Glad you asked. I mean, just because you did it last year doesn’t mean you remember any of it. Here’s a rundown on what you need to know. If you’re still unclear, contact Ann McLellan, Tory Schmitz, or Margaret McAlister. (And thank them for the enormous time they’ve devoted to this project along with Deb Holden and Marta Reese.)
How will I get a catalog?
Hmmm, “get” is a funny word here. You can VIEW the catalog at rsabid.com using the code 28801. Look in the upper right corner for “Check Out the Catalog!” There are various sortings of the items and search is available. If you are desperate for a print version, here is a link to a version of the catalog as it was on October 20. For any updates, check rsabid.com (code 28801).
Hey, I want to bid on something in the Silent Auction. Now what?
First, wait until the auction actually opens at 8am on November 3. Then, head to rsabid.com (code 28801) and look in the upper right corner of the home page. (You can look now but can’t bid until November 3.) Select Sign In. On the page you land on, go to Request Account. (Even though you have signed in to view the catalog, you don’t have an account until you follow this step.) Fill out the form to request an account. Keep following directions as they come….. When you place your first bid you will be required to enter a credit card number. If you want your credit card on file early, or you don’t bid on anything in the silent auction but want to bid at the LIVE auction, call Ann McLellan at (828) 350-9005 and give her your card number over the phone. We don’t keep cards on file year to year. Silent Auction bidding opens on November 3 at 8am.
Is there anything else I need to know about bidding during the silent auction?
There are several features you can access to automate your bidding if you’d like. Also, when you signed up you indicated whether you want emails or texts when someone outbids you on an item. If you don’t like the settings you chose, just go back and change them (My Account/My Settings).
What happens if I win something?
At the LIVE Auction, you’ll know immediately. Once the Silent Auction closes on November 10 at 10pm you will be able to look at your account (My Account/Checkout) on rsabid.com to see exactly what you won. At that point you will be able to complete the purchase by charging to the credit card on file or by sending a check written to UUCA to Ann McLellan. Once we receive your payment, we’ll send you a certificate via email that either IS the won item (such as a gift certificate) or tells you how to claim it. If you’ve won a “thing,” you and the item donor will negotiate the exchange.
How will I get invited to the LIVE Zoom AUCTION?
If you get our emails, you’ll get an invitation. In order to get the Zoom link you will have to register through that invitation. That link is not shareable so don’t forward it.
Are there still food and drink options even if we’re Zooming?
Absolutely! The Coming-of-Age crowd is making this a Soup-er Event! Every Soup-er Event has its own sign-up link so watch for the Auction offer fairly close to November 6. They’ll have a drive-thru pickup set up at UU Asheville on November 6.
“And drinks?” you ask. Any time from now through LIVE Zoom Auction Day (November 6), you can visit Metro Wines on Charlotte Street to purchase special “UU Asheville Auction Wines” selected and discounted just for us! They have selected three wines that will definitely remind you of our Enchanted Garden theme. If you do buy something from Metro Wines, you can now enter the store or call (828) 575-9525 from your car for pickup (it’s better to order ahead but you can order from the parking lot if you need to).
Will the LIVE Zoom Auction be family-friendly?
We’re sure trying for that. Some of the entertainments sprinkled throughout will definitely be kid-friendly, but as we’ve all learned, full kid-attention on Zoom is not a thing. It’s barely a thing with adults. That’s why we’re trying to keep the whole thing as short as possible while still accomplishing our mission. (As I recall, we ran closer to 90 minutes last year. Just sayin’.)
Linda Topp, Director of Administration
Tomorrow, many UU Asheville friends, members, and staff will head to The Mountain for our annual congregational retreat and I am giddy with anticipation. For new folks, the Mountain is a UU camp and conference center located outside Highlands, NC atop 4,200’ Little Scaly Mountain. I still get butterflies when driving up the winding road even though I know I am too old for youth camps there. No, things will not be as they were two years ago at the UU Asheville Gathering at The Mountain – putting our infant daughter on our dining table as a centerpiece, gleefully singing and eating indoors – unaware of how special unmasked times like those would become. But this weekend will still be awesome thanks to the preparation by Kristi Sanborn Miller and a host of others who have planned outdoor events and activities like a nice warm fire complete with stories and music on Saturday night.
My days of summer camp at The Mountain were filled with similar evenings listening to the music of local musician, Lee Knight. Lee was born in the Adirondack mountains but came to The Mountain as an employee about the time The Mountain was founded. He entertained youth camps there for more than four decades and became an accomplished musician playing with Pete Seeger, Wu Man, and the Kronos Quartet. I regret not seeing him at Carnegie Hall, but I have many bootleg recordings of his including one from our wedding and other recordings from around the campfire circle where we will be gathered on Saturday night.
A campfire almost sounds like an event that could happen on our new patio (is that a hint for a program?) Now that our sweet patio has been dedicated and broken in with a service under its belt, we can plan more outdoor and hybrid events, which is exactly what the staff has in mind. (The pet dedication service was a barking success, so much so that I was not able to listen at home thanks to our Labradoodle, Chloe, who was happily conversing with other attendees.) Yes, UU Asheville leaders are brainstorming creative ways to get together and we will continue our pivot and roll with the punches. For me, being in the presence of others seeking a deeper connection is the core of UU Asheville. Looking around and seeing a smiling face looking back at you in the midst of a shared experience is what we find at UU Asheville and it reminds me of some of my favorite lyrics from a Lee Knight’s song:
Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
Sometimes you have those lowdown blues.
But your smiling face and this pretty place,
And I’m so glad to be with you.
I hope to see you at The Mountain or on the patio soon.
Adam Griffith, UU Asheville Board of Trustees
The Soul Matters theme for October is Cultivating Relationship, and one purpose of this theme is to help us reflect on what we have learned from the pandemic. Perhaps most importantly, the pandemic taught us not to take our relationships for granted. Our arms literally ache to hug our loved ones after being separated for longer than we could have ever imagined. And not being able to meet in person with our beloved church community has been a tremendous loss as well. As the COVID rates continue to go down, we have reason to be hopeful that we will be able to ease into meeting safely in person before too long, so hang in there!
In the meantime, we are creating opportunities to get together for outdoor activities and worship. It has been a joy to meet some of you in person at events such as the Coming of Age Kickoff, the Third Thursday Joyful Noise gathering, the Patio Dedication (thanks to all who came out in the rain), and I look forward to meeting more of you at the outdoor Animal Blessing this Sunday. Come and hear the Sandburgers play Peter, Paul & Mary and Steve Miller! And there will be treats for both pets and their humans!
With the help of our technical gurus, Steve Carter and Jen Bennett, we are aiming for our first hybrid worship service, so you have the option to stay home and watch on Zoom. I am compiling the delightful pet photos you have been sending, and I have room for more! Send your favorite pet photos to email@example.com ASAP, and don’t forget to add their names. We will also honor the beloved pets who are no longer with us in body but remain forever in our hearts, so send me a photo to add to the Memorial Slides. We will remember them with gratitude and love.
I am looking forward to meeting more of you at the Gathering at The Mountain next weekend. Bring your questions regarding the interim process or anything else on Saturday afternoon at 3pm on the common deck for the Ask the Minister event.
My friend and colleague, Hilary Krivchenia, said it best; “We are like aspen trees – who have mistakenly thought that since we look like many trees that is the truth – but under the ground, our root system is one – we are fully alive when we are connected because we are, we were always, part of one another”. May we never forget this hard-earned pandemic wisdom.
In faith and love,
Rev, Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister
The first big change is the name of our program. We have been making the shift from Religious Education to Religious Exploration for a while now, so it was time to make that change official. While there is still education involved, we feel that exploration more accurately reflects what we are doing in RE. We have learned over the last couple of years that flexibility and adaptability are key. We had hoped to begin RE in a more “normal” way this year, but the Delta variant put a stop to those plans in late August so we’re adapting and flexing our way to a program that we hope will lead to more community, commitment, and putting our values into practice.
So, what’s happening in RE this year?
For our K-8 groups, we’ll have a combination of online and in-person gatherings. We’ll be using the fabulous Soul Matters material for children and youth to keep exploring our monthly themes, our UU values, how to work towards liberation for ALL people, and hopefully keep connections going as we look forward to being able to be all together again on our beautiful campus. We have new, lovely outdoor spaces, and we’ve invested in outdoor furniture and shelters so that we can utilize those outdoor spaces as long as the weather cooperates. Make sure to register your kids for RE so you can receive up-to-date information about what we’re doing in RE.
We’re happy to bring back Coming of Age (CoA) this year for our 9th-10th graders. They have already begun their journey to look deeper into themselves and our UU community — to better understand and define their spiritual beliefs, how our liberal faith shapes their lives, and how to enact that in the world. These 10 youths are joined by their 4 group facilitators and 10 mentors, who are also more deeply exploring Unitarian Universalism alongside the CoA teens. The group is meeting in person (mostly outside) and are headed to their fall retreat at the YMCA campus in Black Mountain this weekend for some community building and UU exploration.
Note: in hopes of a youth trip while they’re still in high school, the families will be offering some modified “Soup Sundays – and other days!” Coming soon at the Third Thursday events, the Remembrance and Halloween celebration 10/31, and the UUAsheville Auction (11/6), watch for the announcements about how to get fed by and support our youth – and sometimes enjoy fellowship on the UUAsheville grounds too!
YRUU = Young Religious Unitarian Universalists, our high school youth group, will kick off their meet-ups this Sunday, October 3, at 11:00 outdoors on campus. We look forward to bringing our older teens together for some new and classic adventures and exploration:
- This fall we hope to get involved with the BeLoved Village homebuilding project to help combat housing insecurity in our community.
- We’ll explore our congregational themes to discover and deepen what is holy and sacred to us.
- We’ll cook together! We’ll provide food for our congregants in need and send care packages to our college students. We hope to learn bread- or bagel-making from Rev. Cathy!
- We’ll offer the high school version of Our Whole Lives (OWL) to foster healthy sexuality and relationships.
- We’ll take a “Hood Tour” with Hood Huggers to learn about the powerful and resilient history, present, and future of African Americans in Asheville. Info here.
- We look forward to bringing you the annual YRUU-led worship service in February.
- We’ll discover what it means to be a member of UUCA and invite youth to join.
- And we’ll play, laugh, converse, create…and so much more! We can’t wait to be together again and discover what we can do together.
Kim Collins, LRE Coordinator
The generosity of our and our partners’ congregants from Faith Communities Organizing for Sanctuary recently completed the funding needed for Maria’s legal fees. Her lawyer will pursue a different strategy requiring character reference letters that humanize Maria. If you know Maria, there is still time to write a letter of support. The deadline is September 30. An Action Alert was sent out with details. Contact me if you have any questions.
Also, please plan to attend the masked gathering on October 3 at UUAsheville from 1:00-3:00pm to dedicate our new outdoor patio. We will also be dedicating the new sculptures in our Memorial Garden. Maria and Esteban will bring their food truck. This is an opportunity to directly support Maria and enjoy her delicious tacos. There will also be a DJ and the possibility of salsa dancing instruction if there is interest. A bailar!
On October 3 during worship we will celebrate Religious Exploration facilitators and mentors with a dedication. October 3 is a busy day! It is also the date for our Coming of Age fall retreat. Since they will not be able to attend service, I want to be sure to recognize our Coming of Age mentors* and facilitators* who will be spending their day with our COA youth. Lots of dedications happening at UUAsheville because there are a lot of dedicated people! Yeah!
Faith Development programs start next month. Volunteers and staff have been planning and looking forward to your participation. Soul Matters and Creativity Matters groups launch with October’s theme, “Cultivating Relationship,” so appropriate to these times when relationships have been stressed and deepened. Contact Venny Zachritz if you are interested in joining a group. We have an “empty chair” for you!
6:30 Vespers and 7PM Programs also resume in October. Each Wednesday there will be a theme:
1st Wed (Oct 6) – Soul Matters Theme Conversation – October is Cultivating Relationship
2nd Wed (Oct 13) – Liberation Conversations (Anti-racism defines us by what we are against; liberation defines us by what we are for. Let me know what you think of making a name change)
3rd Wed (Oct 20) – Spiritual Practices
4th Wed (Oct 27) – Theology: Exploring Core Theological Themes (During the first session, “Theology 101,” we will discuss which themes we will explore in future months. Beauty, Evil, God, Peace & Non-Violence, Suffering, Joy, Prayer, Forgiveness & Reconciliation, are just some examples. Our resource will be Theology Ablaze by UU minister, Rev. Tom Owen-Towle.
Contact me if you have questions or would like to lead Vespers. An outline and support are provided for Vespers leaders.
I am excited about what this new Faith Development year will bring. Amid the challenge of this moment, it is important we make time to connect and nurture our spirits.
P.S. Next week’s blog will feature our religious educators, Jen and Kim, highlighting our offerings for children and youth Religious Exploration.
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development
Maggie Reynolds Poist
Now there’s a three-for-one Gordian knot if I ever saw one. When a staff person writes a blog, I’m pretty sure there’s an unwritten rule that you don’t complain or whine (much) or lay guilt on folks or throw shade (I think I finally got the meaning of that new-to-me idiom right—took a while). However, there seem to be times……
Without intending to do any of those three, here goes.
We have a new interim lead minister. She’s pretty darn cool (have you HEARD some of her background stories?). She has a very specific set of jobs to do to help US prepare for our called minister. One loop of that knot wonders how she can help us if she doesn’t KNOW us?
(Hey, did you know that there are “parts of a knot?” I looked that up on the way to this metaphor.)
An elbow of that knot is COVID. THAT turned what could have been a quite lovely meeting among new minister and congregants into a nightmare of Zoom and one-on-ones and lots of people not “tuning in” to either services or events or the website or eNews. This creates what Rev. Cathy has referred to as her phantom congregation.
And then, how about a little bight that actually starts the knot–the need for community-by all humans as it turns out.
Here’s the kind of headline that scares staff members: Churches face volunteer shortages, difficulty mobilizing congregants amid pandemic, experts warn. Now that seems like a no-brainer because how could that NOT be true right now, but it IS a most difficult circumstance when trying to learn about your brand-new congregation.
And then there’s the article from long-time church consultant Lawrence Peers. He writes,
Talking with another clergyperson recently, we bemoaned the current spike in COVID-19 infections and the Delta variant. Congregations were moving in the direction of “opening up” again for indoor worship and activities. All systems were go, it seemed.
But then many congregations, in an abrupt retreat, slowed down or modified reopening plans. The ink on books about the “post-pandemic church” was hardly dry as we found ourselves thinking about a possible longer arc of this health crisis.
Suddenly my colleague blurted out, “Maybe I don’t want to do this hard thing.”
The hardest thing for many clergy about this current situation is not knowing what to do or when to do it—or whether it will be enough.
When I was feeling overwhelmed by the current situation of reopening, I created a compass to help me channel my feelings of overwhelm into four directions:
- Reconnect with one another and our wider community.
- Rebound as we bounce back to increased levels of participation and service.
- Redevelop all of our offerings as a highly inclusive, engaging multiplatform congregation.
- Renew our commitment to our mission and our generous support of that mission.
This is what all of our staff are doing right now. We’re all trying so hard to do all four of those things. PLUS, as a congregation, we need to help Rev. Cathy help us.
So, here’s what I’m asking: please, please try to do more with UU Asheville than you have in the past year. I know it’s hard, you’re in a different rhythm now, who needs to “attend” an 11am service when you can watch it later (or never), I know you planned to come to that in-person event but then you forgot, or it didn’t feel right, or something else came up, but to steal a phrase from Charlie Marks, we really, really need you!
We need you to reconnect, bounce back to increased levels of participation and service, support our efforts as we offer in-person and online programs, and sort of summarizing it all, renew your commitment to our mission and your generous support of the mission with time, talent, and money.
Linda Topp, Director of Administration
OK, first things first, if you haven’t watched the video of Revs. Cathy and Claudia, please stop reading and click on this link. Their energy and giggles will improve the quality of your day as it did mine and I think we can learn from their general approach–reframing disappointing news as an opportunity for growth. They explain the rationale behind the decision NOT to meet for in-person services at UUAsheville due to the delta variant of the coronavirus. As a scientist, I understand we made these decisions keeping in mind the recommendations of the CDC and the Unitarian Universalist Association regarding the variant.
Personally, I am disappointed by the news we will not meet in person for services in our beautiful sanctuary. I consider myself to be a rather rigid person who thrives when things go according to plan and schedule. My children ask me about “church” and the coronavirus (will there be a spiritual developmental lag?) and when we can go there. I have been fumbling for answers, but now I will fumble less because there will be creative opportunities for outdoor gatherings spearheaded by Rev. Cathy, Rev. Claudia and other members of our community.
But I can’t help noting that their approach of reframing the bad news as an opportunity is a characteristic of lucky and happy people. Social science researcher Richard Wiseman writes that people who consider themselves lucky often imagine how things could have been worse. I have very little trouble imagining services resuming at UUAsheville and coronavirus infections happening as a result. It would be devastating to have infections or deaths of members of our family, possibly young and old, because we rushed getting back together. When I think about it in this fashion, the decision to wait is much easier to stomach, but the work to keep the commnity together through this time will not be, and the congregation will need to shoulder some of the load. If something has resonated with you from a service, send a message to Cathy or Claudia. If you have ideas, please let us know! We want to hear from you.
Luck researcher Wiseman highlights other attributes of lucky people and describes them as resilient, optimistic, intuitive, and open to chance encounters – all qualities I strive for personally and qualities I am attracted to in organizations and people. Our congregation is filled with such people and participating in services and UUAsheville activities increases the likelihood of a positive chance encounter with such individuals. We are also very lucky to have two resilient and optimistic women leading us, so please join us virtually on Sundays and in-person for fun events. I hope to see you soon!
Adam Griffith, UUAsheville Board of Trustees
As we enter the beginning of the new church year and embark on the work of interim ministry together, we are challenged by unforeseen circumstances that keep us from gathering in person. This is disappointing but know that much work is being done behind the scenes to make our return to church as safe as possible. Sadly, Buncombe County has a “Very High Risk” level and large indoor, in-person gatherings are not possible. This Ingathering Greeting from UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray https://youtu.be/RSqmSeyhQ-Y offers UU congregations both guidance and comfort as we navigate these difficult times. She acknowledges that the Delta variant setback has left us feeling frustrated, heart-broken, and exhausted.
We hoped to be in the sanctuary together by September 12 but since that isn’t possible for a while, Rev Claudia, Linda, and I have been brainstorming ways to gather safely outside while the weather permits. The Dedication Ceremony of the beautiful new patio on Sunday, October 3 from 1-3 promises to be lots of fun with a food truck and music. Another opportunity for fellowship and fun is being planned for Thursday, September 16 at 5:30. We will call it “Third Thursday” and while this is still evolving there is a rumor that drumming will be involved.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and you are invited to stop by the church from 4-5 pm on Saturday, September 11 to light a candle of memory and hope. Rev Claudia and I will be there, and Les will provide beautiful piano music to honor the solemn occasion.
Our Soul Matters theme for September is Embracing Possibility invites us to consider that “Embracing Possibility has more to do with being a people of vulnerability and courage than we’ve thought. The work isn’t just about believing in possibility. It’s about being willing to endure a few wounds along the way. It can hurt to be hopeful.” Taking care of ourselves and one another needs to be a priority for us right now. The pandemic has shown us what matters most in life, and family, friends and beloved community have moved into a prime priority position for many of us. Margaret Wheatly sums it up best: There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about. Ask: “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking. Notice what you care about.
This is just one of many gems of wisdom found in this month’s Soul Matters small groups packet. Soul Matters groups will be starting again in October, but if you are interested in having an experience of a small group but aren’t ready to commit for whatever reason, I’m going to offer a monthly “Taste of Soul” session. Even if you don’t join a small group, the monthly packet is a wealth of resources for self-reflection and exploration. This month we will meet on Sunday, September 26th at 1 pm via Zoom https://uuma.m.us/j/93936564103. I hope you will give it a try!
I look forward to meeting you, and in addition to my Zoom office hours and outdoor UUCA events, we can meet for a walk, a one-on-one Zoom appointment, or share time enjoying the beautiful UUCA campus. Email me for an appointment and join me in embracing the synergy that emerges when we ask one another, “what is possible?”
In faith and love,
As I was scrolled through my digital pictures for our water service this week, I did a lot of reminiscing of the morning beach walks, expansive skies and dramatic cloudscapes that lifted my spirits when I lived in Florida. I return a few times a year to visit my parents who live next door to the house we sold when we moved to Asheville. A lot of beach photos and memories. The picture I chose was not one of those. Instead, I chose a picture of a sunrise at Beaver Lake in North Asheville. Walking or jogging around the lake has become my new morning practice, replacing beach walks at dawn. As I scrolled through those pictures, I have many memories of the three years I have been in Asheville. The move has brought new opportunities and experiences. I am still close to the water, and it still brings calmness and delight.
Similarly, UUCA is undergoing a move of sorts. A new interim minister moving us into a new chapter in the life of the congregation. Who are we? Who have we been? Who will we be?
We are also moving toward embracing online church as we begin another church year during a pandemic when indoor gatherings are not yet possible without appropriate safety precautions. Our Sanctuary has been outfitted for live streaming, which will be the next step in deepening our online ministry. In fact, from now on we will be offering hybrid programming in a lot of areas. We will have options for both in-person and virtual church in worship and faith development. And we will also embrace opportunities for outdoor programs and gatherings, especially this fall until we are able to gather safely indoors.
I invite you to consider how you will return to church this year. Our services will be live via Zoom, and you will continue to receive a link to the recording on Mondays.
- Check out our Zoom water service this year. Our programs will have both online and masked gathering components.
- Join our September 11 Memorial at UUCA. Our Music Director, Les Downs, will be playing piano from 4 to 5 PM while members and friends, individually or in family pods, walk into the Sanctuary, light a candle, and experience a moment of silence. Participants will then exit through one of the side doors in the Sanctuary. Masks are recommended and requested.
- Join us for the Blessing of the Patio in early October (tentatively October 2) to celebrate and bless the new outdoor space that will create opportunities for gathering.
- You might also consider joining us for the Halloween Parade around our campus on October 31. Details coming soon (as soon as we invent them!).
- You may also consider joining a Soul Matters group (formerly known as Covenant Groups) when they launch in October. They provide opportunities for connection, deep listening, and reflection. We are experimenting with a new group, Creativity Matters, which uses art to explore the monthly theme. I participated in the Creativity Matters pilot this past year, and it not only awakened my creativity but also helped in building trust and being vulnerable with my creations. And did I mention? It was fun! There was a lot of laughter and music in our gatherings.
There are many ways to re-connect with UUCA this new church year. I look forward to seeing you online and/or at one of our masked gatherings. Be well, Beloveds! Check in with each other. And cultivate delight amid the harsh realities of this time.
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development
When the Reopening Task Force got close to concluding our work, we all agreed that what we were deciding was going to work “unless something changes.” Well, something has changed. And because Delta COVID + unvaccinated folks have changed the game, we’re changing ours.
Instead of September 12 as our reopening target date, we will now aim for December 5 as our first in-person worship service. UNLESS SOMETHING CHANGES. (See a theme?) I’m actually a bit pessimistic that we’ll hit that target because of the vaccination rate of children under 12, but we’ll go with that date for now and see what happens.
This decision was made by UUCA’s senior staff (Rev. Cathy, Rev. Claudia, and me) and is in keeping with the UUA’s “Guidance for Gathering in Covenantal Community”:
As part of our covenantal commitment to care for all, we encourage congregations to maintain a culture of masking while indoors regardless of vaccination status, and to take time to listen deeply to one another’s concerns and fears before making any decisions that might put members of the community at risk, either physically or mentally, with a continued practice of inclusion, covenant, consent, and care for each other.
This decision is for in-person worship services only. We are not “locking down” the building (yet?) so we are still allowing groups to meet in any room on campus, although we strongly encourage picking the largest room available for your meeting time. All buildings have had their HVAC systems upgraded with additional filtering and UV-C light treatments, so we feel that the rooms are aired out enough for group meetings. However, it’s important to practice inclusion, covenant, consent, and care for each other. Some of us are perfectly happy being unmasked in a room with other individuals, vaccinated or not, others would require everyone to be vaccinated, others will want to have everyone masked, and others won’t go inside just yet. So as a leader of a group, please get consent from everyone before finalizing a decision. Remember that the church Zoom account is always ready for action.
As for our in-person November 6 auction, Enchanted Garden, it will now be a somewhat Dis-Enchanted Garden on Zoom. Same date, different “venue.” PLEASE help our fabulous auction team by providing donations and attending the event. These hard-working volunteers deserve your support.
As for worship services between now and December 5 (or beyond), they will all be live online at 11am with a recording available on Monday morning. Sometime this fall we will switch from live-on-Zoom to live-on-YouTube once our amazing A/V techs learn how to use our fancy new video equipment in the Sanctuary. We will also be scheduling outdoor events in September, October and November so watch the Weekly eNews or our Facebook groups or our website for announcements (which you should be doing anyway—just sayin’)
Linda Topp, Director of Administration
The last time I wrote the blog entry for the Board of Trustees was just before the pandemic began to rage in earnest, and not long after Rev. Mark Ward announced that he planned to retire (for the first time). Not being clairvoyant, I had nothing to say about the pandemic; so I went straight to the issues of transition. Having been active in the UU movement for many years, I had seen three separate ministerial transitions, up close and personal. To briefly summarize that blog entry, I was trying to say that my experiences gave me faith that, while the ministerial transition was going to require work on our parts, it would reward us with a growth-inspiring, re-invigorating and exciting time for UUCA.
Fast forward to today… The pandemic raged, calmed a bit, raged very wildly, then calmed greatly as vaccinations rolled out, and now is raging wildly again, mainly amongst the unvaccinated. Our beloved Rev. Ward stepped up and took one for the team by “unretiring,” and then ably guided us through that scary, uncertain time. We’ve now said our goodbyes to Mark, and have welcomed Rev. Cathy Harrington, our new Interim Lead Minister to UUCA.
But “transition,” I believe, is still the watchword for UUCA. The pandemic has thrown us a devastating curve ball, so the transition to normal life (or maybe “new normal” life) remains much further off in the distance than we’d hoped a month or so ago. How do we as individuals respond? How does UUCA respond? On the ministerial transition front, Rev. Cathy has been on staff for less than two weeks, and the congregation’s work with her is yet to really begin. What’s life at UUCA going to be like with Rev. Cathy? Are we going to be okay? So, transitions still abound; and I’m compelled (or, constrained by my lack of originality) to write about it once again.
The angle I want to take today, though, is through an analogy. (Anyone who knows me knows I just love a good analogy…) In The Parable of the Trapeze, author Danaan Parry analogizes an acrobat’s leap from one trapeze bar to the next trapeze bar to how we make personal transitions. Perhaps you’ve heard or read this – I was introduced to it by a sermon at another UU church. While I recommend reading Parry’s actual words (follow the link above – a short read!) for the is the fullest and best description, the analogy roughly goes like this: You are swinging on a trapeze bar, tightly holding on, but basically comfortable dealing with your current life. Then off in the distance, you see another trapeze bar, and you just know that that is where you are supposed to go. It’s frightening thinking about making that transition – letting go of the “safe” bar you’re currently on, not knowing fully what the “new” bar you’re headed for will mean for you, and deathly scared of that period of time when you are in mid-air, not holding on to anything at all. Parry’s thesis is not just that personal transitions are like those periods between bars, but that those periods are incredibly rich, and even further hypothesizes that “[maybe] the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us.”
What a great way to look at our transitions at UUCA! And that goes not just for our own personal growth as individuals, but for UUCA’s institutional growth. Each of us as individuals will of course deal with the pandemic and the ministerial transition – as well as our own personal transitions – in our own individual ways. But if we all can embrace these transitions as true growth opportunities and can be brave about getting to that next bar when we know we just must go there, I believe that some great things will happen at UUCA in the coming years.
I, personally, am already excited about working with Rev. Cathy. I believe that the Board is excited as well. And I trust UUCA as a group to figure out how to deal with new and future pandemic realities. So, I’ve got the resin on my hands, and I’m swinging harder and holding tightly onto my current trapeze bar, and getting ready for that magical time when I leap off into the void. See you on the next bar!
Clyde Hardin, VP, UUCA Board of Trustees
Let your joy be in your journey – not in some distant goal. –Tim Cook
It’s August, and I am excited to begin our time together as your Interim Lead Minister! 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. We have a lot of important work to do in the next two years as you prepare to call a new settled minister, but it has been my experience that there is joy, growth, and possibility in that work. There is room for fun, too. One of my first tasks as your interim minister is to get to know you as a congregation and individually. I’ll be delving into your history, spending time visiting your committee meetings (please invite me) and meeting with as many of you as possible. This can be done via Zoom or in person. I love to meet outside, sitting under a shade tree, or walking in nature. With the uncertainty due to the rise of the Delta variant, we will honor CDC guidelines to keep everyone safe.
The goal of the interim period is to answer three questions: Who were we? Who are we? Who do we wish to be? I look forward to getting to know you over the next few weeks. Someone once said, “We must go slowly, we have so little time.” There is often a sense of urgency and anxiety about getting the work done, but my job is to help you slow down and take time to discover who you are now and where you want to go. This is an essential first step that will inform the rest of our work together.
In a brief period, I’ve attended a board meeting, an all-staff meeting, a worship associates meeting and had individual and joint meetings with senior staff. Wow! I am honored to work with such a talented and dedicated team! UUCA is on solid ground with a bright and exciting future! But this doesn’t just happen without the support of the members and friends of a congregation. There are many reasons to celebrate your accomplishments and the hard work that brought you to this place. I would love to hear your stories about a time the congregation was particularly meaningful to you. Send them to me in an email if meeting in person isn’t feasible.
For you to know who I am, I will share a bit about my life’s journey and path to ministry in this Sunday’s sermon. It’s a lot of life so I’ll abbreviate a bit, but mostly I’ll share how I learned to face my fears and discover my purpose and direction in life.
My office hours are Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday 10-2, but I will be available to meet by appointment at other times as well. Friday is normally my study day, and Saturday will be devoted to Sunday service prep and Monday is my sabbath. I want you to feel comfortable reaching out to me in times of need day or night. My cell number is 231-301-3177 and you may call or text me.
I look forward to hearing about your joys, concerns, and hopes for the future of UUCA!
Rev Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister
We are going to need you. Yes, you!
As I’m writing this, it’s been two days since our Religious Education Celebration service. I’ve been reflecting on the service and thinking about how all the pieces and participants were what made it so special. It felt like the perfect culmination of this strange and extraordinary year in RE. Some of us cried, all of us laughed, and everyone gave what they could. We are extremely grateful not only to the volunteers who helped make it happen, but also to the children and youth of this congregation who participated in RE in whatever way felt right to them this year.
When Jen Johnson and I were planning for RE last summer, we must have scrapped our plans at least three times to start over. When things began to shut down in March, we already had the 2020-21 RE year planned. We were just about to start recruiting volunteers. Obviously that went right out the window when the seriousness of the situation became apparent. Things were changing so fast and the timeline for when we might reopen kept getting pushed further back. We knew that we had to offer a program that would meet as many needs as possible, but also that we would need help. Once we decided what to do, we started looking for the helpers. We were blessed to have so many folks step up to help with everything from leading online sessions to stuffing and delivering our “church in box”.
We don’t know quite what we’ll be up to in RE next year yet, but we’re working on it. Jen and I will be spending the next few weeks planning for the fall and beyond, and we’d love to hear from parents and kids about what you want to do in RE next year. We’ve been thinking about it over the last few months, but now is the time to make decisions and put things in motion. It’s definitely still going to look different than what we did pre-pandemic, but I think that’s a good thing. We’ve learned a lot about doing this work in a different way this year, and it has only made our program stronger and more committed to the faith development of children, youth, and adults at UUCA.
Not only do we need input on what our program should include, we will need folks to make it happen. We’ll need people to teach in RE, help out with family ministry outside of Sunday mornings, and help behind the scenes. If cleaning and organizing is your thing, we’ll definitely need you in August. Many of our rooms haven’t been inhabited in over a year and could use some love and attention. Please reach out to us if you know how you’d like to pitch in or what age group you’d like to work with. Being able to offer our program is largely dependent on having dedicated volunteers. Teacher training is on the schedule for Saturday, August 28, so mark your calendars! We are going to need you.
Kim Collins, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinator
I sometimes think that the people who know me well often can get frustrated and confused by my distractability and forgetfulness. Or perhaps more specifically, by the inconsistency of these traits in me. One day, I am extremely organized and on top of things and the next day I seem to have forgotten everything. One day, I am thoughtful and appreciative of important events and moments, the next day I forget to say things like thank you or Happy Birthday.
Thinking of Mark’s retirement has been no different. In many ways, as a member of the Interim Search Committee I have been thinking of his retirement for a couple of years now. As a member of the Board, I have met with him monthly or more and we have talked about his departure and the transition and changes ahead. I watched his last service a few weeks ago and was all weepy at the end. And yet here we are at the end of June, Mark is (almost) retired and I am looking around like “Where the hell did the time go?! I thought we still had another year ahead! After all, doesn’t the church need to be reopened before he can actually leave it?!” I had all intention to proactively reflect on what Mark has meant to me and yet it seems as if I blinked and his time with us is pretty much over and I am kind of looking around with one big “d’oh” expression on my face. But if you are prone to run behind like I do, then the words “Better Late than Never” can be a mantra and the time to reflect can happen even in the last seconds of the shot clock.
Neither Will nor myself had a background or knowledge of Unitarian Universalism as a denomination; however we just so happened to get married by a UU minister in Durham and decided that once we moved to Asheville we would make a point to stop into one and check it out. After a summer of settling in, we finally walked through the doors in the fall of 2006. Fortunately for us, Mark was at the pulpit. I wish I could remember the topic he spoke to that day but instead all I remember was the inclusion of poetry. I could be totally wrong but for some reason Emily Dickinson and Audre Lorde come to mind. I remember we smiled at one another as we listened to him talk and after we left, we spoke about how comforting the experience was and how we almost wished we had had a notebook to take notes in so that we could reflect back upon them later. We decided to come back the next Sunday and then we just kept coming back. Mark had hooked us both with his words.
Over the first few years, we were pretty quiet and kind of stuck to ourselves and our direct interactions with Mark were typically brief and infrequent. Will and I found ourselves both feeling connected to this strange sense of Mark as a father figure of sorts but aside from always giving him big hugs in the foyer as we exited the sanctuary, we didn’t really speak often. When I finally started to reach out to Mark more directly, he probably would have preferred that I hadn’t. I embarrassingly remember sending him emails about the name change from church to congregation as well as my thoughts regarding when exactly “Joys and Sorrows” should take place in the order of service. Despite my uncomfortably long hugs and my entitlement emails, he always seemed to be genuinely happy to see me. We kept coming back.
I think perhaps a big shift in how I saw Mark came in May of 2009 when my brother tragically died in a car accident. Returning to be with my family in Eastern North Carolina, I was struggling to find a spiritual space for grieving amidst the evangelical voices all around me and found myself wanting to reach out to Mark for some kind of framework or anchor or, hell, maybe an answer to what had happened to my brother and why. Though I was an official “member” of UUCA and was down with hugs and emails, I am not sure if I truly felt a sense of belonging or of actual relationship until that moment. It might just be my faulty memory but I actually think that when I sent Mark that email, I prefaced it with an introduction/reminder of who I was as I figured that he might not really be sure. His response however was as kind and strong and genuine as his embrace always was in the foyer. He responded with heartfelt words of condolences and he shared poems and reflections that I was able to use for my own processing. I had never really felt that I would want or need a “minister” to help me make sense of my own life and yet there I was.
Over the years, Mark would go on to be involved in more important moments in our lives. When Rainier was born and still just a babe, Mark blessed him in front of the congregation, doing that magical thing with water and fire and flower and if I remember correctly, he blew into Rainier’s face. Ha! Can you imagine that now?! For part of the dedication, Mark held our son in his arms briefly before Rainier began to wiggle and lean his way back to us. It somehow seemed like an actual blessing having Mark dedicate our son in front of and with our congregation. A few years later, when marriage equality was finally realized, Will and I knew that although we had in our own minds been married years before in 2005, we needed to “get married” again. On October 22nd, 2015, with our 5-year-old son serving as our Best Man, Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper recording and volunteers from the Book Sale serving as witnesses, Mark “officially” married us in the UUCA Sanctuary. It was on the same day as our 10th wedding anniversary.
Over the last few years, my relationship with Mark has continued to change.
As president of the Board, I have met with him at least 2 times a month and gotten to know him better as a minister, as a caring part of the congregation, and as an individual. I have to admit that it was a strange shift in relationship at first (maybe still) as I have had to learn to work WITH Mark rather than under him. After all, when someone feels a bit like a father figure of sorts, it can be strange to start having to think of them as your colleague instead. Rather than talk down or to me or attempt to “direct” me, he has consistently simply encouraged me to have some faith in myself, to get comfortable with my own voice, and figure out what leadership looked like for me. He has listened while I ranted and raved in frustration, while I cried dramatically with self-doubt, and supported and cheered me on when I needed it.
When I think back on our last 16 years here at UUCA, I am overwhelmed with awareness and gratitude for the changes that have taken place within me, within our family, and within this larger congregational community. I think of so many incredible, inspirational, and deeply wise people that I have gotten to know as part of this community including Rev. Claudia and Rev. Lisa as well as a crackerjack staff that includes/has included Linda, Tish, Jen, Kim, Susan, Benette, Taryn, Les, Milt, Lenora, as well as every member of the Board that I have worked with. But if I want to look for an origin story for how my family found ourselves here, it would be the day that we walked in and Mark was standing at the pulpit and how he made us feel right at home. I was 31 back then. I am 47 now and the man I have become has been largely influenced by Mark Ward. I will forever be grateful for that day and all the days since during which I have been fortunate to have been able to call him my minister and my friend. Thank you, Mark.
So what are your memories of Mark? What are you grateful for? What would you want him to know about how he has been a part of your life here at UUCA?
On Saturday, July 10th from 2:00-4:00, there will be a Retirement Celebration for him at the E.W. Grove Park (just a block past the church). Please come out and join us to celebrate his ministry and to wish him well as he moves into his next chapter! And perhaps consider writing down some of your own thoughts about what Mark has meant to you so that we can collect them all and share them with him to keep. The times ahead are ripe with excitement, possibility and change for both Mark as well as our entire congregation. Let’s celebrate this transition by honoring all that Mark has shared with us and who we have been together these last 17 years before we all collectively step into our bright futures.
Ryan Williams, President
UUCA Board of Trustees
This month, we had the first in-person staff meeting in over a year. It was wonderful to see each other, reconnect and share a potluck lunch after our meeting. It was also Rev. Mark’s last meeting. We shared stories and laughter reminiscing about our work together. That meeting felt like a first step in re-constituting community after a year of mostly virtual engagement with each other. No masks. No physical distancing. Just a small group of colleagues reconnecting and continuing the work of the congregation in Sandburg Hall.
Many of us have been vaccinated. We are feeling more comfortable socializing and traveling to visit family and friends. It is wonderful to see people’s smiles and not have to maintain physical distance from each other. It is heartwarming to hear people sharing about trips to see grandchildren and family, to comfort friends grieving the loss of a loved one or those caring for someone who is ill. There is so much joy in reconnecting with each other, even if it is to grieve or lament. Being present to each other is a blessing. My daughter, who I haven’t seen in over a year, arrived yesterday. It was emotional and reassuring to be able to hold her in my arms. We are re-constituting community, one person at a time. Who have you been reconnecting with during this time of re-emergence?
It feels a little awkward not knowing when to wear a mask. Some places require it still. And, even if they don’t, I wonder about those who are immune-compromised or too young to be vaccinated. How do they or their parents feel about going out when most people are no longer masked and they or their loved ones are still vulnerable? What should our priorities be as we return to in-person gatherings and worship at UUCA? I am grateful for the Reopening Task Force that will explore best practices for safely re-constituting (and perhaps expanding) our community. How do we adjust after months of limited personal interactions outside our pods or solitude?
Many of us anticipate the day when we can worship in our beautiful Sanctuary. We don’t have a date yet. Our Faith Development programs for children, youth, and adults will begin in October to give staff time to finalize program plans during August and September after a much-deserved break in July. It will also allow us to incorporate recommendations of the Reopening Task Force.
Until then, may we each find ways to begin the process of re-constituting our UUCA community. Who have you missed seeing in person? Maybe you can reach out and check in with them. Maybe your covenant group or committee can consider gathering in person to celebrate the work you have done this pandemic year? What insights have you gained during this time apart? What are you looking forward to when we gather again? It will be a joyous time for our community when we can be together. I look forward to celebrating our collective joy when we return to gathering at UUCA. I’m particularly excited to start an exploration of our aspirations and dreams for the next phase of UUCA in partnership with our interim minister, Rev. Cathy Harrington. So, rest up and recharge! I look forward to being with you again for our live-on-Zoom August 1 Poetry Sunday service. Have a great summer!
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development