As our time together is growing short, I wanted to pause and say thank you to all of you for the courageous way you have embraced the challenge of loss, change, and transition. As I reflect on the past two years, I feel it is nothing short of remarkable the way you have reinvigorated this beloved community following the pandemic. Many of our UU congregations continue to struggle to reinvent themselves. They are still grieving the past and seem to be trying to recreate the way things were pre-pandemic. I credit your staff and leadership for their energy and creativity as each new challenge emerged (and there have many). UU Asheville is a bright light of hope in our denomination as well as in your community and beyond. It has been a privilege and a joy to serve as your interim minister, and I will watch with interest from afar as you begin your new journey with Rev. Audette as your new lead minister.
Looking back, I am reminded of the many ways our congregations adapted and readapted over the 2 ½ year of the pandemic, but I’m also cognizant of how our priorities changed. Being with loved ones, connecting with friends, creating community however we could, walking in nature was the new “vacation,” baking bread, learning new hobbies, or reviving old one became our lifeline. Bonding with our beloved pets who were ecstatic to have us home all day was a bonus. It seemed that everyone in my apartment complex got a puppy in 2020, and their abundant joy was contagious.
Rev. Bill Sinkford’s article about predicting the future in the new UU World is worth a read. He writes, “Change is manifesting all around us in a variety of ways, which I believe offer hope for our faith’s future. Congregations are building new collaborations… There are new collaborative leadership models emerging. More shared ministry, less hierarchy, more leveling of leadership”.
My colleagues and I are also noticing large numbers of people of all ages seeking connection in our UU religious communities. Sinkford says, “Our task is liberation into lives of abundance and justice and joy”. We cannot know what the future holds, but we can choose to be a part of creating that future by saying, “Yes” to life and to love and by creating beloved community and a safe and loving home to all.
I am confident UU Asheville will continue to meet this moment and the next moment and the next moment with enthusiastic curiosity, faith, hope, and joy. I hope to see each of you throughout the remainder of my time at UU Asheville. I will be on the pulpit May 21st, May 28th, and June 11th. My transition begins on June 15th with a combination of vacation, General Assembly, and moving.
Sincerely with love,
Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister