Racial Justice Focus for Community Plate

racial justice

In June of 2016, this congregation passed a resolution affirming our commitment to working for racial justice in our congregation, community, denomination, and world.

Toward that end, I am happy to announce a new initiative that’s comin’ down the pike: The Community Plate Team has dedicated 2018 Community Plate collections to organizations that are led by or directly serve people of color in our community and beyond. You are invited to submit nominations now to be considered for the 2018 calendar year.

The committee believes that leveraging our own resources to support leadership and empowerment of people of color is an effective way to live into the promise of the racial justice resolution. The percentage of Black owned businesses in Asheville is particularly low, and we know that part of the work of dismantling systemic racism is increasing opportunities and access to leadership roles for people of color. For this initiative, the team is specifically looking for nominations of organizations that directly empower people of color rather than organizations that seek to mitigate secondary “symptoms” of systemic racism.

How can I participate, you ask? Right now, we need your nominations for 2018. Community plate guidelines give precedence to local non-profit organizations, but the team also considers national and international organizations. In rare cases, they also consider for profit organizations that fit all the other selection criteria. We appreciate your generous giving on Community Plate Sundays, and invite you also to notice volunteer opportunities with recipient organizations.

To nominate an organization click here. FMI contact a member of the Community Plate Team (Linda Kooiker, Ben Fleming, Emilie White, Eleanor Lane, Brenda Robinson, and Donna Robinson) or Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper. Further, if you’d like to take concrete action before 2018, the Color of Asheville has a directory of African American owned businesses, professionals, service providers and clubs in Asheville, NC.

UUCA Youth Religious UU(YRUU) Program

As UUs, we begin with the assumption that religion for each of us begins with our own individual experience. One way to describe this feeling is as a sense of wonder, that we are deeply connected to each other and all things.

The Young Religious UU (YRUU) program helps our 10th-12th grade High Schoolers deepen their connection with each other and the congregation.

Many of them have just come off an intense year in the Coming of Age program, which culminated with them writing and presenting their Credo to the congregation. YRUU deepens this journey of faith for them.

YRUU is not just another Sunday School class with teachers and a curriculum. Instead, YRUU is about the students themselves engaging with their passions, collaborating with peers, maintaining a playful attitude, all while making a positive difference in the world around them.

Instead of teachers, YRUU has four advisors. Their role is to be the catalysts, sparking ideas, helping our young people navigate the learning process and providing new strategies to avoid frustration. We want to blur the boundaries so teachers become learners and learners become teachers.

This year about a dozen students from all high school grades are creating a new YRUU adventure. The group is about evenly divided between girls and boys, representing most of the public and private high schools in the area. They meet most Sundays during the second service.

In their first two meetings, they created their covenant and identified specific areas they plan to devote time to over this RE year:

  • First Sundays: Connection. What’s up in your life now?
  • Second Sundays: Inspiration. Using our awesome Maker Space to challenge and inspire each other.
  • Third Sundays: Social Justice. Making a difference in their own lives and in the wider world.
  • Fourth Sundays: Kitchen Meetup. A place to cook, collaborate, commune, and consume.

During the year, they will also be attending Youth Conferences at The Mountain, creating and leading a service in the Sanctuary, and producing a Bridging Ceremony for graduating seniors in the Spring.

The whole year represents our new approach in Youth Ministry, giving ways for YRUUs to make decisions, form faith identity, lead, teach, and learn.

Gordon Clark, YRUU Advisor


Sermon: Practice, Practice (audio and text)


You Reading This, Be Ready  by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

From “What They Dreamed by Ours to Do” by Rebecca Parker

(When our congregations were asked what their dreams are for the UU movement, a strong majority said their highest hope was “to become a visible and influential force for good in the world.” How do we do that?)

“We do not need more money, although money always helps . . . . We do not need more people, though it would be good to have them . . . . To be an influential force good, what we need to do is establish more strongly in our congregational life the practices that embody loving, just, and sustainable community. We need to be what we want to see and make visible an alternative to the forms of oppression, alienation, and injustice alive in our time.”


            Each summer I make a point of signing up for a wheel-based pottery class at a local pottery studio. Pottery is something I’ve enjoyed playing with on and off since college, and Asheville is such a great center for ceramics that I often meet the most impressive artists in those studios.

            I have no great ambitions for myself. My talents are quite modest, but I enjoy the process. I love working with clay, the way it feels, the way it responds to how you shape it.

I remember how frustrated I was the first few times I tried to center the clay, the way it would wobble-wobble-wobble, and it seemed to take forever using all my might before I could wrestle it into the center of the wheel.

These days centering is no big deal, even five or six pounds of clay for some larger bowls that I’ve made. It’s not that I’m any stronger. It’s just that I have a better sense of what I’m doing. I don’t fight the clay; I work with it. I’ve learned where, when and how to apply pressure to get the result I want. And that just comes with practice.

 Practice gives me more than just facility. It gives me a sense of and a fondness for the material I’m working with and the beauty it makes possible. In time, I’ve found I get a deeper sense of the artistic possibilities in shaping clay. I come to admire artists for what they were able to accomplish, which opens new possibilities for my own work.

I’ve made a few pieces – some I’m even proud of. It’s always fun to see what comes out of the kiln. But to be honest it is not so much the product as the process that draws me. I look forward to each class as a way to explore a new dimension of this work, to challenge myself to try out more difficult forms. Inevitably at some point, I bump into limits of my understanding or ability and get frustrated. But then there’s an instructor or classmate who offers a tip, and I’m back at it.

It’s a process that I expect many of you recognize who have ever tried your hands at any skill, from playing the clarinet to baking a pie, to planting a flourishing garden: Something calls you to a particular art or skill. So, you seek out instruction and find that, at first, you’re awkward and uncertain. If you’re like me, you may even get impatient with how slow the learning seems to come.

But then, before you realize it, the clay in your hands, the piano keys beneath your fingers, the mountain slope under your skies, is something you begin to know, and even love.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall, the old saw goes? Practice, practice.

            This fall your Board of Trustees is leading you in a process to help us discern what we as a congregation are called to do. It’s a challenging time to be asking this question, with so much that is important to us in play.

But, we have a pretty good idea of where we begin. As Unitarian Universalists, we are joined with more than 1,000 other congregations across this country by our seven principles, commitments to affirm such things as the inherent worth and dignity of all, justice and compassion, acceptance and encouragement to spiritual growth, the right of conscience and a goal of world community, as well as a free and responsible search for meaning and respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at them or if this is new to you, I invite you to find a time to look them over in the first pages on our gray hymnal. Take a look, too, at what we consider to be the primary sources that we draw from as a religious tradition.

Beyond these principles, we as a congregation have identified core values that we believe guide us in our work: connection, inspiration, compassion & justice.

We also gather here under our covenant – words that affirm commitments we make to care for and support each other, to celebrate our diversity but also to attend openly to differences and to create healing by listening and speaking in the spirit of love.

These are words we recite at congregational meetings and upon welcoming newcomers into our congregation, yet we are still challenged by Rebecca Parker’s observation that, “Covenant is brought into being through practice. Our verbal promises are just the frosting on the cake.”

The question remains, then, what shall we do? How will we devote our limited resources of time, talent, and money to accomplish what best serves our hopes for the world, this community and each other?

In the next several weeks there will be opportunities for you to participate in this conversation. The Board has recruited UUCA members to facilitate conversations at 11 meetings on different days and times in the next several weeks to address this question.

I sat with them in their training yesterday, and I think you’ll find the process illuminating. You can sign up today in Sandburg Hall after the service, and I hope you will. It’s a unique chance to help guide where we are going as a congregation. I’ll be fascinated to learn what comes of it.

But I’ve chosen this topic as you embark on that journey to urge that in answering that question you consider how you might frame your answers in the context of practice.

Why practice? Well, to begin with, practice gives us work for the long haul. We exist as a congregation not to accomplish a specific end by a specific point in time but to be agents of transformation. And transformation is hard. It requires that we pace ourselves and develop strategies that keep us focused even in hardship, disappointment, and loss.

My model for this work is John Lewis, one of the last surviving leaders of the Civil Rights movement. He is famous for saying that, in the end, the Civil Rights Movement was not about achieving specific political ends but, in his words, “about seeing a philosophy made manifest in our society that recognized the inextricable connection we have to each other.”

Seen from that perspective, he said, each of the acts of the movement – the victories and the defeats – were only steps along the way. Writing in 2012, Lewis added, “Yes, the election of Barak Obama represents a significant step, but it is not an ending. It I not even a beginning; it is one important act in a continuum of change. . . . It is another milestone on the nation’s road to freedom.”

“We must accept one central truth and responsibility as participants in a democracy,” he said “Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create and even more fair, more just society.”

Freedom, in other words, is a practice. So, the question returns to us: What practices will keep us centered, hopeful, united and strong as we move, bit by bit, toward our goal?

A focus on practice reminds us that some of the hardest work in creating the change we want to see is changing ourselves. Remember, when learning a new skill, it’s a little rocky at first. We make mistakes and get frustrated. And even then, the best-laid plans go easily astray. We get distracted. We get busy. We want to do better, but it all seems like too much.

Remembering that lasting change can’t be accomplished overnight, we begin with the small steps. What can we do today, right now that might take us at least a tiny step along the way? This past week our Associate Minister Lisa Bovee-Kemper offered a few ideas at our Wednesday Thing.

Feeling grumpy? How about filling a Gratitude Jar with prompts that remind you how much you have cause to be grateful for? Are folks in your house a little over the edge right now? How about digging into the family Calm Down Box or the Boredom Jar? Maybe it’s a game, a book of poetry, a packet of tea, or just a blankie. Surely there’s something there that can dial down the level of stress or craziness in your house at that moment.

While some were filling boxes or jars, I led others in silent meditation, and Bruce Larson gathered others still to talk about peacemaking. All of these are simple things to do, but they become powerful when we make them personal practices, activities that we rely on to center and ground us, that reminds us to focus on what connects us with others, on living into the people we want to be.

Rebecca Parker in our reading captures the sense of it: “To be an influential force for good,” she said, “what we need to do is establish more strongly in our congregational life the practices that embody loving, just and sustainable community.”

Practices also offer us a way to stay true to what matters to us even when we reach the end of our rope when we have no clue of the next step to take. Chris Lattimore Howard writing in Christian Century magazine recalled a night early in his chaplaincy training where he and his supervisory were dashing from crisis to crisis with barely a moment to think.

At one point, Howard says, he flippantly said to his supervisor, “Man, this is out of control.” The chaplain, he said, stopped and turned to him, saying, “Not being in control is part of the discipline.”

So it is for us. There is much that we will encounter that will surprise us or knock us off our equilibrium. So, we need to develop practices that can keep us grounded and focused and true to who we are and aspire to be.

How do the promises of our covenant become practices? How do our values focus our work? How do our principles guide our hands and feet? How does all of this link us to the larger work of transforming the world? Each generation pressed by both the outrages and the radiant possibilities of its time confronts such questions. How shall we respond? What halting skills do we cultivate such that we may be fully present to our age, struggling at first with the wobble-wobble-wobble of awkward uncertainty until we get the hang of the work until we learn where to apply the pressure with true skill so that we truly be a blessing to the world?

The opportunity is before us. As William Stafford reminded us, what can anyone give you greater than now, starting here right in this room, when you turn around?


Picnics, Workshops, Meetings, Wednesdays, Auction–YIKES!

I wrote a post on Tuesday, but things did not go so well. The post was messed up and so were the outgoing email notifications. It was about this past week’s Wednesday thing which is now over.  So don’t worry about.  Here’s what you need to know now.

There is a WHOLE LOT of stuff going on at UUCA right now.  It’s hard for staff to keep up, let alone the “UUCAer-on-the-street.”  Here’s a quick summary.  Everything mentioned here has more information available online or in eNews articles (find past eNews’s on our website).  Please help your friends to be informed.

Picnic, September 17, 4-8pm – We reserved Weaver Park for an activity that’s now happening elsewhere.  But we have the park so we may as well have a picnic.  Just show up!

Workshops – There are 11(!) possible choices for you to join in on the conversation about UUCA’s mission and ends.  We have to FOCUS, people!  Sign up for a LOV Project workshop.  Results of this work will be presented at the Congregational Meeting on October 29 at 4pm.

Meetings – Learn more about providing sanctuary to a person threatened with imminent deportation on September 28 at 6:30 from outside presenters and come to the Congregational Meeting on October 29 at 4pm to vote!

Wednesdays – Ask your friends about the Wednesday Thing.  We had a fabulous night this week with more than 60 people joining in the various activities.  We start with a $5 meal every Wednesday!

Auction – “The Things You Do” is a party, an auction, AND a dance on November 11 at The Asheville Event Centre, 5-8 pm.  What we need right now are DONATIONS!!!  The more things we sell, the more funds we raise.

Living Our Values Project

This summer, I was honored and privileged to have spent a week at the Southern Unitarian Universalist Leadership Experience. SUULE was empowering and it gave me a true understanding of what our real work is, which is to listen to one another, to learn from one another and to grow from one another. That is what the LOV project is all about.

At SUULE, I spent a lot of time learning about the power of why. Why are we here?  Why do we come together? Why do we do the things that we do? The why, here at UUCA,  gives meaning to all that we do, not just at UUCA but in all aspects of our lives. The why, is our seven principles and our values of Connection, Inspiration, Compassion and Justice. and the rest of the Board of Trustees are asking you to embark upon a journey with us to discover and affirm together how we live out our why because your voice, your meaning, your heart, your actions and your behaviors make us who we are. When we focus on the why, the why becomes our reality.

Great things are happening at UUCA, we are working on so many amazing projects!  In this process, it is important to value differences. We will be asking you questions that will likely affect you somehow. In doing so, we create confidence and comfort to journey into the future together with parts of our past. The parts of the past that we bring with us should be the very best of us.

Our conversation about why we are here and why we live it,  is never over–it is ongoing. The Board of Trustees is committed to learning about and understanding your why. So please join in these conversations because we want to hear your voice.

What is it and why are we doing it?

Living Our Values, Imagining Our Future….aka The LOV Project, is a series of joyful and connecting workshops in which we will gather to explore our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our congregation. Our trained facilitators will guide you through a 2-hour process called appreciative inquiry. Together we will explore how we live our values of Connection, Inspiration, Compassion, and Justice, which will help us discern how to build our future based on our strengths. The primary outcome of the LOV project is to re-vision our congregational Mission and Ends to address our current aspirations.  This workshop is all about renewing our covenant together.

When and where is it…and are you going to feed me anything?


Friday, Sept 22th 6-8 23 Edwin BYO: Wine and Dessert
Saturday Sept 23rd 10-12 RE Commons Light Breakfast and Coffee
Sunday Sept 24th 1-3 Sandburg Hall Snacks
Tuesday Sept 26th 9:30-11:30 Sandburg Hall Light Breakfast and Coffee
Saturday Sept 30 9:30-11:30 Sandburg Hall Light Breakfast and Coffee
Sunday Oct 1 12:45-2:45 Sandburg Hall Snacks
Monday October 2nd 6-8 RE Commons Potluck Dinner
Wednesday Oct 4 6:30-8:30 Sandburg Hall Light dessert
Thursday October 5th 9:30-11:30 Sandburg Hall Light Breakfast and Coffee
Saturday Oct 7th 6-8 RE Commons BYO: Wine and Cheese
Sunday Oct 8 1-3 Sandburg Hall Snacks

Who is it for?

This project is for each and every congregant, it is hosted by the UUCA Board of Trustees. Please join us, we need your voice.

How do I sign up?

Sign up for a workshop here

Kate Hartnett, President, Board of Trustees