What’s New

SERMON: This is Not a Drill

Over the last week of August our family rented a cottage on Cape Cod. One day we came home from the beach and discovered a gas leak in the basement. For a few minutes the best word to describe my response was confusion. OK, it’s only in the basement, except I can smell it a little bit upstairs. We have to do something. Let’s call the owner – or should we call the gas company, or the plumber, or 911? It’s dinner time; the boys are getting cranky from hunger; I’m getting cranky from hunger; is it ok to light the grill, which is near the house, but not that near? Can the pilot light on the water heater ignite the gas in the basement? Is it OK to take a shower? Stephany reached the owner on the phone, who thought it was best to call the plumber who had been working on the house earlier that day. That’s when the fire alarm went off. Yikes. For a moment I experienced full-blown panic. Then, for the first time since smelling the gas I took a breath. Just one breath with that loud beeping and that jarring, mechanical voice announcing the presence of a fire, and I somehow gained clarity, calm, and a sense of resolve. I yelled at Stephany to have the owner call the gas company to come turn off the gas. I ordered the boys out of the house to the front yard. I grabbed my phone and some corn chips and salsa. We camped out on the front lawn, away from the house, until the gas company arrived, turned off the gas, vented the house, and fixed the leak. The whole ordeal lasted about 90 minutes.

This was not a drill. If it had been, I would not have given myself high marks for my initial response. Confusion and panic are understandable, but if there’s a gas leak, evacuate first, then be confused. And in hindsight, we should have called 911 immediately. The gas company treated the situation as an emergency and arrived quickly, but I suspect the fire department would have arrived more quickly. 

This experience raises two related questions, both with spiritual ramifications. Continue reading….

SERMON: Reclaiming Humanism

Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika addressing the 2017 UU General Assembly in (his hometown of) New Orleans, LA

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Unitarian Universalism knew Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika[1] as Hayward Henry, chair of the Black Unitarian Universalist Caucus (BUUC), a Black Power organization within the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Under his leadership BUUC advocated—initially successfully—for the UUA to dedicate one million dollars to a Black Affairs Council (BAC) to organize and fund projects for Black self-determination around the United States.[2] This funding was highly controversial. Almost as soon as the 1968 Cleveland General Assembly voted on a plan to disburse the money, the UUA’s board of trustees began backtracking on the commitment.[3] The controversy continued over the next few years, only a portion of the money was disbursed, and as many as 1500 Black Unitarian Universalists left the denomination, profoundly disappointed in the UUA’s inability to fulfill its promises. I had always understood this leave-taking was due primarily to the funding controversy. However, when Dr. Sanyika spoke at the 2017 New Orleans General Assembly, he offered a different interpretation. Continue reading….

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….

 

 

 

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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