This Sunday is Celebration Sunday at UU Asheville, an opportunity to reflect on abundance–the generosity of time, talent, presence and resources in our faith community. I won’t be joining you because I will be supporting the planning for the May 15 Coming of Age youth service, one of the most meaningful, moving services of the year and one you really don’t want to miss! The commitment to supporting our youth on their spiritual journey is one of the many gifts this congregation offers our faith community. This year ten mentors, four facilitators and our Religious Educator Jen Johnson, with the support of the youths’ families, have provided a meaningful experience of reflection, community building, and spiritual deepening for our youth. Celebremos!
Last night I led the final Vespers and Program for this year focusing on Beauty, Justice, and Eco-theology. Wednesday Vespers will resume in September. We gathered online to reflect, listen to music, share joys and sorrows, build community, and explore our relationship with the Earth. This was just one of our many Wednesday gatherings offered online for the past two years and led by creative, committed volunteers. This wouldn’t happen without your support and participation. Celebremos!
I could go on and on sharing my appreciation for all that is happening at UU Asheville despite the trauma and losses of the pandemic. In October of last year, Adam Griffith invited staff to document all who serve in leadership roles on boards, committees, and taskforces. We documented over 80 people, and that list doesn’t include the over 50 people who support the BeLoved pantry, more than 30 who are part of the Circle of Welcome for an Afghan family as well as all the volunteers for Religious Exploration, participants in Soul Matters Groups, Wednesday program facilitators and so forth. You get the idea! There is mucho que celebrar!
I see my role as Minister of Faith Development to serve as a catalyst to invite you to explore theology, spiritual practices, and community as you discern how to use your gifts, presence, and resources to put your UU faith in action. Many of you are doing that, and for that I say Celebremos!
A more personal celebración this month was a trip to Long Beach, California to attend the Finding Our Way Home retreat for religious professionals of the Global Majority sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association. That is one of many activities the UUA organizes and finances to support congregations and religious professionals. I gathered with colleagues from all over the country: ministers, religious educators, music directors, administrators, membership coordinators, and lay leaders to heal, mourn colleagues who died during the past year, to worship, to learn, and relish each other’s company. We hadn’t been able to meet during the past two years, so this retreat was truly a homecoming. I share this because our congregation is not a Fair Share congregation in the UUA, which means we do not pay our complete dues (6.5% of our budget) to the UUA. I hope one day we will be able to fulfill our obligation. The UUA supports congregations in ways we are often unaware of. Interim minister training and support is provided by the UUA. My journey to full fellowship as a UU minister was supported by UUA staff. Training for our religious educators and consultants who we reach out to support Faith Development are provided by the UUA. In such a privileged congregation, this feels like a shortcoming we should be aware of.
Beloveds, tenemos mucho que celebrar, we have much to celebrate! This journey of ministry enriches my life because working with you, getting to know you, and learning together how to put our faith in action continues to be challenging, transformative, and a blessing, una benedición. May you also feel blessed, challenged, and transformed by your connection with this faith community.
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development