Reflecting on Our Actions: The Ten Days of Awe

As a Jew, the Ten Days of Awe, also known as “Aseret Yemei Teshuvah,” is a period of deep introspection and repentance for myself as well as other Jews around the world.  These ten days span from Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Though we strive to practice self reflection throughout the year, the Days of Awe provide a sacred and dedicated time to pause, and truly engage in self-examination, seek forgiveness, and strive to make amends with others. The process involves reflecting on one’s actions, acknowledging mistakes, committing to positive change, and making a genuine effort to become a better person.

My faith has taught me that atonement is not about dwelling on past mistakes or harboring guilt; it’s about acknowledging our humanity and seeking the path to healing and reconciliation. It is a chance to mend broken bonds, not only with others, but in our commitment to care for and mend the earth, our relationship with G-d, and our own hearts.  Judaism also teaches that atonement requires action.  We must do the work and truly seek forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation directly with others.  We must replenish the earth.  And, we must mend our relationship with G-d.  We cannot atone by solely asking or praying to G-d for forgiveness.  We have to take personal responsibility and accountability for our actions and genuinely seek forgiveness and reconciliation.  

This is also a time to release the weight of resentment and anger, and instead, extend a hand of forgiveness and understanding. It’s a time to forgive others, not because they may deserve it, but because true forgiveness has the power to bring peace. And to be kind and forgive yourself, for we are all works in progress, and every stumble is a step toward becoming a better version of yourself. 

It may take time and work before we find the strength or are truly ready to forgive and reconcile.  It may extend beyond the years.  May these Days of Awe serve as a reminder that self-improvement and change is possible, that love and compassion are the keys to mending what is broken, and that embracing our true selves, acknowledging our flaws, and working towards positive change, can move us closer to a state of inner peace and harmony, and ultimately enrich our lives and those of others.

שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה (transliteration Shana tovah u’metukah)
May you have a good and sweet year,
Wendy Motch-Ellis
Director of Administration

Be Kind.

If you haven’t had a chance to notice yet, there’s a sign on my office door at the church that has these words from my friend, the author Rivera Sun:

Be kind.

Be connected.

Be unafraid.

Sometimes you really don’t need a sermon – just a wise friend reminding you of what the high road looks like.

That’s what we’re really about, we Unitarian Universalists. We like to use a lot of words to say it. We like to get really busy, trying to show it. And of course, sometimes our fear sneaks up on us. But we’re “the Love people,” (according to the world all around, who see our yellow shirts at times when it really matters) and we are trying… to be kind. To be connected. To be unafraid.

If you need some practice, all you really need to do is take a glance at this eNewsletter, or visit our website calendar and you will see that our congregational life is absolutely blooming! From our Soul Matters or Soup & Soul Suppers, to our kids and youth outings and activities or the Reproductive Justice series, to our Givens gatherings or the upcoming Yellow Brigade involvement at Blue Ridge Pride on Sept. 30th, there is something for everyone at UU Asheville. And Sundays! Well, the joy and connection then is just palpable.

So come. Join in. We’re here, being kind, connected, and unafraid.

See you in church –

With love,

Rev. Audette

A New Season Begins

As schools start to open their doors, a new season begins. As an academic, I’ve always appreciated how UU churches follow the same calendar. Summer offers time off for staff and leaders; the congregation enjoys different speakers in the pulpit, church life slows down.

But now we speed up again. Water communion Sunday. New Member Sunday. Religious Exploration Sunday. Each one welcomed as a familiar piece of the life we’ve built together as a congregation, a faith community. I’m pumped. 

I cry most every Sunday, now, and that means my feelings are stretching their wings. I’m moved by the story for all ages. The pulpit speaker sparks my commitments to justice for everyone in all aspects of living. Kids are kids, freely moving from playing together to returning to their adults for hugs and reassurances. Adults surround me who I know carry pain as I do, and who come (as I do) to find comfort and acceptance. When gathered together, we know we are recognized as the best selves we can be. Love is at the center of our faith, and we live that faith together as the UU Congregation of Asheville.

New people are joining us in our expanding community. Individuals who’ve been looking for the approach to spirituality that we offer. Parents who want to build families of faith, rearing children who will grow up knowing themselves loved as they are. UUs from other congregations who now call Asheville home, bringing us their special gifts. All are just waiting to be invited to settle in through active participation and service to this new spiritual home.

New people like the Rev. Dr. Audette Fulbright Fulson, her husband, Ron, and their high school aged son, Mars. With her doctorate in Public Theology, our new lead minister has developed an educational and socio-spiritual process called ChangeCrafting, aimed at helping groups like ours be more effective public change agents while also tending our personal and communal well-being. Wow, simply, wow. What’s going to happen with us now? Who will we be next year at this time? Five years from now? What will be our role in making Asheville, Buncombe County, WNC better places, places where all people thrive, not merely survive?

So, to my siblings in faith—I challenge each of us to bring our best selves to UUCA and figure out the ways that we, as individuals, will be contributing to our communal life. According to our Mission statement, that is a life that “connects hearts, challenges minds and nurtures spirits, while serving and transforming our community and the world.” May it be so.

by Mary Alm, Board of Trustees, Clerk

Local Reparations…Let’s Have a Conversation

Last month I attended a workshop on reparations at the YWCA sponsored by the Racial Justice Coalition. I learned a lot I did not know about the reparations process in Asheville and the history of reparations in the US and abroad. Did you know that in 1862 President Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act into law offering reparations to former slave owners – $300 for each person freed? No reparations were offered to those formerly enslaved!

Although the local reparations process started in 2020, we have not had conversations in our congregation about reparations and how they might align with our UU values and aspirations. UUs are not a monolith, and there are different perspectives on the importance of reparations to promote healing and address the impacts of the historical injustices of slavery, Jim Crow and continued discrimination and disregard for Black lives. Below are a few resources from the workshop. 

A place to start (or review, if you’ve read it before) is The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The Local Reparations Process in Asheville and Buncombe County – A synopsis of the local reparations process, starting with the passage of the Reparations Resolutions in 2020 and the formation of the Community Reparations Commission (CRC).

A Brief History of Reparations – A broader timeline of the history of reparations in international, national, and local contexts.

Common Questions and Concerns – A list of questions and concerns that people have raised around reparations for Black people, with some suggestions for how to respond to them.

The RJC offers the following questions (modified slightly for our conversation) to consider as you reflect on these resources. There may be a range of thought about this issue, but I trust we can agree to maintain curiosity and respect when we do not agree.

Identify your feelings and values.
Do you care about this issue? Why or why not? What feelings come up for you when you think about reparations? Which of your values are challenged by our current racial justice reality? What values would be affirmed by the delivery of reparations? Are there values that would be affirmed by not engaging in reparations?

Develop your story. How did you come to believe that reparations are due/not due to Black people? Where did you begin? What beliefs did you have before you came to support/reject this cause? What people or experiences influenced you to shift your thinking and feelings? 

Acknowledge your position. Become familiar with your own position in this conversation and what influences that position. 

If you are interested in exploring reparations with fellow UUs, consider joining me for “Curious Conversations” which resume on August 24 at noon in Sandburg Hall (bring a bagged lunch). If you are unable to attend, there will be another gathering Sept. 28, same place, same time. I am also available for conversation. Check out my Calendly for a time when we can speak (via Zoom, phone, or in-person. And be on the lookout for future opportunities at UU Avl and in the community to continue to learn about reparations.

Lastly, if you support reparations, consider signing the “Reparations are Due Pledge.”

Reparations are Due Pledge & Explanation – An overview of local history and the harm inflicted on Black residents, from slavery through Jim Crow apartheid and up to the present day.

I hope this is the beginning of many thoughtful conversations in our UU community about reparations. Whatever your position, may this be a community that encourages us to put our faith in action by grappling with the issues faced by our community, and leading with love in partnering with others to make amends and promote healing in the face of injustice so that all may thrive. 

In faith, 

Rev. Claudia Jiménez
Minister of Faith Development

Action Alert

 Ask Buncombe County Commissioners to Ban Plastic Bags

     Buncombe County Residents use over 132 million single use plastic bags every year. These bags clutter our roadways, end up in our storm drains, and pollute our waterways. Over 500 local governments and several states across the country have passed bans on certain single-use plastics. Buncombe County needs to take the lead in banning plastic bags and Styrofoam takeout containers and cups. Email Buncombe County Commissioners and ask them to pass a Plastic Pollution Ordinance that would ban the use of plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam cups by fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, and retailers.

     Also plan to attend the Buncombe County Commission Meeting on Tuesday, September 19th at 5 PM to show your support for a plastic bag ban.  There will be a rally in front of the County Commission Building, 200 College Street, at 4 PM and the meeting is upstairs on the third floor.

Contact Ken Brame with the WNC Sierra Club for more info: 828-423-8045