UUCA Blog

Gratitude & Song

Photo of Minister Claudia JiménezTomorrow, many of us will observe a multi-dimensional holiday in a complicated year wrapped in an epic election and tied up with a pandemic bow. What a year this will have been! For many, the Thanksgiving mythology was replaced by recognition of the genocide and displacement in the foundation of this country even as we embrace a secular celebration of gratitude for family, friends, and the joys they bring. This year the pandemic complicates our gatherings. For virtual connections with loved ones – those tantalizing, frustrating screen sessions that leave us partially sated but nevertheless must sustain us through this strange time – are the only option. I ache to hug my daughters even as I’m glad they are behaving rationally and staying in their homes. This is a difficult, lonely time heightened by our inability to embrace each other. So please know that your UUCA family is here. Rev. Mark, pastoral visitors, and I are available for a phone call or a porch visit.

Even in this weird, seemingly apocalyptic time, there are many opportunities for gratitude, for the simple gifts we receive each day: birds at the feeder, a beautiful sunrise, squirrels on a fence post, kindness from a neighbor or friend. What else can you add to the list?

I am deeply grateful for our UUCA staff who create virtual spaces to connect with those of you who have the bandwidth to join a Zoom program, watch a service recording, make phone calls or write notes to fellow congregants, participate in spiritual deepening groups, engage in committee meetings or attend an in-person, masked, physically distant gathering. I am grateful to serve a community that holds each other in spirit and care. UUCA is not the building, it is each of you, engaged as you are able in this difficult moment. Your efforts and stalwart support are so reassuring that we will survive this time with energy and a renewed purpose.

Thank you for being part of this loving, evolving, community. I invite you to listen to three musical pieces that speak to me at this time. I hope you enjoy them. I also invite you to share on our Facebook pages or via email your reactions and music that fills your spirit this time of year.

Gracias a la Vida
This song written by Chilean Violetta Parra and sung by Argentinian social activist Mercedes Sosa is on my inspiration playlist. I listen to it often.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgjAOk6BX8g&feature=emb_logo

Translation
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/gracias-la-vida-thanks-life.html-3

Grateful: A Love Song to the World
Musicians Nimo Patel and Daniel Nahmond produced this uplifting song of gratitude with participation from people from all over the world. I wonder what your gratitude words/phrases would be if you could put them on the “gratitude tree.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO2o98Zpzg8&feature=emb_logo

Reflection on Healing
This video was produced by the Asheville Symphony in partnership with the Asheville Museum of Art. Art and music create a space for reflection on the healing that our country desperately needs. Grateful for the creativity and talent in our Asheville community.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i3dkr5vGts&feature=youtu.be

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Donation Sunday is December 6!

christmas tree with ornamentsDon’t look now but we’re rounding the corner to “the holiday season.” Of course, it’s a COVID holiday season so there’s no telling how things will go but we can assume there will be a high premium for creative celebration ideas.

UUCA Wish List
Usually I write a blog around now that provides information about “things” that UUCA needs that can be funded through our “wish list.” UUCA’s operating budget (general fund) handles our usual expenses, but often we need things, like an upgrade to our “backyards” or video equipment, for which we ask for money. This year I could mention that we’re planning to complete a seating area outside of Sandburg Hall, so if you’re inclined to designate “Wish List” for a donation, that’s where we’ll spend it.

Donation Sunday Is December 6
UUCA is in good financial condition considering the circumstances. Consequently, we’d be happy if you chose to make holiday donations to charitable organizations that you respect. For this season, UUCA is encouraging donations to several organizations.

  • Unitarian Universalist Service Committee through the Guest at Your Table program. You can pick up boxes and information at UUCA on December 6, 1-4pm. NOTE: RE families will receive their boxes in the Dec. “Church in a Box.”
  • Beloved Asheville – donations of money are always needed(!), but UUCA is also collecting a variety of winter gear for those experiencing homelessness. Drop of your donations December 6.
    • Tents  ###  coats  ###  blankets  ###  gloves  ###   hot hands  ###   sleeping bags
  • Tree of Happiness & Hope – Through a UUCA member who works as an assistant principal at Sand Hill-Venable Elementary School, we have offered bring some holiday joy to their students and families, many of whom are struggling financially this year. Pick up a tag for a specific recipient on Donation Sunday or click here to find out more and donate online.

Year-end Giving from IRAs
Normally, individuals who turn age 70-1/2 in the previous year are required to take a minimum amount out of their IRA each year. Because of this, many folks make a direct donation from their IRAs to UUCA to avoid paying taxes on that amount. However, in 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, waives required minimum distributions during 2020 for IRAs and retirement plans, including beneficiaries with inherited accounts. This waiver includes RMDs for individuals who turned age 70 ½ in 2019 and took their first RMD in 2020. We are still happy to take donations for your own tax reasons, though.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

Annus Horribilis

2020 in the United States is undoubtedly a year “which will live in infamy.” This “annus horribilis,” to quote her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, certainly echoes events in the life of the British queen, as her children’s marriages began to fall apart and Windsor Castle merrily burned. The parallels would be entertaining if not so tragic.

As I began thinking about this blog, the election was a couple of days in the future. Yesterday, I spent my day as an election official in Crabtree Township in Yancey County. Things went very smoothly – no rudeness, no electioneering of any kind except for signage appropriately placed outside, no flag waving pickup trucks roaring up and down the hill, as they have been doing for weeks now in this county – just a steady flow of friends and neighbors coming to their appointed place to cast their votes. My fellow election officials, who undoubtedly voted in different ways, all worked together in harmony to get the job done. Someday (and I hope to live to see it), when our federal government begins to once again function in a like manner, we will have turned a corner in the incessant political hostilities and intractable divisions that have become a hallmark of partisan politics in this country. One can hope.

As I sit here contemplating and watching the rather astonishing returns come in, however, my heart has to sink a bit. Even after the last four truly unbelievable years, marked by unnecessary illness and death and an apparent failure of responsibility from the very top echelons of our government, an astonishing number of our fellow Americans obviously want four more years of division, rancor and whistling in the wind rather than facing harsh realities and the inevitability of change, very like objecting to plate tectonics, all the while being spun off into different land masses, with widening oceans.

So….no matter who sits in the White House in 2021, we all know that we have our work cut out for us as Unitarian Universalists. Not in partisan politics, but in kindness, polite discourse, patience, and hard work, doing the very hard work of listening and friendly persuasion, two things I have yet to even begin to master.

Maya Angelou said, “If you’re not angry, you’re either a stone, or you’re too sick to be angry. You SHOULD be angry. You must NOT be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So, use that anger, yes. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.”

Yesterday was long and exhausting for me, but I am proud to have participated. I hope someday to be able to say that about my government.

Judy Harper, Board of Trustees

 

Community Plate Returns – January-February 2021

The Community Plate program has been an integral way for our congregation to reach out into the community to support organizations that share our principles. During the several months Community Plate has been on hiatus, UUCA has suggested organizations for you to support in the Worship Service link emails.

The time seems right to reconvene the official Community Plate. Our Team has come up with a plan for UUCA to again support specific organizations. During COVID-time, each designated organization will be assigned a two-month period for donations. We will begin with the Mel Hetland Scholarship Fund for January and February. You will be able to donate to the Community Plate recipients through the UUCA website, through text-to-give or by sending a check with “Community Plate” in the memo line. Then, as we have always done, UUCA will send a check for the total amount of our donations to the organization.

Each organization will be asked to submit two videos, one about the organization and one featuring someone who has benefited from its services. They will be shown during our worship service on the first Sunday of the month. You will also be able to click into the videos from our Weekly eNews on Thursdays.

The Community Plate team looks forward to resuming this outreach program with our congregation.

Linda Kooiker, Community Plate

The UUCA Auction Is Online?  HELP!!

cartoon figure pushing green "bid" buttonFear not.  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 28.  For any updates, check rsabid.com (code 28801).

Hey, I want to bid on something.  Now what?
Go back to the upper right corner of rsabid.com.  Select Sign In. On the page you land on, go to Request Account. 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 11 at 7am.

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?
You’ll know immediately at the Live Auction.  Once the Silent Auction closes on November 18 at 8pm 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 email invitation.  In order to get the Zoom link you will have to register through the invitation.  That link is not shareable so don’t forward it.

How are we going to have a dinner and drinks at the Auction?
Glad you asked.  Mariposa’s (Maria’s) Food Truck will be at UUCA in the late afternoon of LIVE Zoom Auction Day (November 14) so that you can pick up items you have pre-ordered through the Auction Catalog.  You will be assigned a pickup time to guarantee a safe and timely pick up.  Once you get your food, you can eat it when you get home or save it to re-heat and eat “at” the auction.

And did we say “drinks?”  Any time from now until LIVE Zoom Auction Day (November 14), you can visit Metro Wines on Charlotte Street to purchase your special UU Auction cocktail aperitif or special “UUCA Auction Wines” selected and discounted just for us!  Lillet Blanc aperitif will come with a choice of Beatles-themed cocktail recipes.  The wine will be ready to drink 😊.  Sip while you trip with the Beatles at the LIVE Zoom Auction!  If you do buy something from Metro Wines, 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 to about an hour or a little more.

Have any other questions?
Contact Ann McLellan, Tory Schmitz, or Margaret McAlister.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

UUny, Who?

Some of you may have heard about our new mascot, UUny the Unicorn (them, theirs). UUny is delivered to a member or friend’s home to recognize a celebration, milestone or challenge in the life of our community. During this time of physical distancing, delivering a UUny is one way we are staying connected as a UUCA family. A minister or pastoral visitor will arrange a visit to check-in and deliver UUny as a gift reminding the recipient they are held in care and love by the UUCA community. UUny may remain in that home or be delivered to another member or friend who may appreciate a reminder that despite our physical separation, we are still here for each other. I have had numerous opportunities to deliver UUnies since our mascot was introduced at the Ingathering Service in September. It is a treat to be able to say hello and see some of you in person.

A disclaimer: this was not my idea. I attended a webinar a few months ago where a participant shared that their youth had a traveling mascot that made the rounds to different homes and kept the youth connected. I wondered if we could have a mascot that would serve a similar purpose at UUCA. I brainstormed with Linda and Mark and we decided on a unicorn. I later heard the story of a group of UUCA parents who years ago formed a friendship and support group calling themselves “The Unicorns.” Some of them are still members of the congregation. That spirit of support and companionship is perpetuated in our new mascot, UUny. We have a stash of UUnies, so if you know of someone who would welcome one, reach out to Mark or me, and we will make sure it is delivered.

Looking for other ways to stay connected?
“Mid-Week Meet-up with the Minister or Minions” occurs Thursdays at noon. It is an opportunity to share conversation with one Minister Claudiaof the ministers or a board or a staff member. Mask use and physical distancing will be observed. We will gather on the patio as weather allows.

The Religious Education Council is organizing “Halloween Fest” on Saturday, October 31 from 4-6pm with a costume parade at 4:30. Maria and Esteban’s food truck will be there (cash only). Mask use and physical distancing observed.

Families and youth will have opportunities for small masked gatherings as weather permits. The RE staff will keep you informed.

Live Zoom Vespers continue every Wednesday providing a mid-week break for reflection, music, and virtual connection.

Please continue to reach out to each other through phone calls, snail mail, social media, and porch visits. This is a challenging time for all of us. We need each other more than ever. We are tired of the pandemic but still must be careful, for the benefit of ourselves, family, and community.

Early voting has begun. This is a pivotal election for our nation. I know many of you are working to get out the vote and support fair elections. We anxiously and cautiously hope that leadership striving to be on the side of love prevails. So, friends, stay connected… and make sure you and your friends have a voting plan. Vote!

Turning Points

During this past Sunday’s worship service, Rev. Mark Ward reminded us that he’s on his way out this coming June—for sure!  Oh yeah.  I almost forgot that.  Well, here’s a somewhat different reminder, “We’re at a turning point.”

The phrase has stuck in my mind as I am reading a book called Turning Point right now.  The book is not about changing lead ministers, though that is an obvious turning point all by itself.  But rather it is a book foretelling the turning point of Unitarian Universalism itself.

Rev. Fredric Muir, a UU minister, has compiled a book of essays that lays out the Trinity of Errors, the Trinity of Promises, and examples of Living the Promises of Unitarian Universalism.  Here’s a tantalizing peek; the Trinity of Errors is individualism, exceptionalism, and resistance to authority.  The Leadership Development Committee will be hosting a book discussion of Turning Point: Essays on a New Unitarian Universalism soon.  Watch for details.

OK, that’s two turning points, one for the ministry of UUCA and one for the actual future of Unitarian Universalism.  But we’re not done.  UUCA is also finally getting engaged in anti-racism work.  The Board of Trustees, in conjunction with the Justice Council and its Anti-Racism and Immigration Justice Action Group, will be asking all of us to participate in discussions and actions that will change us as a congregation.  Not sure how, exactly, but I’m definitely sure things will change.

That’s three turning points! At the same time!  (And note that I’m ignoring the whole COVID thing.)

I bring this up now because it is all relevant to our search for a new lead minister.  There are two decisions that will vastly influence UUCA’s future.  Decision #1 is the choice of an interim minister.  This is not quite as risky, but it sure would be nice if the MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION (yes, you) would provide some sense to the search committee of what direction this congregation wants to go in.  First choice: Do we want to stay exactly the way we are?  OR, Do we want to become an anti-racist congregation and change who we are in the process? (Technically, the Board has already embarked on that goal.)  What other directions do we want to go in? How far “out” beyond our walls do we want to work?

Once an interim minister is in place, much more hard work happens as we, the congregation, work for clarity of purpose.  In the very best case, by the time we get to the search process for our new lead minister we will be able to clearly articulate the vision of our future and will call a minister who is willing to help us head for that vision.

That’s your homework assignment right now.  Take time (in those moments when you let your brain free wheel) to think about the congregation you wished you had joined.  What promises did we keep, what promises should we still work to meet?  Because when we get to a turning point, we need to choose.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

Safe Space to Brave Space

It seems strange to have been away from the “Mother Ship” at 1 Edwin Place for such a long time. I, along with many others, find time in the Sanctuary to be a time of centering and calming my “fevered” mind. For me, this is second only to standing in a river, in the cathedral of trees, birds, butterflies, Brookies, and the occasional Hellbender. The Sanctuary promises us a safe space. We have a pretty good idea of how things will go through the sermon and on to coffee hour. And on those other nights, like Wednesday vespers and when we are in groups, the safe feeling surrounds us and envelops us.

I would like to consider a transition from Safe Space to Brave Space in my own life. To be less safe, less guarded, more open and vulnerable. I came across the concept of Brave Spaces several years ago while facilitating Building Bridges Racial Equity Groups and Manual. I tried to bring it into the meetings with me, asking participants to bring forward their “braver” self, to learn about and deal with their own privilege and history of interactions with People of Color. It requires a change in one’s self and a willingness to risk at a higher level than usual.

In the words of Sr. Ann Lythgoe, OP in her Blog:  “This idea of brave space transforms my idea of safe space. It is a movement from being secure to vulnerable, from armored to open, from guarded to curious.  I wonder if brave space might be a way to build peace, by being at peace in conversations we have (or don’t have) with people different from ourselves. Brave space calls us to look at one another with softer eyes.”

It strikes me that the Brave Space concept fits nicely with our mission and our Seven Principles.

Invitation to Brave Space
By Micky Scott Bey Jones, June 13, 2017

Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love.
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be.
But…
It will be our brave space together,
and
We will work on it side by side.

So we are called upon to be brave and move away from the safety of “the usual”. We need to not only announce our principles but to live those principles in our own daily life and openly in the community.

Michael Beech, UUCA Board of Trustees

 

 

 

 

More Than a Vote

A little like a fly in amber, our “UU the Vote” bulletin board, assembled earlier this year by volunteers to promote this congregational initiative, stands in Sandburg Hall unseen by anyone but the few staff who drop in in now and again to work in our largely vacant church home. But like everything else in our congregation’s life, the campaign itself is up and going great guns in the world beyond: in cyberspace, in the mail, in the community.

Voting has always been a strong priority of our religious movement – it resides at the center of our 5th principle, recognizing the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. But it is no exaggeration to say that in no year in at least my memory has it been more important that we exercise, promote, and protect this precious franchise.

It is important both as a civic exercise and a matter of faith. Voting is the machinery that makes democracy work and it is one of the places where our first principle, promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person, is realized.

I am grateful to Minister of Faith Development Rev. Claudia Jiménez for her leadership in this campaign and for the diligent work of our UU the Vote coordinator Amy Moore. Their urging has resulted in dozens of our members – I am among them – sending out hundreds of postcards to homes of potential voters encouraging them to check their registrations and make a plan to vote. Some of you are getting trained as poll workers, others as poll watchers. Also, we plan on Worship Services both on November 1, before the election, November 8, after the election, and Vespers on November 4, the day after the election, to reflect as a community on all that we’re experiencing this season.

There are also opportunities in the UUA’s larger UU the Vote campaign. The campaign puts out weekly updates with lots of opportunities to get involved. Here’s a link where you can find it and sign up.

What part can you play? In a year when the President himself is actively seeking to undermine the electoral process it’s clear that individual citizens like us need to step up to our responsibility under the Constitution as “we, the people.”

And most important: make your plan to vote – by mail, in person – as early as possible. Let’s do it, let’s make a difference for the sake of our nation, for the sake of our future.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Taking Risks: Who, Me?

This weekend I did something completely out of my comfort zone. I packed my paniers and bicycled with Steve to Hot Springs, NC for a bit of relaxation. It was a big deal for me! Unlike Steve, I did not grow up riding a bicycle. Mastering an e-bike added an unexpected twist. Nevertheless, despite my hesitation and fear of riding in traffic (Hwy 25 has minimal shoulder) I decided to give it a try. I prepared over the last two months by riding this new contraption to the office and around town on errands to conquer my fear. It paid off! Our ride through Alexander, Marshall, Walnut and over the hill into Hot Springs  in spectacular weather was more fun than I had imagined. When we returned home I was proud of myself for taking that risk. It was scary at times when big trucks drove by or a few drivers (two to be precise) chose to be rude and honk or get unnecessarily close.  But we made it and I was elated at doing something I had never tried or even thought about attempting.

It isn’t easy going outside of one’s comfort zone and feeling vulnerable. Although my weekend, at times, was one of physical vulnerability, I perceive a similarity with the emotional vulnerability that comes with doing the work of exploring white supremacy culture and complicity in that culture, even if unintentional. It has been important to me to learn about the history, writings and legacies of people ignored in history and the literature of my educational experiences. I have gained a greater understanding of systems created in the US and beyond to uphold hierarchies based on skin color and power that favor White males. But reading is not enough. The hard work has been asking myself, “How did I learn to be anti-Black, to be racist?” and, “What will I do differently now that I recognize my biases?”

I once read that marginalized People of the Global Majority cannot be racist because they do not have power. That made sense to me. Furthermore, I thought that I could not a be racist given my life experiences. I have learned otherwise. I have a greater understanding of how I learned to be anti-Black, both in Colombia where I was born and here in the U.S. Because I recognize that reality in me, I catch myself being judgmental and racist. Last week when I was recording the Time for All Ages “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram Kendi, the section that said, “Confess to being racist. Nothing disrupts racism more than when we confess the racist ideas we sometimes express” resonated with me. I am being more mindful of racist ideas that go through my mind. I don’t confess them publicly (although in this blog I am), but I do pay attention, and interrogate where those attitudes are coming from. What socialization and conditioning led me to the attitudes that I am embarrassed to acknowledge?

Of course, I am not always as self-aware as I would like. I sometimes unintentionally offend. I am striving to engage people without making assumptions based on perceived identity. Doing that allows me to listen and be present at times when assumptions would have been a barrier. The gift has been a greater understanding of other perspectives and in some cases the beginning of new relationships. Awareness for how my biases affect my interactions motivates me to be more mindful. I’ve had a lifetime to learn how to be a racist, unlearning it won’t be easy, but I will keep trying.

This year we begin what I hope will be a multi-year focus on antiracism in Faith Development at UUCA. Our recent history and the pandemic have made it impossible to ignore the tragic impacts of racism on our community and nation. I invite you to consider how you will engage, re-engage or deepen your work in becoming an anti-racist. The work involves acknowledging and learning about the effect of White supremacy/racism in our lives and society and mobilizing to pursue justice and equity. What questions do you have?  How can we support you? Starting Oct. 8 at 7PM, Rev. Ward will facilitate a second Thursday conversation, “White People Wondering”, to create space for reflection about where you are on the journey of disrupting racism in your life. Various lay leaders are facilitating the UUA adult curriculum, “Building the World We Dream About” as part of the Wednesday Thing programs. And, there are also discussion groups delving into the work of Ibram Kendi and Layla Saad. I welcome your feedback on the programs we are offering and your suggestions for future programs.

Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Why Bother With the Auction?

Yes, you should donate and participate and there’s a very good reason below.  But first, let me just get the ad portion of this blog out of the way. 

Yes, we are holding our auction–but in 2 parts.  Part 1 is a Silent Auction and it lasts for a week, starting November 11 and ending November 18.  (That’s the part where back in the day we walked around the room—either before auction day at UUCA or on the night of the auction—and wrote our bids on bidding sheets.) Part 2 is a LIVE Zoom Auction on November 14 where about 10 items will be auctioned. (That’s the part where our auctioneer works hard to get prices up for what we hope are desirable items and where back in the day we ate, visited, enjoyed The Sandburgers, and danced.)

The auction committee has been working on this for several months now.  They have attended a variety of other online auctions to see how it’s done and are sure we can come up with an auction that will actually be fun to experience online. I believe them. (I know they’re working on some very clever add-ons for the LIVE Zoom auction.)

But really, why bother this year?  The most obvious answer is that the auction most assuredly raises more money than any other fundraiser for the congregation (about $35,000).  And this is money that makes a huge difference in what we fund.  But with our budget skewed this year in every direction, we don’t have any idea if this money is critical or not.  And believe me, running an auction, especially one like never before, is a LOT of work.

Here’s a better answer though, which I re-learned on Sunday.  It is literally all about connections!  At last year’s auction, UUCA members Mike Closson and Jill Overholt donated 100 Frozen Monkey* ices for a gathering of the buyer’s choice.  Without having any plan for it, the McLellans bought that item.  Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago.  I’m having a casual conversation with the McLellans about how I’m trying to figure out how to offer some kind of outdoor gathering for UUCA and they offer their auction win (honestly, I didn’t even remember they had bought that!).  And next thing you know, 75 or so of us enjoyed a beautiful late afternoon at UUCA, SEEING each other!!!

Frozen Monkey gathering on September 13

We had younger members (down to about 2), older members (up to about, well, never mind), and everyone in between.  Nothing warms the heart of a UUCA staff member more than seeing a multigenerational gathering!

This, of course, is not the only auction item that works this way, although the scale is larger than normal.  Any time you donate an item that gathers people together, you are creating micro “small-group” ministries.  It really doesn’t matter if you are one of the amazing dinner providers or someone who has a few people over to bake bread.  These gatherings make connections and these connections are what makes UUCA important in the lives of its congregants.

So, bottom line, the auction is an important part of our congregation’s year and through your generous participation–by donating items and buying items (we ask for donations at all price points)–you support the church through your time, talent, and treasure.  It’s real stewardship; taking care of this congregation!

*Just because it’s interesting to know, Mike created this business himself and got a designer to create all his graphics on the trailer.  It is not a franchise.  (UUs can be so creative!) 

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

We Gather Again

By the calendar I have followed in my head for the past 16 years, this coming Sunday – the week after Labor Day – should be Ingathering Sunday, the day when we return from the slower pace of our summer services and start our fall worship schedule. We should be resuming two weekly Sunday services, dedicating our teachers, restarting our Religious Education program, and in general just celebrating this community.

But as with so many things, the novel coronavirus has disrupted our plans. We won’t be gathering at 1 Edwin Place. Worship and religious education are online. And we’re all trying to get our heads around how the work we do as a congregation translates into a socially-distanced world.

It’s disorienting, but really we’ve been at this now for about six months and there’s no sign it’s going to end any time soon. And more importantly, the work we do as a liberal religious voice, as a gathered people seeking connection, inspiration, compassion, and justice is as essential as ever.

So, we’re staying the course. We won’t falter in our commitments, and as we adjust to all the technological and other challenges of this time we’ll be looking for how we can leverage what we are learning and experiencing to grow this congregation, this faith in a world still thirsty for what we have to give.

We’ll begin this Sunday with a different kind of Ingathering that will be a live Zoom service at 11am. We will, once again, be dedicating our teachers for a new year of religious education, and we’ll be using the time to explore who we are in this new age and what we need from each other.

Of course, we’re not alone in this situation. Church consultants have pointed out all kinds of ways that the pandemic has forced congregations of all denominations to think differently. I was intrigued this past week with a posting by Susan Beaumont, a consultant who has worked with us in the past. She wrote that there are several myths about congregations that COVID days have exploded.

Traditionally, she said, churches defined the communities they served by people in their geographical area. Well, when worship and other church programs are online, there are no geographical bounds. People can tune in from far away.

That’s certainly been our experience. There are a number of people formerly connected with UUCA who are tuning into worship and other events as well as many others with no formal connection to the congregation who are checking us out. Before COVID, we had an average Sunday attendance of around 300 or so with a membership of around 500. These days we send the link for Sunday services to a mailing list of around 1,425 people and roughly 450 open it each Sunday; others open later in the week.

But even then, Beaumont reports, worship attendance may not be the best measure of participation. Some people connect with a congregation’s social justice work or small group ministry more than worship and may check in Sunday only occasionally.

Also, even though we feel that the best connections happen in person, there are some deep and meaningful interactions that can happen online. For that to happen, though, it requires us to adjust how we plan our gatherings and discover and then build confidence in the technologies that work best for those settings.

So, yes, all these changes are a big lift for us all, but they also offer new opportunities that help keep us relevant and keep our ministries vital. Our staff at UUCA are in conversation about how we tweak what we do here to stay on task and help our people stay engaged. But we’d like your help, too. Keep us posted on what’s on your mind and we’ll get through this time together.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

 

No,”We Are Not in a Handbasket.” Together, We Can Decide Where We Want to Go.

Over the last few years, I have heard a number of people in my life express a wide range of feelings at the sudden insertion of words like White Supremacy, White Privilege, Systemic Racism, and Black Lives Matter into their daily lives. It is important to note that the awareness of the sudden increase in these words has been noted by both black friends and white friends alike. After all, the mainstream introduction of a set of vocabulary words and frameworks previously reserved for more academic settings is honestly new for everyone. What has been more interesting and impactful for me in hearing the various responses however has been the underlying experiences and understandings of what these words mean to different people. Many of my white friends and family, when talking about this new vocabulary, have expressed such feelings as confusion, anger, sadness, guilt, denial, enlightenment, and inspiration. The response of the majority of my black friends and family however has been much more consistent. “Aha,” they basically have said. “So that’s what it’s called. So that’s the word for describing what we already knew was real.”

So let me speak to my fellow white UUs. It is my belief that however you or I have personally experienced or responded to this new vocabulary and framework is valid. It’s real. It’s honest. In my opinion, the immediate experience of complex emotions is part of that whole inherent worth and dignity of every individual. It’s what we proclaim when we speak of our First Principle. So please don’t judge others for where their hearts and minds are located when confronted with “new” ideas. Please don’t judge me. Don’t judge yourself.

But please don’t stay there. Don’t sit passively by while others stay there. After all, though the First Principle might allow us a space to be seen and respected for our immediate emotional and intellectual responses, there are other principles we have to listen to as well. Other Principles to help move us forward.

Personally, I would argue that once we recognize where we are in one principle, we might listen to and be moved by some of the others. For example, our 2nd Principle calls for equity and compassion in human relations. Our 3rd Principle calls for acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations. Our 5th affirms our belief in the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. Our 6th Principle proclaims a goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

One might even draw inspiration from the recently proposed 8th Principle that calls UUs to “affirm and promote a journey toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by actions that dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” In other words, regardless of where you find yourself  within the 1st Principle, you are also called on to move yourself by the others.

Motivated by this past summer’s explosion of anger and action around racial injustice, the Board of Trustees here at UUCA has felt the call to respond to the reality of White Supremacy in the world around us near and far, as well as to the reality of White Supremacy in the world within us. We have felt called to move ourselves. We have felt hopeful and inspired by the idea of the movement of our congregation. In that vein, we have been engaged in conversations around how we might craft a statement in support of Black lives and opposed to White Supremacy. Further, we have been engaged in discussion on how we might move beyond a statement as well to help strengthen the momentum already occurring within UUCA towards the goal of racial justice.

These are ideas that we all agree on. Yet despite our shared values, as it is in our larger lives, simply agreeing does not always result in “Agreement”. This conversation, be it taking place among the Board members or taking place around the dinner table, is not an easy one. It takes patience, love, flexibility, and steadfastness. It takes buy-in. It takes covenant. It takes time. It’s hard work.

In the coming weeks and months, the Board will be continuing to center our Annual Vision of Ministry discussion around the work of anti-racism and Beloved Community. As we work out the meaning and the methods of this annual vision of ministry, know that the larger goal will not be based necessarily on the offering of more workshops or book studies. Know that the larger goal will not be based necessarily on the sharing out of websites and worship services. After all, we as a Board know that there are so many incredible individuals who have already been and continue to do these things and who have been leading this work on so many levels for years and we want them to know that their work is deeply appreciated and honored.

However, rather than fine tune our vision on the involvement of individuals, it is our hope instead to focus on the UUCA as a whole and on empowering and fostering a UUCA that not only believes in the goal of racial justice but systemically provides the spiritual nourishment and environment for that work to fully happen.

So how do we get there? Well, that brings me back to us all sharing and honoring where we as a congregation came from and where we find ourselves now, to letting our principles guide us forward. And know that as we move forward in this conversation, we the Board will be leaning on the input and experience of those UUCA individuals already so actively engaged. We know also however that each and every congregant here can contribute a wide range of inspirations and ideas to help shape or influence the direction in which we will embark. We know that there are Black and Brown neighbors and friends in our community who stand outside of the UUCA walls (that’s figurative of course since, thanks to COVID, we are all standing outside of UUCA walls…) that can offer the truth of personal experience and who can hold up guidepost and caution signs as we make our way towards this new horizon.

In the coming weeks and months, know that we might come to you and ask for your input as well as your action to help this vision take shape. Know that we will want you to come to us and share with us your ideas on how this vision takes form. This work will require the COLLECTIVE participation of us all as we work to envision what it means for UUCA to help build and become the Beloved Community our Principles call us to be. Are you ready to get moving?!

Ryan William, President, Board of Trustees

 

We have Religious Education this year?!? YES! And…

Did you know?  Religious Education at UUCA is still a thing! We already have 53 kids/youth registered for the 2020-21 year. We are excited to offer religious education and family ministry in a different way this year. Due to the pandemic that must not be named (for you Harry Potter fans), we have made an effort to simplify our programs but still have fun connecting points with the faith development you want from your UU congregation! These relationships and the spiritual support are still accessible to you.

Why would I want this?  I’m so busy and more screen time is not what my kids need.  Remember this cheer: “We’ve got spirit, yes we do, we’ve got spirit, how about you?”  Do a body check. How are you feeling? How about your kids? Your UUCA congregation is here to support your family’s spirit right now. Read more reasons to stay connected to UUCA this year at the bottom of this blog.

What will RE look like this year?

Religious education for children and youth has been divided into 4 groups:

  • PreK-3rd grade
  • 4th-6th grade
  • 7th-9th grade
  • 10th-12th grade

Groups will typically meet 2 Sundays/month via Zoom: PreK-3rd & 10th-12th grades will meet on the first and third Sundays of the month and 4th-6th & 7th-9th grades will meet on the second and fourth Sundays of the month.

Note: Due to the nature of these unique programs, Coming of Age and OWL (Our Whole Lives) will not be offered until we are regularly meeting in person again.  Look for a parent OWL group later in the year!  We hope to offer both CoA and OWL later for those youth who normally would’ve taken them this year.  Contact Kim or Jen if you’d like some personal support or resources.

Will this be like the typical (curricula based) RE classes that we normally have?

There will be spiritual elements to our virtual gatherings to help foster UU faith development and personal growth.  There will also be an intentional focus on FUN, social and supportive connections, compassion, inspiration and justice – our UUCA core values.

BONUS

In addition to classic (mostly virtual) RE, we will have other opportunities as well, some online and possibly some occasional small, safer in person gatherings for youth or adults:

  • Family Fun Nights for fellowship and fun
  • “UU in a box” for at home fun and faith development
  • Socially distant youth group “masked meet-ups”
  • Parent/caregiver groups and adult UU and social justice offerings
  • Time for All Ages during worship, family led Vespers, and multigenerational services

What if my kids don’t plan to participate Sunday mornings very often?

Even though this year will look different, we encourage your family to stay involved for some needed spiritual grounding and social connection.  We would love to see you whenever you can make it.

Do I need to register?

YES!  This is how we know you still want to stay connected to UUCA this year and beyond.  We use our registration list to communicate about both current and future offerings, including OWL and Coming of Age (once we can offer those programs again), youth group, parent groups, and home deliveries (a special feature we have planned this year).

Please register here, and we’ll see you in September (or before)!

  • September 13 – RE launch date for 4th-9th grade groups
  • September 20 – RE launch date for PreK-3rd and YRUU: 10th-12th grades

Why does this matter again? 

  • Relationships! We’re bonding peers and multigenerational connections in a supportive UU community.
  • Our core values: Connection, Inspiration, Compassion, Justice are still our core values. Our mission:…
  • We still have UU values to learn, to embrace, to live.
  • We need to harness this moment to gather, to learn, to strive to be bolder, to act, individually and collectively, for justice in our city, county and our world. Social justice will be an integral part of our programming this year.
  • People still need our love – within our own UUCA community and reaching far beyond our walls. Kids and youth need to both receive and give love and support.
  • Nurturing the spirits of our kids, teens, and their parents.
  • Playful and calming spiritual engagement with ritual elements.
  • A sacred place your kids can call home now and throughout their whole lives.

A recent blog from UUA’s Southern Region (that includes us) August newsletter, by Natalie Briscoe, spells out some of the stressors parents are experiencing.  She notes that church can be a positive “release valve” for families during this particularly difficult time.  Read her blog here.

Behind the Scenes

Everything seems disconnected these days, with all of us feeling a bit “left out,” so I thought I’d tell you a little about what has been going on with the UUCA staff this summer.  I’ve also added a few other things we want you to know about.

RE for Children & Youth
The RE staff has worked mightily to contact our families by phone and survey to determine what might be useful to our kids during this semester (and probably year) of no in-person gatherings.  The result is a plan for the fall that includes online “classes” for four age groups. The “youngers” will meet at 10 every Sunday.  The others will meet every other Sunday. We are also focusing on providing resources for Family Ministry on the website, offering “Church in a Box” in partnership with the RE Council, and holding monthly Fun Days (Zoom) with options for safe, physically distanced gatherings (we hope).

Money!
Oh no!  Not that word!  Everyone knows that UUs are way more comfortable talking about sex than money.  But YOU are an owner of UUCA so you ought to know what’s going on.  I am loath to say this out loud, but we are doing fine financially speaking.  Now just because I said that out loud does not mean you can stop donating to us.  What it means is that we had a substantial surplus from the 19-20 fiscal year which we have held in our Contingency Fund, AND we applied for and received about $90,000 from the federal Payroll Protection Program.   Right now, we are experiencing a loss in income of about 30% per month.  But our spending is wildly different than budgeted, too (for example, more money being used for worship service guests, less money for the Wednesday Thing, more money being used for our video editors and Zoom hosts and less for childcare, etc.).  So, here’s the message I want to send.  If you are able to keep making donations, please do.  If you are unable to do that, it’s OK, don’t worry. We’re in this together.

Zoom Can Be Your Friend two people at church pulpit with computer set up to record
Do you remember that Sunday in March when we sent you the link to our first recorded service?  Here’s a photo of what we rigged up. A computer on a footstool on the pulpit.  A music stand on a table for the script. And the most amazing part of it was we recorded on Saturday and somehow put together a service for Sunday morning with a person who had never used video-editing software before.  Sheesh!  (Fun (unbelievable) fact:  our last in-person service was Celebration Sunday!)

But now we have a rhythm–and better equipment.  And it includes a video deadline of Thursday at noon.  (How relaxing.)  And we’ve also been producing live Zoom services, which we plan to continue once a month.  These live services are very different, but we like them because our congregants get to see each other.  Which reminds me….. 

I am very aware that it is great fun to watch a worship service on Sunday morning in your pajamas.  Or while you are eating breakfast.  Or while you are puttering around.  But one of the great pleasures of these live Zoom services is that you get to see your fellow congregants.  This is a comment we get at every live event: “It is SO nice to see everyone again.”  So, if it is at all feasible, please let us see you.  We think pajamas can be cute.  And there’s no shame in eating—we all do it.

Anti-racism and Get Out the Vote Work
It’s been a summer, right?  But if you’ve been paying attention at all, you know our congregation is actively doing anti-racism work (book groups, small groups, Justice Ministry Council) which is only just getting started.  And we’ve been doing what we can, individually and part of UUCA, to get out the vote and get our favored candidates elected (whoever they may be.)

Adult Spiritual Development and the Wednesday Thing
Unlike previous years, we kept our Wednesday Thing vespers services going all summer.  Well, almost all summer.  We did take 2 weeks off for the survival of our ministers.  But I digress….

Starting in September, most Wednesdays will feature a vespers service AND a program that will last no more than an hour.  For the fall, we’ll feature anti-racism work and opportunities to explore our spiritual selves.  And the groups that we had going before the “pandemic break” are still meeting, talking, connecting.

Staying Connected
As a staff, we believe our biggest challenge is to make sure that you know that you are still a valued part of UUCA, that we haven’t forgotten you, and that your friends haven’t forgotten you either.  It’s a big reason we offer live Zoom programs.  We’ve also conducted 2 rounds of calling all of our members, and we’ll be starting a third round soon.  We’ve sent you all postcards. We’re also interested in coming to see you!  Stay tuned for that announcement.

Anything Else?
Probably.  But this is long enough and you get the idea.  Your staff is working hard to help you keep UUCA an important part of your life—even now.  Or especially now.  If you have any needs that we can help with, please contact me, or Rev. Ward, or Rev. Claudia, or your favorite UUCA staff person, and let us know.  We’re here for you!

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

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