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Minister's Column for September 2023

Rev. Josh Pawelek


I am a theistic Unitarian Universalist;  an aspiring antiracist, feminist, queer ally; a liberal, suburban American minister practicing a modern version of New England’s old “congregational way;”  a loving husband and father; and a spiritual leader dedicated to transformative preaching, teaching, healing and social justice ministries. Serving as the parish minister of UUSE has blessed my life in many ways. Most importantly, UUSE has allowed me—and continues to allow me—to serve as a spiritual leader striving to provide excellence in ministry. I am deeply grateful.

Minister's Column for Septeber 2023

I hope you are having wonderful, relaxing summers (despite the mosquitoes!) I have had a relaxing vacation time, including a week on Cape Cod, a week in Northern Vermont, and a week dealing with COVID 19. We’ve gotten a lot done around the house, which always feels good. 

This summer my usual study leave has gone in a variety of directions: 

• Science: Jaime Green’s The Possibility of Life: Science, Imagination, and Our Quest for Kinship in the Cosmos and Ed Yong’s An Immense World: How Animal Senses reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us; 

• Philosophy: Kieran Setiya’s Life is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way; 

• Psychology/Self-Help: Nedra Glover Tawwab’s Set Boundaries, find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself, which came highly recommended by the UUA’s office for Ministries and Faith Development; 

• A critique of our cultural understandings of disability and the notion of “cure:” Eli Clare’s Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure; 

• Fantasy/Science Fiction: Octavia Butler’s “Lilith’s Brood” series, Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper, Naseem Jamnia’s The Bruising of Oilwa and Natalie Lloyd’s Hummingbird. 


Most of you know I will be taking a sabbatical from October 2nd to the first week of February. My plan is the same as for my previous sabbaticals—to continue working on a novel. I will also take some time to travel to Hanover, PA with my mother to visit her family members who live there. I am looking forward to this sabbatical, and I continue to feel immensely grateful to UUSE for offering sabbatical time to its professional minister. It’s no secret that ministry is demanding in many ways, especially after three years of adapting to a pandemic. There is great wisdom in the idea of periodically providing clergy with time ‘away’ for alternative work, study, reflection, etc. I like to tell the story about a colleague from a different tradition whom I was telling about my upcoming sabbatical. He had just received a car as a gift from his church and was trying to muster a smile. I said, “That’s a nice car.” He sighed, “I’d prefer a sabbatical.” 

During my sabbatical, eight guest preachers will visit UUSE. Most are local clergy—half UUs and half from other religious traditions. Our Sunday Services Committee, under the very capable leadership of Sandy Karosi and Vivian Carlson, will coordinate these services as well as our regular lay-led services. 

Our Pastoral Friends Committee is also ready to continue providing pastoral and parish care as needed to the members and friends of UUSE. However, on this topic, I want to make it abundantly clear that in the event of someone’s death, I am fully committed to stepping away from my sabbatical, offering support to the deceased’s family and friends, and organizing and officiating at the memorial service. This is important to me. As I am now serving in my 21st year as UUSE’s minister, I have developed long-term relationships with our members—especially those who have been part of the congregation longer than I have. I have deep affection for UUSE’s people, and I can’t imagine handing over the responsibility for officiating at a memorial service to a substitute minister who doesn’t know and love the deceased in the same way I do. 

UUSE is a vibrant, healthy congregation that has always fared well during my sabbaticals. Again, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for this sabbatical opportunity! 

With love, 

Rev. Josh 

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