UU Asheville Weekly Message

America’s Shame

Dear Ones,

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonI imagine that you, like me are deeply saddened and disturbed by the murder of yet another innocent Black man at the hands of the police. As Tyre was being brutally beaten, he called out for his mother. He was on his way home which was nearby. All five of these officers were Black men. The assumption that white supremacy is the underlying problem in policing can no longer be argued. The American Bar Association has confirmed that evidence of injustice is overwhelming and is urging lawyers to help fight for equitable justice. America has a systemic problem in a judicial system that is historically rooted in a deeply ingrained, pervasive and ongoing racism.

George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police was a wake-up call and seemed to be a transformative moment, but perhaps the weight of the trauma, grief, and anxiety of the past three years has numbed us into complacency. It is incomprehensible to imagine a white man being beaten to death during a traffic stop, but for Blacks a traffic stop is terrifying.

Charles Blow addresses this issue in his NY Times article, titled “Tyre Nichols’ Death Is America’s Shame” in which he argues that we have become desensitized to the violence done to Black people because of “its sheer volume.” He points out “police killings of American citizens didn’t decrease after the killing of George Floyd; they increased.” It’s a powerful and compelling call to action.

Unitarian Universalists, along with other people of many other faith traditions showed up during the Civil Rights Movement.  In 1965, UU minister, Rev. James Reeb was beaten to death by segregationists in Selma, Alabama, and the men tried for his murder were acquitted by an all-white jury. UU layperson, Viola Liuzzo joined the movement after Bloody Sunday and three weeks later was shot twice in the head near Selma by members of the Ku Klux Klan. We can honor their legacy by standing up and fighting racial injustice, and we can begin by doing our own work of educating ourselves about the root causes of this pervasive ongoing structural racism.

UUA President Susan Frederick Gray said this about Tyre Nichols murder, “As UUs, we believe in justice, equity, and inclusion as a matter of faith and Principle. As such, we are compelled to work towards a society where these Principles are more than concepts but lived realities. This Sunday, February 5 at 9:30 and 12:30, there will be 8th Principle discussion groups and is an opportunity to learn about why adopting the 8th Principle is an important step towards this goal. UU Asheville will be voting to adopt it at the annual meeting. We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote; journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

 See you in church,

Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister







The Good Life

Since our marriage 54 years ago, my husband and I have sent out a card and letter to friends and relatives each Christmas. I have read that it is rare to watch entire lives unfold through time; but over the years, our notebook of those missives has grown thick, providing a treasure of stories about our life together. In the beginning we often reported month-by-month the activities in our, and our children’s lives. As we received similar letters from friends and loved ones, we discovered that we desired a more nuanced (read interesting) approach. Consequently, we began sharing only the major highlights of our year and then adding our thoughts about various current topics in the news, movies we had seen, books we were reading. Sometimes we wrote a theme-based letter—the effects of moving, life changes when children arrive, becoming empty nesters, freeing ourselves through retirement.

This year our letter was about our current status in the process of aging. Our audience of mainly contemporary friends is contemplating the same, we know. We shared our diagnosed “conditions;” the fact that the list of our doctors, with whom we regularly personally interact, fills more than an 8 1/2 X 11 page; and our slower pace of life, preferring to complete only one major activity a day in addition to our daily walk. However, we emphasized our gratitude for the people to whom we sent our greeting, for living in a secure place where our greater physical needs are easily met, and where our sense of community provides emotional and psychological support as well as deep friendships.

As usual, friends have telephoned, written, and emailed their reactions to our letter. These are friends we have known since college and in both our early and later career days. Maintaining these, and newer, friendships have provided us with relationships we cherish, and regular interactions that keep us connected. We often invite friends—and always family—to our Michigan cottage, where we retreat for the summer months, sharing memories, eating well, and relishing being with one another through occasional outings and meaningful conversations.

I recently read an article, “The Real Secret of Lifelong Fulfillment,” by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, the director and associate director of the Harvard University Study of Adult Development. The essay was adapted from their book The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. They write that the “one crucial factor” that “stands out for the consistency and power of its ties to physical health, mental health and longevity” is good relationships. The Harvard study findings are supported by similar findings across a variety of studies, the authors say.

Here are some statistics to give you context for the importance of human interaction: Waldinger and Schulz ask us to think of a friend we cherish whom we don’t see as often as we would like. They say that if you are 40 and you see them once a week for an hour of conversation, that is equivalent to 87 days together before you turn 80. It’s about 20 days if you see them once a month, 2 days if you see them once a year. Maybe this sounds like plenty of time to spend with good friends. But to encourage us to make encounters more frequent, they point out how much time the average American spends interacting solo with media, from television to radio to smartphones. In 2018, it was 11 hours each day. That means that “from the age of 40 to the age of 80,” media time would add “up to 18 years of waking life. For someone who is 18, that’s 28 years of life before they turn 80.” Over and over again, when the Harvard study participants reach their 70’s and 80’s, they say the thing they value most in life are their relationships with family and friends. The authors’ conclusion: “If we accept the wisdom—and more recently the scientific evidence—that our relationships are among our most valuable tools for sustaining health and happiness, then choosing to invest time and energy in them becomes vitally important . . . an investment that will affect everything about how we live in the future.”

As we begin to pursue the greater freedom of being in community together at UU Asheville, following the Pandemic, it is helpful to consider the importance of investing in relationships. Through interactions at Sunday service, at the Wednesday Thing, and at Coffee Hour in Sandburg Hall, we can re-engage with friends and acquaintances so important to the life of our congregation. In addition, we can select from the many choices offered through New Volunteer Opportunities in the UU Asheville survey on our website. All of these endeavors not only enrich our congregation but also provide us with good relationships.

Julie Stoffels, Clerk, Board of Trustees






Ray of Sun

You are a ray of sun. Together, our community brings rays of sunshine into our walls and beyond into the Asheville community.  These rays look different for each of us. They are composed of the time, talent, and treasures you choose to share. 

One of the most precious gifts we can give to others is our time. The ray of time shines because of you and the time you generously give. You carve time out of your day to listen to others, to lend a helping hand, and you volunteer in the smallest and biggest of ways. You are a ray of time.  

So many of you graciously share your talents. Your talents are the ray of light that lead us, entertain us, sustain us, inspire us, support us and challenge us to grow in supportive ways. You are a ray of talent.

If you went on a treasure hunt throughout this congregation, we would find you, sharing the treasures of gratitude, care, a heart yearning for equity, gifts of both monetary and sentimental value, and our core values of connection, inspiration, compassion, and justice. You are a ray of treasure that glistens, shimmers, and shines.   

Together, you, and your time, talent, and treasures, are the energy sources that generate our sunshine and allow our rays to shine within our walls and beyond. Let this new year be a reminder of how much you shine and how appreciative we are of you, in all the many ways you share your time, talents, and treasures.  

I invite you all to lean into the many ways we give of our time, talents, and treasures throughout the year.  In this new year, we begin our year of giving with giving gratitude to all our volunteers. In our last e-news we announced that Appreciation Ave is coming soon to Sandburg Hall! Appreciation Ave is dedicated to celebrating our Awesome Volunteer Energy! Look for the Ave in the coming weeks and start thinking about our Awesome Volunteer Energy.  On the AVE you’ll be able to add to the scene your appreciation, shout-outs, kudos, and thanks to our UU Asheville volunteers who have been moved to share their love through their service to the congregation. If you’d like to acknowledge one of our awesome volunteers, and you’re not able to be here to add your appreciation to the Ave, send us an email and we’ll add it on your behalf.  

I also invite you to explore our current volunteer opportunities. Volunteering your time is a much-needed ray of sun to the congregation and allows you to connect with others and engage in meaningful work. If the spirit moves you, please consider volunteering. Visit our volunteer sign up form where you’ll learn about current volunteer opportunities and how you can help. 

We are truly blessed that this congregation is so bright.

Wendy B. Motch-Ellis, Director of Administration 

Centering Gratitude

One of my centering practices is photographing things that bring me joy. Yesterday as I was bicycling home, I stopped to take in the beautiful light on Beaver Lake from the setting sun. I sat on the bench by the road for a moment of silence before heading home. I sat with a feeling of gratitude for the beauty before me, for the end of the workday, knowing I would be in my warm home soon on that chilly day.

I recently participated in a workshop on the practice of collaborative ministry and felt deep gratitude for the collaborative ministries in our congregation. A workshop facilitator explained why the title was “collaborative ministry” and not “shared ministry”. “Shared ministry” means that someone else “owns it” and allows participation.  “Collaborative ministry” is an effort to acknowledge the egalitarian nature of ministry. What an important distinction! The work of this congregation is not just the responsibility of the board and paid staff.  All members of the congregation have responsibility to co-create this Beloved Community we aspire to.

I see this in many areas of our work together. Staff, lay leaders and congregants working together co-create Beloved Community by supporting each other on our spiritual journeys. This happens with our congregational care team that is lay-led in collaboration with our lead interim minister. It happens in RE where our staff works with volunteers (at least 40 this year) to lead numerous programs that serve our children and youth. Where else do you see collaborative ministry at UU Asheville? How can your gifts contribute to our ministries during this exciting time in the life of our congregation?

Coming back into community after almost three years of being apart and developing new habits, has been awkward and slow. Some have not returned. Yet, there is so much happening in our congregation! We are welcoming visitors every Sunday. Religious Education is thriving. A new Soul Matters Small Group is launching this month. Our Justice Ministry partnership with BeLoved continues to deepen and engage volunteers. Our Search Committee is joyfully and earnestly going through the ministerial candidate packets on the journey of discerning who our next lead minister will be. There is much more I could list, but you get the idea. There is much to be grateful for.

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Finding Our Center

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonMy goodness, it’s another new year already, and we are on the search process home stretch!  The transitions office calls it Phase Five: Mutual Discernment and Selection.  This is very exciting and is the perfect time to get grounded in what really matters in your own life and in the life of the congregation. Rev. Claudia and I invite you to join us at 2 PM on the first and third Tuesday of the month for an hour of tea and conversation.  Stop by and share what’s on your mind and in your heart. We’ll put the kettle on!

I love the Soul Matters theme for January because it resonates with new beginnings without the burden and guilt of New Year’s resolutions. Finding Our Center is different from making resolutions or making lists of needed improvements; centering is more about listening to what calls us forth.  It is about becoming who we really are, aligning ourselves with our true north rather than improving ourselves. That feels so much better!  Someone posted a quiz on Facebook a few years ago that promised to discern your New Year’s resolutions for you if you simply answer ten questions.  I thought what the heck, I’m game. Mine turned out to be an invitation to make more room in my life for creativity!  Creativity!  Not lose 20 pounds or go to the gym every day, but make time to read books, write poetry, play my guitar, and more time to knit.

An article in the Business Insider magazine explained why it is important to daydream, and the author references the ‘two-hour rule,’ a habit that Einstein, Nietzsche, and Darwin all shared; it is simply two hours set aside per week to do nothing but think and daydream.  Daydreaming opens the door to creativity and new ideas.  It is so easy to waste two hours surfing the web or watching television, but it takes effort to spend two hours intentionally doing nothing but think and allow your mind to wander. Try it!  No tasks, no cell phones, computers or reading. YIKES! Perhaps you discover what your inner voice has to tell us about what to do with this brand-new year.  I’ll try it, because I suspect our inner voice might have more insight than a 10-question quiz on the Internet.

In his wonderful book, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer wrote, “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”  Listen for those things that inspire you.  Notice what makes you smile or laugh or intrigues you.  As the poet Mary Oliver asked;

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

See you in church!

Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister








Looking Forward to Winter

Margaret McAlisterDear Friends,
I have grown to look forward to winter…strange, perhaps, after living for most of my adult life in sunny & lush and impossibly bright Miami…but in the 4 years I have been here, I have come to relish the winter; to allow it to nourish me. I have found that it nurtures and restores me. I am getting better at leaning in to let it ground me & to calm me, because I seem to come to this time of the year worn out from a hard year of life & growth & challenges & yes, losses, too. And I see this in many of your faces, too. Our spirits are tired!
    So can I invite you to do what Winter is asking you to do: can you lean into Rest wherever you are able? Even if you don’t have the privilege of an abundance of restful time in your life, can you find small, simple places where you can embrace rest? Can resting receive just as much focus as your ‘to do’ list? What a concept! I have a To Do List daily…bet you do too. Can we put Rest on that To Do list?
    Let’s pretend, if even for a little while, for this time of year, let’s pretend that we are in the chrysalis stage of our personal evolution….Winter is the chrysalis stage in the evolution of the butterfly. It’s the time when the caterpillar is wrapped up quietly, in the dark of her cocoon. To the outside world it doesn’t look like anything is happening. (And this is one of the most challenging things about embracing rest: to the outside world it doesn’t look like anything is happening. Our brains scream at us, telling us “You’re not doing anything. You’re wasting your time.”) But actually, deep in the dark, a quiet transformation is happening: the caterpillar is evolving into a magnificent butterfly.
    Let this be a time of a transformation of our spirit, as it is a transformation of all of nature in this season. All the experiences & lessons learned over the past year are being integrated into our spirit & into our lives. And we are evolving because of it.
    Let us embrace that our only work right now is to be like the caterpillar. We don’t have to do anything. Just wrap ourselves all snug in your cocoons, and simply rest.
    Winter is the season when things are revealed by turning deep within ourselves. Embracing the quiet & the darkness – recognizing that we don’t need to do anything for the magic to unfold. This is truly the season of receiving.

Margaret McAlister, UU Asheville Board of Trustees 


Reframing Darkness

One of the gifts of my move to Asheville almost five years ago has been experiencing the change of seasons. After living in Florida for twenty-two years where nature is lush and green year-round, the annual progression of seasons has increased my connection to and awareness of earth’s circular rhythm. Winter months bring an appreciation of darkness. I grew up, as many of us, with negative associations and fear of darkness. And yet, darkness is essential to life. Seeds germinate in the darkness of the soil. Embryos develop in the darkness of the womb. Our sleeping bodies re-energize in darkness. I have learned to embrace the long, dark winter evenings as an invitation to stillness, letting go the need to always be doing something. I even welcome the opportunity to go to sleep earlier than usual. When our children were little, the onset of darkness earlier in the evening also signaled to them it was time to sleep and they also went to bed earlier than usual. Eventually, the days will get longer; the busy-ness will begin again. Until then, I will enjoy these slow, quiet dark evenings. May this also be a time of stillness and introspection for you.

Prayer to the Dark by Jan Gehris
Darkness  enfold me
nurture and protect me
hold me in
your velvet wings
Darkness loose your
creative powers in me
Quiet my eyes
quiet my ears
quiet my mind
Take the rush and
distractions of daytime
from me.
with your magic
let me be
created anew
and born from you
the light.

Rev. Claudia Jimenez,  Minister of Faith Development

Warning: Xmas trees in the lot are larger than they appear!

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonI don’t know about you, but this time of year evokes memories. Decorating our Christmas tree was especially joyful when my children were growing up. I spent hours searching for the perfect tree that we put up the day after Thanksgiving every year. My children and I strung popcorn and cranberries and generally made a big production (and a huge mess on the carpet) of the whole thing. The kids were eager participants until they became teenagers, and then I found myself hopelessly alone with the task. To salvage my sanity, I eventually bought wooden cranberries and abandoned the stringing popcorn thing. Not the best use of my time.

Wanting to relive the memories of my childhood growing up in a 100-year-old house with 12-foot ceilings, I was hopelessly driven to choose a tree that was at least a foot taller (or more) than the ceilings in our home. In my defense, it is hard to gage size when you are outdoors. Those beautiful Frazier Firs always seemed smaller in a wide-open space. Right?

My husband never minded that I consistently brought home a Times Square-sized Christmas tree because he secretly delighted in having an excuse to fire up that blasted chain saw. I’m pretty sure it stirred up some latent lumberjack fantasies.  But let me warn you, this is where “joyful” memories of Christmases past turn ugly.

At first, with my sweetest voice possible, I gently advised and guided him. “It just needs a tiny bit off the bottom. I don’t mind if it scrapes the ceiling a little, and I like it full. Just a little…” But moments after the initial roar of the chainsaw, the scent of fresh sap and pine needles coursing through the air the situation escalated into an all-out war with me screaming over the chainsaw and throwing myself in front of my poor tree crying, “PLEASE STOP!” Jim’s reply never varied; “Well if you didn’t always buy a #@&%*% redwood tree, I wouldn’t have to do this.” And then he would swagger off to the shed perversely satisfied, like Wyatt Earp after the gun fight at the OK Corral.

There would be a long silence for the next few hours at Green Meadow Farm. And God only knows how this ritual traumatized my children who tried to hide their horror by laughing hysterically. In the aftermath, while fighting back tears, I managed to salvage felled branches to make mantel arrangements and wreaths.

But the next day, I discovered as I poured out my grief and pain over the fate to my clients and co-workers at the hair salon that there were other families who endured perennial Christmas tree traumas. Turns out tree decorating isn’t always the storybook, happily ever after Hallmark moment. My behind the chair research revealed story after story of Christmas tree fights, pets of all kinds climbing the tree and having to hanging the tree from the ceiling or putting in the playpen or tying it to the walls, and other stories that can’t be repeated here.  Once, when a woman threw her live tree out in the yard after Christmas, a live opossum climbed out!

It helped to know I wasn’t alone. My recurring chainsaw tree trauma always seemed to resolve itself after a couple of days when the tree was adorned, and the spirit of the season lifted me out of my pout. Then I would stand before our stunningly decorated Christmas tree with pride and say “This is the prettiest tree we’ve ever had.”

May this holiday season be the best you’ve ever had.

In faith and love,
Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister



We Are Thankful

Thankful.  We are so very thankful for all the contributions of this beloved community this year.  We send our heartfelt gratitude to:

  • You who bought tickets to the Auction Gala
  • You who donated your services, skills, dinners, parties, gourmet items, artwork, and fine crafts
  • You who purchased the above array of events and items
  • You who worked with the Auction Team to bring to life this year’s online auction and in-person gala
  • You, members of the staff who put up with our incessant requests for publicity
  • Our numerous, generous business donors
  • Our capable caterer, Gene Ettison, and his hardworking team
  • You, volunteers and youth, who helped make the gala a welcoming, smooth-running, and fun event!

Highlights from this unique auction year include:

  • Excitement about planning our first in-person gala since 2019
  • Trepidation about COVID’s impact on our plans
  • Success in carrying out a hybrid (online and in-person) auction event
  • Discovery that many folks like to dress up and dance!

We learned that our congregation has amazing tenacity and generosity in this time of transition.  Again, our heartfelt appreciation goes out to all.

**And, our flexible, dynamic and well-organized team is always ready to welcome new helpers!

The Auction Team

The Wednesday Thank

will jerniganWell, here’s a blog during the week of Thanksgiving, following a wildly successful Meet the Moment fund drive, in a month whose theme is gratitude.  What to write about? Oh right, being thankful.  I thought about making this blog like a game of Taboo, where I tell you I’m thankful but I’m not allowed to use the words thanks, thankful, grateful, gratitude, appreciation, Thanksgiving, happy, or turkey.  That’s a fun game.  Probably would be a short blog though.  Here’s what I do want to say. Thanks!!!

When we were starting the Meet the Moment campaign, a challenge was put forth that resonated with me.  Are we a congregation with a consumer mentality or a service mentality?  Do we give of our time, talent, and treasure with the expectation that we will receive something in return, or because we think we have to?  Or are we able to give of those things with only a motive of nurturing the congregation that nurtures us?  Can we find spiritual fulfillment in the act of giving and serving, rather than it being a means to an end?  It reminded me that in giving and serving, we build a community that is welcoming, nurturing, and supportive, and we build our own spiritual selves in the process.

Here we are, the campaign is over, and the Moment Hath been Met-eth.  To me, this is a moment to be grateful for and to celebrate our UU community.  We met the moment, and we are thankful for those who were able to give.  What better example of being in community with one another?  And we even found support from folks who aren’t members; what a testament.

During the campaign, I was personally moved by the testimonials from several members.  They painted the picture of who we are. My family has only been a part of this church for about 5 years. Not sure what that equates to in UU years…But we feel at home. And this place is special. I can only think that when we go searching for our called minister, we are going to find a lot of folks lined up at the door, for a chance to be part of what we have going on.

We have a thriving RE program. We have a continuous crop of young minds to nurture, with lots of water, sunlight, and educational fertilizer so we can put more good people out into the world who can find ways to help and serve others.  I’ve got 2 kiddos in RE, and if I am being honest, I am learning from them as they go, and as they grow.  We have a resurgence of engagement and the halls are full again.  And the Auction was a blast!  Several folks took Margaret McAllister’s advice to ‘leave your dignity at home and went all out with their attire.  If you haven’t seen the pictures yet….seek them out.

Most of all, I am most grateful for the work that lies ahead with the 8th principle – accountably dismantling racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.  This one really has me thinking.  Remember the thing about building our own spiritual selves through giving and service? I feel the paradigm shift coming, and recognize that through it I will become less comfortable. Which I embrace.  It’s impossible not to grow spiritually when working on myself and the institutions I am a part of.  I have been thinking a lot about the paradox between our UU values, and the lack of diversity in our UU community.  For reasons I truly want to understand, non-white people do not generally see UU Asheville as part of their spiritual home or community. Beloved Community is a phrase now used to mean when people of diverse racial, ethnic, educational, socio-economic status, gender, abilities, sexual orientation, and various identities come together in an interdependent relationship of love, mutual respect, and care that seeks to realize justice within the community and in the broader world. The 8th Principle endeavors for Beloved Community.  I am thankful that our church is on this journey, and I am ready to get to work.

Will Jernigan, UU Asheville Board of Trustees

The Magic of Fall

The fall is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the crisp air blended with the sunlight, and the cold nights where you can hear the owls somewhere in the dark sky.  It’s a time of harvest in preparation for the winter, and I love watching the bears sauntering through town (even when they enjoy a visit to our congregational rubbish bins).  I also love the leaves dancing their way to the ground and the joy of our 3 four-legged children romping through the mounds.  But the thing I love the most about fall is the time we take to be more expressive in sharing our blessings, acknowledging our gratitude, and recognizing how much we have to share and give to others.  While I try to carry these things with me throughout the year, I find there is a special magic that occurs in fall which rekindles how thankful I am for my life journey and reminds me what is truly important.

While I am thankful for many things, one I am truly thankful for is to be serving as your Director of Administration. I believe this opportunity found me and it warms my heart knowing that I am serving each of you and an organization with a purpose and principles that align with who I am at my core. I am thankful that my life journey has included involvement in the Girl Scouts, where I developed an incredible passion and love for nature and for the beautiful mosaic of diversity in our world.  I am thankful for my Jewish faith, where I explored many religions and was taught at an early age to question everything. I attended Austin College, a faith-based institution where I received a BA in Psychology and Kinesiology, and I was mentored by an amazing administrator who loved unconditionally and fostered inclusivity. I am thankful for my time at Western Illinois University, where I obtained my Master of Science in Personnel Administration with a strong concentration on equity and diversity. I am also thankful for my favorite faculty member, who said “risk taking is inherently failure prone, otherwise it would be called sure-thing taking” and to embrace risk and be bold. These experiences led me to a rewarding career in recreational administration for the YMCA and within higher education. I am incredibly blessed that my work has provided opportunities to pursue my passion around celebrating diversity, and work towards creating equitable, diverse, and inclusive spaces. And….I am thankful that I’ve joined the UU Congregation of Asheville on this journey.

I am thankful for the warm welcome I have received by the congregation and I am thankful for those of you whom I have met thus far. I am looking forward to meeting each of you, sharing stories, and supporting you in need. I am especially thankful to Marta Reese and Linda Topp for helping me transition into my role and I am thankful for Tish and Venny, who have been so supportive and helpful.

Lastly, I am thankful that you have welcomed not only me, but my wife, and I am thankful for her every minute of every day.  We are blessed with 3 loving dogs and we are thankful for beautiful rivers, the serenity we find fishing, the joy of cooking, the excitement of mystery and action movies/tv shows, and the warmth of filling our home with friends and family for dinner parties and game nights.

Wendy B. Motch-Ellis, Director of Administration

Facing Change

rev Claudia JiménezChange in Our Nation

I’m writing this blog while people are lined up in Sandburg Hall to cast their votes on Election Day. Many of us mailed postcards, canvassed the community or participated in phonebanks to get out the vote. Some volunteered or worked at the polls. The majority, if not all of us, cast our vote for candidates that share our values.  Now we await the results knowing that whatever happens we will continue to strive to live into our values and UU principles. Whatever happens, there is much work to do to reduce the hardship, poverty, oppression and lack of freedom that many people face in our nation. It is at times like these that our UU community is a source of sustenance. We need one another in these times of transition and liminality. You are invited to join us for Zoom Vespers tonight which will be modified to create space to share what is in your hearts and on your mind today.  Consider joining us.

Change in Our Programming
Vespers, preceded by dinner and followed by a program or programs has been a part Adult Faith Development since I arrived almost 5 years ago. At that time attendance was dwindling. The Wednesday Thing Planning team and I, experimented with different ideas to re-engage the congregation.  We surveyed participants, asked for recommendations for programs and started planning to make them happen. Then, COVID hit and we went on-line with 8-24 people attending. Now that we have been in person, attendance has been minimal except for 1st Wednesdays when we share a meal and fellowship followed by the Vespers service. That will be the only Vespers service offered each month. We are grateful for all who have led Vespers, led programs and participated on Wednesdays. During COVID that midweek collection of your beautiful faces on the Zoom gallery was salvific!

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities for Adult Faith Exploration. A short survey to gather your thoughts on what kind of Adult Faith Exploration programing you would like to see in the future is below. It includes a few examples but I what our team really wants to know is what YOU are interested in exploring. One of the most rewarding aspects of my ministry with you has been when I have been able to facilitate or co-facilitate discussion circles or curricula that support you on your spiritual journey. It has also been rewarding to support those of you who have volunteered to teach classes, lead small groups or facilitate activities that build community, strengthen connection and deepen your understanding of what it means to be a UU. Why are you a UU? So, please take a moment and respond to the survey.

Change in our Denomination

And lastly, change is coming to our denominational documents. The section that houses our UU Principles and Sources is being revised. Check out this document which explains the process and has a link to the proposed changes. As you read, I invite you to reflect on these questions: How does it make you feel? What do think about the recommended changes? What feedback do you have? There are opportunities to share your feedback via a Zoom gathering or a Google form. I will be hosting a bagged lunch discussion to discuss the proposal in person Nov. 30 at noon in person and at 7 PM via Zoom. Details will be in the e-news. Please consider attending.

Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development

Pride in Diversity

This past Sunday a group of RE children began the planting of our new Pride in Diversity garden. With the help of Kate Jerome, landscape committee chair, and RE parent volunteers, Anna Martin and Sandra Goodson, the children planted a variety of bulbs that will provide color next spring. The landscape committee conceived the idea of a Pride garden for UU Asheville and is being supported by our LGBTQ+ group, Universal Rainbow Unity (URU). The Pride garden is designed to celebrate the support for diversity within UU Asheville and our community at-large with a variety of native flowering perennials with the flower colors representing the LGBTQ+ flag. Our new garden is prominently located by our main sidewalk and when completed will provide a rainbow of color throughout the seasons. In addition to the flowering plants, the garden will also be identified with a sign calling attention to Pride in Diversity.

The landscape committee has been very active this past summer and fall identifying and labeling our gardens, weeding, planting, and cleaning out the beds. We have been blessed to have a dedicated core group of volunteers taking ownership in the maintenance and appearance of our grounds and because of these volunteers we are able to landscape some of the grounds that have remained empty with new plantings, including the new Pride Garden. If you have not noticed the grounds lately, take a walk around our main campus and observe the Pollinator garden in the courtyard and the grasses planted under the wall facing Edwin Place. We also have a wonderful blueberry patch by the playground and a sensory garden in the playground. If you are a gardener or just like to dig in the dirt with other folks, consider joining the landscape committee in the spring when we will start digging again. The committee welcomes all levels of gardening abilities.

Venny Zachritz, Connections Coordinator

Dog Days

It seems that whenever my turn comes around to write the Board of Trustees blog entry, there are some really important things going on at UU Asheville that I feel obligated to comment on, lest I shirk my responsibilities as Board president.  Well, true to form, important things falling into that “must write about” category are before us once again.  But this time around, mainly to give my lighter side some equal time, I’m limiting my discussion of those things to the next (short!) paragraph.  Please read that.  These things are truly important to our community.  But for something more whimsical, probably somewhat hackneyed, but still in a way spiritual, read on beyond that next paragraph.

(1) If you haven’t yet contributed to the Meet the Moment campaign, please seriously consider that, and make whatever contribution you feel motivated to give.  Information about Meet the Moment is in the last four eNews mailings.  (2) Your Ministerial Search Committee is really getting serious now.  I hope that you were able to fill out the congregational survey.  Coming up, there are opportunities for cottage meetings and focus groups where you can help shape UU Asheville’s future.  Please sign up and speak up!  (3) The 8th Principle, along with UU Asheville’s broader efforts on racial justice and equity, will be a theme this year, and likely for a while beyond that.  Please get involved in whatever way you can to help us get closer to achieving our vision of Beloved Community.

Now for the whimsy.  Iris and I got Rosie, our yellow Labrador Retriever rescue dog, in April of 2020, just as the pandemic was starting in earnest.  She was then 3½ years old, but she had lived all her years in one loving home.  In fact, the day we officially adopted her up in Bristol, TN, the rescue representative was accompanied by Rosie’s previous owner, who had asked to be there specifically to demonstrate to us Rosie’s one true love – fetching!  She just loved to retrieve virtually any ball-like object thrown in her direction.  And she was pretty darned good at it.  Cool – a fetching dog!

When I asked Rosie’s previous owner how often he played fetch with her, he told us that he tried to do it twice a day for 20 minutes at a time.  Hmm.  Every day?  Twice?  Really?  I thought, okay, let’s just give it a go – we’ll see how it all works out – but I certainly hope this doesn’t become a chore.  Well, after a week or two of keeping up this regimen, we started to get into a rhythm.  We found much more joy than duty in our quotidian routine.  Rosie soon learned that we went certain places to fetch.  Also, she figured out our typical fetching start times, and learned visual cues that “The Fetch” was about to begin – like putting on shoes or grabbing a poop bag.  She would get as excited about our fetching adventures as just about anything, even including the rare event of getting chicken scraps in her food.

So, every morning and every afternoon at about the right time, she assumes that “isn’t it time to fetch now?” pose and gaze.  She’ll try that with both me and Iris, looking plaintively for the most likely fetching buddy.  Eventually, one of us will volunteer, almost always quite happily.  (Today’s blog, however, is only about my own experiences with this daily ritual.  I’ll let Iris write her own blog…)

For me, it is indeed a ritual.  At first, I didn’t recognize it as such.  I was too busy rejuvenating my too-long-dormant throwing arm, and feeling out as best I could how Rosie liked to fetch:  what ball to use in which fetching venues; throw-then-go or go-then-throw; in the air or on a bounce; high arcing lob or the grounder.  Over the weeks, months, and now years, we’ve gotten our dance down pat.  It has a structure that we follow, but we improvise as the spirit moves us.  “The Fetch” has matured into – dare I say it – a spiritual practice for me.  It gets me out into the fresh air each day.  It is solitary in that I’m the only human involved.  It affords a break from whatever I’m working at or worrying about at the moment.  It is meditative, in that Rosie and I can get into a rhythmic back-and-forth where my mind and spirit are free to do almost anything they need to do – from charting out my day to bathing in the Big Questions about this wide universe and my place in it.

I’m amazed by the fact that this member of a different species has helped me on my continuing journey to grow spiritually.  I’m pretty sure, though, that Rosie doesn’t know she’s helping me write my own credo!  Conversely, having only “human” perceptions, I can’t truly know the canine being and Rosie’s take on The Fetch, just as she can’t understand mine.  But Rosie’s love of and excitement about our routine makes me believe that she gets something out of this whole game, too.  What a great partnership!  Rosie has added so much to my life.  She’s gotten me through the pandemic.  She’s gotten me through tough places during my tenure on the Board.  Her constant companionship is constant support.  And indirectly and inadvertently, she is a spiritual teacher to me.  Thanks, Rosie!  Now, let’s go play fetch…

Clyde Hardin, President, UU Asheville Board of Trustees

Exploring Spiritual Leadership for Cultural Change

During the last year, I have been participating in conversations with UU lay leaders and ministers from the New England Region about spiritual leadership for cultural change. These conversations have been challenging and inspiring as I witness what happens when congregants see themselves as leaders. It isn’t just ministers or staff who lead, each member of the community has potential to contribute as leaders in different capacities in the ministries of the congregation. Spiritual leadership, according to facilitator Meck Groot, involves the following practices:
1. Centering gifts: We all have gifts. Leaders are called to acknowledge, receive and uplift these gifts in our community. This helps reframe our understanding of wealth and abundance while moving away from a scarcity mindset.

  1. Doing the inner work: Leaders work to support staff and volunteers to create and sustain community that supports healing and nurtures resilience as we process our own journeys. The community reminds us that no matter our journey, we belong to each other as equals.
  2. Tending our tradition: Leaders support bringing forth the gifts of our tradition with awareness of the importance of acknowledging and working for reparation for current and past harms. Our faith is not static. We are continually evolving in what it means to be UUs as the world we live in also evolves (sometimes it may seem like it is devolving!). Working toward adopting the 8th Principle and understanding why it matters is a way of tending to our tradition. Join us for worship October 23 to learn more about the 8th Principle and participate in the Sermon Reflection Circle after the service.
  3. Covenanting: Leaders promote the covenanting and re-covenanting process in the work and life of the congregation. Covenanting involves not only behavioral agreements but also agreements about what is needed for community to thrive, learn and take risks together. Covenanting is a practice, not a product. We not only make commitments to each other in community. We also make commitments to the Earth, justice, future generations and the other congregations with whom we covenant to affirm and promote our principles.
  4. Faithful risk taking: Leaders collaboratively discern when to take risks for justice and love that move the community beyond their comfort zone or need for certainty and perfection. Ha! I wonder when those occasions might arise for us.

These are just the basics that I hope generate curiosity as we continue to explore our hopes for this community and its new settled minister. I wonder which of these practices we would like to see more of in our current leadership (myself included) and a future settled minister. I also wonder how these practices can support the work of our Justice Ministry Council which has been tapped to hold the board and congregation accountable for implementing the recommendations brought forth by the Racial Justice Advisory Council to support our goal of being a radically welcoming, anti-racist congregation.  Lastly, I wonder if these practices resonate with you. What intrigues you? What is missing? I’d welcome an opportunity to hear your thoughts.

Rev. Claudia, Minister of Faith Development


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