What’s New

SERMON: Big ‘B Belonging and Huge ‘H’ Helping

img_0765People seek out congregations in response to all sorts of longings: community, guidance, support, inspiration, religious education for their children, a place to be still, to breathe, to grieve or to collect oneself before confronting the challenges of the coming week. Or perhaps they seek to respond in some productive way to the world’s immense hurt. These are not frivolous longings. They aren’t whims or flights of fancy. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who visited this church or any other purely on a whim, without giving it any thought, without hoping to find something meaningful. Sometimes people come to church without admitting to themselves what they’re really seeking—and maybe they don’t quite know. But when you scratch the surface, some deep human longing almost always becomes apparent. People come to congregations in response to longing. And in discerning what those longings are and attending to them, we help people more fully experience their humanity. This is true for any congregation of any faith. We help people find meaning in their lives. We help people connect with the sacred, the holy, the divine. We help people apprehend their embeddedness in some reality larger than themselves. For me, that’s one description of the core of our ministry—what we ought to be doing when things are normal: meeting people—meeting each other—in the midst of our deepest human longings.

What longing lies at the heart of your presence here?

Continue reading….

SERMON: On the Art of Being Lost

Photo by Duffy Schade

Photo by Duffy Schade

“Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” These words from the Transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau ring true to me. They echo the wisdom of more ancient spiritual teachers. The Taoist master, Chuang Tzu, said “Do not be an embodier of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes; do not be an undertaker of projects…. Embody to the fullest what has no end and wander where there is no trail.” Jesus said “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” These teachers are not referring to loss in the sense of losing something or someone. They mean lost as a state of being: not knowing where you are, where you’re going; not knowing what to say, how to act; not knowing how to get back to the familiar, or if it’s even possible to do so; not feeling the solid ground beneath you. Being lost can be frightening, overwhelming, but it also offers blessings. As it takes us out of our everyday experience, away from the familiar, the comfortable, the routine, it invites us to encounter the world from a different perspective. It challenges us to find sources of strength and creativity in us we didn’t know we possessed. It may even require us to ask for help, to rely on the kindness of strangers. Our world actually gets larger. In the process we learn something about ourselves. We wake up, we stretch, we grow, we break through, we transform. These are blessings. Getting lost from time to time is a good thing. Continue reading….

SERMON: A Remote Important Region — A Sermon for the Ordination of the Rev. Karen Johnston (June 5th, 2016, Northampton, MA)

Karen's Ordination Tattoo!

Karen’s Ordination Tattoo!

When I speak of a remote, important region, I speak of the body—our physical, sensual bodies that process into sanctuaries, light chalice flames, sing, sit, smile, hug, lay hands and love; our bodies that revel in pleasure and beauty; our bodies that grow, age, decline, forget, and eventually die; our bodies that witness and sometimes experience horrors and thus hold stress, anxiety, pain; feel fear, anger, despair. Our bodies—shadowy, remote, but utterly important regions. Why remote? Because for too long our faith, like our larger culture, has kept the body separate from the mind. We know they aren’t separate. Anyone who practices yoga or Buddhist meditation has some inkling of this non-separateness. Mystics, healers, yogis, gurus, sages, TED talkers, therapists, life coaches and UU ministers tell us all the time of this non-separateness. I’m telling you right now. And yet somehow, in practice, our faith, like our culture, resists this knowledge. Religiously speaking, the body remains shadowy, remote. Continue reading….

 

 

 

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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