UUCA Connections, our monthly newsletter, includes service descriptions, columns from the Minister, Board of Trustees President, the Director of Lifespan Religious Education and the Assistant Minister. It also includes upcoming events, timely articles, and one page that is devoted to our Earth & Social Justice Ministry discussions and program offerings. Read Rev. Mark Ward’s column below, or click here to read the entire newsletter, and get a better feel for our congregation and how you would fit in!
Outreach is one of the chief ways that we as a congregation realize our mission. It is how the hope, the compassion, the wisdom, the courage that we gain as part of a religious community are made real in the larger world, an important dimension of how we work together for freedom, justice and love.
It is also some of the hardest work we do, since it involves changing the world, and the world isn’t necessarily in a mood to be changed, and we’re not entirely sure what it’s going to take to change it. So, we struggle to find places where the resources we have – our time, talent and treasure – might make the most difference.
As I mentioned in my June 1 sermon, we as a congregation do some great justice work, and yet many of us have a hard time seeing how we as individuals are making a difference in the world and in so doing make deeper connections in our lives. To do this, we need to answer some tough questions, such as, What do we know about this community where we live? Who are our neighbors? What are the challenges that this community faces, and How might we be agents of change for the better?
One way that we have chosen to stimulate this conversation is to increase the resources that we devote to it. Beginning July 1, we will be sharing what we receive in the offering during Sunday worship not just once a month, but every Sunday. All cash we receive and any checks designated “Share-the-Plate” will be dedicated to our outreach efforts. As in the past, members and friends can also still make contributions toward their financial commitments, and visitors may also contribute to the congregation, too, if they choose. But the main purpose of our offering will be to raise money for outreach.
This is no small commitment and entails a bit of a risk. We estimate that dedicating our entire weekly offering to outreach will divert roughly $11,000 from weekly offerings that is currently going into our operating budget. Our hope is that members and friends and those in the community who support our work will help make up that deficit – other congregations who have made this choice have found that to be the case.
In any event, it’s a risk worth taking because it puts the resources at our disposal more directly into the work that can realize our hope for the world. And we have every reason to believe that that contribution will be substantial. Participating in Share-the-Plate, just one Sunday a month, raised $13,700 this year. How much might we raise doing that four to five times a month?
Having raised that money, though, we want to be sure that we use it well so that we can leverage the kind of change we want to see. That involves putting
ourselves into this work in a way that employs other resources – our time, our talent, our compassion. I want to look for practical, concrete opportunities for members of our community to volunteer to help those organizations that we support.
So, I have asked our Share-the-Plate Committee to ask anyone proposing a recipient for our outreach funds to identify volunteer opportunities with that recipient. Also, we will ask volunteers to report back on their experiences, so that we all can get to know our community and its challenges better, and how we are each changed by this work
In this way, we assure that in time we will truly come to know the Asheville community and take our place among its change agents. In turn, this process will help us make the deep connections that feed our own spiritual journeys and our search for meaning.