Sermons

Upcoming and Past

Upcoming Sermons

Earth Day

Sunday, April 18, 2021  LIVE Zoom at 11am Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development This is our annual multigenerational Earth Day Live Zoom service planned in partnership with the UUCA Earth Community Circles action group. Our theme will be emergence. Reflections will be shared by Kate...

A House For Hope: Welcoming Rooms

Sunday, April 25, 2021 Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister For this service in our exploration of progressive theology, we’ll consider what we understand as holy. What do we call holy, and why?

Past Sermons are listed by date. 

Click on title to open.

A House For Hope: Foundations

Sunday, April 11, 2021
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
This next service in our series exploring progressive religion considers what we make of the question of God or that in which we most deeply trust.

i thank you god

Sunday, April 4, 2021 Easter  
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister  
Our service will center on ee cummings’ poem that celebrates the beauty and wonder of simply being and will include a performance by Rev. Ward’s brother Terry of a song based on that poem that was written by his brother Scott.

This Little Light of Mine

Sunday, March 28, 2021  
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Once again as we confront times of turmoil this simple Civil Rights song rises again in relevancy. What does it have to teach us today?

A House for Hope: The Roof

Sunday, March 21, 2001  
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Next on our journey to lay out our theological House for Hope we consider how we confront sadness, tragedy, oppression, injustice and evil that we find in the world. The theological word for this is Soteriology: What is the roof that protects us from the storms and helps us repair and restore community when it is damaged?

Public Theology: The Writings of Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz

Sunday, March 14, 2021
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
Sor Juana’s commitment to writing and learning during the 1600’s in Nueva España (modern Mexico) when women were expected to be “silent in church” invites us to consider our commitments and the challenges of keeping them.

Live Zoom at 11am.

 

A House for Hope: The Sheltering Walls

Sunday, March 7, 2021   
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

In the second step of our building this theological House for Hope we move from the site, the ground that we have chosen to build on, to erect walls that define our community. This is the work of Ecclesiology, where we declare the nature of the community we’re building: What holds us together and defines who we are?

YRUU Sunday

Sunday, February 28, 2021
YRUU Class
Join us for the annual YRUU – Young Religious Unitarian Universalist – service. Our 10th-12th graders will reflect on appreciation, hope and the role they play in creating Beloved Community. This is a multigenerational service so we encourage all ages to worship together!

Encountering Thurman’s Jesus

Sunday, January 21, 2021
Rev. Mark Ward Lead Minister
In one more week with Howard Thurman, we focus particularly on his unique perspective on the life and ministry of Jesus.

Encountering Howard Thurman

Sunday, February 14, 2021
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
Amid our work in support of Black Lives Matter, we spend some time with perhaps the most important Black theologian of the 20th century. What does Howard Thurman have to teach us UUs?

Interrogating History: Who Was Rosa Parks? Live Zoom Service

Sunday, February 7, 2021
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
Join us for an exploration of the depth of Rosa Parks’ activism beyond the historical account of the passive, tired woman who gave up her seat on the bus. How does her story inform our activism today?

Where Art Meets Science

Sunday, January 24, 2021
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

When poets confront science they offer new grounds for our imagining. Come hear what happens when they do.

Creating Beloved Community

Sunday, January 17, 2021 Live ZOOM
– Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

On this Sunday as we honor the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we will explore his call to create a Beloved Community which “requires a qualitative change in our souls as well as quantitative change in our lives.” What does that change look like?

A House of Hope

Sunday, January 10, 2021
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

The work of building a liberal theology begins on the land that gave us birth and is our final resting place. How do we frame the ultimate end of all things?

Imagine

Sunday, January 3, 2021
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

This new year dawns on the cusp of so much change for us as a congregation. How will we rise to meet it?

Rumi: A Poet For Our Times

Sunday, December 27, 2020 11am ZOOM
Rev. Mellen Kennedy, Guest Minister

Rumi was a 13th century Sufi poet and mystic.  We’ll gather to hear his poetry, sing or chant and listen to stories about his inspiring and challenging life.  He grew up and lived in a time of turmoil and his insights speak so clearly to our time. Join us for a celebration of Rumi. You’re invited to bring your favorite Rumi poem to share if you’d like to share.

Christmas Story Time

Thursday, December 24, 4pm Zoom
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister and Rev. Claudia, Minister of Faith Development

Christmas Eve at UUCA this year will unite our two traditional services into one live Zoom service at 4pm. Our time together will be centered on Christmastime stories and music from members of our congregation and special guests. And, to end the service, be sure to have a candle ready in the room where you Zoom so we can do our traditional candle lighting and sing “Silent Night” together.
Since we’re not able to have our usual 9pm Christmas Eve Service and Pre-Service Mini-Concert, we’re offering a video concert of carols performed  by  Finn Magill, Fiddle; Sue Richards, Celtic Harp; Olanna Goudeau, Soprano; and Dr. Leslie Downs, Music Director. 
This is our gift to those of you who enjoy Christmas music.

Imagineering

Sunday, January 31, 2021
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

It’s the title that Disney engineers give themselves: “Imagineers.” But in many ways it is what we seek in our spiritual lives. Find out how.

What’s Water?

Sunday, December 13, 2020
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

We’ll explore how the writer David Foster Wallace used that question from a Sufi teaching story to prod us to reflect on how we think about the present moment.

The Meaning of Home

Sunday, December 6, 2020
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
UUSC and Guest at Your Table

Our Unitarian Universalist Service Committee will lead a service inviting us to consider how our justice efforts support the notion of home, a place where we are safe, secure, and cared for. Sunday afternoon we will accept your holiday donations and make available our Guest at Your Table boxes to support our UUSC collection.

Gaia, Mother Earth and the Oneness of Everything

Sunday, November 29, 2020 Jim Scott, Guest Artist

Come celebrate the earth with the music of renowned UU musician Jim Scott. Jim is a composer, guitarist and singer and former member of the Paul Winter Consort who has contributed several hymns to UU hymnals. Join him for this live Zoom service.

Moving Towards Gratitude

Sunday, November 22, 2020 11am Live ZOOM Service
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister and Jane Bramham

Gratitude is the balm that soothes weary souls. This Sunday we’ll explore how.

At Peace With Mystery

Sunday, December 20, 2020
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

The stillness of the longest night of the year invites us to embrace the dark and with it the mystery it holds.

What IS an Anti-Racist Congregation?

Sunday, November 15, 2020 11am Live ZOOM Service
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Our Board of Trustees has set UUCA on a path to be an anti-racist congregation. This move is grounded in our UU faith, literally requiring us to act for justice.  But what does it mean to be an anti-racist congregation? What are we currently doing? How will we change, because we surely will.  What are our dreams of what is possible?

Now What?

Sunday, November 8, 11am Live ZOOM Service
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

 This live service will be a moment to take stock of how our lives have been changed by this most consequential election.

Rising From Our Grief

Sunday, November 1, 2020 9am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Gratitude is the balm that soothes weary souls. This Sunday we’ll explore how.

The Call to Revolutionary Love

Sunday, October 25, 2020 Live ZOOM
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development

In this time when our highly polarized nation prepares to vote, what does love call us to do? Join us for a service inspired by the work of Valerie Kaur, author of See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love. Kaur asks us to reclaim love as a revolutionary act so we will explore Kaur’s mission of fighting for justice through the ethic of love — love for others, our opponents, and ourselves.  (Yes, she means love for those with whom we deeply disagree.  What does that even LOOK like?)

I Hear You

Sunday, October 18, 2020
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister & Carol Taylor

Do we? Hear each other, that is? In a time of toxic politics, how do we develop a discipline of listening?

On Second Thought

Sunday, October 11, 2020
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister & Joyce Hooley Gingrich

Uncertainty is one of the shoals of the religious life. We think we’ve got things figured out and then, oops, along comes something that throws us into doubt. Maybe that’s not an altogether bad thing.

Here and Gone

Sunday, October 4, 2020
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

The change of seasons always offers a good reminder of the ever-evolving flow of life. How do we come to terms with the fact of impermanence?

Mutual Liberation

Sunday, September 27, 2020 9am link
Rev. Scott, Neely, Guest Minister

Beyond being an ally, in the fight for racial justice. That we may all be free.

Bio: Rev. Scott Neely serves as minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spartanburg, SC. He is a facilitator and strategist for Speaking Down Barriers, an organization that uses dialogue to build our life together across the differences that divide us. In April 2015 he presented a TEDx talk on race and racism entitled “What Will I Teach My Son?

Here For You-Forgiveness

Sunday, September 20, 2020 9am link
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Our forgiveness service this year focuses on how we hold ourselves accountable, and how we respond when we fail.

We Are…

Sunday, September 13, 2020 Live ZOOM Service
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

We begin our fall worship season with Ysaye Barnwell’s song of celebration to gather us once again as a community memory and hope. In this time of COVID, meeting and worshipping online, who do we proclaim that we are?

Fear Itself

Sunday, September 6, 2020 9am ZOOM
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

The last time our nation was struggling to recover from economic catastrophe, then-President Roosevelt urged a way forward centered on renouncing fear. Here we are again in economic calamity with fear, once again, in the driver’s seat. Perhaps there’s another way.
Click on this link for a print version of the service.

Our Multigenerational Water Service-Safeguarding the Water

Sunday, August 30, 2020 (Live ZOOM Service)
 – Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Celebrate water and the life it supports with an amazing, amusing cast of characters.
Join us for this year’s Live Zoom version of  our annual water service.  Be prepared to share your water from home representing places in your life or places you would like to visit once the pandemic subsides. Puppeteer Jennifer Murphy has created a special toy box theater for the telling of this year’s story.  You don’t want to miss this.  See you there!

Speaking of seeing you there, we really do want to SEE you.  It’s half the fun of these live events.  If at all possible, please leave your camera on; everyone wants to see each other.  It’s all we’ve got for now.

 

Creative Circles

Sunday, August 23, 2020
Jane Bramham, Worship Associate

Every day we are creating new educational, occupational and recreational realities; cheering those creating needed vaccines; and reviving or adding new artistic skills to our creative toolbox.  We gather to celebrate and nurture our universal creative spirit, and to attend to how creative the useful can be.
Creating your worship space
Do you have a button jar?  Or just a loose button or two in the drawer?  Set them with your chalice or candle near your watching device.  
You can download and print a coloring page connected to Time for All Ages

The New Normal

Sunday, August 16, 2020
 – Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper

We welcome back Rev. Lisa, our former Associate Minister, now Developmental Minister of the Greenville (SC) UU Fellowship, who reflects on the thrills and chills of trying to solve adaptive challenges using technical solutions. (BTW, it’s not going well.)

It Takes Practice

Sunday, August 9, 2020
Matt Meyer, Guest Artist

Our favorite songs, whoever the artist or whatever the style, were created in a strange alchemy of study and inspiration, of strict practice and of letting go. Spiritual Practice and social justice work are a similar combination of dedication, muscle memory, and perhaps a little divine inspiration. Join us for a musical exploration of learning to risk, building the muscle memory of courage, and the spiritual practice of relationship.

Matt Meyer is a musician and worship leader who has led hundreds of services for UU congregations across the country. He has a degree in hand drumming and serves as Director of Community Life for Sanctuary Boston.

We Remember

Sunday, August 2, 2020
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the US twice dropping atomic bombs on Japan. We reflect on how we remember this world-changing event as the generation of both Japanese and Americans who experienced it are dying.

Click on this link for a print version of the sermon.

Poetry Sunday

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Our theme this year is “Uplifted Together.”  Indeed, we hope that this Poetry Sunday will do just that–uplift us as we “gather” together. You can anticipate an inspirational lineup of poetry, original and/or published, as well as music that will make our hearts glad, thanks to our musical director, Les Downs. In these turbulent times, allow poetry and music to be a balm that lifts, encourages, and delights.

Living in Storyland

Sunday, July 19, 2020
David Novak, Storyteller and Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Stories, whether they are our own or from ancient traditions, shape our lives and our sense of meaning. Today, we’ll explore how stories are operating in these times and how they help us make sense of them.

Bio: David Novak tells stories to enhance learning, engage emotion, and find common ground. A performing and teaching artist with over 30 years of experience, David is an A+ Fellow for the North Carolina Arts Council, instructor for the graduate storytelling program at East Tennessee State University, and veteran of the National Storytelling Festival, as well as schools and stages across the nation. David’s international tours include Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, and the Czech Republic. A recipient of the Circle of Excellence from the National Storytelling Network and formerly Master Storyteller for The Disney Institute. David lives in Asheville and regularly leads workshops and gives concerts for The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center.

Spiritual, Religious, Neither?

Sunday, July 12, 2020 – Video link arrives at 9am (We will be experimenting with Live Zoom worship at 11am)
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

In these times of societal disruption, what is the role of the church in grounding our spirits and nurturing hope? Join us for an exploration of how our individual journeys led us to this non-dogmatic tradition known as Unitarian Universalism. You will hear from participants of the “Haunting Church” program as they share reflections from their search for meaning and connection.

What’s Democracy For

Sunday, July 5, 2020 – Video Link Arrives at 9am –
Rev. Sally Beth Shore, Guest Minister

The development of American democracy is intertwined with the development of our faith, important enough that our 5th principle states “we affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.” I was taught that democracy was the best system of governance because it was fair. But what if this is an incomplete view? Starting with the unofficial motto of the United States, E pluribus Unum (Out of many, One) we explore the tantalizing possibility that democracy’s aim is not fairness, but success through unity. If we understood this, could we use it to help mend the rifts in our society?

The Rev. Sally Beth Shore received her MDiv from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 2012 and was ordained by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville in 2013. She has been a member of UUCA since 2001. She and her husband, Michael, raised their children, now 24, 22, and 19, here. She has just completed a year of interim ministry with the Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County.

Rooted, Inspired and Ready

Sunday, June 28, 10am, 2020
General Assembly

We join thousands of UUs across the country in online worship prepared by leaders of the Unitarian Universalist Association and presented live at 10 a.m. Click here to view.

The Meaning of Life

Sunday, June 21, 2020 – Video link arrives at 9am
– Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

The old cartoons tell you you need to climb to the top of a mountain to ask a guru about this. Maybe we don’t have to go quite so far.

UUCA would like to recognize congregants that are considered essential workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are (or know a UUCAer who is) a healthcare worker (medical or social), an educator, a grocery store worker, a community volunteer, or any other job that is considered essential, please let Venny know. Stand up and be recognized, you have earned it!

You Gotta Own It

Sunday, May 31, 2020 9am
Rev. James McKinley, Guest Minister

It was the middle of a 24-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon last December. It was cold, I was suffering, and the Canyon is the ultimate “no way out only through” experience. When I mentioned it, my daughter’s response was, “Ya gotta own it, Dad,” where “own” is embrace and love and “it” is me, who I am here and now.

 That “a-hah” moment and phrase have become my guide, touchstone and koan in more adventure, study, personal growth and now the solitude, isolation and disruption of sheltering in place. My hope is that our reflections together reveal a helpful touchstone or two for you.

Rev. Jim McKinley retired in June 2019 as minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville.

The Seventh One

Sunday, May 24, 2020 9am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

It’s been argued that with our seventh principle – affirming and promoting respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part – we Unitarian Universalists were given our key to the future as a religious movement. What might that mean? And look for a fun story from the Fletcher-Williams family and a bridging ceremony honoring our seven graduating seniors.

Click on this pdf for a text version of this sermon.

Credo Sunday

Sunday, May 17, 2020 9am
Coming of Age Class

“Who am I?”
“What does my UU faith mean to me?”
“What does it look like to live Unitarian Universalism?”

Finding answers to these questions requires some serious effort—exploring, excavating, interpreting, and differentiating from societal programming…not for the faint of heart! Our Coming Of Age youth have been hard at work this year trying to answer these questions for themselves, and they would like to share their journey with YOU on Credo Sunday, May 17!  This is a multigenerational service–all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend. Please join us and prepare to be inspired, moved and entertained! Please join us and prepare to be inspired, moved and entertained!

The Sixth One

Sunday, May 10, 2020 9am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Our sixth principle is where UUs go global: where we extend our concern far beyond our local situation and aspire to helping to bring about a community of all humankind united in peace and justice. How do we respond to these grand hopes?

Click on this pdf for a text version of this sermon. 

The Great Transition

Sunday, May 3, 2020 9am
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Heard of the Great Depression?  Maybe now we are in the Great Transition.  We know things are going to be different sooner or later, but in what ways?  Can we take this time right now, this pause from our daily routines, to imagine how we might be different as individuals, as families, as neighbors, as congregants, as citizens? What if this isn’t a pause but a reset?

Liberating the Earth-Earth Day

Sunday, April 26, 2020 9am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Around the world, skies clear of smoke and smog due to social distancing remind us of the true beauty and wonder of the Earth. For all the fear and stress surrounding COVID 19, it also offers us a chance to explore how we might liberate the Earth from two and a half centuries of humankind’s polluting ways.

Flower Communion Service

Sunday, April 19, 2020
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development

Join us for a celebration of Spring as we listen to the story of Norbert Capek and the ritual he created to bring people closer together. Please bring a flower real or created by you to our virtual coffee hour at 12:30 PM. Members and friends of all ages are invited to share a photograph of a favorite flower (real or created by you). E-mail it to faithdev@uuasheville.org

Easter-Renewal in Trying Times

Sunday, April 12, 2020
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

The Easter story has long been a touchstone for people who are struggling. Now we face another struggle, new to us but not to humankind. What does this ancient story offer to us today?

Click on this pdf for the text of this sermon.

The Fifth One

Sunday, April 5, 2020
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister and Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development

So, what is “affirming and promoting the democratic process” doing in the middle of the principles of a religious body? Well, let’s just say that, yes, it has something to do with liberation.

Click on this pdf for the sermon text.

The Wisdom of “What Now?”

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

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

The Problem With Heaven

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

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

Click on this pdf to read text of sermon.

The Fourth One

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

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

Click on this pdf for sermon text.

Celebration Sunday

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

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

No audio or text available.

Rekindling Moral Imagination

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

YRUU Service

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

Living Bravely, Giving Generously

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

Click on this PDF for sermon text.

The Third One

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

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

Click on this link for the pdf of this sermon.

From Concern to Action

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

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

Magi and Wise Men: A UU Perspective

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

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

Click on this pdf to sermon text.

The First One

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

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

Click here for a pdf version of the sermon.

Christmas Music, Revels & Stories

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

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

The Long Goodbye (audio only)

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

Who, What Deserves Our Attention (audio only)

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

Transformed by Forgiveness (audio and text)

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

READING

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer Before Prayer

I want to be willing to forgive

But I dare not ask for the will to forgive

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

I am not yet ready for my heart to soften.

I am not yet ready to be vulnerable again.

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

Or that the one who hurt me also cried.

I am not yet ready for the journey.

I am not yet interested in the path.

I am at the prayer before the prayer of forgiveness.

Grant me the will to want to forgive.

Grant it to me not yet, but soon.

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

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

[2] Life Lines by Forrest Church, p 98

 

Common Courage (no audio or text available.)

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

There Are Covenants Amount Us! (audio only)

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

Love Is the Water (audio only)

Sunday August 25, 10am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister and Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development
Once again our annual intergenerational Water Service features puppets, stories and songs as we explore what the ways of water teach us about change in the world. Please plan to bring with you a little water from a place that is special to you to intermingle in our ceremonial bowl. <i>Click on title to continue.</i>

 

The Theology of Improv (audio & text)

Sunday, August 18, 2019 10am
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
What does the practice of improvisational theater have to teach us about living? Join us for a reflection on how the curiosity, playfulness and vulnerability of improvising can enrich our lives.<i>Click on title to continue.</i>

This month marks my first-year anniversary at UUCA. It has been a year of learning, juicy challenges and building relationships. When I consider what preparation I had for this job of being a minister I recall my first seminary class: Creative Encounters: Ministry as Improv. You might be thinking, “Really?! You mean they make all this stuff up?!”

Well, as with anything in life, there are no scripts, in many ways we do make it up as we go along. We are always improvising to life as it reveals itself to us, day by day. Like the jazz musician in our reading who was classically trained, our perception of the world emerges from the interaction between our experience, our expectations and the unpredictable events of the day – the quotidian ‘stuff’ of life.

The idea of ministry as improv made sense to me – ministers should be prepared for anything: requests for spontaneous prayers and invocations; unscheduled pastoral conversations and “a few words from the minister.” That is why when I moved to Asheville last year as part of my professional development, I took improv classes. It was not only a way of meeting people in my new community but also groundwork for my work with you.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been challenging myself to move beyond my comfort zone.  And, it wasn’t easy. I tend to be very detail oriented and a planner so the concepts of spontaneity and improvisation are, well, difficult. Nevertheless, I did it! I survived 8 weeks of improv training with total strangers. In terms of this sermon, which I assure you is not improvised, I take inspiration from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said of preachers that they “deal out to the people [their] life passed through the fire of thought.”[1]   Go Ralph Waldo! I love the image of our lives passing through the fire of thought!!

This morning I share with you a few takeaways from my experience with improv, a year later.

But first: How many of you are familiar with improvisational theater?
You may be familiar with professional improv through exposure to Tina Fey, Amy Poehler or Steven Colbert. Improv doesn’t always have to be funny. It is basically theater without a script in which the players (in improv the actors are called players) create a scene in the moment based on a phrase or word provided by the audience. It is a spontaneous, collaborative, creative, and for some of us, scary experience.

Improv players prepare by playing games to involve our voices, bodies, our creative impulses by miming, chanting or acting out short skits (Examples: Catch, The Expert).  Augusto Boal, a Brazilian theater practitioner described games as “warm ups to shed inhibitions and establish a form of theatrical communion”[2] I think the games we played accomplished that. We started out as a group of strangers, awkward and probably mortified who learned to play well together and share a lot of laughter.

What were the rules of playing well in improv that generated such laughter?
One takeaway was accept your partner’s offer and advance the scene. Your partner says: Look, what a beautiful green sky! You respond: It matches my green hair…” Notice how that is different from Your partner says: Look, what a beautiful green sky! You respond “But, it’s blue!” That shuts down the conversation. The first scenario is an example of a foundational principle of improv: responding with “yes, and.” You accept their idea, not necessarily their point of view. You choose your response.

I found this principle to be life changing. When I took the Ministry as Improv class I was serving my final year on a county school board in Florida. I had a difficult relationship with my conservative and intransigent colleagues. As a result, I entered board meetings defensively, prepared to argue my positions. I was a “but” person. I usually preceded my responses with but… and deepened our disagreement as they in turn, became more defensive. After improv class, I changed my strategy. I still prepared well but preceded my arguments with yes, and have you considered instead of “but”…. That seemingly small modulation changed the tone. My colleagues didn’t always agree but they were more willing to listen. Our conversations were less combative. And, sometimes they even agreed.

I don’t always remember this strategy, and I keep trying. It has also been helpful in dealing with the news. Lately, the cruel treatment and policies of the administration toward immigrants have been exasperating. My initial response is anger, followed by what can we do?

Last week in a meeting “Faith Communities Organizing for Sanctuary” I listened to accounts of the Bus Ministry organized to help asylum seekers passing through Asheville, visits to lawmakers and the detention center visits being organized, efforts to host and sponsor asylum seekers and a workshop “Anti-Racism and Sanctuary Training on Sept 13 hosted here at UUCA (visit the Justice Ministry table for details)…. All of that gave me hope.

Yes, we lack moral, compassionate leadership in our country when it comes to immigration, that’s real, and caring people are organizing to speak out and act against the hate some of our leaders promote and enshrine in policy.

Another takeaway from improv is the importance of being in the moment, meaning paying attention and listening deeply. If I approach a scene trying to plan a response that will get laughs, I will miss “gifts” from my partner. In improv, “gifts” are information about the character or relationship being established in the scene that will help improvise a response. Being in the moment makes us vulnerable, especially if, like me, you’re used to planning and controlling. That’s why improv is challenging for me. Comedian Amy Poehler describes it this way, “We all think we’re in control of our lives, and that the ground is solid beneath our feet, but we are so wrong. Improvising reminds you of that over and over again.”[3]

A benefit of being in the moment is that we can embrace silence. In improv, that is very helpful because when your scene partner says something totally off the wall (and that happens often), being comfortable with silence allows you to gather your thoughts and respond. I wish I had taken improv when we were raising our daughters: pausing before responding and being creative in my responses may have added humor and levity amidst the complexity of those improvised parenting moments. I think my partner, a jazz pianist, understood this approach somewhat better than I.

I recently listened to a podcast “The Worship Whisperer” no, I’m not making that up, in which colleague Rev. Glen Thomas Rideout proposed a little more playfulness and levity in worship planning. He shared an improvisational exercise for Worship Associate training. In the group you call for an object, call for a worship theme, call for a liturgical element and then invite a participant to weave those together and create the element on the spot: closing words, opening words or prayer. We have some or worship associates with us this morning. What do you think? Up/down gesture

A final takeaway (there are more, but there isn’t enough time) is that “it is not about you”, imagine that? In improv you are basically working on building trust and supporting each other. Your job is to make your scene partner look good. If you are seen as focusing on yourself and trying to be funny or witty it will be hard for your scene partners to trust that you have their back. The humor usually happens organically when you connect with each other. The more you play together, the more you’ll know how to gift your scene partner and make each other shine. That is a refreshing attitude in an American society that worships rugged individualism.

Ultimately, I think good improv is all about relationships, and isn’t it the same in everything we do? It is about community building, like we do here at UUCA strengthening and nurturing our community. The “I” focus that interferes with trust building in improv also interferes in nurturing the communal “we” in a congregation. And, how often do we mistakenly think that even in religious community it’s about what I want, what I am comfortable with, what I need? If we are to create a truly welcoming beloved community -because this is where it starts-what are we willing to do to be welcoming to all?  It is important, if we want to create a diverse community of spiritual seekers that embraces African American, Latinx and Indigenous People who traditionally already consider the family, tribe or community before individual advancement.[4]

Oh, and one more really important takeway…It’s OK to fail! Really, it is. One of the reasons I accepted this job a year ago is that UUCA is willing to experiment with programs like the Wednesday Thing and in all ages worship. I feel comfortable experimenting here knowing that the goal isn’t perfection. Mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning.

In improv, when missteps occur each actor will do their best to make the others look good and move the action forward.  The attitude of making one’s scene partner look good, is an attitude we can use in our everyday lives to help us be more compassionate when others make mistakes. One of my favorite warm ups was the entire group raising up their hands and shouting “I failed” (lets do that) How did that feel?

Failure means you have acted. Without risk, there is no change, no sparking of the imagination to explore other possibilities.

This coming week, I invite you to consider the ethos of improv (not theology, “I failed!)

play,
be in the moment,
support your partner
embrace uncertainly and imperfection
find ways to use “yes, and” thinking.

These are strategies that can help us build the inclusive, welcoming beloved community we talk about as well as cope with the justice challenges facing our world.

And be on the lookout for the gifts. In the words of Rev. MaryAnn McKibben Dana who is also a fan of improv

“Life is constantly handing us stuff.
Gifts, sometimes.
Tragedies, too often.
Opportunities, all the time.
To be the change we wish to see in the world.
To respond to hate with love.
To not let the darkness have the last word.”[5]

May it be so.

[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Address, July 15, 1838, “The Divinity School Address”

[2] Games for Actors and Non-Actors, Augusto Boal, p2

[3] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/09/05/upright-citizens-brigades-comedy-empire

[4] Salsa, Soul and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural, Age, Juana Bordas, p18

[5] God, Improv and the Art of Living, MaryAnn McKibben Dana, p 180

The Journey (no audio or text)

Sunday, August 11, 2019 10am
Rev. Julianne Lepp, Guest Minister
This service will explore the theology, poetry and legacy of the poet, Mary Oliver.
Bio: Rev. Julianne Lepp has served the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Eau Claire, Wisconsin since 2010. Originally from South Carolina, she is always grateful to visit her family in Asheville and further points south. She lives in Wisconsin with her partner Karl, two teens and her mother-in-law. She has three new kittens that are keeping her busy this summer! She enjoys writing science fiction, reading voraciously, and being involved in community organizing and activism within her community.

Out of the Stars Have We Come (text only)

Sunday, August 4. 2019 10am
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
The summer skies open wide and invite all sorts of meandering. Join us as spend a little time exploring what those pinpoints of light bring to mind.

READING

From Searching for the Stars on an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman

 “It was a moonless night, and quiet. The only sounds I could hear was the soft churning of the engine of my boat. Far from the distracting lights of the mainland, the sky vibrated with stars. Taking a chance, I turned off the running lights, and it got even darker, Then I turned off my engine. I law down in the boat and looked up.

A very dark night sky seen from the ocean is a mystical experience. After a few minutes, my world had dissolved into that star-littered sky. The boat disappeared. My body disappeared. And I found myself falling into infinity.

A feeling came over me I’d not experienced before. . . . I felt an overwhelming connection to the stars, as if I were part of them. And the vast expanse of time – extending from the far distant past long before I was born and them into the far distant future long after I will die – seemed compressed to a dot.

I felt connected not only to the stars but to all of nature, and to the entire cosmos. I felt a merging with something for larger than myself, a grand and eternal unity. . . . After a time I sat up and started the engine again. I had no idea how long I’d been looking up.

SERMON

Summers are made for star-gazing expeditions like the one that Alan Lightman takes us on. Funny, isn’t it? It seems to take trips away from home – to the sea shore or camping in the mountains – to lure us outside to look up at the skies. Soft, sultry nights tug at us, and we wander outside and turn our eyes skyward.

Apparently, this is a thing these days, a practice some call “skying”: peering at the night sky with no particular end in mind, just receiving, taking it all in. And there is so much to take in.

It doesn’t take long looking over the spray of stars that greets us on a clear summer night for the oceanic feeling that Lightman describes to come over us. It is like opening a window on the universe, as if for the first time we really take in everything around us.

Before long, though, we start noticing patterns and someone will start calling out constellations. “There’s the big dipper. Find the side opposite the handle, follow it up. and, yep, there’s Polaris, the north star,” the point around which the whole sky seems to revolve. This goes on for a while and a few knowledgeable ones will start naming other stars. There’s Vega, one of our nearest neighbors, and Deneb. And so on. Before long, though, the talking stops, and we are left with the immensity before us.

Years ago when I was working in newspapers I was given the opportunity to cover science. I came to this assignment not as an expert but as an amateur, in the literal sense, one who was endlessly fascinated with science, who loved delving into almost every dimension of it.

Astronomy, though, was one field that was fairly new to me. As it happened, the institution that was the source of most of my reporting, the University of Wisconsin, was a leader in the field. So, I needed to orient myself quickly.

I quickly learned that the primary focus of astronomers’ work these days are phenomena we star-gazers cannot see: stars or galaxies too distant to be see with the naked eye or in wavelengths – infrared, radio waves, x-rays, gamma rays –  that are invisible to us.

And what a chaotic, tumultuous universe they reveal! Stars exploding or spinning at inconceivable speeds, galaxies crashing into each other with ravenous black holes at their centers.

Serendipitously my time in science writing coincided with the heyday of the Hubble Space telescope. Also, lucky for me, the government was anxious to publicize the telescope’s findings. And so periodically I would receive fat packets of prints and slides of the Hubble’s latest discoveries.

The images were breath-taking: lacy nebulae – remainders of exploded stars – in stunning colors, swirling galaxies, clouds of bright gas that were stellar nurseries, and perhaps most astonishing of all, the image dubbed the Hubble Deep Field. We have a large reproduction of this image in this building in the light well just behind Sandburg Hall. It was created by focusing the Hubble camera for 10 days on a tiny spot of the night sky right near the Big Dipper that appeared to be totally empty of stars.  How tiny a spot? Essentially, the size of a tennis ball seen at 100 meters.

In that apparently starless speck of sky, the Hubble captured an image of around 3,000 galaxies, equivalent to the number stars we see on a clear night. They have since repeated the exercise, just in case there was something extraordinary about that spot. But there wasn’t. They found essentially the same thing.

Imagine that! In every speck of dark sky between the stars that we see we could expect to find around 3,000 galaxies, another night sky full of nothing but galaxies, each of them home to hundreds of billions of stars. To this, add the fact that the light captured in that image had been traveling millions, perhaps billions of years before it entered Hubble’s lens.

So, the Hubble Telescope gives us a feeling for not just the astonishing plenitude of the universe – there is so much! – but also a greater feeling for time. In that image we are looking back to a moment some three-quarters of the way back to the Big Bang. Indeed, even in the visible night sky the stars that seem to twinkle and glow for us, represent ancient history.

The light we see is hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of years old. And so it’s likely that some stars we see today winked out of existence thousands, or even millions of years ago, but it will not be us, but our descendants who discover this.

The more we learn about the stars, I can’t help but wonder if the image that best communicates the truth about the night sky might be not a static picture of the night sky but one of the last paintings that Vincent Van Gogh completed just before he ended his life. He called it “The Starry Night.” Do you remember it? Amid shimmering centers of light the sky is swirling with color, giving us an image of a universe that is not static and distant but dynamic, active and in tumult.

Van Gogh, who rejected organized religion, once wrote to his brother, Theo, that nonetheless he had a need for religion. So, he said, “I go outside at night to paint the stars.”

For us, too, the stars stir thoughts that turn us to religion. In the presence of such impossible vastness, what meaning can we find for our lives, our brief three score and 10?

The biologist Ursula Goodenough wrote of going on a camping trip in college shortly after sitting through a physics class. In the class she learned many of the details of our Solar System: the sun forming 4.5 billion years ago out on one of the spiral arms of our galaxy, the Milky Way, while a disc of rocks, water and dust spinning around it collected into planets, including ours, the Earth.

Then, how the Earth itself evolved wit life emerging and covering the planet And how the Earth will continue spinning and evolving until in about 5 billion years the Sun will expand and turn the Earth into a cinder.

“I found myself a sleeping bag looking up at the sky,” she said. “Before I could look around for Orion or the Big Dipper, I was overwhelmed with terror. The panic became so acute that I had to roll over and bury my face in my pillow.” The starkness of the picture was too much and created for her a kind of “Is that all there is?” moment. Maybe you’ve had one of those, too.

After all, we remember that all those constellations we have fun searching out we’re grounded in stories, stories that oriented people to a narrative of how the universe came to be and our place in it. And those stories were good at reassuring us that, as daunting as the world, the universe may appear there were forces greater than us seeing to things, forces that could somehow be appealed to and persuaded to work in our interest.

If that isn’t so, if we’re on our own down here, then where does that leave us?

Goodenough said she spent many years simply avoiding the subject, finding it too depressing to think about. In time, though, she came to the conclusion that she was satisfied simply to regard the world, in her words, as “a strange but wondrous given,” something that she was satisfied to accept and regard as “a locus of mystery.”

Alan Lightman said he finds it a comfort wandering about the small island of Maine where he kept his cottage reflecting that, as he put it, “the material of the doomed stars and my doomed body are actually the same material. Literally the same atoms.”

The universe, after all, began in a sea of hydrogen and helium, clumps of which later collapsed into stars. It was in those stars that those early gases were fused Into all the larger atoms that make up the universe. And as those early stars exploded and spewed those elements all throughout the universe they later coalesced Into planets, then organisms, then us.

“It is astonishing but true,” he said, “that if I could attach a small tag to each of the atoms of my body and travel with them backward in time, I would find that these atoms originated In particular stars in the sky. These very atoms.”

So then, the words of Robert Terry Weston’s meditation are literally true: “Out of the stars in their flight, Out of the dust of eternity, here have we come.” We are not adrift in a cold meaningless world: we are home in the place of our origin, connected via the atoms in our very bones to all things.

Once we get done imagining ourselves as somehow special, creatures given a unique destiny from some supernatural hand, we can tune into a truth that is far more profound: that we are a manifestation of an amazingly creative, endlessly evolving universe, creatures of inherent worth whose being, whose destiny is tied up with that of all things.

And so, looking out on the night sky we get a ring-side seat on all of this, knowing that the fires we see burning in distant stars are of a kind with the fires driving the cellular machinery of our bodies. And that’s not all. The fires that drive us impel us to survive, and not just survive but to continue beyond our three score and ten, not us as individuals, but us as carriers of life, creating and nurturing future generations.

For, we see that along with all the gases and such of the Big Bang there was born a tendency toward connectedness. It didn’t have to be there but somehow it emerged, and having emerged it made possible the universe we know. Quarks combined into atoms, atoms into molecules, molecules of increasing complexity into life, life in its latest manifestation into humans.

And humans – we curious, fragile, inventive creatures – turn out to possess one trait that offers us hope for the future, a trait the embodies once again that tendency toward for connectedness that was born with the Big Bang – the capacity to love. “This is the wonder of time; this is the marvel of space; out of the stars swung the Earth; life upon Earth rose to love.”

And so, I do not despair on looking at the night sky. True, it is astonishing in its vastness and complexity. Like Ursula Goodenough I do not seek to take it all in or understand it fully.  In its whys and wherefores it is a mystery. And still, it fills me with awe, with gratitude and joy. To be alive, to simply be is a grace. What a wonder that out of all that is, this being that is me emerged and is present now to be part of the stream of life, capable of building on the human heritage of love.

I do not begrudge that in time my life will end – though I do hope that that time is a ways in the future. Instead, I am content to know that, as the poet David Ignatow wrote,

“I am of the family of the universe,” and so “in no way shall death part us.” For me, there is peace in that understanding.

“This is the marvel of life,” Robert T. Weston declares, “rising to see and to know; Out of your heart, cry wonder: Sing that we live.”

 

Poetry: A Matter of Life and Breath (no audio or text available)

Sunday, July 28, 2019, 10am
Poetry Sunday
Coordinated by Virginia Bower, Sammy Fong, Charlie Marks, and Mariana Warner
The theme for this year’s Poetry Sunday is “A Matter of Life and Breath.” Take a breather from busyness and join us. You will be welcome here, as always.

It’s About Time (audio only)

Sunday, July 21, 2019
Rev. Tobias Van Buren
Time is woven through all we are and do, but what the heck is it? How do we regard it? Are we enslaved, driven and dragged by time? Does it weigh upon us? My sermon will suggest ways to become liberated from time-bondage.
Bio: Tobias is a member of UUCA and also an ordained UU minister. He has a BA from the University of South Carolina and an M.Div. from Starr King School for the Ministry. He served congregations in Atlanta, Baton Rouge & Beverly, MA, then left ministry from 1979 to 2013 to do shrimping and crabbing and developing a clam-oyster farm in the Charleston, SC area. He also enjoys gardening and fiction writing. Tobias and his wife, Winslow Tuttle, moved here in 2018 and are active in UUCA.

Seeking Community and Civility in an Uncivil Society (audio only)

Sunday, July 14, 2019
Rev. Ed Brock, Guest Minister
We will explore what creates, destroys, undermines, and sustains healthy relationships between individuals AND groups. Rev. Brock’s remarks will be based on his recently published book Optimal Relationships.

Bio: Rev. Ed Brock is UU minister who specializes in transitional ministry and is an Accredited Interim Minister. Rev. Brock lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, Alphise, and their two daughters. He is also a licensed psychotherapist and has written a book entitled “Optimal Relationships: A Path Toward a More Civil Society.”

Breath of Life (audio only)

Sunday, July 7, 2019
Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri, Guest Minister
What if we could understand animals? What would they communicate with us about what they see and what they are experiencing? What kind of invitations might they offer to the human community? Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri will explore these questions weaving stories and sacred text.
The Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri is partner, dad, spiritual director, pastor, and sojourner. He is the Director of the Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina and Associate Minister of Green Chalice of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Prior to living in North Carolina, Scott and his family served in the vulnerable cloud forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica. Scott is ordained with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and enjoys accompanying people during transformative experiences.

E Pluribus Unum (audio only)

Sunday, July 23, 2019
Rev. Terry Davis, Guest Minister

About our annual July 4th celebration, The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman asked, “Is America today, in any meaningful sense, the same country that declared independence in 1776?” Are we “out of many, one” as our national motto states? As we reflect together on this upcoming Independence Day and the values of freedom and unity it celebrates, let’s also consider what our UU values may be asking of us in these complicated times.
Bio: Rev. Terry Davis, who recently moved to Asheville, was ordained to Unitarian Universalist ministry in 2010 at the Unitarian Univeralist Congregation of Atlanta after a 25-year career in corporate communications. She has served as minister in Atlanta and St. Louis, as well as serving as the resident chaplain of the women’s maternity center at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital. She recently consulted for the UUA office of Stewardship and Development and currently provides pulpit supply to UU congregations in Western North Carolina. A native of Washington, DC, Rev. Davis earned her Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology in Atlanta in 2008.

You Are So Beautiful (audio only)

Sunday, June 23, 2019
Rev. Lisa Forehand, Guest Minister
Beauty, our theme this month, may easily conjure up images of natural beauty, but today we’ll also spend some time looking at our own beauty. Is beauty really just skin deep? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Let’s appreciate the natural beauty around us and also unpack our ideas about own physical beauty. We walk around in our bodies every day, but do we love them?

 

Music Sunday (no audio or text available)

Sunday, June 2, 2019, 10am (single service)
Dr. Leslie Downs, Music Director
Performed by the UUCA Choir, All Ages Choir, The Sandburgers, Tabitha Judy, vocalist, Stephanie Quinn, violin,Mandy Guilfoyle, cello, Morgen Cobb, percussion, and Dr. Leslie Downs, Music Director.
11:30am UUCA Annual Meeting

Curiosity and Sin (audio only)

Sunday, May 26, 2019
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
As the biblical story of Adam and Eve shows, all people are curious about what it means to be a sexual being, but our hypersexualized society and the shaming that often comes from how people read that story makes it hard to talk about. Come hear how this is an important reason why Our Whole Lives (OWL) is an integral part of Faith Development for all ages at UUCA.

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