Through the construction and short relocation this summer, our community has continued to flourish. Attendance at the services has remained high and the topics as challenging and thought-provoking as ever. At the end of August, guest ministers, the Revs. Kerry Mueller and Dave Hunter, took on the issue of “spiritual but not religious.” In this wonderful sermon our guests discussed why we need to come together in community and what we gain by having a vessel (our congregation and UU religion) to host our tea (our individual spirituality). I’m sure each of you have an answer for why you show up and contribute so much to make UUCA work. For me, it boils down to something really simple; it makes me a better person.
Earlier in August, Rev. Mark Ward took on the topic of “remembering,” how we deal with the loss of a loved one. He concluded his sermon, “How we grieve, how we remember clears the way to compassion that opens and soothes our hearts, that reanimates our tired souls, that shows a way when it seems there is none to be found.” I didn’t know when he said this that I would so soon face grieving.
My father has been ill for the last year, so it wasn’t a particular surprise when I got the call from my brother that my dad was going into hospice care. Yet the emotions came, as they should. I flew up to Chicago to be with Dad and help transition him to hospice care in his condo. The memories of growing up and all the fun times with family played back in my head as I drove the familiar old neighborhoods. He lives close to the magnificent Lake Michigan which has always been a source of solitude anchoring the city. As I walked the shore before going back for one last visit with my dad, I thought of our closing hymn, “Longtime Sun,” and how we hold hands in community at the end of each service. As I was saying goodbye to Dad, I told him he could join me as I would sing it twice. We joined hands and I sang softly and, as I neared the end of the second round, he closed his eyes and joined in, ‘…may the pure light within you, guide your way home.’
Being in the UUCA community has made me a better person, able to deal with life’s challenges in a more meaningful way.
After the service on August 30, I made a brief visit to one of the few spots on our campus that is not currently being disrupted: our Memorial Garden. Each year I make a practice of pouring the water we receive in our Water Service onto the area of the garden where we inter the ashes of people in our congregation who have died. It feels to me like it completes a circle, offering a reminder that all things that come from the earth – soil, water, us – eventually return to it. This gesture also serves to remind me how we as a community continue to hold each other, even after death. I look over the brass plates and see names of people I remember, which brings to mind other people who may not be there, and I can imagine a crowd of witnesses around me.
It’s been amazing to watch the changes on our campus. This week was an especially big one, when construction workers took out the window and busted through the wall on the west side of the sanctuary to create a new, accessible doorway. The doors on the old foyer are gone, and suddenly we have a sense of the full expanse of the larger foyer. It’s pretty amazing, and, I have to admit, a little unsettling, too. It will take a while to settle into this new space, but now that I see it I’m more confident than ever that it will serve us well.
How will we grow into that space? What new possibilities will it open for us? These are among questions that offer themselves to us. And so, your staff has spent the summer working on ways to invite you deeper into the life of our congregation where we might answer those questions together. You’ll be hearing more about this soon, and keep an eye out for where you can bring your energy and enthusiasm.
Amid all these changes, there is much that endures in this outpost of liberal religion in the western mountains of North Carolina, this crucible of community affirming each person’s worth and dignity, celebrating our diverse and evolving understanding of the world and our place in it, awakening to our spiritual centers while working for justice and learning the lessons of compassion, tolerance and peace.
How great to begin a new year!
When UUCA began giving away every Sunday collection to Share-the-Plate recipients last year, we essentially began a year-round “ask” for money from our congregants. Nearly everyone is in favor of this community support program, but it drastically changes the “giving pressures” on congregants. Consequently, UUCA’s senior staff believes that we need to be much more thoughtful about how and when additional fundraisers occur, especially since we also regularly not only ask for a commitment to the annual operating budget (essential for planning!), but we also supplement the money people pay to their commitments with an auction, a used-book sale, Mountain Spirit Coffeehouse, the holiday craft fair and a few other contributors to the annual operating budget.
As a result, a new fundraising policy has been created to reflect the changing needs of the congregation. The old policy basically said, “Check with the Board of Trustees” if you want to initiate a fundraiser. The new policy is a bit more nuanced, explanatory and, we hope, helpful.
What Should I Do?
Now that the new policy is in effect, each group within the congregation that does fundraising for outside organizations needs to take some time to assess your existing and potential fundraisers. We suggest that you read the new policy, ask questions, and think about what you want to do moving forward. Is your recipient a candidate for Share-the-Plate? The bottom line is that we will not be able to do every single one of the fundraisers we’ve done in the past, but we have an opportunity to be more intentional about the choices we make. Your staff liaison is available to help facilitate this conversation if it would be helpful. (Remember that each committee and group in the church is “attached” to a senior staff member; Rev. Mark Ward, Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper, Joy Berry or Linda Topp.)
Ultimately, the goal is to effectively use any funds we collect to support outside organizations (although we’d prefer supporting organizations with our time and talent rather than our money) while at the same time focusing our efforts so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by unrelenting requests for donations at UUCA.
General Information about UUCA Policies
Here’s a little review about UUCA policies in general: There are two levels of policies that affect the workings of the congregation. The first set is the “policies of the Board,” and they take the form of the Governance Document. The Board has no other policies. All the rest of the policies of the congregation come from the Executive. The Governance Document states that the Executive needs to “Insure that a complete and current set of Congregational policies is readily accessible to all members of the Congregation.” Despite all best efforts, that “complete and current set of Congregational policies” does not yet exist. Ever since we switched to policy governance, the policies that existed before then became out of kilter with the new way of doing things. However, though it’s been three years since we switched, the “policy project” has not been completed. Last year I put together a Policy Team to address this situation, but just as we were getting started, the Welcome Project started and ALL of my time has been consumed by my regular work duties PLUS Welcome Project duties. However, when the need has arisen, we have updated a few of the “old” policies. They include the Facilities Rental policy, the Inclement Weather policy, the Gift Acceptance Policy, the Naming Policy and now the Fundraising policy. All can be found linked off of the Board of Trustees page on our website.