The Wisdom of “What Now?”

Sunday, March 29, 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Tiffany Sapp, Guest Minister

As a hospital chaplain, Rev. Tiffany Sapp encounters the questioning connected to suffering. Often, the questioning is phrased as “Why?” But she’s discovered that a Unitarian Universalist response often comes in the form of a different question, “What Now?” Come explore how we can navigate the difficulties of life together.

The Problem With Heaven

Sunday, March 22, 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

The power claimed for the theological notion of heaven is that it’s what we all want. But what if it’s not what we want, what if it’s the last thing we want?

Click on this pdf to read text of sermon.

The Fourth One

Sunday, March 15, 2020 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

There it lies at the center of our seven principles: “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Can it hold this august place that we give it?

Click on this pdf for sermon text.

Celebration Sunday

Sunday, March 8, 2020 9:15 & 11:15am
Annual Budget Drive Team & Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development

With song, story, and inspiring words, we close our annual budget drive with a celebration of all that we make possible as people committed to the work of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville.

No audio or text available.

Rekindling Moral Imagination

Sunday, March 1, 2020, 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
In these challenging times we are called to imagine possibilities that do not yet exist and are based on the good and the just.  As always, we are called to action! Join us in an exploration of how our UU faith can sustain our moral imagination during moments of despair.

YRUU Service

Sunday, February 23, 2020, 9:15 & 11:15am
Friendship and Community
YRUU Youth
Join us for the annual YRUU- Young Religious Unitarian Universalist multigenerational service. Youth will reflect on friendship, community and the positive effects they have on our lives. Children in grades 3 and up are invited to join us. Childcare will be provided for those in grade 2 and younger.

Living Bravely, Giving Generously

Sunday, February 16, 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister, Will Jernigan and Wes Miller, Annual Budget Drive Co-chairs
It’s a time these days when we need to be brave, when we need to step up to what our values call for from us and support each other in doing it. We begin our Annual Budget Drive celebrating the role that each of us in this congregation has in making that happen.

Click on this PDF for sermon text.

The Third One

Sunday, February 9, 2020 , 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Acceptance & encouragement, what nice words! What could be hard about them? Today we’ll explore how our UU Third Principle can challenge us.

Click on this link for the pdf of this sermon.

From Concern to Action

Sunday, January 19, 2020,  9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development

Join us as we honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and reflect on how we can put our values into action.  As Rev. King said, “Every step toward the goal of justice requires the passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”  Let us explore ways of translating those concerns into purposeful action for justice in this new decade. Special guest, Womansong, will be providing music for our multigenerational service next Sunday

Magi and Wise Men: A UU Perspective

Sunday, January 12, 2020  9:15 & 11:15am
Phil Roudebush, Guest Speaker

The magi or wise men are regular figures in accounts of the nativity celebrations of Christmas and are an important part of the Christian tradition. Epiphany, which traditionally falls on January 6th, is a Christian feast day and western Christians commemorate the visit of the magi to the baby Jesus. Phil Roudebush will explore the magi story from biblical, historical and contemporary religious viewpoints with thoughts on how Unitarian Universalists might view these scholars and their message.

Click on this pdf to sermon text.

The First One

Sunday, January 5, 2020, 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister 

We begin the New year with a reflection with the first of our UU principles, which calls us to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity. How does this principles call us to live and grow? We will also be welcoming new member to our congregation.

Click here for a pdf version of the sermon.

Christmas Music, Revels & Stories

Sunday, December 29, 2019  11:15am (SINGLE SERVICE)
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Our musical guest for our service on December 29 will be Musicke Antiqua,a 13-member recorder consort of musicians who perform in costume and offer historically informed live performances and educational programs designed to inspire appreciation of early music and support its study.
    Musicke Antiqua began as a recorder trio in Brevard, NC, in 2001, and now includes 13 members from several areas of Western North Carolina, including UUCA members Jim Manhart and Nanette Muzzy-Manhart.
The single service, will be coordinated by Lead Minister Rev. Mark Ward and Worship Associate Susan Andrew and will include stories, readings and a meditation.

The Long Goodbye (audio only)

Sunday, December 1, 2019
Rev. Iris Hardin
Dementia’s effects on memory impacts many of our lives and relationships in profound ways. Join us for worship on Sunday, December 1st, when we try to make meaning of the disease sometimes called “the long goodbye.”
Bio: Iris Hardin, MDiv, facilitates Advance Care Planning for the Mission Health System. Prior to relocating to Asheville in 2017 with her spouse Clyde, she worked in the Boston area as a Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplain and Bereavement Counselor.

Who, What Deserves Our Attention (audio only)

Sunday, November 24, 2019
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
In a world where so much shouts for attention, today we turn to people’s stories of hope gathered by our UU Service Committee that aren’t as loud as some but just as worthy. We will be invited to welcome these folks and many more like them as Guests at Our Table this holiday season.<i>Click on title to continue</i>

Kneading and Rising Together (audio only)

Sunday, November 3, 2019 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
People around the world eat bread in all different shapes, sizes, colors and textures. Join us to explore stories some of you have shared about the mystery and beauty of breadmaking. What lessons can we learn by reflecting on this simple food which is part of many of our diets?

Transformed by Forgiveness (audio and text)

Sunday, October 6, 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
Forgiveness isn’t easy. It takes courage and vulnerability to forgive those who have hurt us. And yet the ability to do so can be transformative. Can we choose to cultivate love instead of hate in our hearts? Can we always forgive? Should we always forgive? Join us for an exploration of the complexities and possibilities of forgiveness.

READING

To Forgive by Desmond Tutu
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.

However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator.

If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator.

You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person too.

But the process of forgiveness also requires acknowledgement on the part of the perpetrator that they have committed an offence. I don’t like to talk about my own personal experience of forgiveness, although some of the things people have tried to do to my family are close to what I’d consider unforgivable. I don’t talk about these things because I have witnessed so many incredible people who, despite experiencing atrocity and tragedy, have come to a point in their lives where they are able to forgive

Sermon

Last Wednesday I watched a video of 18 year-old Brandt Jean offering his forgiveness to the woman who killed his brother a year ago. Amber Guyger, a white Dallas police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing Brandt’s 26 year old brother, Botham Jean, after Guyger apparently mistook his apartment for her own. Botham was in his apartment watching TV and eating ice cream when he was shot. Brandt’s statement included his saying, “If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you. I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.”[1]

Is there a possibility of restorative or transformative justice beyond the punitive for Amber Guyger? We know that she will serve prison time and will have the rest of her forever-changed life to contemplate her actions that resulted in the taking of an indisputably innocent life.  After his statement, Brandt asked the judge for permission to give Amber Guyger a hug. It was granted and he did.

Brandt’s words and the image of his embrace of his brother’s murderer – this unconditional act of forgiveness that elicited both praise and outrage from the bipolar twitterverse.

There was praise for a young man responding to personal tragedy with compassion based on his Christian values. There was outrage, anger and frustration with what some perceived as a continuation of a history of black people forgiving white people when the same grace is not extended to them. And, there was dismay with a 10 year prison sentence for the taking an innocent life. I found myself feeling outrage because of our well documented propensity – historical and current – of disproportionately incarcerating black men and youth and disproportionately suspending or expelling black youth from our public schools. But my outrage at the seemingly light sentence was tempered by the impossibility of knowing the motivation and in-the-moment emotional and cognitive state of the woman pulling the trigger. How can that be judged? And how can it be adjudicated?

This morning I invite us to reflect on the complexity of forgiveness. What was your response to this story? As I listened to Brandt’s statement I recognized he made a choice: he chose to forgive. His forgiveness did not condone his brother’s murder. His statements implied that he was not seeking revenge. He responded to this tragedy, a year later, with compassion, grounded in his Christian faith and going as far as saying to Guyger that there was a possibility of redemption; that if she were truly repentant God would forgive her.

We have seen this theologically grounded response before. In 2016 during the trial of a white supremacist who massacred 9 people in their church during a bible study gathering, some of the survivors and family members who spoke forgave him. Because this was explicitly a racially motivated killing, there was concern that forgiveness interfered with accountability for the horrific consequences of white supremacy culture.

In these two tragic incidents, religious doctrines provide the foundation that allows family members to forgive; they can begin the process of healing that cannot occur if resentment or the desire for revenge is allowed to consume them as they seek to regain their lives and adapt their daily existence to the new reality of loss.

I may not share the theological concept of divine judgement that motivated the families of the slain, but I must admit to a most sincere admiration for their gestures and the courage to act on their beliefs.

In our Unitarian Universalist tradition, we do not have specific religious language around redemption and grace. We take inspiration from various sources and personal spiritual practices as we grapple with the reality of evil and its manifestations. We reject the notion of original sin while recognizing that we all have a capacity for good and evil. And when evil and misfortune strike, we step up, offering each other comfort and support. For UUs, our covenant to affirm our principles includes respect for all beings. That covenant binds us and holds us accountable to each other. So do the many covenants we create as participants in congregational life.  When we miss the mark, we recommit to our covenant and begin again in love. Even when we or others fail, we don’t give up. We work to repair relationship. We work to re-enter that sacred space of covenant, of fellowship, of commitment to love and to doing the larger work that can only be accomplished in community.

And yet, when others transgress feelings of anger, bitterness, and hatred are inevitable. They are part of being human. Holding on to them can be self-destructive, weighing down our spirits and closing us off to the possibility of moving into a future with a transformed narrative: a victim becoming a survivor.
We can’t change the past, erase transgression, but we can choose our response. Do we hold on to resentment, anger and grudges? As Desmond Tutu reminded us remaining in a state of anger and resentment locks a person in a state of victimhood making [the person] almost dependent on the perpetrator. He said “if you can find it in you to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator.” This changes how you tell your story. I think it allows for a transformation from victim to survivor.

And it’s not an easy path. There are many questions to consider: What if the person won’t apologize or express remorse? Does forgiveness require reconciliation with the offender? What if the transgression is deemed unforgivable? Each person will answer these questions for their particular situation maybe with support from a therapist, a spiritual leader, a close friend. Brandt was able to forgive his brother’s killer. We do not know what his process was for reaching that decision a year later. I wonder over time how it will impact his family, his community and Guyger? UU minister Forrest Church explained it this way many years ago:

“This is how forgiveness works well. When we forgive her we don’t change her, but ourselves. We liberate ourselves from all obligation to continue bitterness. This doesn’t reverse the past. It doesn’t remove from the record whatever crime was perpetrated against us. But it changes the present and the future.”[2]

Forgiveness can change the present by allowing us to be liberated from carrying the story of the perpetrator. It might even allow us to be curious and shift from asking “why me”? to asking “why them”? Why would someone do that? I think that is the empathy Charlie was talking about in his opening words. Reaching that level of empathy takes time. Each person decides their readiness and capacity for forgiveness. I close with a prayer written by Mpho Tutu, Desmond Tutu’s daughter who is also a Christian minister:

Prayer Before Prayer

I want to be willing to forgive

But I dare not ask for the will to forgive

in case you give it to me and I am not yet ready.

I am not yet ready for my heart to soften.

I am not yet ready to be vulnerable again.

Not yet ready to see that there is humanity in my tormentor’s eyes.

Or that the one who hurt me also cried.

I am not yet ready for the journey.

I am not yet interested in the path.

I am at the prayer before the prayer of forgiveness.

Grant me the will to want to forgive.

Grant it to me not yet, but soon.

Acknowledging the complexity of forgiveness, and recognizing the importance of forgiving ourselves as well as each other, I invite you to partake in the “Litany of Atonement” inserted in the Order of Service. We will sing the first verse of hymn 218. Then, you are invited to repeat the litany “I forgive myself. I forgive you. We begin again in love.  When we finish, we will sing the second verse of Hymn 218.

[1] https://www.newsweek.com/botham-jean-brother-bryant-offers-forgiveness-hug-amber-guyger-dallas-1462868

[2] Life Lines by Forrest Church, p 98

 

Common Courage (no audio or text available.)

Sunday, September 22 2019,  9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, Guest Minister
For nearly 80 years, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee has been advancing UU values by working with justice makers the world over confronting unjust power structures and challenging oppressive policies. Join us to hear UUSC President and CEO Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, describe how deeds of common courage are transforming the world; one brave, ordinary act at a time.

There Are Covenants Amount Us! (audio only)

Sunday, September 15, 9:15 & 11:15am
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development
Have you heard that Unitarian Universalism is “covenantal not creedal?” What does that mean? Interestingly (and probably surprisingly to you), there are several covenants that inform our relationships here at UUCA. Let’s explore the ways that covenants underpin our behaviors, our mission, and even the theological grounding of our faith.<i> click on title to continue.</i>