What’s New

SERMON: I’m Done Talking About the ‘End of Church!’

Apple CommunionOver the past few years you may have noticed the prevalence of a certain topic in my preaching, teaching and committee work. During this period of transition I have continually repeated the message that in the United States the traditional church—that is, a congregation with a building, with Sunday morning worship as its central spiritual practice, with staff, with committees, with many bills to pay—is in serious decline. Some might say it is in free-fall. Across denominations, across faiths, membership is down, attendance is down, participation is down, volunteerism is down, financial giving—especially since the Great Recession of 2008—is down. Churches are moving from full time professional ministers to part-time professional ministers. Churches are closing. Continue reading….

SERMON: Part of All That Ever Was: A 2015 First Harvest Reflection

A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon picking up garbage around the Mortensen Riverfront Plaza on the Connecticut River in Hartford. This was part of my court-ordered community service after engaging in civil disobedience for Moral Monday CT and the Black Lives Matter movement on June 8th. The Hartford Community Court had deployed our doughty crew to beautify the Hartford riverfront in advance of the Food Truck Festival which took place over the second weekend of July.

The park appeared very clean when we got there, but the more we looked for garbage, the more we found: cigarette butts, candy wrappers, plastic water, juice, soda, athletic drink, and beer bottles, tin cans, hub caps, tires, exhaust pipes, mufflers, shoes, pants, underwear (men’s and women’s), Styrofoam and waxed cardboard take-out food containers, paper and plastic bags, plastic forks, knives and spoons, spent fireworks, etc. I understand that the impact of garbage accumulating along the Connecticut River is relatively small and largely cosmetic when compared to the impact of greenhouse gasses accumulating in the atmosphere. But there is a connection. One of my co-defendants wondered philosophically why apparently so many people feel it is OK to leave their garbage on the ground rather than placing it in garbage cans, which are abundant in the parks along the Connecticut River. My response, which I blurted out without giving much thought, was that it’s the symptom of a spiritual sickness. And that spiritual sickness is our modern-world, industrialized nation, human disconnection from Nature. Our capacity to litter is rooted in our disconnection from Nature. Continue reading….

ON THE RADIO: “Politics, Tragedy and the Public Sphere” on On Point.

Michel Martin

Michel Martin

I was honored to be invited to appear on WBUR Boston’s National Public Radio program “On Point” on July 6th. The title of the show was “Politics, Tragedy and the Public Sphere.” It was guest-hosted by Michel Martin. You can listen to the podcast here.




LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Malloy Right About Drug Law Racism

(Published in the Hartford Courant on May 21, 2015)

I congratulate Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his bold attempt to address racism in our criminal justice and drug policy statutes, and I am mystified as to why The Courant would contend doing so “poisons the debate” [May 15, editorial, “Mr. Malloy Poisons Debate”].1

Malloy’s recent comments on the racist outcomes of urban drug-free zones were careful, nuanced and accurate. As the editorial points out, the enhanced penalties for possessing or dealing drugs within the 1,500- foot drug-free zones cause people who live in cities (where zones are plentiful and overlapping) to experience much greater incarceration rates than people who live in suburbs (where zones are sparse). 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!

  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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