UU Asheville Blog

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

Our Invitation

June happens to be one of those rare months when I have an opportunity to write to you twice. Given the recent news about Roe, my blog this week reflects on how we might respond as Unitarian Universalists.

Glennon Doyle writes, “there is no one-way liberation.” Equally, we might say there is no one-way oppression. We know the Supreme Court’s decision to end Roe is intricately tied to the history of slavery, violence against LGBTQ+ people, barriers to accessibility, and the impact of poverty. We know a ripple effect will emerge from this decision in ways we will never fully comprehend.

When the announcement about Roe made the news, I wanted our faith to speak comfort as fear began to take hold. Yet, words failed in the hours following the Supreme Court decision. While out for a walk to clear my mind, this stanza from a David Whyte poem came to mind:

“Sometimes you need your God
to be a simple invitation
not a telling word of wisdom.”

On Friday, I understood this poetic truth in a new way. Our Unitarian Universalist tradition extends to us a simple invitation. It invites us to action. It invites us to protect. It invites us to be in the world differently. Unitarian Universalism extends an invitation to work for liberation–to expand what it means to live faithfully, to see justice as both what we do and who we are.

Our work continues, the invitation awaits our reply, and together we fight for love and dignity. Please read the message below from Forward Together: The UU Justice Ministry of NC on how we can engage with the invitation Unitarian Universalism is extending to us.

———

Thankfully, North Carolina is not one of the 13 states with a “trigger law” that would automatically make an abortion ban go into effect. As of now, it is still legal to get an abortion in North Carolina, but we recognize the uncertain future of reproductive rights in our state. And currently, only nine out of 100 North Carolina counties have abortion clinics.

We grieve for all those in states more directly impacted by this decision. We are now preparing for a massive increase in people traveling to NC to seek an abortion–as we will now be one of the only places in the south where abortion is legal. We know that many will experience extreme financial barriers and other challenges to getting the care they need, and we must have their backs.

At this moment, we must affirm our right to agency over our own sacred bodies. And as our Side With Love leadership has powerfully stated, “When disparities in resources or freedoms make it more difficult for certain groups of people to exercise autonomy over their own bodies, our faith compels us to take liberatory action.”

What Can We Do? 

  • Donate to our trusted partner the Carolina Abortion Fundto help reduce financial burdens for North Carolinians accessing abortion and for people who have to travel to NC to access abortion: https://www.carolinaabortionfund.org/donate.
  • We encourage UUs to also donate Pro-Choice NC, our trusted state leader in protecting and advancing reproductive rights for North Carolinians — and sign-up for their listservto stay informed about upcoming events & calls to action.
  • Join Side With Love’s UPLIFT Action campaign for their upcoming three-part Reproductive Justice Congregational Organizing series. In congregational cohorts and a large group, we will explore the role of congregations in a post-Roe world (Session 1), spend time discerning risk and accessing courage (Session 2), and make an organizing plan (Session 3).
  • Call your members of the NC General Assembly and tell them to pass HB 1119 and SB 888 – bills currently in the NC House & Senate respectively that would codify abortion rights in our state. It is critical that right now our elected officials hear from constituents who want them to protect reproductive rights. Find your State Representative and State Senator’s contact information here: https://ncleg.gov/FindYourLegislators

Basic Script:

  • Hello, My name is _________, I live in _______ and one of [NAME OF LEGISLATOR]’s constituents
  • Following this week’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, I join others across the state in calling on you and the state legislature to take immediate action to codify abortion access in North Carolina!
  • As a person of faith, I believe that we are each endowed with both agency and conscience. Each of us should have the power to decide what happens to our bodies because consent and bodily autonomy are holy.

Abortion Clinics in North Carolina 

Our partners at Pro-Choice NC want to remind us that while misleading, fake women’s health centers operate all over the state, abortion providers are only located in a few key cities. There are currently 14 abortion clinics in the state, located in 9 different counties.

Asheville
– Planned Parenthood Asheville (68 McDowell St. Asheville, NC 28801)
Charlotte
– A Preferred Women’s Health of Charlotte (3220 Latrobe Drive, Charlotte)
– A Woman’s Choice of Charlotte (421 Wendover Rd. Charlotte)
– Planned Parenthood Charlotte (700 South Torrence Street, Charlotte)
Winston-Salem
– Planned Parenthood Winston-Salem (3000 Maplewood Ave Suite 112 Winston Salem)
– Hallmark Women’s Clinic (491 Cleveland Ave Winston Salem)
Greensboro
– A Woman’s Choice of Greensboro (2425 Randleman Rd. Greensboro)
The Triangle
– Planned Parenthood Chapel Hill (1765 Dobbins Dr. Chapel Hill)
– North Durham Women’s Health (400-B Crutchfield St. Durham)
– A Woman’s Choice of Raleigh (3305 Drake Circle. Raleigh)
– A Preferred Women’s Health of Raleigh (1604 Jones Franklin Rd, Raleigh)
Fayetteville
– Planned Parenthood Fayetteville (4551 Yadkin Rd. Fayetteville)
– Hallmark Women’s Clinic (1919 Gillespie St. Fayetteville)
Wilmington
– Planned Parenthood Wilmington (1925 Tradd Court, Wilmington)

Brittany Crawford, Director of Administration

 

A Growth Opportunity

rev Claudia JiménezEarlier this month, a small group from our congregation attended Jubilee Training, a 20-hour weekend remote workshop led by UUs Paula Cole Jones and Lutricia Callair. One of the purposes of the workshop was to challenge congregations through the participation of their members to move toward greater engagement with anti-racism work. We are moving in that direction at UU Asheville, and we are hoping you will join us and/or continue on the journey of collective liberation.

Exploring anti-racism is part of the work of collective liberation that recognizes that we are not just learning about and discussing anti-racism for our own understanding and liberation. It is also about being aware that we are called to work to dismantle oppressive structures so that all of us are free to thrive.

A consistent concern in the Racial Justice Advisory Council report released this year was that there are so few people “doing the work.” What is the “work”? For me, it is decolonizing myself, freeing myself from cultural expectations, and thereby recognizing and using my own particular voice and gifts. Only then can I leverage them to work with others for a society in which all can flourish. Each of us has our own gifts – what are yours? What is “the work” for you?

Confronting biases, gaps in the understanding of history, and complicity with White Supremacy is not easy. It means engaging vulnerably in personal and group learning and reflecting on how we have been socialized into anti-blackness and the white status quo. It is uncomfortable work. One facilitator called being uncomfortable “a growth opportunity.” It has been that for me.

I appreciated centering the voices of People of the Global Majority during training. We were invited to share experiences and explore what solidarity and allyship look like for us in our congregations. Although there are trainings in Asheville like Racial Equity Institute (REI) Workshops and Building Bridges that connect us to community, Jubilee uniquely frames liberation work in a UU context. There will be another training the weekend of August 19. Details will be forthcoming. If interested, I invite you to reach out to Nancy Bragg, Jensen Gelfond, Mary Alm, Jen Johnson, or me to learn more.

I know there are many issues weighing on our hearts these days. As you consider your commitments, I invite you to reflect on these words from Rev. Karen Johnston:

“Do not be alone right now. Gather together.

Gathering together grows courage: in ourselves and in others who see the numbers swelling. It is a small thing, but right now it is an important thing.

Great sources of wisdom remind us: just because you cannot stem the tide of all hate, it is still right to do the thing you can do. These things add up: your one thing and my one thing; his one thing and their one thing and her one thing. Together, it becomes a BIG thing.

Do not be alone right now. Any liberation—all liberation—is collective liberation. My freedom is bound with yours and yours with mine. Inextricably.

Let us together cast our lots doing this BIG thing: bending the moral arc of the universe towards justice.”

Have a wonderful summer. I am attending General Assembly this week and look forward to sharing with you what I learn when I return to the pulpit in August.

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

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A Message from Rev. Dr. Cathy Harrington,
Interim Lead Minister

Greetings Members and Friends of UUCA,

Etc.  Will drop in new when we have it.

I am excited and honored to have been chosen to serve as your interim minister during this time of transition and look forward to our time together.  As I have gotten older and wiser, my main goal in life has been to cultivate joy in my personal life and in my ministry.  I tell you this because though we have a lot of hard work to do, we are first going to take time to get to know each other and have fun together.  I want to learn about your accomplishments, challenges, joys, and concerns as well as your hopes and dreams for the future. And we will be carefully navigating the complex challenge of returning to church as the pandemic restrictions are gradually lifted.

As an accredited interim minister (AIM), I have completed multiple trainings and enjoyed years of successful service to multiple UU congregations. I love doing this specialized type of ministry and have claimed as my motto “Love them and leave them.” Saying goodbye is the hardest part of this work but having the privilege to walk this transitional journey with Unitarian Universalist congregations has been the most significant and rewarding ministry of my career.

Rev. Cathy Harrington