What’s New

SERMON: Reinventng the Sacred

In his 2008 book Reinventing the Sacred, complexity theorist Stuart A. Kauffman tells an apocryphal story of the invention of the tractor. Portable engines had been invented for the purpose of powering farm machinery in the early 1800s. The question by mid-century was how to embed an engine directly into the machinery. No reasonably-sized chassis could bear the weight of the engine. Eventually an engineer working on the problem suggested using the sturdy, rigid engine block itself as the chassis. This solution led to the invention of the tractor. This story illustrates Kauffman’s principle of “emergence,” which describes how every new thing—new molecules, species, technologies, economies, cultures—comes into the universe for the first time—not at the very beginning, but as a part of a continuing creative process inherent in the universe. This principle is so compelling to Kauffman that he proposes we call it God. Hence the title of his book, Reinventing the Sacred. Continue reading….

SERMON: White Supremacy Teach-In

During last year’s presidential campaign there was an almost constant outcry from white conservative and working class voters who were tired of being called racist. They were especially tired of progressive white people on the coasts and in large cities calling them racist. ‘Just because we want to end illegal immigration doesn’t mean we’re racist.’ ‘Just because we support law and order doesn’t mean we’re racist.’ ‘Just because we support a temporary Muslim ban doesn’t mean we’re racist.’ Even traditional white supremacists started asking, ‘if it’s ok to say black lives matter, why is it racist to say white lives matter? As you may expect, I have responses to each of these arguments. Each of them, if enacted in real life, have racist outcomes, regardless of the intent of the people who promote them. But this White Supremacy Teach-In is not about other peoples’ racism. It is about how white supremacy continues to operate in our beloved Unitarian Universalist faith. Continue reading….

SERMON: Surrender: A Path to Power

Our ministry theme for March is surrender. In reviewing my past sermons on this theme, I notice a tendency in me—and not only in me, but among Unitarian Universalists and liberal religious people in general, among at least some of the American Buddhist and Yoga bloggers, and certainly on self-help bookshelves —a tendency to speak and write about surrender as this wonderful, liberating act that fills you with peace and joy. All you have to do is let go. All you have to do is be present, be in the moment, go with the flow, let what is yearning to emerge emerge, let the world be the world, accept that you don’t have control over outcomes, be soft, be gentle, bow down, bend in the wind, move with the current, yield, remain quiet. It’s all good advice—solid, sound spiritual wisdom. I often ground it in a reference to the ancient Taoist philosopher, Lao Tzu, who writes in Chapter 22 of the Tao-te Ching “To yield [i.e, to surrender] is to be preserved whole.”[2] But there’s a risk in offering this advice. The risk, always, is that we make what is exceedingly difficult sound exceedingly easy. The risk is that we provide a kind of false hope. How does one let go when holding on for dear life? Continue reading….

REFLECTION: No Room For Hate

[Comments at the Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding’s “Interreligious Call to Love They Neighbor and Act for All Americans,” at the Cathedral of St. Jospeh, Hartford, CT, January 29, 2017]

Like so many of us, I am concerned, unnerved, angered by the increasing normalization of hate—not only in our country, but in so many countries around the world. This hate is not new. Hate has always been a possibility in human hearts and in the hearts of nations, but in recent times—at least in my lifetime—it has been kept in check largely by human decency, compassion and love. Something has shifted. Hate seems to have found its way out into the open. Continue reading….

SERMON: Where the Wood Drake Rests Not: Reflections on Mental Health Ministry

The heart of our Mental Health Ministry has been making mental illness visible and speakable here at UUS:E. Visibility and speakability are not easy qualities to measure, but when people speak openly about their mental illness, their medications, their addiction or their path to recovery; when people speak openly about family members or friends struggling with mental illness; when people arrive at our summit and find a vibrant, supportive, welcoming community; when people are not afraid to share, “hey, I’m having a bad week,” “I’m feeling down,” “I need help”—it says to me the heart of this ministry is alive and well.  Continue reading….

SERMON: Something My Grandfather Seemed to Know About Race and Class

polish-immigrantsI want to share with you some stories about my father’s father, Stanley J. Pawelek. Grandad Pawelek seemed to know something about race and class that feels extraordinarily important for this moment in American history.

He was the oldest of nine children born and raised in Thorp, Wisconsin. He was the son of Polish Catholic immigrants who didn’t speak English. Thorp was a farm town, and the Paweleks were subsistence farmers. They owned two acres of land and some animals—mostly chickens. My father remembers visiting Thorp with his parents when he was young. He loved Thorp. He loved the land. He loved eating fresh eggs for breakfast. He says his extended family was lovely in the sense that they were tight-knit and still practiced Polish culture and traditions. I get the impression from my father they were ‘salt-of-the-earth’ people. When he was with them he was one of them. He belonged. He felt loved. But there was a shadow side. They were racist. Like so many European immigrants who would eventually lose their hyphens and become White Americans, the Paweleks very quickly picked up American racism towards Blacks and other people of color. In fact, picking up and expressing that racism was part of becoming White. My grandad was no exception. My father remembers him using racist jokes and slurs. He believed Blacks were inferior to Whites. Continue reading….

SERMON: Joyful is the Dark

full-moon-rising-2-22-16We are in the dark season. The sun hangs low in New England’s southern sky, arching quickly along the horizon through the course of each short December day. A few brown leaves still cling to branches on otherwise barren trees. Snow flurries. Storms loom. Lakes and ponds, rivers and streams begin freezing. Wind rattles old windows in dry, dusty homes; heaters rattle and bump as hot air or water flow through old pipes, making eerie yet comforting sounds through long dark nights. Continue reading….

 

PRAYER: Transgender Day of Remembrance

tdor-1

Precious and loving God,

You whom we know by many names and none,

You who reside in the heart of the so many faiths, the heart of the ancestors, the heart of mystery,

You whose spirit is love, whose will is love, whose intention is love, whose purpose is love, whose essence is love:

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thank you for this day.

Thank you for this sacred time we share together on this day.

Thank you for holding us in this time of sorrow and grief.

Thank you for grounding and centering us as we name those who’ve lost their lives as a result of murderous anti-transgender hatred and violence.

We ask that you hold these beloved dead, that you cradle them, that you embrace them in their eternal rest. Through us, holy God, cry for those who can no longer cry, laugh for those who can no longer laugh, sing for those who can no longer sing, and speak for those who can no longer speak.

Help us to speak loudly and clearly for them so that their living and their dying will not have been in vain; so that we, together, can build a more loving, more just, more caring community, nation and world.

Thank you for grounding and centering us, as we prepare to go out from this time and this place to speak your love into a world that doesn’t feel safe, that doesn’t appear to care, that isn’t motivated to change.

Thank you for instilling in us courage in the face of fear, hope in the face of despair, love in the face of hatred.

Bless those who’ve been murdered. Bless those who love them. Bless us as we mourn, as we remember, as we sing, as we speak, and as we love.

Amen and blessed be.

 

 

 

10 Responses to What’s New

  1. Robert Cox says:

    Dear Rev. Pawelek,

    My wife and I heard you on On Point on Friday afternoon driving from Newtown, where we had attended the funerals of two friend’s grandchildren. Lynda and I lived in Newtown for over 40 years and were returning to our home home on Cape Cod were we have lived only since June.

    We were driving through Manchester where I was born and grew up on the farm right down the hill from you. My brothers and I played Army and other non-pacific games during the Cold War on the land where your meetinghouse is located before my father and mother sold the land to the church. My parents ashes rest beneath the copper beach tree behind the meetinghouse.

    All of that is by way of explaining why we payed attention when you were identified at the start of the broadcast and why at the conclusion I looked up your sermon from last Sunday and read it in full. I shared it with my wife and sent it to my son Rob in Newtown who, though his children were safe in other schools in town, has been galvanized by the horror of what happened in our little community.

    Rob has been instrumental in establishing an organization there called “Newtown United” which has a Facebook page and a growing following dedicated to promoting a sane firearms policy in the wake of the Newtown murders. Because he is a journalist who started his career with Michael Bloomberg we are hopeful that Newtown United will have access to resources that might be successful in taking advantage of this “once in a lifetime … Longed for tidal wave of justice”. As our president said from the stage where both my sons graduated years ago, “let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.”

    We are deeply grateful of your rejection of the posture of the caller who urged us to “man up” and accept the murder of this latest 26 with a shrug, deeply grateful for your words that brought us both to a teary eyed pause on interstate 84.

    If you can in your capacity spread the word of the work “Newtown United” is trying to do in these early days to members of your congregation (I know, not “flock!”) we would appreciate it.

    From my childhood experience back in the 50’s as a Unitarian teen on Pearl Street in Hartford and my experience of watching the wonderful members of your congregation who welcomed my father and mother in their last years, among them the Gravers and the Packards and Nancy Gould who may or may not still be members, I know that when looking for activism, idealism and hope, the Unitarian Universalist Meeting house is as good a healing well as one is likely to find.

    Thanks again,

    Bob and Lynda Cox

  2. admin says:

    Hi Bob. Thanks so much for your note. What a blessing to hear from you. I will gladly spread the world about Newington United and will plan to be in touch with you and your Rob soon. We can work on this!
    –Josh

  3. Bill Graver says:

    Hi Josh,
    Thanks so much for sending this along to us. Bob’s parents Barbara and Allan are well remembered by us and many other folks who have been around since just about the beginning. In your recent sermon you reminded us of a few of the connections we have with the Newtown community and now here is another solid one. By the way your “flock” took strong exception the “man up” comment as well.
    Bill Graver

  4. Harry Mangle says:

    Hello Josh,
    I came across the “On Point” program unexpectedly this evening and was happily surprised and proud as a fellow UU from UUS:East that you were one of the guests on Tom Ashbrook’s 12-21st program. Thank you for articulating our values so well on this well-respected program that dealt that day on how people of faith struggle to make sense of this senseless tragedy. And what a small world it is when Barbara and Allan’s son hears your voice on a Boston radio show. I also remember them as a wonderful and kind individuals. Thanks again, Josh.

  5. Michael Roberson says:

    This sermon reminded me of this short story: http://qntm.org/responsibility

  6. Chris Sanders says:

    Hi Rev. Josh

    I used to come to UUSE many years ago and continue to be interested in UUSE and receive the newsletter. I heard Starhawk and was interested in your upcoming sermon on 4/21. My hope is that you not only cover our disconnections from the earth and those results but how we can move ours and the world’s disconnections to connections to address the results. Thanks so much.
    Chris Sanders

  7. homepage says:

    I actually want to know why you branded this particular
    blog post, “Rev Josh Pawelek”. In either case I actually admired the article!
    I appreciate it-Bryant

    • admin says:

      Bryant: I’m not sure which post you read. But in answer to your question, Rev. Josh Pawelek is the name of the website. It’s just my personal website. Every post should have it’s own title. But sometimes on social media it shows up as “Rev. Josh Pawelek” instead of whatever the title is. That may be what happened.

  8. mike gruber says:

    You blocked traffic and someone in an ambulance could have died. Martin Luther King is NOT proud of you.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your concern Mike. So you are aware, we specifically selected a location that is not on an ambulance route, and we had plans to make way for emergency vehicles in the event of an emergency. Anyone trained in nonviolent civil disobedience knows to consider this in planning an action.

      MLK is dead and I do not–and never have–pretended to know what he thinks.

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