America’s Shame

Dear Ones,

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonI imagine that you, like me are deeply saddened and disturbed by the murder of yet another innocent Black man at the hands of the police. As Tyre was being brutally beaten, he called out for his mother. He was on his way home which was nearby. All five of these officers were Black men. The assumption that white supremacy is the underlying problem in policing can no longer be argued. The American Bar Association has confirmed that evidence of injustice is overwhelming and is urging lawyers to help fight for equitable justice. America has a systemic problem in a judicial system that is historically rooted in a deeply ingrained, pervasive and ongoing racism.

George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police was a wake-up call and seemed to be a transformative moment, but perhaps the weight of the trauma, grief, and anxiety of the past three years has numbed us into complacency. It is incomprehensible to imagine a white man being beaten to death during a traffic stop, but for Blacks a traffic stop is terrifying.

Charles Blow addresses this issue in his NY Times article, titled “Tyre Nichols’ Death Is America’s Shame” in which he argues that we have become desensitized to the violence done to Black people because of “its sheer volume.” He points out “police killings of American citizens didn’t decrease after the killing of George Floyd; they increased.” It’s a powerful and compelling call to action.

Unitarian Universalists, along with other people of many other faith traditions showed up during the Civil Rights Movement.  In 1965, UU minister, Rev. James Reeb was beaten to death by segregationists in Selma, Alabama, and the men tried for his murder were acquitted by an all-white jury. UU layperson, Viola Liuzzo joined the movement after Bloody Sunday and three weeks later was shot twice in the head near Selma by members of the Ku Klux Klan. We can honor their legacy by standing up and fighting racial injustice, and we can begin by doing our own work of educating ourselves about the root causes of this pervasive ongoing structural racism.

UUA President Susan Frederick Gray said this about Tyre Nichols murder, “As UUs, we believe in justice, equity, and inclusion as a matter of faith and Principle. As such, we are compelled to work towards a society where these Principles are more than concepts but lived realities. This Sunday, February 5 at 9:30 and 12:30, there will be 8th Principle discussion groups and is an opportunity to learn about why adopting the 8th Principle is an important step towards this goal. UU Asheville will be voting to adopt it at the annual meeting. We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote; journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

 See you in church,

Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Life

Since our marriage 54 years ago, my husband and I have sent out a card and letter to friends and relatives each Christmas. I have read that it is rare to watch entire lives unfold through time; but over the years, our notebook of those missives has grown thick, providing a treasure of stories about our life together. In the beginning we often reported month-by-month the activities in our, and our children’s lives. As we received similar letters from friends and loved ones, we discovered that we desired a more nuanced (read interesting) approach. Consequently, we began sharing only the major highlights of our year and then adding our thoughts about various current topics in the news, movies we had seen, books we were reading. Sometimes we wrote a theme-based letter—the effects of moving, life changes when children arrive, becoming empty nesters, freeing ourselves through retirement.

This year our letter was about our current status in the process of aging. Our audience of mainly contemporary friends is contemplating the same, we know. We shared our diagnosed “conditions;” the fact that the list of our doctors, with whom we regularly personally interact, fills more than an 8 1/2 X 11 page; and our slower pace of life, preferring to complete only one major activity a day in addition to our daily walk. However, we emphasized our gratitude for the people to whom we sent our greeting, for living in a secure place where our greater physical needs are easily met, and where our sense of community provides emotional and psychological support as well as deep friendships.

As usual, friends have telephoned, written, and emailed their reactions to our letter. These are friends we have known since college and in both our early and later career days. Maintaining these, and newer, friendships have provided us with relationships we cherish, and regular interactions that keep us connected. We often invite friends—and always family—to our Michigan cottage, where we retreat for the summer months, sharing memories, eating well, and relishing being with one another through occasional outings and meaningful conversations.

I recently read an article, “The Real Secret of Lifelong Fulfillment,” by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, the director and associate director of the Harvard University Study of Adult Development. The essay was adapted from their book The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. They write that the “one crucial factor” that “stands out for the consistency and power of its ties to physical health, mental health and longevity” is good relationships. The Harvard study findings are supported by similar findings across a variety of studies, the authors say.

Here are some statistics to give you context for the importance of human interaction: Waldinger and Schulz ask us to think of a friend we cherish whom we don’t see as often as we would like. They say that if you are 40 and you see them once a week for an hour of conversation, that is equivalent to 87 days together before you turn 80. It’s about 20 days if you see them once a month, 2 days if you see them once a year. Maybe this sounds like plenty of time to spend with good friends. But to encourage us to make encounters more frequent, they point out how much time the average American spends interacting solo with media, from television to radio to smartphones. In 2018, it was 11 hours each day. That means that “from the age of 40 to the age of 80,” media time would add “up to 18 years of waking life. For someone who is 18, that’s 28 years of life before they turn 80.” Over and over again, when the Harvard study participants reach their 70’s and 80’s, they say the thing they value most in life are their relationships with family and friends. The authors’ conclusion: “If we accept the wisdom—and more recently the scientific evidence—that our relationships are among our most valuable tools for sustaining health and happiness, then choosing to invest time and energy in them becomes vitally important . . . an investment that will affect everything about how we live in the future.”

As we begin to pursue the greater freedom of being in community together at UU Asheville, following the Pandemic, it is helpful to consider the importance of investing in relationships. Through interactions at Sunday service, at the Wednesday Thing, and at Coffee Hour in Sandburg Hall, we can re-engage with friends and acquaintances so important to the life of our congregation. In addition, we can select from the many choices offered through New Volunteer Opportunities in the UU Asheville survey on our website. All of these endeavors not only enrich our congregation but also provide us with good relationships.

Julie Stoffels, Clerk, Board of Trustees

 

 

 

 

 

Ray of Sun

You are a ray of sun. Together, our community brings rays of sunshine into our walls and beyond into the Asheville community.  These rays look different for each of us. They are composed of the time, talent, and treasures you choose to share. 

One of the most precious gifts we can give to others is our time. The ray of time shines because of you and the time you generously give. You carve time out of your day to listen to others, to lend a helping hand, and you volunteer in the smallest and biggest of ways. You are a ray of time.  

So many of you graciously share your talents. Your talents are the ray of light that lead us, entertain us, sustain us, inspire us, support us and challenge us to grow in supportive ways. You are a ray of talent.

If you went on a treasure hunt throughout this congregation, we would find you, sharing the treasures of gratitude, care, a heart yearning for equity, gifts of both monetary and sentimental value, and our core values of connection, inspiration, compassion, and justice. You are a ray of treasure that glistens, shimmers, and shines.   

Together, you, and your time, talent, and treasures, are the energy sources that generate our sunshine and allow our rays to shine within our walls and beyond. Let this new year be a reminder of how much you shine and how appreciative we are of you, in all the many ways you share your time, talents, and treasures.  

I invite you all to lean into the many ways we give of our time, talents, and treasures throughout the year.  In this new year, we begin our year of giving with giving gratitude to all our volunteers. In our last e-news we announced that Appreciation Ave is coming soon to Sandburg Hall! Appreciation Ave is dedicated to celebrating our Awesome Volunteer Energy! Look for the Ave in the coming weeks and start thinking about our Awesome Volunteer Energy.  On the AVE you’ll be able to add to the scene your appreciation, shout-outs, kudos, and thanks to our UU Asheville volunteers who have been moved to share their love through their service to the congregation. If you’d like to acknowledge one of our awesome volunteers, and you’re not able to be here to add your appreciation to the Ave, send us an email and we’ll add it on your behalf.  

I also invite you to explore our current volunteer opportunities. Volunteering your time is a much-needed ray of sun to the congregation and allows you to connect with others and engage in meaningful work. If the spirit moves you, please consider volunteering. Visit our volunteer sign up form where you’ll learn about current volunteer opportunities and how you can help. 

We are truly blessed that this congregation is so bright.

Wendy B. Motch-Ellis, Director of Administration 

Centering Gratitude

One of my centering practices is photographing things that bring me joy. Yesterday as I was bicycling home, I stopped to take in the beautiful light on Beaver Lake from the setting sun. I sat on the bench by the road for a moment of silence before heading home. I sat with a feeling of gratitude for the beauty before me, for the end of the workday, knowing I would be in my warm home soon on that chilly day.

I recently participated in a workshop on the practice of collaborative ministry and felt deep gratitude for the collaborative ministries in our congregation. A workshop facilitator explained why the title was “collaborative ministry” and not “shared ministry”. “Shared ministry” means that someone else “owns it” and allows participation.  “Collaborative ministry” is an effort to acknowledge the egalitarian nature of ministry. What an important distinction! The work of this congregation is not just the responsibility of the board and paid staff.  All members of the congregation have responsibility to co-create this Beloved Community we aspire to.

I see this in many areas of our work together. Staff, lay leaders and congregants working together co-create Beloved Community by supporting each other on our spiritual journeys. This happens with our congregational care team that is lay-led in collaboration with our lead interim minister. It happens in RE where our staff works with volunteers (at least 40 this year) to lead numerous programs that serve our children and youth. Where else do you see collaborative ministry at UU Asheville? How can your gifts contribute to our ministries during this exciting time in the life of our congregation?

Coming back into community after almost three years of being apart and developing new habits, has been awkward and slow. Some have not returned. Yet, there is so much happening in our congregation! We are welcoming visitors every Sunday. Religious Education is thriving. A new Soul Matters Small Group is launching this month. Our Justice Ministry partnership with BeLoved continues to deepen and engage volunteers. Our Search Committee is joyfully and earnestly going through the ministerial candidate packets on the journey of discerning who our next lead minister will be. There is much more I could list, but you get the idea. There is much to be grateful for.

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Finding Our Center

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonMy goodness, it’s another new year already, and we are on the search process home stretch!  The transitions office calls it Phase Five: Mutual Discernment and Selection.  This is very exciting and is the perfect time to get grounded in what really matters in your own life and in the life of the congregation. Rev. Claudia and I invite you to join us at 2 PM on the first and third Tuesday of the month for an hour of tea and conversation.  Stop by and share what’s on your mind and in your heart. We’ll put the kettle on!

I love the Soul Matters theme for January because it resonates with new beginnings without the burden and guilt of New Year’s resolutions. Finding Our Center is different from making resolutions or making lists of needed improvements; centering is more about listening to what calls us forth.  It is about becoming who we really are, aligning ourselves with our true north rather than improving ourselves. That feels so much better!  Someone posted a quiz on Facebook a few years ago that promised to discern your New Year’s resolutions for you if you simply answer ten questions.  I thought what the heck, I’m game. Mine turned out to be an invitation to make more room in my life for creativity!  Creativity!  Not lose 20 pounds or go to the gym every day, but make time to read books, write poetry, play my guitar, and more time to knit.

An article in the Business Insider magazine explained why it is important to daydream, and the author references the ‘two-hour rule,’ a habit that Einstein, Nietzsche, and Darwin all shared; it is simply two hours set aside per week to do nothing but think and daydream.  Daydreaming opens the door to creativity and new ideas.  It is so easy to waste two hours surfing the web or watching television, but it takes effort to spend two hours intentionally doing nothing but think and allow your mind to wander. Try it!  No tasks, no cell phones, computers or reading. YIKES! Perhaps you discover what your inner voice has to tell us about what to do with this brand-new year.  I’ll try it, because I suspect our inner voice might have more insight than a 10-question quiz on the Internet.

In his wonderful book, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer wrote, “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”  Listen for those things that inspire you.  Notice what makes you smile or laugh or intrigues you.  As the poet Mary Oliver asked;

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

See you in church!

Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Forward to Winter

Margaret McAlisterDear Friends,
I have grown to look forward to winter…strange, perhaps, after living for most of my adult life in sunny & lush and impossibly bright Miami…but in the 4 years I have been here, I have come to relish the winter; to allow it to nourish me. I have found that it nurtures and restores me. I am getting better at leaning in to let it ground me & to calm me, because I seem to come to this time of the year worn out from a hard year of life & growth & challenges & yes, losses, too. And I see this in many of your faces, too. Our spirits are tired!
    So can I invite you to do what Winter is asking you to do: can you lean into Rest wherever you are able? Even if you don’t have the privilege of an abundance of restful time in your life, can you find small, simple places where you can embrace rest? Can resting receive just as much focus as your ‘to do’ list? What a concept! I have a To Do List daily…bet you do too. Can we put Rest on that To Do list?
    Let’s pretend, if even for a little while, for this time of year, let’s pretend that we are in the chrysalis stage of our personal evolution….Winter is the chrysalis stage in the evolution of the butterfly. It’s the time when the caterpillar is wrapped up quietly, in the dark of her cocoon. To the outside world it doesn’t look like anything is happening. (And this is one of the most challenging things about embracing rest: to the outside world it doesn’t look like anything is happening. Our brains scream at us, telling us “You’re not doing anything. You’re wasting your time.”) But actually, deep in the dark, a quiet transformation is happening: the caterpillar is evolving into a magnificent butterfly.
    Let this be a time of a transformation of our spirit, as it is a transformation of all of nature in this season. All the experiences & lessons learned over the past year are being integrated into our spirit & into our lives. And we are evolving because of it.
    Let us embrace that our only work right now is to be like the caterpillar. We don’t have to do anything. Just wrap ourselves all snug in your cocoons, and simply rest.
    Winter is the season when things are revealed by turning deep within ourselves. Embracing the quiet & the darkness – recognizing that we don’t need to do anything for the magic to unfold. This is truly the season of receiving.

Margaret McAlister, UU Asheville Board of Trustees 

 

Reframing Darkness

One of the gifts of my move to Asheville almost five years ago has been experiencing the change of seasons. After living in Florida for twenty-two years where nature is lush and green year-round, the annual progression of seasons has increased my connection to and awareness of earth’s circular rhythm. Winter months bring an appreciation of darkness. I grew up, as many of us, with negative associations and fear of darkness. And yet, darkness is essential to life. Seeds germinate in the darkness of the soil. Embryos develop in the darkness of the womb. Our sleeping bodies re-energize in darkness. I have learned to embrace the long, dark winter evenings as an invitation to stillness, letting go the need to always be doing something. I even welcome the opportunity to go to sleep earlier than usual. When our children were little, the onset of darkness earlier in the evening also signaled to them it was time to sleep and they also went to bed earlier than usual. Eventually, the days will get longer; the busy-ness will begin again. Until then, I will enjoy these slow, quiet dark evenings. May this also be a time of stillness and introspection for you.

Prayer to the Dark by Jan Gehris
Darkness  enfold me
nurture and protect me
hold me in
your velvet wings
Darkness loose your
creative powers in me
Quiet my eyes
quiet my ears
quiet my mind
Take the rush and
distractions of daytime
from me.
Darkness
with your magic
let me be
created anew
and born from you
into
the light.

Rev. Claudia Jimenez,  Minister of Faith Development

Warning: Xmas trees in the lot are larger than they appear!

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonI don’t know about you, but this time of year evokes memories. Decorating our Christmas tree was especially joyful when my children were growing up. I spent hours searching for the perfect tree that we put up the day after Thanksgiving every year. My children and I strung popcorn and cranberries and generally made a big production (and a huge mess on the carpet) of the whole thing. The kids were eager participants until they became teenagers, and then I found myself hopelessly alone with the task. To salvage my sanity, I eventually bought wooden cranberries and abandoned the stringing popcorn thing. Not the best use of my time.

Wanting to relive the memories of my childhood growing up in a 100-year-old house with 12-foot ceilings, I was hopelessly driven to choose a tree that was at least a foot taller (or more) than the ceilings in our home. In my defense, it is hard to gage size when you are outdoors. Those beautiful Frazier Firs always seemed smaller in a wide-open space. Right?

My husband never minded that I consistently brought home a Times Square-sized Christmas tree because he secretly delighted in having an excuse to fire up that blasted chain saw. I’m pretty sure it stirred up some latent lumberjack fantasies.  But let me warn you, this is where “joyful” memories of Christmases past turn ugly.

At first, with my sweetest voice possible, I gently advised and guided him. “It just needs a tiny bit off the bottom. I don’t mind if it scrapes the ceiling a little, and I like it full. Just a little…” But moments after the initial roar of the chainsaw, the scent of fresh sap and pine needles coursing through the air the situation escalated into an all-out war with me screaming over the chainsaw and throwing myself in front of my poor tree crying, “PLEASE STOP!” Jim’s reply never varied; “Well if you didn’t always buy a #@&%*% redwood tree, I wouldn’t have to do this.” And then he would swagger off to the shed perversely satisfied, like Wyatt Earp after the gun fight at the OK Corral.

There would be a long silence for the next few hours at Green Meadow Farm. And God only knows how this ritual traumatized my children who tried to hide their horror by laughing hysterically. In the aftermath, while fighting back tears, I managed to salvage felled branches to make mantel arrangements and wreaths.

But the next day, I discovered as I poured out my grief and pain over the fate to my clients and co-workers at the hair salon that there were other families who endured perennial Christmas tree traumas. Turns out tree decorating isn’t always the storybook, happily ever after Hallmark moment. My behind the chair research revealed story after story of Christmas tree fights, pets of all kinds climbing the tree and having to hanging the tree from the ceiling or putting in the playpen or tying it to the walls, and other stories that can’t be repeated here.  Once, when a woman threw her live tree out in the yard after Christmas, a live opossum climbed out!

It helped to know I wasn’t alone. My recurring chainsaw tree trauma always seemed to resolve itself after a couple of days when the tree was adorned, and the spirit of the season lifted me out of my pout. Then I would stand before our stunningly decorated Christmas tree with pride and say “This is the prettiest tree we’ve ever had.”

May this holiday season be the best you’ve ever had.

In faith and love,
Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister

 

 

We Are Thankful

Thankful.  We are so very thankful for all the contributions of this beloved community this year.  We send our heartfelt gratitude to:

  • You who bought tickets to the Auction Gala
  • You who donated your services, skills, dinners, parties, gourmet items, artwork, and fine crafts
  • You who purchased the above array of events and items
  • You who worked with the Auction Team to bring to life this year’s online auction and in-person gala
  • You, members of the staff who put up with our incessant requests for publicity
  • Our numerous, generous business donors
  • Our capable caterer, Gene Ettison, and his hardworking team
  • You, volunteers and youth, who helped make the gala a welcoming, smooth-running, and fun event!

Highlights from this unique auction year include:

  • Excitement about planning our first in-person gala since 2019
  • Trepidation about COVID’s impact on our plans
  • Success in carrying out a hybrid (online and in-person) auction event
  • Discovery that many folks like to dress up and dance!

We learned that our congregation has amazing tenacity and generosity in this time of transition.  Again, our heartfelt appreciation goes out to all.

**And, our flexible, dynamic and well-organized team is always ready to welcome new helpers!

The Auction Team

The Wednesday Thank

will jerniganWell, here’s a blog during the week of Thanksgiving, following a wildly successful Meet the Moment fund drive, in a month whose theme is gratitude.  What to write about? Oh right, being thankful.  I thought about making this blog like a game of Taboo, where I tell you I’m thankful but I’m not allowed to use the words thanks, thankful, grateful, gratitude, appreciation, Thanksgiving, happy, or turkey.  That’s a fun game.  Probably would be a short blog though.  Here’s what I do want to say. Thanks!!!

When we were starting the Meet the Moment campaign, a challenge was put forth that resonated with me.  Are we a congregation with a consumer mentality or a service mentality?  Do we give of our time, talent, and treasure with the expectation that we will receive something in return, or because we think we have to?  Or are we able to give of those things with only a motive of nurturing the congregation that nurtures us?  Can we find spiritual fulfillment in the act of giving and serving, rather than it being a means to an end?  It reminded me that in giving and serving, we build a community that is welcoming, nurturing, and supportive, and we build our own spiritual selves in the process.

Here we are, the campaign is over, and the Moment Hath been Met-eth.  To me, this is a moment to be grateful for and to celebrate our UU community.  We met the moment, and we are thankful for those who were able to give.  What better example of being in community with one another?  And we even found support from folks who aren’t members; what a testament.

During the campaign, I was personally moved by the testimonials from several members.  They painted the picture of who we are. My family has only been a part of this church for about 5 years. Not sure what that equates to in UU years…But we feel at home. And this place is special. I can only think that when we go searching for our called minister, we are going to find a lot of folks lined up at the door, for a chance to be part of what we have going on.

We have a thriving RE program. We have a continuous crop of young minds to nurture, with lots of water, sunlight, and educational fertilizer so we can put more good people out into the world who can find ways to help and serve others.  I’ve got 2 kiddos in RE, and if I am being honest, I am learning from them as they go, and as they grow.  We have a resurgence of engagement and the halls are full again.  And the Auction was a blast!  Several folks took Margaret McAllister’s advice to ‘leave your dignity at home and went all out with their attire.  If you haven’t seen the pictures yet….seek them out.

Most of all, I am most grateful for the work that lies ahead with the 8th principle – accountably dismantling racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.  This one really has me thinking.  Remember the thing about building our own spiritual selves through giving and service? I feel the paradigm shift coming, and recognize that through it I will become less comfortable. Which I embrace.  It’s impossible not to grow spiritually when working on myself and the institutions I am a part of.  I have been thinking a lot about the paradox between our UU values, and the lack of diversity in our UU community.  For reasons I truly want to understand, non-white people do not generally see UU Asheville as part of their spiritual home or community. Beloved Community is a phrase now used to mean when people of diverse racial, ethnic, educational, socio-economic status, gender, abilities, sexual orientation, and various identities come together in an interdependent relationship of love, mutual respect, and care that seeks to realize justice within the community and in the broader world. The 8th Principle endeavors for Beloved Community.  I am thankful that our church is on this journey, and I am ready to get to work.

Will Jernigan, UU Asheville Board of Trustees

The Magic of Fall

The fall is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the crisp air blended with the sunlight, and the cold nights where you can hear the owls somewhere in the dark sky.  It’s a time of harvest in preparation for the winter, and I love watching the bears sauntering through town (even when they enjoy a visit to our congregational rubbish bins).  I also love the leaves dancing their way to the ground and the joy of our 3 four-legged children romping through the mounds.  But the thing I love the most about fall is the time we take to be more expressive in sharing our blessings, acknowledging our gratitude, and recognizing how much we have to share and give to others.  While I try to carry these things with me throughout the year, I find there is a special magic that occurs in fall which rekindles how thankful I am for my life journey and reminds me what is truly important.

While I am thankful for many things, one I am truly thankful for is to be serving as your Director of Administration. I believe this opportunity found me and it warms my heart knowing that I am serving each of you and an organization with a purpose and principles that align with who I am at my core. I am thankful that my life journey has included involvement in the Girl Scouts, where I developed an incredible passion and love for nature and for the beautiful mosaic of diversity in our world.  I am thankful for my Jewish faith, where I explored many religions and was taught at an early age to question everything. I attended Austin College, a faith-based institution where I received a BA in Psychology and Kinesiology, and I was mentored by an amazing administrator who loved unconditionally and fostered inclusivity. I am thankful for my time at Western Illinois University, where I obtained my Master of Science in Personnel Administration with a strong concentration on equity and diversity. I am also thankful for my favorite faculty member, who said “risk taking is inherently failure prone, otherwise it would be called sure-thing taking” and to embrace risk and be bold. These experiences led me to a rewarding career in recreational administration for the YMCA and within higher education. I am incredibly blessed that my work has provided opportunities to pursue my passion around celebrating diversity, and work towards creating equitable, diverse, and inclusive spaces. And….I am thankful that I’ve joined the UU Congregation of Asheville on this journey.

I am thankful for the warm welcome I have received by the congregation and I am thankful for those of you whom I have met thus far. I am looking forward to meeting each of you, sharing stories, and supporting you in need. I am especially thankful to Marta Reese and Linda Topp for helping me transition into my role and I am thankful for Tish and Venny, who have been so supportive and helpful.

Lastly, I am thankful that you have welcomed not only me, but my wife, and I am thankful for her every minute of every day.  We are blessed with 3 loving dogs and we are thankful for beautiful rivers, the serenity we find fishing, the joy of cooking, the excitement of mystery and action movies/tv shows, and the warmth of filling our home with friends and family for dinner parties and game nights.

Wendy B. Motch-Ellis, Director of Administration

Facing Change

rev Claudia JiménezChange in Our Nation

I’m writing this blog while people are lined up in Sandburg Hall to cast their votes on Election Day. Many of us mailed postcards, canvassed the community or participated in phonebanks to get out the vote. Some volunteered or worked at the polls. The majority, if not all of us, cast our vote for candidates that share our values.  Now we await the results knowing that whatever happens we will continue to strive to live into our values and UU principles. Whatever happens, there is much work to do to reduce the hardship, poverty, oppression and lack of freedom that many people face in our nation. It is at times like these that our UU community is a source of sustenance. We need one another in these times of transition and liminality. You are invited to join us for Zoom Vespers tonight which will be modified to create space to share what is in your hearts and on your mind today.  Consider joining us.

Change in Our Programming
Vespers, preceded by dinner and followed by a program or programs has been a part Adult Faith Development since I arrived almost 5 years ago. At that time attendance was dwindling. The Wednesday Thing Planning team and I, experimented with different ideas to re-engage the congregation.  We surveyed participants, asked for recommendations for programs and started planning to make them happen. Then, COVID hit and we went on-line with 8-24 people attending. Now that we have been in person, attendance has been minimal except for 1st Wednesdays when we share a meal and fellowship followed by the Vespers service. That will be the only Vespers service offered each month. We are grateful for all who have led Vespers, led programs and participated on Wednesdays. During COVID that midweek collection of your beautiful faces on the Zoom gallery was salvific!

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities for Adult Faith Exploration. A short survey to gather your thoughts on what kind of Adult Faith Exploration programing you would like to see in the future is below. It includes a few examples but I what our team really wants to know is what YOU are interested in exploring. One of the most rewarding aspects of my ministry with you has been when I have been able to facilitate or co-facilitate discussion circles or curricula that support you on your spiritual journey. It has also been rewarding to support those of you who have volunteered to teach classes, lead small groups or facilitate activities that build community, strengthen connection and deepen your understanding of what it means to be a UU. Why are you a UU? So, please take a moment and respond to the survey.

Change in our Denomination

And lastly, change is coming to our denominational documents. The section that houses our UU Principles and Sources is being revised. Check out this document which explains the process and has a link to the proposed changes. As you read, I invite you to reflect on these questions: How does it make you feel? What do think about the recommended changes? What feedback do you have? There are opportunities to share your feedback via a Zoom gathering or a Google form. I will be hosting a bagged lunch discussion to discuss the proposal in person Nov. 30 at noon in person and at 7 PM via Zoom. Details will be in the e-news. Please consider attending.

Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development

Pride in Diversity

This past Sunday a group of RE children began the planting of our new Pride in Diversity garden. With the help of Kate Jerome, landscape committee chair, and RE parent volunteers, Anna Martin and Sandra Goodson, the children planted a variety of bulbs that will provide color next spring. The landscape committee conceived the idea of a Pride garden for UU Asheville and is being supported by our LGBTQ+ group, Universal Rainbow Unity (URU). The Pride garden is designed to celebrate the support for diversity within UU Asheville and our community at-large with a variety of native flowering perennials with the flower colors representing the LGBTQ+ flag. Our new garden is prominently located by our main sidewalk and when completed will provide a rainbow of color throughout the seasons. In addition to the flowering plants, the garden will also be identified with a sign calling attention to Pride in Diversity.

The landscape committee has been very active this past summer and fall identifying and labeling our gardens, weeding, planting, and cleaning out the beds. We have been blessed to have a dedicated core group of volunteers taking ownership in the maintenance and appearance of our grounds and because of these volunteers we are able to landscape some of the grounds that have remained empty with new plantings, including the new Pride Garden. If you have not noticed the grounds lately, take a walk around our main campus and observe the Pollinator garden in the courtyard and the grasses planted under the wall facing Edwin Place. We also have a wonderful blueberry patch by the playground and a sensory garden in the playground. If you are a gardener or just like to dig in the dirt with other folks, consider joining the landscape committee in the spring when we will start digging again. The committee welcomes all levels of gardening abilities.

Venny Zachritz, Connections Coordinator

Dog Days

It seems that whenever my turn comes around to write the Board of Trustees blog entry, there are some really important things going on at UU Asheville that I feel obligated to comment on, lest I shirk my responsibilities as Board president.  Well, true to form, important things falling into that “must write about” category are before us once again.  But this time around, mainly to give my lighter side some equal time, I’m limiting my discussion of those things to the next (short!) paragraph.  Please read that.  These things are truly important to our community.  But for something more whimsical, probably somewhat hackneyed, but still in a way spiritual, read on beyond that next paragraph.

(1) If you haven’t yet contributed to the Meet the Moment campaign, please seriously consider that, and make whatever contribution you feel motivated to give.  Information about Meet the Moment is in the last four eNews mailings.  (2) Your Ministerial Search Committee is really getting serious now.  I hope that you were able to fill out the congregational survey.  Coming up, there are opportunities for cottage meetings and focus groups where you can help shape UU Asheville’s future.  Please sign up and speak up!  (3) The 8th Principle, along with UU Asheville’s broader efforts on racial justice and equity, will be a theme this year, and likely for a while beyond that.  Please get involved in whatever way you can to help us get closer to achieving our vision of Beloved Community.
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Now for the whimsy.  Iris and I got Rosie, our yellow Labrador Retriever rescue dog, in April of 2020, just as the pandemic was starting in earnest.  She was then 3½ years old, but she had lived all her years in one loving home.  In fact, the day we officially adopted her up in Bristol, TN, the rescue representative was accompanied by Rosie’s previous owner, who had asked to be there specifically to demonstrate to us Rosie’s one true love – fetching!  She just loved to retrieve virtually any ball-like object thrown in her direction.  And she was pretty darned good at it.  Cool – a fetching dog!

When I asked Rosie’s previous owner how often he played fetch with her, he told us that he tried to do it twice a day for 20 minutes at a time.  Hmm.  Every day?  Twice?  Really?  I thought, okay, let’s just give it a go – we’ll see how it all works out – but I certainly hope this doesn’t become a chore.  Well, after a week or two of keeping up this regimen, we started to get into a rhythm.  We found much more joy than duty in our quotidian routine.  Rosie soon learned that we went certain places to fetch.  Also, she figured out our typical fetching start times, and learned visual cues that “The Fetch” was about to begin – like putting on shoes or grabbing a poop bag.  She would get as excited about our fetching adventures as just about anything, even including the rare event of getting chicken scraps in her food.

So, every morning and every afternoon at about the right time, she assumes that “isn’t it time to fetch now?” pose and gaze.  She’ll try that with both me and Iris, looking plaintively for the most likely fetching buddy.  Eventually, one of us will volunteer, almost always quite happily.  (Today’s blog, however, is only about my own experiences with this daily ritual.  I’ll let Iris write her own blog…)

For me, it is indeed a ritual.  At first, I didn’t recognize it as such.  I was too busy rejuvenating my too-long-dormant throwing arm, and feeling out as best I could how Rosie liked to fetch:  what ball to use in which fetching venues; throw-then-go or go-then-throw; in the air or on a bounce; high arcing lob or the grounder.  Over the weeks, months, and now years, we’ve gotten our dance down pat.  It has a structure that we follow, but we improvise as the spirit moves us.  “The Fetch” has matured into – dare I say it – a spiritual practice for me.  It gets me out into the fresh air each day.  It is solitary in that I’m the only human involved.  It affords a break from whatever I’m working at or worrying about at the moment.  It is meditative, in that Rosie and I can get into a rhythmic back-and-forth where my mind and spirit are free to do almost anything they need to do – from charting out my day to bathing in the Big Questions about this wide universe and my place in it.

I’m amazed by the fact that this member of a different species has helped me on my continuing journey to grow spiritually.  I’m pretty sure, though, that Rosie doesn’t know she’s helping me write my own credo!  Conversely, having only “human” perceptions, I can’t truly know the canine being and Rosie’s take on The Fetch, just as she can’t understand mine.  But Rosie’s love of and excitement about our routine makes me believe that she gets something out of this whole game, too.  What a great partnership!  Rosie has added so much to my life.  She’s gotten me through the pandemic.  She’s gotten me through tough places during my tenure on the Board.  Her constant companionship is constant support.  And indirectly and inadvertently, she is a spiritual teacher to me.  Thanks, Rosie!  Now, let’s go play fetch…

Clyde Hardin, President, UU Asheville Board of Trustees

Exploring Spiritual Leadership for Cultural Change

During the last year, I have been participating in conversations with UU lay leaders and ministers from the New England Region about spiritual leadership for cultural change. These conversations have been challenging and inspiring as I witness what happens when congregants see themselves as leaders. It isn’t just ministers or staff who lead, each member of the community has potential to contribute as leaders in different capacities in the ministries of the congregation. Spiritual leadership, according to facilitator Meck Groot, involves the following practices:
1. Centering gifts: We all have gifts. Leaders are called to acknowledge, receive and uplift these gifts in our community. This helps reframe our understanding of wealth and abundance while moving away from a scarcity mindset.

  1. Doing the inner work: Leaders work to support staff and volunteers to create and sustain community that supports healing and nurtures resilience as we process our own journeys. The community reminds us that no matter our journey, we belong to each other as equals.
  2. Tending our tradition: Leaders support bringing forth the gifts of our tradition with awareness of the importance of acknowledging and working for reparation for current and past harms. Our faith is not static. We are continually evolving in what it means to be UUs as the world we live in also evolves (sometimes it may seem like it is devolving!). Working toward adopting the 8th Principle and understanding why it matters is a way of tending to our tradition. Join us for worship October 23 to learn more about the 8th Principle and participate in the Sermon Reflection Circle after the service.
  3. Covenanting: Leaders promote the covenanting and re-covenanting process in the work and life of the congregation. Covenanting involves not only behavioral agreements but also agreements about what is needed for community to thrive, learn and take risks together. Covenanting is a practice, not a product. We not only make commitments to each other in community. We also make commitments to the Earth, justice, future generations and the other congregations with whom we covenant to affirm and promote our principles.
  4. Faithful risk taking: Leaders collaboratively discern when to take risks for justice and love that move the community beyond their comfort zone or need for certainty and perfection. Ha! I wonder when those occasions might arise for us.

These are just the basics that I hope generate curiosity as we continue to explore our hopes for this community and its new settled minister. I wonder which of these practices we would like to see more of in our current leadership (myself included) and a future settled minister. I also wonder how these practices can support the work of our Justice Ministry Council which has been tapped to hold the board and congregation accountable for implementing the recommendations brought forth by the Racial Justice Advisory Council to support our goal of being a radically welcoming, anti-racist congregation.  Lastly, I wonder if these practices resonate with you. What intrigues you? What is missing? I’d welcome an opportunity to hear your thoughts.

Rev. Claudia, Minister of Faith Development

 

October Reflections

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonIn the middle of October, when the nights grow cool and there is a hint of fall in the air, I love to sleep with my window open. It is a delight to smell the fresh, cool air and snuggle under the protective warmth of my comforter and my dear dog. I remember one morning, just before dawn, in an October morning in Chattanooga, I woke to the sound of crickets. Instead of realizing I was hearing real crickets, I fumbled for my iPhone thinking someone was calling me. Yes, my ringer was set to the sound of crickets, for nostalgias sake. OMG, how much do I love the sound of crickets? When I lived in Alaska and California, there were no crickets, and I missed them something awful. No crickets or fireflies, can you imagine?

Welcome to the 21st century, where your phone ringer can play music (any song you like if you are willing to pay for it), church bells, jazz guitars, motorcycles, dogs barking, and, will wonders never cease, an old-fashioned telephone.  I once set my phone to sound like a barking dog for when my older son called but the problem was that I rarely answered in time because it sounded too realistic, it took time it to register that it wasn’t a dog but my phone! My son thought I was avoiding him, so the bark had to go.

My favorite time of day in Asheville is sharing a morning walk with my dog, Zoey. Most mornings we get in the car and drive to Lake Louise. The usual suspects are there with their dogs or their walking buddies. We nod with recognition of our shared morning ritual. The freshness of morning invigorates me as I listen to the ducks and the occasional geese and watch them feeding along the shoreline of the lake. Zoey sniffs every bloody inch of grass as if the landscape had somehow changed from the day before. Of course, it is has changed, there have been wild turkeys, bears, moles, and God knows what else passing through in the night. When the mornings are warm, I watch the edges of the lake for turtles peaking their head out of the morning mist. It’s a treat, and when I don’t see them, I feel a loss as if seeing a turtle everyday brings me luck.

I feel especially lucky when I hear that familiar honking overhead and look up to see a gaggle of Canada geese migrating in their “V-formation.” It’s magical. National Geographic reports “Geese can cover 1,500 miles in just 24 hours with a favorable wind! By flying in “V-formation” rather than in isolation, the whole flock adds 70% greater flying range. When the “leader” tires, he falls back to rest, and another takes his place.  Teamwork and shared responsibility pay off, and I never tire of looking up to witness their wisdom.  Lake Louise is a popular sanctuary for the Canadas as they head out on their journey in both Spring and Fall. But the wisdom of the morning doesn’t end here.

One morning, just as the sound of the geese began to fade, I heard an owl hooting in the distance. As I paused to savor the sound and thought about how as a society we have “adapted” to the noise of traffic, leaf blowers, construction sites, and the blather of endless political scandals of the day on the news or radio. I remember moving from Seward, Alaska to Berkeley, California, and the jarring culture shock I felt. I couldn’t fall asleep without earplugs for weeks but after a while I adapted, and the noise didn’t bother me. Adaptation is a remarkable survival tool, but what have we lost in our adapting?

It seems that everywhere I look, people are walking with earbuds or headphones listening to music or talking on the phone even when they are walking in the exquisite beauty and calm of nature, missing the gifts of its silence and gentle sounds. I think we should resist! The 21st century doesn’t have to mean that we stuff our ears, close our windows, and lose our sensitivity to noise and nature.

Sunday worship may seem old-fashioned or passe to some, but what if going to church on Sunday morning is a radical act of resistance? With its beautiful music, beloved community, deep reflection, a commitment to social justice, religious exploration, meditation, prayer, gathered hope, inspiration, and the joyful sound of laughter and children and friends as opposed to simply tolerating the unwelcome noise that insists on invading and poisoning our lives.

Resist! Renew your commitment to making life meaningful, joyful, and fun.  See you in church!

Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister

 

Q’ Pasa? What’s Happening?

rev Claudia JiménezWelcome back, y’all! Bienvenides de nuevo! It has been a joy to see our sanctuary alive with your presence. It has been heartwarming to see all our children, youth and Religious Exploration volunteers join us for the Wisdom Story. Kudos to our religious educators, Kim Collins and Jen Johnson for their preparation for another year full of learning, relationship building and spiritual deepening.

Religious Exploration for adults is also launching this month. Our lay team, Jim Steffe, Kelly Weddell and Sherry Lundquist, supported by Kim Collins and me, has also been preparing for the new congregational year. A few highlights:

Women & Spirituality: The Goddess Trilogy. Facilitators: Susan Foster and Sherry Lundquist
https://uuasheville.org/women-spirituality-film-series/

Reproductive Justice: Expanding Our Social Justice Calling. Facilitators: Jane Bramham, Neal Jones, Rev. Claudia
Initially scheduled for the Fall, we decided encouraging engagement with UU the Vote this fall is the best way to support reproductive justice and access to abortion healthcare in NC for women and our trans and nonbinary siblings. The program will be offered in January 2023.

Soul Matters Groups. Facilitated by members of UU Asheville.
Groups meet October-July. We have 9 groups that a ready to gather. There are three types of groups that gather to explore the monthly themes using the Soul Matters packets that include prompts and readings. Soul Matters Groups focus on dialogue; Creativity Matters groups focus on artistic expression; and UU Writers share written reflection. Questions? Contact Venny Zachritz.

And, of course weekly Vespers & Program.

I will also be hosting a Bagged Lunch Dialogue on the book Search by Michelle Huneven, October 21 from Noon-1pm in Sandburg Hall. Although the author broke covenant in writing the book and that is deeply troubling, it is a useful learning tool. I know some of you have read it and I think a conversation about it is important.

Y, tenemos un programa nuevo! And, we have a new offering to support spiritual deepening and the work of liberation. It is an opportunity to discuss novels (and an anthology) that invite us into covenanted, deep listening conversations that can be challenging. Rev. Cathy and I will be co-leading a 1st Thursday Noon Bagged Lunch and 7pm Zoom “Embracing Discomfort” Book Dialogue.

Nov 3               There There by Tommy Orange

Jan 5                Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, edited bu Saraciea J. Fennell

March 2           Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

May 4              On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel by Ocean Vuong

I look forward to seeing you at one of the many offerings at UU Asheville! Nos vemos!

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Purpose and Possibility

It’s been 17 years since our congregation last searched for a called minister. That means many of us have never engaged in the work of a ministerial search, and for others it’s been a while. So now is a good time to reflect on what the search process is all about and what role we all play in finding our new minister.

First, know that the process is well underway. We’ve chosen a committee to help guide us through the search process, but you may be surprised to learn that the committee’s job is not to decide who the next minister should be. Rather their task is to find the minister who can help us realize our vision for UU Asheville.

We all have a role to play and the committee can’t play their part if we don’t play ours. Our committee needs to know what we want “church” to look like, what role we want to play in our community, the concerns we have, and what we see as UU Asheville’s purpose. In other words, we tell the committee where we want to go, and they find a faith leader who can take us there.

The committee is not looking for their minister, they’re looking for our minister, so they need to hear from us. To make that easy, they’ve laid out two tasks for everyone in the congregation. Let’s do both.

First, complete the congregational survey. This is your first opportunity to tell the committee your hopes for UU Asheville. Admittedly, the survey is a little long so set aside some time to give it some real thought. You’ll find that the survey will not only help the committee get a picture of who we are, it’s also designed to help you envision what we could be. It’s well worth the time investment.

Second, attend a cottage meeting. In these small group meetings, you’ll once again be thinking about the purpose of UU Asheville, but unlike the survey, you’ll be sharing your ideas with and listening to those of fellow congregants. It’s an opportunity to begin building the community you want to be a part of.

Those are the two tasks we can all do to help. Complete the survey and come to a cottage meeting. Pretty simple.

While the search process is a time for reflection about who we are, it’s also a time filled with possibility. May we approach the search process with excitement, curiosity, and openness to the possibilities a new minister can bring.

Gina Phairas, Ministerial Search Committee Chair

 

 

 

 

Magical Moments and Grief’s Strange Journey

karen dill“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.”  Joan Didion
Death is inevitable and an undeniable fact.  Yet the grief that follows death can challenge facts.  In her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion chronicles her first year alone after the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne. She questions reality and her own sanity in the aftermath of John’s death. Embarking upon a surreal and dark journey, Joan struggles to understand the death of her beloved husband and the sudden end of their remarkable partnership.
In the days, weeks, months after my husband’s death in April (and the subsequent deaths of a college friend, a beloved 95 year old aunt, and our own Mark Ward), like Joan Didion, I also questioned reality. The order of the universe is shuffled. Life changes in an instant and the rational mind searches for an explanation…a meaning to the madness. Magical thinking becomes a survival tool.  It is a way to navigate the unthinkable and is a beautiful diversion from the agony of living without the life partner who has anchored your life for so many years.
And the strange journey of grief begins.  Perhaps, in this world of magical thinking, my husband of 35 years will return.  Magical thoughts, though illogical, can be comforting.  My husband’s shoes are left by the bed. The hair brush he owned since childhood stays by the bathroom sink along with the toothbrush. His favorite coffee cup with Thomas etched on the side waits in the kitchen cupboard. None of this makes sense but neither does his absence.
This strange journey of grief continues with magical thoughts that he’s out there somewhere. Maybe he is in the wind chimes that move without a breeze at the same time every evening.  Or is he the sweet wren that appears on the deck railing every morning at 6 AM with the same lyrical song?  The bedroom lamp that blinks at odd times must be a message.  Surely those are signs that he is present, still lingering in this hopelessly imperfect world. But are they just desperate and magical illusions in this insane world of grief?
“Grief is the price we pay for love”, said Queen Elizabeth II after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Grief is the inevitable price for loving our partners, our families, our friends, our anchors. In this imperfect world, we love and we lose that love.
Joan Didion says that we keep the dead alive in order to keep them with us. And magical thinking temporarily makes the pain manageable. But slowly, in time, the human spirit rallies.  And magic of a different sort materializes.
For me, these are brief and unexpected magical moments. Sunday’s service when the beautiful music filled my soul was a magic moment. The lit candles that created a brief moment of light in the darkness. The kind word and the smile from a congregant that fostered a sense of belonging. All magical moments.
Occasionally the tentacles of fear and sorrow that have entrapped my battered heart loosen  and I take a deep breath.  My soul lightens for an instant and my mind is gifted with the beautiful clarity that I have loved and have been loved.
Love is not lost. And knowing that love is not lost…that is the magical moment that gives meaning to his strange journey of grief.
Karen Dill, UU Asheville Board of Trustees

A New Church Year!

Dear ones,

It is a busy and exciting time as we begin the new church year and our second year of the interim process. Your seven-member Search Committee met with Keith Kron in August following the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop, and they met last weekend with their UUA coach for a retreat. Watch for invitations to join them for Cottage Meetings and other events that will assist them in their task of choosing your new settled minister. These meetings will be your opportunity to share your hopes and dreams for the future.

The UU Asheville staff had a wonderful retreat at the beautiful Montreat Conference Center in early August for teambuilding/brainstorming, and we spent time discussing UU Asheville’s assets and how they might be used to fulfill the mission of the congregation.  It is no surprise that aside from having a talented and dedicated staff, you have much to be thankful for!

YOU HAVE: a beautiful sanctuary with great acoustics, natural light, and a wonderful piano, a great location with beautiful outdoor spaces, a stone patio, a fire pit, a lovely Memorial Garden, and Sandburg Hall is a great place to gather. There are many Religious Exploration rooms, Les brings in wonderful guest musicians, you have a great choir, and you have Les J. Asheville is a beautiful place to live, and UU Asheville is connected to and benefits from and many non-profits and social justice organizations such as Beloved, CoThink, Planned Parenthood, Faith4Justice, Mother Read, the Arboretum, and so many more. UUCA has its fun annual Mountain Retreat, a rich and vibrant Religious Exploration Program that is under the creative and competent leadership of Rev. Claudia, Jen, and Kim J This includes the OWL Program, the Coming of Age Program, and the children’s religious exploration classes being this Sunday! OMG, we are so lucky to have our house band, the Sandburgers, the Soul Matters curriculum enriches our lives with Small Groups, Creativity Matters, UU Writers, and so much more. There is a new Buddhist Sangha that meets twice a month, and the 8th Principle/Anti-Racism work happening. The Wednesday night Vespers and programming are starting up this week, and the choir will be singing twice a month beginning on September 18th.  And then there is YOU!

Yes, your presence matters!

Don’t miss the fun and our Opportunity Fair on Sunday, September 18th.  Maria is bringing her food truck, the Sandburgers will serenade us while we eat tacos and explore opportunities to get involved in the shared work of creating beloved community.

Unitarian theologian, James Luther Adams, once said that church is where we get to practice what it means to be human. Being human, with all its ups and downs, is so much better in a community where you are loved for who you are, where you are safe and can grow and learn, share your gifts, and receive the gifts of others while working together to make the world a better place.  We look forward to seeing you in church!

In faith,

Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Communication Leads to Community”-Rollo May

Many of you shared your frustrations with receiving too many regular emails from UU Asheville, and that’s a fair frustration. I know when I receive too many emails from any organization, I tend to skip reading all of them. I also find myself aggravated when I want to go back and reread something and can’t remember which of the multiple emails I found the information. We’ve heard you, and we understand.

We also want to keep you informed of what’s happening at UU Asheville. One of the joys about a community rich with programs and offerings is that it’s challenging to communicate it all effectively. So, we’re trying something new. This week we’re launching our reimagined Weekly eNews! Instead of receiving an email on Monday morning about worship, Tuesday afternoon with TLC news, Thursday’s eNews, and then Sunday’s worship link, you’ll now receive one regular email on Wednesdays (special topic emails will still happen periodically in addition to this weekly email). This Wednesday email will still be called our Weekly eNews and will include: worship information for Sundays and Wednesday Vespers, This Loving Community (TLC) news, the weekly blog (now called the weekly message), and all the information you’ve come to expect from the Weekly eNews.

While we’ve combined all the information into one email, it also means that it will be longer than usual. However, it will be a one-stop-shop which means you’ll know where to go when you are looking for information. We know not everyone will have the time to read it all, but we encourage you to scan through it each week to stay informed. We’ve broken the email into subject headers such as “Wednesday Vespers,” “Sunday Worship,” “This Loving Community,” and “News & Events.” Our hope is that you’ll be able to digest the information with a bit more ease. Of course, we still encourage you to submit your eNews items! Our deadline is now on Wednesdays at 10am, 150 words or less, and please use standard capitalization practices and a 12-point font.

Lastly, we’re changing how we share our virtual Sunday services. Instead of receiving a unique link each Sunday morning, you can now watch on our website. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. (and click the red “Subscribe” button).

As with all new communications practices, we ask for your patience as we roll out the new format (and work out the problems). We’ve listened to your feedback, and we hope our response meets our shared need for effective communications.

Brittany Crawford, Director of Administration

Invitation to Share the Journey

We are excited to start the 2022-23 year with all of our Religious Exploration groups meeting in person this fall, starting Sunday, September 11. We have been imagining and planning a robust program with 4 different *OWL classes, a PreK and Kindergarten class, 2 groups for elementary aged children, a world religions class with field trips for middle grades, high school youth group, and (NEW!) some all ages – that’s ALL ages, young to elder – spiritual practice and religious exploration opportunities, and family ministry events! We are enthusiastic to try some new things with y’all this year and to host some vibrant, enriching, faith deepening and justice oriented experiences at UU Asheville.

Our goals this year are to develop in all of our children and youth a strong sense of UU identity, an understanding of our principles and sources, a sense of belonging and being held by our congregation, and the understanding of why it’s important to organize and act for the rights of all marginalized peoples. Our curricular choices reflect that, with our elementary choices coming from the UUA’s Tapestry of Faith curricula, as well as a new (to us) World Religions curriculum, Crossing Paths, from Soul Matters. Our YRUU (high school) youth group will explore a combination of youth group theme materials from Soul Matters, OWL, justice learning and projects, planning and executing our beloved YRUU worship service, some fun traditions and new experiences, and a summer youth trip.

*OWL = Our Whole Lives, a comprehensive, faith based sexuality education program that was largely and unfortunately suspended for 2 years due to the pandemic preventing consistent in person gatherings. (We did offer a virtual parent/caregiver support group and a few high school OWL sessions in person.) We know that it is important, lifesaving information and are dedicated to getting the curricula to as many children and youth as possible this year. We are able to offer OWL to 7th-9th graders (2 different year-long classes!), 4th/5th grade, and 10th-12th graders. Leading OWL requires an intensive offsite weekend training, and we are grateful to the volunteers committed to this valuable program.

Please register your children and youth to stay in the loop about all the happenings in RE and Family Ministry at UU Asheville. This also provides us with important information to best support your child(ren)/family.

Serve in Religious Exploration! Our children and youth need a village of caring adults to know them and to help guide their faith exploration. Kids thrive by growing up in a loving community of adults who pay attention, laugh, create, listen, play, teach and learn alongside them. Young adults to elders are encouraged to join our amazing team of volunteers; this is not just a job for parents. No expertise needed; open minds, loving hearts and helping hands are the name of the game. We will train and help you, and the lesson/game plans are provided! Will you join our younger generation and explore Unitarian Universalism with them? We’re especially seeking some more people to care for babies in the nursery, assist our PreK-K staff, and lead/assist in our elementary aged groups (younger and older elementary). It is transformative work that can nurture your own spirit. In order to sustain the program we envision and our families desire, we need your support! Please contact us — and come to the RE volunteer training this Saturday, August 27 (begins at 9:45 in Sandburg Hall).

Religious Exploration will launch on Sunday, September 11. On that date, we will happily return to our pre-pandemic ritual of everyone gathering together in the Sanctuary each Sunday for the chalice lighting, opening, music, and wisdom story. Children, youth, and RE volunteers will be sung out to their classes following that Time for All Ages.

Note: we will also have periodic 9:30 RE for all ages and 11:00 all ages worship. Watch for those announcements in the Weekly eNews.

Still have questions? Contact us! If your child is Nursery-8th grade, please email Kim. If your youth is in 9th-12th grade, please email Jen.

Jen Johnson and Kim Collins, Religious Educators

Generosity & Meaning-Making

“Generosity costs us something–and it is because it costs us something that generosity is actually meaningful.” –Steve Lawson

The question of what makes a meaningful life is one we’ve all explored. It’s at the heart of every religious and philosophical tradition. Of course, that question contains a multitude of responses. We’re born into families and identities that shape how we make meaning in and of our lives, and our experiences along the way may redefine for us what is meaningful.

When I saw Steve Lawson’s email in my inbox, the subject line read, “The Ultimate Gift Is a Life of Meaning.” It was intriguing enough to open his monthly blog post, but I did not expect his first sentence to read, “Generosity is directly connected to meaning.” He argues that every choice we make comes at a cost in our lives, and because generosity costs us something, it inherently holds meaning.

If we follow Lawson’s premise, and what we give is an avenue to meaning-making, then the reverse may also be true. Perhaps we discern what is meaningful to us by examining where/what/who we are generous towards. We might examine questions that ask us how we spend our time, where we give our money, and who receives our gifts as a way to understand what gives our lives meaning. And in this examination, we might find a discrepancy between what we believe is meaningful and how we spend our days.

Often when we talk about generosity in congregational life, we’re almost exclusively referring to money. And yes, money matters—how we do our work depends on it. However, generosity in congregational life also involves the giving of our time. What we give our time to is not just what interests us but what we find meaningful. Whether it’s weeding the grounds, filling the BeLoved pantry, joining a committee, or serving as a worship associate, we bring meaning to our common life by sharing generously of our time, talent, and money.

As we begin this new program year, we invite you to explore meaning-making in the life of our congregation through generosity. We’ll have several opportunities for you to learn how to get involved. We’re also bringing back tabling on Sundays during after-service coffee starting this weekend. More information about opportunities will be available in future eNews editions.

 

Brittany Crawford, Director of Administration

A Church Year Like No Other

            It’s happening. School supply sales. September and October calendar pages filling up. In the midst of thunder storms and heat, we can’t help but think about cooler nights, autumnal colors, and campfires.

And your Board of Trustees has more than that on its mind. It will be a church year like no other. Just as we begin our search for a new Lead Minister, we lose the man who brought us to this point. We are bereft. We look back and feel emptiness. Ahead is murkiness, obscuring the figure who will join us as we move purposefully into our future.

At the end of the 2020-21 church year, everyone in the congregation was phoned to help identify seven committed individuals, representing some of the variety in our membership, to be our Ministerial Search Committee (MSC). They’ve been studying the UUA guidelines for accomplishing this daunting task. On August 20, we are all invited to join them at a workshop with Rev. Keith Kron, the person at the UUA who helps ministers and congregations find and fall in love with each other. After that workshop, the MSC will never be far from our thoughts as they conduct surveys and conduct small group gatherings to ascertain both who we are and what we’re looking for in terms of our next faith leader. In other words, the MSC is charged with clearing away the fog and bringing into focus the right person for UUCA.

Something else that will be engaging our energies this year is racial justice. The Racial Justice Advisory Council (RJAC) submitted its Summary Report to the Board late last spring. At its August 9 meeting, the Board voted to “accept all the recommendations from the RJAC as submitted” in that report. The Board also committed to “offer guidance/direction” for realizing those 18 Recommendations. One major activity will be studying an 8th Principle to be added to the current 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism. An 8th Principle Task Force is forming to guide our congregation to “affirming and promoting” this Principle in the covenant between us and all the other congregations in the UUA.

This year is so full of promise, y’all! But promises are empty without actions to move from fine words to meaningful achievements. Each of us is called upon to create the UUCA of radical love and justice for all. We are who we’ve been waiting for to make a better world. Roll up your sleeves!

Mary Alm, UU Asheville Board of Trustees

 

Transition Year Two: What’s Ahead?

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonDear ones,
As we begin our second year of interim ministry, I wanted to give you a brief overview of what to expect. The Ministerial Search Committee (MSC) has been assigned a Transitions coach with whom they will meet regularly. They will create a congregational survey and hold focus group meetings and cottage meetings so that your voices can be heard as they put together the congregational record that must be completed by late November. In early December, searching ministers will be able to review congregational packets to discern their next steps. Search Committees will receive names of ministers who have expressed interest in early January. They will review the interested ministers’ packets and schedule interviews to discern which of the ministers will become pre-candidates. From the pool of precandidates, the MSC will select one candidate and schedule Candidating Week sometime in April or May. This will be an 8-day week; the candidate will preach the first Sunday, spend the week meeting with committees, staff, congregants, etc. and preach again on the next Sunday. Following the service, the candidate departs, and the congregation votes to call (or not) this candidate as their next settled minister!

This will be a busy and exciting year for UU Asheville, and your participation is critical to the process. The first important event that we invite you to participate in is the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop scheduled for Saturday, August 20, from 9 am – 12noon. Rev. Keith Kron, the UUA Director of Transitions, will be here to facilitate that workshop, meet with the Search Committee, and preach a sermon that you won’t want to miss on Sunday. (You can read Keith’s bio and a description of the workshop below).

Sunday, August 21, Worship Service with Rev. Keith Kron: “The Future of Religion and Unitarian Universalism.”

Religion, including Unitarian Universalism, is at a moment in time. Can it survive? And what must it do in order to survive? What must we do? We’ll explore our place in today’s world, and why it’s metaphorical meteorites and not a comet that could wipe us out.

Beyond Categorical Thinking Workshop (Saturday, August 20, 9am–1pm Sandburg Hall)

THINK OF A MINISTER. DON’T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT.

Chances are, you thought of both. And distinct images perhaps came to mind. In terms of a minister, what images came to mind? Was it a person of a particular gender, race, or age?

Beyond Categorical Thinking is a highly recommended part of the search process for our congregation. In finding the person who would be the best match for our minister, we could potentially overlook or even let biases keep us from knowing that a particular person would be the best match for us.

Other congregations have assumed that their ideal minister looks a certain way, and often ministers who are not white or male or heterosexual or able-bodied, or of a particular age or class are discounted and seen as “less than” in some ways.

Credentialed ministers in our faith who are People of Color, LGBTQ+, disabled, young, old, working class, etc. still face discrimination as part of the ministerial search process.

In our efforts to find the best match, our congregation will host a Beyond Categorical Thinking worship service and workshop on Saturday, August 20, from 9 am – 12 pm. UUA Director of Transitions, Rev. Keith Kron will meet with our Search Committee, lead the Sunday service, and facilitate a three-hour conversation where will have a chance to examine how we can avoid letting prejudice become a part of our search process. This is yet another way for us to put our faith into lived experience and improve the odds that, regardless of identity, we will find the minister who is the best match for us and who will serve us well.

This opportunity allows the entire congregation fuller participation in the search process. It will allow us to explore our hopes and concerns for a new minister, learn more about the search process, and see how our own history (both personal and congregational) might interfere with our efforts in this search.

So, come on Saturday, August 20, to participate in this service provided by the UUA. Our trainer will be Rev. Keith Kron.

About Rev. Keith Kron

Rev. Keith Kron is the Director of the Transitions Office for the UUA, helping congregations and ministers as they navigate the ministerial search process.
He is the former Director of the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns for the Unitarian Universalist Association. He held that position for over 14 years, from 1996-2010.
He has visited over 450 UU congregations across the continent, helping them in Welcoming Congregation work, Beyond Categorical Thinking workshops, and public witness.
A former elementary school teacher, Keith, also taught an online class for Starr King School for the Ministry, our UU seminary in Berkeley, on children’s literature. He also leads workshops on the enneagram, plays and teaches tennis, and collects children’s books in his spare time (he has over 9,000 of them).
He currently lives in Providence, RI.

Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister

An Opportunity for Expanding Our “OWL” Ministry

rev Claudia JiménezIn these post-Roe times, the importance of medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education cannot be understated.  Access for all to sexuality education is a component of reproductive justice alongside access to healthcare, living wages, safe neighborhoods, abortion healthcare, and other factors that allow women, trans, and non-binary people who can give birth the ability to decide when they are ready to be parents. And to be clear, men also need comprehensive sexuality education to prevent disease, protect their partners, and make responsible decisions about their behavior and paternity.

The opportunity to support families as primary sexuality educators and their children in developing a sex-positive, consent-based, value-centered, and justice-aware understanding of sexuality is something that happens in many UU congregations that use the Our Whole Lives Program, known as OWL. When I was planning for the Justice Ministry Council retreat a few months ago, I reached out to one of our congregational life staff with concerns about how difficult it is to determine which causes to pursue as a congregation. One of her comments was that there are many opportunities for interfaith work or to take the lead of community organizations that already lead in justice work. She invited me to explore what UU Asheville had to offer the community that was unique. OWL immediately came to mind.

OWL was developed in partnership with the United Church of Christ. It offers life-span programs (K-adult) that engage key issues of self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, justice, and inclusivity. Facilitators are trained and undergo a background check. I am grateful for all the trained, active OWL volunteers in our UU Asheville community. Your commitment is needed now more than ever!

When I served the UU congregation in Vero Beach, FL, as Director of Religious Education (DRE) our program was open to the community and word got around as parents shared with friends. These non-UU families often made sure all children in their family participated in the program. Parents from diverse religious backgrounds understood how comprehensive sexual education was crucial for their children. I established a relationship with the local health department and worked to expand the presence of OWL in the community. Such partnerships with UU congregations that benefit the larger community should be more common.

One reason I said “yes” to becoming your Minister of Faith Development four years ago was your strong commitment to religious exploration that offers OWL to children and youth. I have often thought that if I had sufficient resources, I would start an OWL Institute. I believe OWL saves lives. Education about healthy sexuality helps improve decision-making about relationships and sexual behavior. It can help avoid unhealthy relationships, misunderstanding about gender identity and expression, and minimize unintended pregnancy. In these times when federal dollars are still used to fund abstinence-only programs and states are passing laws such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, sexuality education is crucial. Only 11 states mandate sexuality education that is medically accurate. We cannot leave it to government or social media (!) to educate our children about sexuality.

I may not have the funds to begin an OWL institute, but I wonder if OWL could be a ministry that reaches beyond our walls. What is the state of sexuality education in Asheville and Buncombe County? Can we build relationships in our community and through those relationships, explore wider implementation of OWL programs? What grants or partnerships might be available to finance community OWL programs and train facilitators? I’d love to hear your thoughts and invite you to consider becoming a trained OWL facilitator. Post-Roe, that would be an excellent way to serve our community.

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

 

Radical Hospitality as Welcome

When I began this blog as part of our yearly conversation around welcoming, we had not yet heard the news of Rev. Mark Ward’s passing. In the days that followed, I have witnessed your love and compassion for each other. I have watched you create spaces for grief and comfort. Together, you have embodied what it means to be a community, especially when life unfolds in unexpected ways. Together, you have practiced radical hospitality for each other and those who loved Mark. May we continue to care for each other as we travel these days together.

“Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step toward dismantling the barriers of the world.” –St. Benedict

To be hospitable is a radical act, according to Benedict, whose rule of radical hospitality has been adapted by communities for centuries. Even for Unitarian Universalists, the concept of radical hospitality as welcome lies at the heart of our congregational life.

When new people arrive at our doors on Sunday, we have greeters who welcome them into our sanctuary, offer them coffee after the service, and introduce them to people who can connect them with our many community offerings. We wear name tags so they can identify us. We engage in a conversation so we may know and be known.

But welcoming doesn’t stop after your first visit.

Radical hospitality as welcome is also how we choose to live into our covenantal faith. As Unitarian Universalists, we are not bound by creeds–beliefs you must hold to join us–but by covenant. Covenant, as Rev. Alicia Forde says, is how “we attend deeply to the question, ‘How are we together?’ Our willingness to extend welcome–seeing the humanity and divinity in another, honoring their culture, identities, stories, and deeply held truths–is part of what it means to embody this faith.”

Welcoming is the first act and the ongoing work for belonging. It is impossible to belong in a place where you don’t feel welcomed. Yes, we welcome first-time visitors, we learn their names, and we invite them for coffee and conversation. And we keep inviting the fellow member we’ve known for five months, five years, five decades into the conversation, into deeper engagement, and to share a cup of coffee. To welcome over and over again is to extend the invitation of belonging.

Welcoming takes many forms, and it takes all of us. It is saying “hello,” and it is volunteering. It is seeing a stranger on Sunday morning and introducing yourself. It is weeding our grounds on Saturday morning with fellow members. It is listening to the story of a long-time member and meeting something new in them and possibly yourself. Radical welcome is the first and constant step we take to become a place of belonging.

Brittany Crawford, Director of Administration

Breathe. Just Breathe.

adam griffithLike you, I sat in disbelief at the title of the email in my inbox yesterday.  Rev. Mark Ward, our previous minister of 17 years, who taught so many of us to breathe was no longer alive.  I couldn’t wrap my head around the loss for his family; his daughters; his grandchildren.  I called my dad and told him how much I loved him.  I couldn’t sleep last night.  My experience was not unique, but Mark certainly was.

His teachings on humanism stuck with me along with his broad and infectious smile, his perpetual energy to do the next right thing, and his comforting words during challenging political times after the 2016 election.  Like many parents in the congregation, he dedicated our children and held our baby in his arms, touching her head with a rose and water.  He called us to action, to stand up for what was right, and not to get too comfortable in our habits and ways of thinking.  Collectively, we have much of his knowledge, wisdom, and spirit and my belief system tells me he is with us when we gather through these shared experiences.  Another aspect of Mark I deeply appreciated was his understanding that our beliefs change over time.  Our personal faith journeys are not static.

I recently spent a beautiful day on the river rafting with a YRUU friend from high school and two of her three children.  My friend lost her father to cancer when she was 18 and her husband to cancer when she was 41.  We grew up together in the UU church.  We went to cons.  We were the face of young, liberal, religious individuals.  But her experiences shaped and molded her belief system and now she is drawn to Christianity (and I must tell you, it is a very attractive proposal right now, with the promise of heaven).  At previous points in my life, I was very judgmental about Christianity, but Mark’s wisdom and the UU principles have taught me to embrace those differences and those people as my own family.

I can understand and appreciate people of different faith traditions as expressions of their life experiences.  Mark taught us so much and I do wish he were here, but I am grateful for the time we had with him.  In the meantime, as we try to make sense of the world, we simply need to breathe.

Just breathe.  Isn’t that what Mark would tell us to do at such a time?

Adam Griffith, Vice President, UU Asheville Board of Directors

Summer 2022

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonDear Ones,

Rev. Claudia and I are on vacation, but I hope you won’t miss July worship at UU Asheville–the upcoming services will be inspiring, fun, and educational!

On July 10, Roger Jones will share insights about money and relationships. Lea Morris will be joining you straight from SUUSI on July 17, and on July 24, Tobias Van Buren, also straight from SUUSI, will share his insights about learning to practice self-love. On July 31, Sequoyah Rich will focus on Buddhism and will be joined by other members of the UU Asheville Buddhist group.

During our absence, emergency pastoral care will be provided by Rev. Michael Carter from the UU Congregation of the Swannanoa Valley. Please call our pastoral emergency line at 828-771-6279.

I am grateful that I took the time to attend the UUA General Assembly virtually this year–with the state of our nation and the Supreme Court, I found much-needed inspiration. There were two important events not requiring registration that I hope you will watch: The service of the Living Tradition (https://www.uua.org/ga/off-site/2022/slt). I hope we have some in-depth conversations when I return about the future direction of our Unitarian Universalist movement. Susan Frederick Gray’s statement about reproductive justice (https://www.uua.org/pressroom/press-releases/committed-reproductive-justice) is also a must-read and https://www.uua.org/pressroom/press-releases/raffirm-justice-ga.

Also, I hope you will mark your calendars for these upcoming events:

August 20, 9am-12n for the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop led by UUA Transitions Director Keith Kron. More information to come…

August 28 Water Ceremony

September 7 for an in-person Candlelight Peace Vespers at 7pm that will be preceded by a simple meal of vegetarian soup and bread at 6 pm in Sandburg Hall.

Also, Rev. Claudia and I will be leading book study groups in the coming year, beginning with our selection by Native American author Tommy Orange called There There. The second book is by African American author Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing. Novels for Feb and April will be announced in early January.

Finally, I am leaving tomorrow for a combination two-week vacation/spiritual retreat in England, beginning with cycling in the Cotswolds’ countryside, followed by a week-long canal boat retreat with a UU colleague. It is a bit of a daring adventure since we will be navigating the canal boat and the locks on our own, but it will likely generate some sermon fodder.

I hope you have a safe and enjoyable summer!

In Faith,
Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister