I also feel pride. I’m proud of our UUS:E staff for responding with grace to the realities of the pandemic. None of our staff has been perfect, but what they’ve given us is better than perfection. They’ve given us devotion, patience, heart, creativity, and love. I am so proud of them, and grateful too.

I’m also proud of our lay-leaders, our Policy Board and Program Council members, who have kept us moving along as a congregation under very difficult and quite novel circumstances. No, they have not been perfect either. But like our staff, they’ve given us better than perfection. They’ve given us commitment, flexibility, optimism, and love. They’ve made hard decisions. I’m proud of all of you for rolling with us through these frightening, unnerving, technologically challenging and isolating times. The trust you have put in the UUS:E staff and lay-leaders have been critical. The support you’ve shown us has made all the difference.

And, last but not least, I’m proud of myself. It’s been a rocky ride. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve not been my best self. But I look back now on everything that’s happened, including an 11-day sun-up to sun-down fast to urge the legislature back into session, and I feel pretty darn good about it. Raw, worn-down, worn-out, not my best self—yes. But I am beaming we pride too. Please know that about your minister.

Have a great summer friends! I will definitely “see” you along the way; and I look forward to the coming year. It will also be exhausting, but full of opportunity, full of ministry. With love,

—Rev. Josh