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  • Emmy's Friday Update

    Greetings CYM Families & Friends! I just came from the Earth Day rehearsal, and I am so excited for this service!  I encourage you all to attend and be part of the powerful art and energy that will flow through the Sanctuary this Sunday.  Sometimes we get focused on our differences - difference in opinion, beliefs, and lived experiences.  But there is always one shared experience that unifies us all.  We share this planet.  As Unitarian Universalists we value and work to protect and care for our Great Mother and all her elements and creatures.  We rely on her and are accountable to her.  We are accountable to our siblings and children of today, and the generations of tomorrow.  This is a gift to be both given and received, and that includes YOU, as an essential part of our beloved community. After the Earth Day service CYM families are invited to meet me in the garden to pot up some decorative planters to flank our program door!  We’ll begin about 12:30 so be prepared to get a little dirty!  For me, there is nothing more spiritual than having my bare hands in soil and the scent, sight, and feel of plants.  Our children and youth will be working with me in two garden beds throughout this Spring as well.  Teaching our children about plants, gardening, and caring for our planet is one of the most important gifts we can give to ensure we raise protectors of the Earth. Here’s what else is happening in CYM this Sunday, April 21, 2024: All Congregation Earth Day Service in the Sanctuary at 9 AM and 11 AM Nursery: Childcare will be available in our nursery at 11 AM for children age 3 and under. OWL: “Unintended Pregnancy Options” - As they learn about three options for resolving an unintended pregnancy, participants explore their attitudes toward and feelings about being faced with an unintended pregnancy. They practice making the very difficult decision of how to respond to an unintended pregnancy. High School Youth Group: Will meet this Sunday in the couch room and attend service together as a group. Save the Date: APRIL Sun, April 21: Potting up flowers and food in planters alongside the newly adopted CYM garden beds!  Please join me in the garden at 12:30pm, after the Earth Day service.  All ages and families welcome, bagged lunch recommended.  Be prepared to get dirty! Sat, April 27: UUSE 2nd Annual Mayfair!  A variety of booths will be set up in the Sanctuary and the UUSE Pagan Group will lead a Beltane ritual.  Activities for the whole family! Mayfair Cookie Competition!: Who makes the best cookie? Enter your tried-and-true family recipe or a new experiment you’ve been wanting to try. It’s a multi-generational competition—There will be prizes for an adult and a kid winner. Bragging rights and a beautiful UUSE Master Cookie Baker Apron are up for grabs! To Enter 1. Contact Jennifer Klee at jenduvklee@gmail.com to reserve your spot in the competition. 2. Bake! Since this is a competition and we want everyone to sample many cookies, please make 6-8 dozen SMALL, bite sized cookies. 3. Send the list of ingredients to Jennifer so we can have that information available for people with allergies. Questions? Contact Jennifer Klee at jenduvklee@gmail.com MAY Sat, May 4: Spring clean-up of the UUSE grounds - Would your family enjoy getting outside and earning a prize for completing family-friendly tasks?  Come lend a hand to the Building & Grounds committee and breakfast foods will be provided!  Please shoot me an email if your family plans on joining so I can have enough prizes on hand! Sun, May 5: Youth Group Bake Sale, CYM family potluck lunch then All Congregation Meeting - Bring cash for the Youth Group Bake Sale and then please join us on the Garden Level at 12:15 for a potluck lunch before the All Congregation meeting at 1 PM in the Sanctuary.  Please let me know asap if you need childcare in order to attend that All Congregation meeting!  Items to be discussed are important proposed changes to policy and information about upcoming voting at the annual meeting. Fri, May 10 - Sat, May 11: High School Youth Group Lock-In.  More details coming soon. Sat, May 11: Watercolor lesson with Carolyn Emerson from 10am-12pm on the Garden Level!  CYM families are invited to learn and create with expert instruction.  A great opportunity to create a gift for Mother’s Day the following day!  Open to all ages, please RSVP by email to me at dcym@uuse.org. How You Can Help in CYM: NEEDED: A couple parents volunteers to help out at the CYM booth at Mayfair on Saturday, April 27!  Please email if you are interested and available to help.  Thanks! ​ Nursery (ages 3 and under) https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C084EAFAC2CA3FFCE9-nursery ​ Workshop Adventure (Grades 1 through 5) https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C084EAFAC2CA3FFCE9-workshop Twilight Zone (6th, 7th and 8th grades) https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C084EAFAC2CA3FFCE9-5thdimension ​ High School Youth Group (Grades 9-12) https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C084EAFAC2CA3FFCE9-high Faith In Action (Grades 10-12)https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C084EAFAC2CA3FFCE9-faith CYM program calendar for 2023-2024 CYM Committee Members: Desiree Holian-Borgnis, Chair Michelle Spadaccini Paula Baker Heather Alexson Sudha Sevins Committee email: uusecym@uuse.org Angela Attardo, CYM Program Assistant CYMAsst@uuse.org With Love and Gratitude, Emmy Galbraith dcym@uuse.org Cell: (860)576-7889

  • "Earth Day and the Arts: We Won't Give Up!" -- UUSE Virtual Worship, April 21, 2024

    Gathering Music Welcome and Announcements Centering Prelude "Big Yellow Taxi" Words and Music by Joni Mitchell performed by Andy Ricci Chalice Lighting and Opening Words "As surely as we belong to the universe" by Margaret A. Keip Introduction to the Service Opening Hymn #1064 "Blue Boat Home" Words: Peter Mayer Music: Roland Hugh Prichard, adapted by Peter Mayer Though below me, I feel no motion standing on these mountains and plains. Far away from the rolling ocean still my dry land heart can say: I've been sailing all my life now, never harbor or port have I known. The wide universe is the ocean I travel, and the earth is my blue boat home. Sun my sail and moon my rudder as I ply the starry sea, leaning over the edge in wonder, casting questions into the deep. Drifting here with my ship's companions, all we kindred pilgrim souls, making our way by the lights of the heavens in our beautiful blue boat home. I give thanks to the waves upholding me, hail the great winds urging me on, greet the infinite sea before me, sing the sky my sailor's song: I was born up on the fathoms, never harbor or port have I known. The wide universe is the ocean I travel, and the earth is my blue boat home. Story "Change Sings -- A Children's Anthem" by Amanda Gorman, ill. by Loren Long spoken by Emmy Galbraith Joys and Concerns Musical Interlude Offering Our community outreach offering for April is dedicated to the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network or IREJN. IREJN is Connecticut's only faith-based environmental non-profit organization. Committed to justice and grounded in hope, IREJN is a unifying voice dedicated to positive, hopeful action on behalf of the earth, the one thing we all share and the one place we all call home. Their mission is to inspire and equip Connecticut's religious communities and their spiritual allies to protect our planet through education, engagement, and advocacy. Offering Music "Hymn to Gaia" by Mary Bopp Homily Janet Heller with words from Cory Clark, Nancy Madar and Laurel Hennebury Video "Won't Give Up" by Pattie Gonia, Yo-Yo Ma, and Quinn Christopherson Congregational Sing: "Won't Give Up" Chorus I won't give up for a minute Never giving up on you Never giving up on you We won't give up for a minute Never giving up on you Never giving up on you Closing Words Excerpts from "Earthrise" by Amanda Gorman Extinguishing the Chalice Closing Circle May faith in the spirit of life And hope for the Community of Earth And love of the light in each other Be ours now, and in all the days to come.

  • Interdependence in Three Parts by Rev. Josh Pawelek

    First Part: Interdependence as a Fact of Life Our ministry theme for April is interdependence. This term has been capturing the spiritual imagination of Unitarian Universalists and grounding our spiritual actions—especially actions related to Earth stewardship and addressing climate change—since it was adopted as the heart of the seventh Unitarian Universalist principle in 1985. That principle is “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” I note that the proposal to change Article II of the Unitarian Universalist Association bylaws identifies interdependence as one of the enduring Unitarian Universalist values. The accompanying language says “We honor the interdependent web of all existence. With reverence for the great web of life and with humility, we acknowledge our place in it.” I am not preaching about Article II. I am simply naming that from the last quarter of the 20th century through this first quarter of the 21st century, interdependence has been a central, guiding spiritual idea for Unitarian Universalists. I anticipate it will continue as a central, guiding spiritual idea for us for generations to come. As many of you know, when I give the tour of our building during the “Introduction to Unitarian Universalism” class (which I will be doing this afternoon), I show people the mechanical room on the garden level that houses our geo-thermal pumps. In 2008 and 2009, when we succeeded in raising sufficient funds to install our geo-thermal system—so that no fossil fuels would be combusted on our premises, so that we could do our small part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to address the negative impacts of climate change—we were demonstrating our commitment to the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. We were faithfully living the principle. I sometimes refer to those geo-thermal pumps as the spiritual crown jewels of our meeting house. This is not hyperbole. That’s really how I experience them. I hope you do too. Interdependence is a fact. Not a theory. Not a metaphor. Not a new age book title (Twelve Steps to Living an Interdependent Life). It’s a fact. No individual life exists independently of other life. I did not create the air I breath. I depend on the sun and photosynthesizing plants, algae and bacteria to produce that air. This is a fact. I did not create the food I eat for sustenance. I depend (primarily) on farms to produce it (not to mention soil, sun, rain, rivers, aquifers, pollinators, animals, etc.). This is a fact. Mindful also that our human bodies cannot function as carbon sinks—that is, cannot filter excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequester it—we depend on forests, soils, the deep ocean, tidal marshes and sea grasses to function as carbon sinks, so that the planet doesn’t heat up to the point where its life-supporting systems begin to fail. This is a fact. And, all life as we currently know it on Earth depends on human beings living and organizing our societies—especially our systems of energy production and usage—in ways that do not harm all the photosynthesizing, carbon-sinking plants, trees, soil, oceans; living in ways that do not harm the natural systems involved in food production; living in ways that do not pollute, do not release CO2 into the atmosphere beyond the planet’s capacity to sequester it, do not poison natural habitats. In this moment, all life as we currently know it on Earth depends on human beings living as human beings and their precursors have lived for hundreds of thousands of years: in harmony with the Earth and its local environments; in intimate, connected relationship with the Earth and its local environments; as careful, thoughtful, humble stewards of the Earth and its local environments. Not as pillagers, extractors or dominators, but as partners, sustaining a balance that sustains all life. Second Part: Hints from the Quantum World I am not a scientist, though I do enjoy reading popular science from time to time—an interest which comes from being the child of a micro-biologist. My occasional forays into popular science include explorations of quantum theory. Those explorations suggests to me that I—that we—are not only interdependent with all life, but with all existence—all matter, all substance. Everything. I don’t for a minute pretend to fully understand interdependence at this level. It is murky (Alfred Einstein called it spooky.) I don’t have training in physics and am therefore confident I don’t fully understand the pertinent theories. But I read what I read, and I cannot escape the conclusion that subatomic particles, at least at times, appear to behave in ways that could be described as interdependent. One prominent theory is known as quantum entanglement. I’m quoting here from an article on the website Space.com called “What is Quantum Entanglement,” subtitled “Quantum Entanglement is One Seriously Long Relationship.” The writer is Jesse Emspak, a freelance journalist who focuses on physics and what he calls ‘cool technologies.’ (I also read an article titled “Quantum Entanglement for Dummies,” which probably should have been titled “Quantum Entanglement for people who at least hold a bachelor’s degree in physics.”) Here’s the Emspak quote: “Quantum entanglement is a bizarre, counterintuitive phenomenon that explains how two subatomic particles can be intimately linked to each other even if separated by billions of light-years of space. Despite their vast separation, a change induced in one will affect the other. In 1964, physicist John Bell [who was from Northern Ireland] posited that such changes can be induced and occur instantaneously, even if the particles are very far apart.”[1] I understand this is confounding to physicists because, if it is true it means that information is travelling between particles many times faster than the speed of light, which shouldn’t be possible. Einstein actually called it “spooky action at a distance.” Emspak points out that in 2015 “three different research groups were able to perform substantive tests of Bell's Theorem, and all of them found support for the basic idea.” I don’t want to overstate the case for interdependence in response to quantum entanglement. I understand that the theory has a lot to do with how physicists measure certain properties of subatomic particles, and with the concept of superposition which is a rabbit hole you will thank me for not going down. The "Quantum Entanglement for Dummies” article cautions against appropriating this phenomenon for spiritual purposes. The quote is, “Worse still, the Deepak Chopras of the world, who clearly do not understand the physics involved, are bastardizing this phenomenon in ridiculous fashion.”[2] I really don’t want to do that. What I note is that, at least in theory, a subatomic particle on one end of the universe has a measureable relationship to a subatomic particle at the other end of the universe, and a variety of different tests have confirmed this relationality. There’s something there worth holding onto. If nothing else, the tiny, individual pieces of stuff that make up the substance of the universe are not isolated from each other. They relate to each other. I know this about me: I prefer a universe full of relationship. I prefer a universe whose essence is interdependence. Third Part: How Quickly We Forget The fact of interdependence, the idea of interdependence—the word itself, interdependence—rings true to the members and friends of this congregation, rings true to Unitarian Universalists. I note further how so many religions embrace some notion of interdependence, whether they use the word or not. Often it is the more mystical practitioners of a religion who speak of interdependence, or interconnection, or union with the divine, or the cosmic Christ, or interbeing, or ayn sof[3]; or any pantheistic understanding of God or the divine as the totality of all existence—“The Oneness of Everything,” to quote UU songwriter Jim Scott. All related to all. What amazes me is how quickly we, for all sorts of reasons, forget our interdependence, how quickly we revert to living more or less as if we are independent agents, completely self-determining, masters of our own destinies. In my April newsletter column, I wrote about the very natural human tendency to put the world and its things into either/or categories: Right/wrong, good/bad, urban/rural, red/blue, conservative/liberal, immigrant/citizen. I said religions are the most adept at drawing rigid, divisive lines: sacred/profane, saved/damned, virtuous/sinful, good/evil, believer/unbeliever, wheat/chaff. There’s a purpose to this. Categorization and either/or thinking help us to understand and navigate our relationships and our surroundings. But they also feed the illusion of our separateness, and thus they ultimately undermine the well-lived spiritual life. Either/or thinking divides people from people, alienates people from nature, even from our own bodies. It erases the gray areas, the middle ground, the commonalities. As such, it leads us to forget our interdependence with the whole of life. In his Love Letter to the Earth, from which I read at the beginning of our service, the late Vietnamese Zen Master, global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, said it more simply: “Sometimes I forget. Lost in the confusions and worries of daily life, I forget that my body is your body, and sometimes even forget that I have a body at all. Unaware of the presence of my body and the beautiful planet around me and within me, I’m unable to cherish and celebrate the precious gift of life you have given me.” [4] And in response to his forgetting, he prays: “Dear Mother, my deep wish is to wake up to the miracle of life.” And then he makes a vow: “I promise to train myself to be present for myself, my life, and for you in every moment. I know that my true presence is the best gift I can offer to you the one I love.”[5] Just as we naturally break the world up into categories, so we need a natural practice of breaking down the categories, of naming our relationships across the arbitrary divisions we create, naming those relationships to ourselves and out loud to others. We need a practice of naming our connections to people, land, trees, animals, air, water, even the carbon sinks—naming them to ourselves and out loud to others. We need a practice of waking up to the miracle of life, of remembering how all of it is sacred, holy, divine, a practice of remembering our interdependence. Such a practice can take many forms, and really needs to take many forms. The exercise we held earlier, inviting the children—and the adults—to name out loud all the different institutions they are a part of—family, school, neighborhood, girls scouts, church, sports, theater, band, orchestra—and then identifying how each of those institutions shapes who they are, and how they shape those institutions in turn—that’s a way of remembering our interdependence. Another way we remember is through participation in worship here—and in all the other ways we worship, holding up things and matters of ultimate worth to ourselves and others: words, music, art, meditations, prayers, sharing joys and concerns—all of which break down either/or thinking and lift up our interdependence. We need to hear words like those of Thich Nhat Hanh, ““Dear Mother: wherever there is soil, water, rock or air, you are there, nourishing me and giving me life. You are present in every cell of my body. My physical body is your physical body, and just as the sun and stars are present in you, they are also present in me. You are not outside of me and I am not outside of you. You are more than just my environment. You are nothing less than myself.”[6] We need such words in our lives, waking us up, reminding us, revealing interdependence. In searching for such words this week, I happened upon a poem from the 13th-century Sufi poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, entitled “Say I am You.” The translation reads in part: I am dust particles in sunlight. / I am the round sun…. / I am morning mist, and the breathing of evening. / I am wind in the top of a grove, and surf on the cliff…. / I am a tree with a trained parrot in its branches. / Silence, thought, and voice. / The musical air coming through a flute, / a spark of a stone, a flickering in metal …. / I am all orders of being, the circling galaxy, the evolutionary intelligence, the lift, and the falling away. / What is, and what isn't…. / You the one in all, / say who I am. / Say I am You.[7] We need the daily, worshipful repetition of such words, such music, such art so that we can remember, so that we can wake up to our interdependence and the knowledge that just as we depend on the earth, so the earth depends on us. And once awake, then we can make our own vows, our own promises—to be present, to be kind and compassionate, to move gently upon the land, to be good stewards of the planet’s resources, to reduce, reuse, recycle, to engage in the tasks of healing and repair, to be good ancestors to all those who are coming after us. Let us remember, let us promise. Let us remember, let us promise. Let us remember, let us promise. Amen and blessed be. [1] Emspak, Jesse, “What is Quantum Entanglement” at Space.com, May 16th, 2023. See: https://www.space.com/31933-quantum-entanglement-action-at-a-distance.html. [2] ZapperZ, “Quantum Entanglement for Dummies,” Physics and Physicists (website) April 22, 2015. See: https://physicsandphysicists.blogspot.com/2015/04/quantum-entanglement-for-dummies.html [3] From Jewish mysticism. The name by which Kabbalists refer to God’s essential nature is Ayn Sof, which means boundless, or without end. [4] Thich Nhat Hanh, “Love Letter to the Earth,” (Parallax Press, 2013). See: https://www.parallax.org/product/love-letter-to-the-earth/. Also visit Emergence Magazine at https://emergencemagazine.org/essay/ten-love-letters-to-the-earth/. [5] Visit Emergence Magazine at https://emergencemagazine.org/essay/ten-love-letters-to-the-earth/. [6] Visit Emergence Magazine at https://emergencemagazine.org/essay/ten-love-letters-to-the-earth/. [7] Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (Jelaluddin Balkhi), Barks, Coleman, tr., “Say I Am You” The Essential Rumi (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995) pp. 275-6.

  • "Notes on Interdependence" -- UUSE Virtual Worship, April 14, 2024

    Gathering Music Welcome Announcements Centering Prelude "The Oneness of Everything" by Jim Scott performed by Mary Bopp Chalice Lighting and Opening Words Excerpt from "Love Letters to the Earth" by Thich Nhat Hanh Opening Hymn #203 "All Creatures of the Earth and Sky" Words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi Music from Ausserlesene Catholische Kirchengang Verses 1-3 All creatures of the earth and sky, come, kindred, lift your voices high, Alleluia! Alleluia! Bright burning sun with golden beam, soft shining moon with silver gleam: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Swift rushing wind so wild and strong, white clouds that sail in heav'n along, Alleluia, Alleluia! Fair rising morn in praise rejoice, high stars of evening find a voice: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Cool flowing water, pure and clear, make music for all life to hear, Alleluia, Alleluia! Dance, flame of fire, so strong and bright, and bless us with your warmth and light: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Time for All Ages Musical Interlude Joys and Concerns Musical Interlude Offering The Interreligious Eco-Justice Network is Connecticut's only faith-based environmental non-profit organization. Committed to justice and grounded in hope, IREJN is a unifying voice dedicated to positive, hopeful action on behalf of the earth, the one thing we all share and the one place we all call home. Their mission is to inspire and equip Connecticut's religious communities and their spiritual allies to protect our planet through education, engagement, and advocacy. Offering Music "Sarabande" from Suite Pour le Piano Claude Debussy Sermon "Interdependence in Three Parts" Rev. Josh Pawelek Closing Hymn #7 "The Leaf Unfurling" words by Don Cohen; music by John Corrado The leaf unfurling in the April air, the newborn child, the loving parent's care; these constant, common miracles we share: Alleluia! Alleluia! All life is one, a single branching tree, all pain a part of human misery, all happiness a gift to you and me: Alleluia! Alleluia! The self-same bells for joy and sorrow ring. No one can know what the next hour will bring. We cry, we laugh, we mourn, and still we sing: Alleluia! Alleluia! Extinguishing the Chalice Closing Circle May faith in the spirit of life And hope for the community of earth And love of the light in each other Be ours now, and in all the days to come.

  • "People Need People" -- UUSE Virtual Worship, April 7, 2024

    Gathering Music "The Rainbow Connection" Words and music by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher "Sing" Words and music by Joe Raposa Dorothy Bognar, piano Welcome and Announcements (Martha Larson) Introduction and Centering Prelude "People" Music by Jule Styne; lyrics by Bob Merrill Dorothy Bognar, piano Chalice Lighting and Opening Words by Margaret A. Keip (Martha Larson and Anne Vogel) Opening Hymn #134 "Our World is One World" Words and music by Cecily Taylor Dorothy Bognar, piano Our world is one world: what touches one affects us all: the seas that wash us round about, the clouds that cover us, the rains that fall. Our world is one world: the thoughts we think affect us all: the way we build our attitudes, with love or hate, we make a bridge or wall. Our world is one world: its way of wealth affect us all: the way we spend, the way we share, who are the rich or poor, who stand or fall? Our world is one world: just like a ship that bears us all: where fear and greed make many holes, but where our hearts can hear a different call. Prayer of Co-Creation by Lyn Cox followed by moment of silence Joys and Concerns (Anne Vogel) Offertory Continuing our practice of sharing our gifts with the community beyond our walls, fifty percent of our Sunday plate collections for the month of April will go to the Inter-Religious Eco-Justice Network (IREJN). IREJN educates religious communities and people of faith around state and national policy issues on a variety of issues, including climate change, environmental justice, toxic chemicals, plastic pollution, and food justice. Offertory Music "In My Life" by John Lennon Andy Ricci, guitar and vocals Reading "Who Am I" by Felice Holman Hymn #298 "Wake Now My Senses" Words: Thomas J. S. Mikelson Music: traditional Irish melody Dorothy Bognar, piano Wake, now, my senses, and hear the earth call; feel the deep power of being in all; keep, with the web of creation your vow, giving, receiving as love shows us how. Wake, now, my reason, reach out to the new; join with each pilgrim who quests for the true; honor the beauty and wisdom of time; suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime. Wake, now, compassion, give heed to the cry; voices of suffering fill the wide sky; take as your neighbor both stranger and friend, praying and striving their hardship to end. Wake, now, my conscience, with justice thy guide; join with all people whose rights are denied; take not for granted a privileged place; God’s love embraces the whole human race. Wake, now, my vision of ministry clear; brighten my pathway with radiance here; mingle my calling with all who will share; work toward a planet transformed by our care. Sermon "People Need People" Anne Vogel Music “Imagine” By John Lennon Andy Ricci, guitar and vocals Extinguishing the Chalice and Closing Words by Amy Bowden Freedman and Keith Kron Closing Circle May faith in the spirit of life And hope for the community of earth And love of the light in each other Be ours now, and in all the days to come.

  • Shine On Me: An Easter Homily by Rev. Josh Pawelek

    Thank you choir! It's o good to have you singing on this Easter morning. “Shine on me!” This is a beautiful, bluesy, uplifting piece from the world-renowned composer, author, music educator and choir director, Rollo Dilworth. For me it’s a great choice for us on Easter morning. The Christian story that God became incarnate—took human form in the person of Jesus—was born, raised, carried out a ministry of love, healing, acceptance and justice, was crucified for that ministry and, then, came back from death, was resurrected—it’s a profoundly uplifting, profoundly hopeful story. Shine on me! For those of us here, Unitarian Universalists, liberal religious people, along with our friends, family and other guests—we are a particular kind of religious people who typically don’t regard the Christian story as literally true; but we nevertheless recognize that any story in which love wins is an uplifting, hopeful story. Love: shine on me. We recognize that any story that tells us that the things in this world that wound us--that wound our bodies, curtail and constrain our living, kill the human spirit, even destroy life—any story that teaches us these things can ultimately be overcome through faith, through caring, through compassion, through love—is a profoundly uplifting story. Faith, caring, compassion, and love: shine on me! Any story that places its protagonist in a tomb, but then rolls away the stone, letting the daylight in, is a profoundly uplifting story. Daylight: shine on me! Any story that follows the movement from winter to spring, the movement from cold to warm, the movement from frozen to thawing, from grey to green, from long nights to long days, from barren to lush fields, from stillness to activity, from death to life, to renewal, to regeneration, to rebirth, to resurrection is a profoundly uplifting story and we need it in our lives. Springtime, life and love: shine on me! We need an uplifting message. So much weighs on us—not only the conflicts in the larger world that fill our newsfeeds and haunt our dreams—not only the stress of a divided nation heading to the polls in just over seven months—not only the ever-increasing negative impacts of climate change—but also our personal struggles, whatever they may be: financial struggles, health struggles, parenting struggles, struggles in school, struggles associated with aging, struggles to discern purpose and meaning in life, struggles here at UUSE regarding concerns about our larger denomination. It is an incontrovertible dimension of the human condition: no matter what our station in life, each of us will at times struggle. Each of us will at times feel lost. Each of us will at times feel grief. Each of us will at times feel rage. Each of us will at times feel as if we are trapped in a tomb, the stone rolled in place. We need an uplifting, hopeful message that affirms our humanity, our worthiness, our divinity and the reality of a larger love that holds us and will not let us go. We need an uplifting, hopeful message that counsels us to be patient, to keep breathing, to be strong, to be courageous, to discern and take the next most elegant step (because it’s the only step we can actually take). We need an uplifting, hopeful message that assures us: ‘this, too, shall pass,’ ‘tomorrow is another day,’ “it gets better,’ ‘hope springs eternal,’ ‘we shall overcome,’ ‘all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Love and hope: uplift me, buoy my spirits, shine on me! Even at those times in our lives when we aren’t struggling, when things are going well, when we’ve achieved goals and we’re resting, when we live with a reliable sense of well-being and security—even then—we still need—we still deserve—an uplifting message, a message of hope, renewal and resurrection that sustains us in our living, our encounters, our relationships, our work, our play—all of it. Even in the good times we need this message. Without the presence of such a message in our lives, the risk is always that we will slowly turn away from others, that we will slowly succumb—often without ever knowing when it began—to cynicism, bitterness, combativeness, despair. Today is one day—one very significant day—for that message. So we sing, “Water is Life.” So we sing, “Gather the Spirit.” So we sing, “We Got All the Love,” “Shine on Me,” “Draw the Circle Wide,” “Lo the Day of Days is Here.” Some say ‘he is risen.’ Some say ‘glory, glory, hallelujah.’ Some bask in the invigorating beauty of spring. Happy Easter! May you take with you from this morning a message of hope, renewal and resurrection. May you take with you from this morning the knowledge that a greater love abides, that it holds you close and will not let you go. It shines on you, not only today, but each and every day. You do not have to earn it. It is your birthright. May it shine on you. May it shine on all people. May it shine on this good, green Earth. Amen. Blessed be.

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  • "Shine On Me: A Celebration of Easter" -- UUSE Virtual Worship, March 31, 2024

    Gathering Music Welcome (Emmy Galbraith) Announcements (Rev. Josh Pawelek) Centering Prelude "Water is Life" by Sara Thomsen Chalice Lighting and Opening Words "Call to Worship on Easter" by the Rev. Elizabeth Strong Opening Hymn #347 "Gather the Spirit" Words and music by Jim Scott Gather the spirit, harvest the power. Our sep'rate fires will kindle one flame. Witness the mystery of this hour. Our trials in this light appear all the same. Gather in peace, gather in thanks. Gather in sympathy now and then. Gather in hope, compassion and strength. Gather to celebrate once again. Gather the spirit of heart and mind. Seeds for the sowing are laid in store. Nurtured in love, and conscience refined, with body and spirit united once more. Chorus Gather the spirit growing in all, drawn by the moon and fed by the sun. Winter to spring, and summer to fall, the chorus of life resound as one. Chorus Story "There's No Place Like Hope" by Janet Lawler, ill by Tamisha Anthony spoken by Emmy Galbraith Music Joys and Concerns Music "Rise Up" by Andra Day Jeannine Westbrook, vocals Offering The recipient of our March community outreach offering is Moral Monday CT, a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations, rooted in the social justice and civil rights movements. Based in Hartford, Moral Monday CT gathers voices in the struggle for freedom and justice for black and brown people. Their areas of focus, activism and social change work include police accountability, voting rights, and workers' rights. Moral Monday CT was founded by Bishop John Selders and Lady Pamela Selders. Offering Music "To the Spring" by Edvard Grieg Mary Bopp and Dorothy Bognar, piano Music "We Got All the Love" by Helen Yeomans Music "Shine on Me" by Rollo Dilworth Homily "Shine on Me" Rev. Josh Pawelek Closing Music "Draw the Circle Wide" by Mark A. Miller Closing Hymn #269 "Lo the Day of Days is Here" Words by Frederick Lucian Hosmer Music by Robert Williams Lo, the day of days is here, Alleluia! Festival of hope and cheer! Alleluia! At the south wind's genial breath -- Alleluia! Nature wakes from seeming death, Alleluia! Fields are smiling in the sun, Alleluia! Loosened streamlets seaward run, Alleluia! Tender blade and leaf appear; Alleluia! 'Tis the spring-tide of the year, Alleluia! Lo, the Eastertide is here, Alleluia! Music thrills the atmosphere. Alleluia! Join, you people all, and sing -- Alleluia! Love and praise and thanksgiving, Alleluia! Extinguishing the Chalice Closing Circle May faith in the spirit of life And hope for the community of earth And love of the light in each other Be ours now, and in all the days to come. The flowers today are given in loving memory of Bob and Marilyn Richardson by their family.

  • On Donkeys, Palms and Money-Changers: A Meditation for Palm Sunday by Rev. Josh Pawelek

    In the Christian liturgical year, today is Palm Sunday, the celebration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as a humble king, five days before his crucifixion on what we know as Good Friday. This humble entry is followed in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke with a rage-filled act of violent aggression as Jesus and his followers drive the money-changers and various merchants from the temple.[1] I’ve always experienced a profound dissonance between the humble entry and the violent confrontation. This morning I want to talk about this dissonance which I can’t fully resolve, and reflect on the often tenuous relationship between our aspirations to minister to a hurting world with humility and our anger, frustration, indignation and rage at injustice. On Palm Sunday, depending on which Gospel is read, Christians will hear some version of words (or a reference to them) from the ancient Hebrew prophet Zechariah: Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.[2] Matthew and John quote Zechariah directly as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Mark and Luke make reference to the prophecy without directly quoting it. I try to conjure the image of Jesus riding a donkey down that dusty road. Donkeys are not the most elegant animals. Far from it, in fact. I imagine Jesus is a little too big for his clumsy steed. I imagine the donkey is halting and jerky. Maybe it needs to be coaxed along. It is likely more stubborn than compliant. The image borders on absurd. Nevertheless, at least some of the people bearing witness to Jesus’ awkward ride would be familiar with the relevant verses from Hebrew scripture, would be making the connection to the prophet’s words. It would be dawning on them: this is the fulfillment of the prophecy. This person Jesus must be the long-awaited king. Indeed, as the people along the way are laying their cloaks and palm fronds in the road, they begin singing Hosannah! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven.[3] If he is a king, then he’s a peaceful king, a humble king, a lowly king sitting astride a lowly donkey. Some commentators interpret this scene as political theater. For many, the donkey is a symbol of humble service; the donkey’s foal, or colt, even more so. Instead of the symbolism of power, force and violence that we might associate with ancient kings and modern autocrats, instead of riding in on a war horse or chariot, instead of entering the city at the head of an army, this king rides on a donkey, his onlookers singing praises and quoting scripture. This king oozes humility, his humble appearance an implicit critique and stinging rebuke of the power of the Roman Empire and its occupying forces. I’ll speak for myself, but I suspect this is true for many of us, this image of a humble king appeals. This soft power, meek power, nonviolent power, spiritual power, this power of vulnerability—as opposed to the power of force, violence, militarism and empire—appeals. The prospect of learning to nurture and wield this kind of power—within a congregation, within the wider community, within social and environmental justice movements—for the sake of weakening the hold of the of power domination over our lives and our society—is what called me into ministry in the first place. Humility is and must be an essential dimension of our character, our interactions, and our relationships as people of liberal faith. Humility in ministry, in activism, in preaching, in speaking to those who lack access to political, economic and social power and in speaking to those who control access to and wield political, economic and social power is essential. And it is insufficient. In fact, it is abundantly clear to me that the powers and the principalities, the war-makers, the large land-holders and property-owners, the hoarders of wealth, the corporate interests, the hedge funds buying up medical practices and real estate and raising costs with impunity, the anti-worker spin masters undermining unions, the ambitious politicians holding onto power no matter the cost to their integrity, endlessly pummeling the vulnerable and voiceless in cynical bids for votes—it is clear to me that they welcome our humility with open arms, precisely because it is ineffectual. They welcome our humility, even praise it today, because it is easy to ignore tomorrow. They’ll listen today, and nod, “yes.” They’ll say nice things, “thank you for your testimony pastor, it’s always good to hear from you.” And tomorrow it’s back to business as usual, back to excessive profits, to protecting excessive wealth, to a pervasive unwillingness to fund the priorities of the people, a pervasive unwillingness to serve the people. And though humility is clearly an essential trait for Jesus and his ministry, and though he clearly meant to dramatize the power of humility over the power of empire with his dramatic if absurd entry into Jerusalem, surely he knew it was insufficient too. In Matthew, after entering Jerusalem, Jesus goes immediately to the temple and drives “out all who were selling and buying.” He overturns the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sell doves, quoting the Hebrew prophet Isaiah: “My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a den of thieves.”[4] Luke tells the same story, as does Mark (though in Mark Jesus waits a day). John tells the same story, though it happens much earlier in the narrative. I contemplate turning over tables. I contemplate driving other human beings out of the Temple—people who had economic reasons for being there, who were entrenched there, who had permission from the authorities to be there, and who weren’t in any way predisposed to leave. I can’t imagine they said to themselves, “Oh, it’s that dude who just rode into town on the donkey with the Hosannah chorus, we better do what he says.” Of course not. This is not just symbolism. This is an exercise in physical violence. In John’s telling, Jesus fashions a whip of cords to drive them out. Jesus is clearly enraged. We might call it righteous, principled, God-centered rage, but it is rage. He channels that rage, clears out a space for himself and his disciples, and then proceeds to teach and heal for the next few days. This is important. His actions do not amount to a coup. He doesn’t claim political, economic or social power. He doesn’t use his rage to dominate. He uses it to create a space for collective spiritual practice—for healing, for saving lives—which in his view is the Temple’s purpose. When I assess my own ministry, my public witness, my activism, my leadership, I recognize that I am much more at home with humility than I am with rage. In the beginning I felt called to a ministry of humble engagement—forceful when necessary, yes—but certainly not to the use of physical violence and destruction of property. I still don’t feel called in that direction. And yet, I do feel rage. And beneath that rage, perhaps more potently, I feel sadness. I feel this way in response to many aspects of our society. I want to preach a sermon on how upside-down our state tax-code is, how it penalizes poor people and rewards the state’s wealthiest residents and corporations. I want to preach on Connecticut’s arbitrary state budget spending cap which limits state spending on essential programs and services with no regard to the actual needs of actual people, further perpetuating our already stark racial, gender and economic inequality. I want to preach on the governor’s refusal to implement Clean Slate, a major piece of criminal justice reform which he signed into law in 2021. I want to preach about how hard it is to open HUSKY to undocumented people who qualify—how many lives it would save, and how much money it would save if people could have access to health care before visiting emergency room. I feel rage and sadness at efforts to curtail reproductive health care and access to abortion; at the way so many politicians across the nation refuse to adopt common sense, widely supported gun control measures; at ongoing anti-GLBTQ violence and legislation sweeping the nation; at efforts to limit voting rights. All of it is enraging, saddening, even sickening. But what enrages, saddens, sickens and frightens me the most is the rise of Christian Nationalism in the United States. Many of my colleagues have started preaching about it. I am not emotionally ready. I find I can’t listen to reports about it. I start reading articles, but I can’t continue. I shared Pat and Dan’s version of Woodie Guthry’s “All You Fascists,” because Christian Nationalism is a fascist movement. It openly rejects democracy. It openly rejects the pluralism which is central to United States society and enshrined in the first amendment to the United States Constitution—which is also central to Unitarian Universalism. It celebrates autocrats and dictators. It seeks to curtail the rights of women, GLBTQ people and communities, immigrants and other religious minorities. It traffics openly in White Supremacy. The thought that a Christian Nationalist minority is actively seeking to impose its world-view through the law on the rest of us is enraging. If anything could lead me to turn over tables in a public space, it is the arrogance, cruelty, anti-democratic intentions, and the threatened and actual violence of Christian Nationalism. If anything could…. But I am not taking the bait. I really don’t want my rage to lead me in that direction. My question, in response to Jesus’ action in the temple, is not about how I or we leave humility behind and bring rage into the public arena. That’s a recipe for the unbridled, ungrounded rage of the January 6th insurrection. That’s the wrong revolution. My question is about how we express our rage—and the sadness and fear underlying it—without losing our humility, without losing our humanity, without losing our divinity. If we are enraged—saddened, fearful, sickened—expressing these feelings out loud, naming the reasons for them, and holding firm against this Christian Nationalist tide, is essential. But is there a way to do it that that honors the integrity and the divinity in those whose actions enrage us, even though we know they have no interest in honoring our integrity and divinity? Is there a way to do it without writing them out of the human family—even though we know they have no problem writing us out of the human family? Violence has never offered a sufficient answer to this question. I’m not second-guessing Jesus. But I do wonder how express our rage in a way that doesn’t escalate toward violence even in the face of threatened or actual violence. It wasn’t Jesus’ normal mode, but in this one instance he resorted to violence. It is easy to gloss over this, to take it as a metaphor for something less violent. It is easy because we’ve been socialized to think of Jesus as nonviolent. So this action must not have been violent, despite the whip of cords. I’ve yet to read a sermon in which the preacher questions Jesus’ tactics in the temple, though I have to assume I’m not the only one. It helps that Jesus didn’t use violence to take over, to dominate, to oppress. Again, he used it to create a space for teaching and healing.  He used it to save and uplift people. But it doesn’t change the fact that he resorted to violence. Believe me, I want the moneychangers out of the temple as much as he did. I want the temple to be a house of prayer. I’m with him. But I don’t think I would follow the path he did. That’s why I say I can’t resolve the dissonance. And maybe I don’t have to. Maybe the best we can do is live with the dissonance, praying that whenever we feel compelled to bring our rage out into the open—and there are times when we must—that we hold on as best we can to our humility, humanity and divinity. But the dissonance remains. We know this: our humility, without our rage, is all too often ineffectual. We also know this: our rage, without our humility, is the path to dehumanizing violence. So let our humility inform our rage; and let our rage inform our humility. Let this mutual informing yield an enduring commitment to our common humanity and our common divinity. Let this commitment sustain us in our individual and collective struggles. Let this commitment sustain our moral vision. Let this commitment generate a unique form of power. Not the power of violence or its threat, not corporate or political power; but an absurdly different power that rides into holy cities on donkeys, that prays to a loving God, that uses rage, when it must, not to control humanity but to serve humanity, not to harm but to heal, not to dominate people, but to uplift people. May we strive always to attain that power. Amen and blessed be. [1] This scene takes place much earlier in the book of John. See John 2:15-17. [2] Zechariah 9:9 (NRSV) [3] Luke: 19: 38. (NRSV) [4] Matthew 12-13.

  • "On Donkeys, Palms, and Money-Changers: A Meditation for Palm Sunday" -- UUSE Virtual Worship, March 24, 2024

    Gathering Music (Mary Bopp) Welcome (Rev. Josh Pawelek) Centering Prelude "Ride On, Ride On in Majesty" by John Bacchus Dykes; arr. by Mary Bopp Chalice Lighting and Opening Words Zechariah 9:9 Opening Hymn "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna" Words by Jennette Threlfal (v. 1,2); John Howard Lathrop (v. 3) Music from X.L. Hartig's Vollstandige Sammlung, c. 1833 Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang; through pillared court and temple, the lovely anthem rang. To Jesus, who had blessed them close folded to his breast, the children sang their praises, the simplest and the best. From Olivet they followed, mid an exultant crowd, the victory palm branch waving, and chatting clear and loud. The Lord of earth and heaven, rode on in lowly state, nor scorned that little children, should on his bidding wait. O first of many prophets who come of simple folk to free us from our bondage, to break oppression's yoke: restore our minds to wisdom, make known the life, the way that leads through love and justice unto the peace-crowned day. Silence Meditation Matthew 21: 1-11 Musical Meditation Joys and Concerns Musical Interlude Offering The recipient of our March community outreach offering is Moral Monday CT, a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations, rooted in the social justice and civil rights movements. Based in Hartford, Moral Monday CT gathers voices in the struggle for freedom and justice for black and brown people. Their areas of focus, activism and social change work include police accountability, voting rights, and workers rights. Moral Monday CT was founded by Bishop John Selders and Lady Pamela Selders. I'd also like to point out that Moral Monday is the home of CT Black Women, a coalition of Black women of conscience working together in supporting and building ourselves and our community through activism, advocacy, education and creativity. Given that March is also women's history month, I will ask that this month's collection go specifically to the work of CT Black Women. Musical Offering "All You Fascists" by Woody Guthrie performed by Pat Eaton-Robb and Dan Thompson Sermon "On Donkeys, Palms, and Money-Changers: A Meditation for Palm Sunday" Rev. Josh Pawelek Closing Hymn #276 "O Young and Fearless Prophet" Words by S. Ralph Harlow Music by William Lloyd O young and fearless Prophet of ancient Galilee: your life is still a summons to serve humanity, to make our thoughts and actions less prone to please the crowd, to stand with humble courage for truth with hearts unbowed. O help us stand unswerving against war's bloody way, where hate and lust and falsehood hold back your holy sway; forbid false love of country, that turns us from your call who lifts above the nation the neighborhood of all. Create in us the splendor that dawns when hearts are kind, that knows not race nor station as bound'ries of the mind; that learns to value beauty in heart, or mind, or soul, and longs to see God's children as sacred, perfect, whole. Stir up in us a protest against unneeded wealth; for some go starved and hungry who plead for work and health. Once more give us your challenge above our noisy day, and come to lead us forward along your holy way. Extinguishing the Chalice Closing Circle May faith in the spirit of life And hope for the community of Earth And love of the light in each other Be ours now, and in all the days to come.

  • Good Transformation: Roots and Wings, by Rev. Josh Pawelek

    Earlier I shared words from the late Rev. Elizabeth Tarbox, one of my favorite Unitarian Universalist spiritual writers. She says, “Here we are then, between seasons, not knowing what to do next. Do we conserve and play it safe against an unexpected onslaught striking us like one last winter blast, or do we cast off our coats and take a risk, daring to embrace a spring which is not quite here?”[1] Our ministry theme for march is transformation. I like this theme at this time of year because the arrival of spring is a great transformation. Though every threshold between seasons is rich with spiritual metaphor and opportunities for theological reflection, the transition from winter to spring in New England is the boldest of them all, the most obvious, the most joyful, the most hopeful. In March, winter’s long night-time hours, its grey days, it freezing temperatures, its hard ground, its icy snow, sleet and slush, its absence of vivid color, its many sleeping creatures—all of it gives way, first to the increasing light, the rising warmth, the softening, muddy earth, the daffodil shoots breaching the surface; and then, as if all at once, the red buds on tree branches become bright green leaves, the daffodils flower—yellow, orange and white; so many other perennials bloom in beautiful, animated colors; warm rain pours down; mice, chipmunks and rabbits scurry everywhere, sometimes into our homes; ants spew out of their little hills (which weren’t there yesterday) sometimes into our homes; bats dart and dive at dusk in search of the many flying insects filling the evening air. Pollinators are on the move. Everything comes alive in spring. Everything wakes up. No wonder the religious festivals speak of rebirth, rejuvenation, resurrection, liberation. It is a great transformation, from a thousand shades of grey to a thousand shades of green, from coldness to warmth, from stillness to movement, from quiet to raucous, from sleeping to waking, from the earth’s nurturing darkness to the long hours of life-giving daylight. It is a great transformation. Elizabeth Tarbox’s meditation, “Between Seasons,” reminds us that in the midst of any transformation, any change, transition, disruption, upheaval--the entry of any new opportunity into our lives--we find ourselves caught between a strong inclination to stay where we are—to stay with the familiar, the known, the comfortable, the safe—and an equally strong inclination to embrace change and the growth that it inevitably brings. “Here we are then,” says Rev. Tarbox, “between seasons, not knowing what to do next. Do we conserve and play it safe against an unexpected onslaught striking us like one last winter blast, or do we cast off our coats and take a risk, daring to embrace a spring which is not quite here?” I am convinced that the vast majority of Unitarian Universalists like the idea of transformation, which I am using here interchangeably with the word change. We Unitarian Universalists recognize transformation as inherent in our living, in our life cycles, in society, in nature, in the quantum world, in the universe. We resonate with the words of the ancient Greek philosopher—the weeping philosopher—Heraclitus of Ephesus, whose words appear in our hymnal, #655: “In searching for the truth, be ready for the unexpected. Change alone is unchanging.”[2] The Rev. Dr. Sheri Prud’homme, a faculty member at the Unitarian Universalist Starr-King School for the Ministry, recently wrote that “one of the hallmarks of liberal religion, Unitarian Universalism included, is the idea that revelation is not sealed…. Our religion can and will change by the discovery or unveiling of new truths and new ways of understanding all existence and the sacred. At its core, then, our theological heritage proclaims an abiding openness to change.”[3] We like the idea of transformation. However, as I approach the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the Unitarian Universalist ministry (April 11th, for anyone who's keeping track!), I am also convinced that liking an idea, resonating with an idea, embracing an idea, does not mean that the idea is easy to integrate into our living. While preparing this sermon, I became curious about what my colleagues have said about transformation and change. I searched on the internet for Unitarian Universalist sermons in response to the Heraclitus reading, “Change alone is unchanging.” I found a sermon entitled “Transitions, Expected and Unexpected,” at Quest for Meaning, the monthly newsletter of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF).[4] There was no mention of the writer’s name at the top, just the title. I started reading and, almost immediately, thought, ‘yeah, this is really good, it’s similar to what I would say.’ Here’s a quote: “Let’s be honest: as a concept, as a starting place for deeper theological reflection, okay, this idea [that change alone is unchanging] is fabulous…. But as a practical matter, when it comes to dealing with day-to-day life, it’s not so great. It doesn’t matter what height of spiritual discipline you’ve achieved, the unexpected can really mess up your day. Even Jesus lost it from time to time. For human beings (and I’m sure for other creatures as well) change is hard. As spiritually and intellectually exhilarating as the idea of change is, the physical and emotional experience can be a real drag. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why the ancient Greeks referred to Heraclitus as the weeping philosopher.”[5] And then the writer tells a story about how hard it was physically and emotionally to make the move to Connecticut from Boston in the summer of 1999, how it made him sick; and then I realized I was reading my own sermon from fifteen years ago. Change alone is unchanging, but it’s also true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. That was a sermon about why change is hard. I quoted research from the psychiatrists Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon that shows how our surroundings, and specifically our most intimate relationships, regulate our bodies. (This was from their 2001 book, A General Theory of Love. [6]) When changes occur in our surroundings, and especially in our relationships—such as when someone very close to us leaves or dies—we become dysregulated: physical pain, anxiety, depression, stress, confusion. Even if we welcome a major life-change—like the way I welcomed our move to Connecticut in 1999—our bodies keep seeking the previous setting, the previous relationships which are now gone. This unanswered seeking can result in dysregulation. Our bodies grieve their losses even if, intellectually, we don’t. In this sense, our bodies resist change. In that sermon my recommendation for how to live when our bodies resist change is to lean into spiritual practice. I talked about quieting down, becoming still, being peaceful, paying attention, breathing. I said in moments of major life transition we must take time to grieve the life that has, for better or for worse, slipped away. And this is still true, especially when change happens and we have no choice in the matter—the death of a loved-one, the ending of a significant relationship, a life-changing or life-threatening diagnosis, an addiction finally admitted and confronted. These are all dysregulating experiences and the only option is to move through them, slowly, day by day, even hour by hour. Spiritual practice can help ease the pain of transformation. But this isn’t my message this morning. I think it’s too narrow a formulation to say that ‘change alone is unchanging’ and the primary reason we resist transformation is because our bodies don’t like it. Our relationship to transformation is more complex than that. I take a hint from Rev. Tarbox’s “Between Seasons” metaphor, which suggests that for many of the changes we face, we actually do have choices. In her words, we can “conserve and play it safe against an unexpected onslaught striking us like one last winter blast.” Or we can “cast off our coats and take a risk, daring to embrace a spring which is not quite here.” We navigate this choice all the time—what’s the safe, prudent, comfortable thing to do? What’s the exciting, new, innovative thing to do? What makes our relationship to change complex is that the longing for both safety and risk live inside us. When called to transform, we have impulses to avoid it (safety); and we have impulses to embrace it (risk). This is true for us individually. It is true for groups too. The tension between choosing safety or risk can be quite paralyzing for individuals, and quite polarizing for groups. I’ve been seeking a way beyond paralysis and polarization when we’re navigating change. And at least for this morning, I’m wondering how it feels to navigate change and transformation not as a choice between safety and risk, but as a partnership between roots and wings. Safety and risk tend to contradict each other. They have a built in tension. Roots and wings tend to work together. And for Unitarian Universalists, roots and wings are familiar spiritual terms. “Roots hold me close, wings set me free.” Roots: what grounds us? What is familiar and reliable? What holds us close? What holds us in place? What holds us steady? What brings us nourishment from the deep wells beneath the surface of our lives? Or, as we asked in last Sunday’s service, what is sacred? Marsha Howland spoke about being present for her mother’s death and how deeply sacred that moment was to her. She spoke also about meeting her grandniece for the first time and how sacred that moment was for her. Her memories of these moments ground her. They are roots. Sage Nitzan spoke about the sacredness of relationships—with their best friend, with their parents—and how these relationships provide grounding in difficult times. These relationships are roots. Then Dorothy Reiss spoke about her taekwondo practice and how its tenets—courtesy, respect, integrity, self-control, indomitable spirit and perseverance—express themselves in her life. These tenets are roots. Wings: What liberates us? What sets us free? What expands our world-view, our thinking, our feeling, our capacity for love, compassion, empathy, caring? What enables us to grow and mature, to create, to innovate, to take risks, to move forward in our lives? With wings engaged we sail into change, we welcome the new, or to use Rev. Tarbox’s words, we embrace a spring which is not quite here. Sometimes we fly and we’re successful beyond our wildest dreams. Sometimes we fly too close to the sun, our wings melt and burn, and we fall back to earth. Sometimes we choose wings and realize later, we weren’t sufficiently rooted. We forgot to bring with us that which is sacred to us. Transformation requires both roots and wings. Resistance to change isn’t necessarily a rejection of change. My body fought back, but I wanted to move to Connecticut and start a family. Resistance to change isn’t necessarily a violation of the principle that change alone is unchanging. Sometimes we resist change because we’re seeking our roots first. We’re seeking our grounding. Certainly there is safety, familiarity and comfort in such seeking. It is not risk-taking. But it may be the very thing that enables us to welcome change. It may be the very thing that makes transformation possible. It may be the very thing that enables us to take the risk we need to take. Roots and wings aren’t an either/or choice. They are partners. They are friends. They work together. The complement each other. To navigate transformation well, we need both. Change alone is unchanging and that which is sacred to us endures. I leave you with Rev. Tarbox’s words, reminding us that in this place we have access to both roots and wings. “Thank God,” she writes, “we have each other and this place of worship to come to, when we need to make decisions in our search for both security and renewal. May we remember in the chilliest winter storm or the balmiest spring morning that this place is here for us, that here we share in creation’s love no matter what the season.” Amen and blessed be. [1] Tarbox, Elizabeth, “Between Seasons,” Life Tides: Meditations by Elizabeth Tarbox (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1993)  p. 17. [2] Heraklietos of Ephesos, Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: UUA and Beacon Press, 1993) #655. [3] Prud’homme, Rev. Dr. Sheri, “Theological Reflection on the Proposed Revision to Article II.” See: https://www.uua.org/files/2024-01/Article%20II%20Theological%20Reflection%201-22-24.pdf. Rev. Prud’homme continues, “From our early roots in Universalist and Unitarian Christianity; through the blossoming of humanism and ongoing dialogue with scientific developments; to the re-emergence of a sense of spirituality in creative interplay with humanism, process theology, liberation theologies, and religious naturalism; to a religious pluralism that embraces traditions and practices emerging from the organic multireligiosity of Unitarian Universalists today – Unitarian Universalism has evolved in the context of a changing American and global society and in response to new insights from an ever widening circle of voices and perspectives.” [4] Visit Quest for Meaning at https://www.questformeaning.org/. [5] Pawelek, Rev Josh, “Transitions, Expected and Unexpected,” Quest for Meaning. See: https://www.questformeaning.org/quest-article/transitions-expected-unexpected/. [6] Lewis, Thomas, Amini, Fari, Lannon, Richard, A General Theory of Love (New York: Vintage Books, 2001).

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