Sermon: Who Is In My Circle? A Service of Remembrance and Hope

Some of the hardest work in our lives is deciding where we draw the circle of our concern. We begin with our family, sure, but how much wider? This season of turning reminds us that for people who were dear to us, even when they die they stay with us in important ways. Our newly formed Covenant of UU Pagans will help us celebrate.
But, who else do we include? Later this Sunday, our congregation will vote on whether to offer sanctuary to people in Asheville facing what they consider unfair deportation from their homes and families. So, who’s in our circle?

Be It Resolved…


We are days away from the congregational meeting at which this congregation will vote on whether to become a physical sanctuary. The discernment process has focused largely on logistical issues, which makes sense, because the commitment to provide sanctuary is a big one. At the same time, we have talked about how the Sanctuary Working Group and the leadership of the congregation believes that working on behalf of immigrants in our community by declaring sanctuary fulfills our Unitarian Universalist values. All of that is true, but there is another piece of this decision that I want to be sure is lifted up.

The reason this is coming to a full congregation vote is because it is a big decision, and because, like declaring UUCA a Welcoming Congregation or a Green Sanctuary, will impact our work as a congregation well into the future. Physical sanctuary is only one piece of the resolution. A positive vote for sanctuary on October 29 is a statement of our commitment to the broader issue of immigrant justice in our community.

There are four “be it resolveds” included in the resolution:

  1. Dedicates itself to educate and activate our congregants, to amplify and respond to the voices of immigrant leaders, and to speak out against discrimination.

This means that we will continue to build relationships with immigrant partners here in Asheville and work to be allies and accomplices as they organize for their own liberation. We will speak out when we can, and amplify the voices of the marginalized in our community.

  1. Commits to open our congregational spaces to accommodate those facing deportation, while they pursue a legal appeal.

This is the physical sanctuary bit.

  1. Resists any harmful and unjust policy proposals that further undermine due process and lead to racial profiling and discrimination.

Physical sanctuary is only one piece of this resolution. Legislative advocacy for policies and laws that support the immigrant community, as well as resistance of unjust laws are another important aspect of this resolution.

  1. Commits to work alongside our friends, families, neighbors, and partner organizations to create sacred space of sanctuary.

This statement is fundamentally about continuing the work we already do as a congregation. We have long been seen as a safe place for LGBTQ persons, for people of all religions, and more. We have committed to working toward racial justice. Creating a culture of sanctuary in the community within and outside of this congregation is a continuation of this work.


Each member of the congregation gets one vote on this important issue. Some of you may be ready to commit to direct engagement with a potential sanctuary recipient, volunteering your time and energy to working with our sanctuary partners in this way. Some of you may not agree with the assertion that becoming a physical sanctuary and working for immigrant justice is something that UUCA should do at all. Some of you may be in support of sanctuary as a concept, but can’t commit to daily support work for physical sanctuary. Some of you may feel that your energy is best used to advocate and organize for legislative and legal change. And, of course, there are many other assessments and positions on this issue among you. Each of these positions has strongly held values behind it, and some will result in a “yes” vote, while others will result in a “no” vote.

When it comes time to vote, all of the statements and questions and answers will have been made, and the most important thing to know is that all of you are called to vote your conscience. That is what democratic leadership and congregational polity mean. See you on Sunday at 4pm.

UUCA Religious Education Rocks

With my Acting-Director-of-Lifespan-Religious-Education hat on, I can tell you that not only did our planning and lead-up to this church year go well, but the programs are now hitting on just about all cylinders.  Our recruitment went fabulously (we could use a few helper-adults in Spirit Play classes), ALL of our teaching teams are deluxe(!), you heard from Gordon Clark a few weeks ago in this blog space that YRUU (the teens) is energized and well-attended, and Juliana Austin and Melissa Murphy have rounded up a Middle Grades Youth Group that is providing a way for both our middle-schoolers and their parents/guardians to get to better know each other.
Your Religious Education Council* is terrific, too.  They are thoughtful, helpful, and stepping up to take the leadership roles that a volunteer organization so depends on.  In a retreat this summer, the RE Council proposed this mission statement for itself.  (It’s still in draft but close enough.) 

The UUCA Religious Education (RE) Council’s mission is to act on behalf of the congregation in partnership with the Director of Lifespan Religious Education towards well-resourced and integrated faith development. Our dedicated RE Council members connect religious education with congregation members by communicating, inspiring, and supporting all of us as we develop our beliefs and live our UUCA values of connection, inspiration, compassion, and justice.

Practically, they meet once a month to briefly review how things are going in lifespan RE and then to look ahead at programming opportunities for children, youth, and adults.  This month the Council tackled issues like offering a multigenerational activity at the Wednesday Thing, thinking ahead to the Christmas Eve Family Service, and thinking about how we can help parents get to know one another better outside of Sunday mornings.  Next month we will be taking a look at adult religious education.  They also are often part of a teaching team, serve as family greeters on Sunday mornings, and are “on call” downstairs should things go awry.
Our two part-time RE staffers, Jen Johnson and Kim Collins, have stepped up brilliantly in this transition year.  They are, in fact, doing just about everything that needs to be done to support our active, caring Sunday school programs.  They buy and organize supplies, communicate regularly with the teaching teams; spend quite a bit of time helping with the organization of our Coming of Age and Our Whole Lives classes; hire, supervise and schedule our childcare workers; plan and sometimes help lead RE activities, and keep me informed of all that’s happening (well, the big stuff anyway).
And speaking of Coming of Age, that class and their parents and teachers have been doing a whole lot of planning so that we now know that the end-of-year trip for that class of 6 boys will be headed to the UUA General Assembly again (this time in Kansas City), the entire class will attend the Youth Con at The Mountain Retreat Center in late winter, and that you will see them a lot as they fund-raise with “Food Sundays” (it may not always be soup!), food at the Wednesday Thing, and their “big event” in February.
I told you RE rocks!
*Here are UUCA’s RE Council Members: Louise Anderson, chair; Jennifer Gorman, Ann McLellan, Katherine Murphy, Gina Phairas, Missy Reed, Jim Steffe, Kelly Moser-Wedell.  I THANK THEM and YOU SHOULD, TOO!
I don’t want to leave out recent past members who contributed last year and at the RE Council retreat:  Nancy Bragg, Joy McConnell.
Dr. Linda Topp
Director of Administration