UUCA Blog

Live Bravely, Give Generously

Sure, that’s the theme of this year’s Annual Budget Drive.  But it’s so much more than that.  It’s really my mantra for living right now.  (Which is why I start the worship services with it.)  Who knew back in September that this would be such a timely phrase?  When the Annual Budget Drive team (Gina Phairas, Will Jernigan, and Wes Miller) came up with it, we were thinking more about ministerial transitions and the general political climate.  Little did we know….

For me, Living Bravely means a lot of things, but first and foremost it means lowering anxiety WITHOUT doing crazy things: wash those hands, try to remember that 6-foot rule, walk the dog, reduce trips to the grocery store, stock a few items in case we get sick but mostly buy what we need without hoarding, wipe down doorknobs and copy machine interfaces at work a lot, breathe deeply, listen to music.  It also means learning vast amounts of new things:  Ta-da! I’m now a video editor. Who knew? And Zoom?  Never hosted a meeting before. Never actually ate a take-out meal at home before because why would we?  Just go to the restaurant, silly.

And Giving Generously?  It’s way too easy to “hunker down” and protect and connect our nuclear families and close friends.  Looking outward is just not natural.  Yet as the Annual Budget Drive team wrote, “We are called to live bravely across the wide spectrum of life.”  We are called to be generous. Learning technology to connect with others is a generous act.  Baking bread and leaving it at a neighbor’s doorstep is a generous act.  Giving money to help local small businesses is a generous act.  Giving to local nonprofits that are providing services right now is a generous act.

Here’s a request we have received from AHOPE/Homeward Bound (sponsors of Room in the Inn) who also work with Haywood Street Church and Rescue Mission:

There is one thing you could consider – and it doesn’t put you in danger. We really need good adult socks, gloves, blankets, and such. We also could use easy-to-hand-out food like peanut butter crackers, bananas. easy-to-open cans of veggies or fruit or canned tuna or spaghetti.

Drop supplies off at our AHOPE Day Center on 19 N. Ann Street downtown. Just pull up in front and start unloading. People will quickly be there to help when staff is onsite (8am-12n, 7 days a week). Or I can come to wherever and pick them up if you don’t want to be in that setting. Contact Joe Hoffman for more information.

Here’s another example of generosity.  I know a lot of you are trying to connect through video–but it can be intimidating.  So, we have 5 congregants who are willing to host a meeting for you.  Whether you want to connect with fellow UUCAers or family members or friends, contact one of these people who will either help you figure out how to host a meeting or actually host it for you, so all you have to do is click in to join.

Many thanks to these volunteers.  Look up their contact info on REALM or email Tish for that info.

Evelyn Becker
Virginia Bower
Rebekkah Hilgraves
Jeff Jones
Kelly Wedell

PS  I would be totally remiss in not mentioning that references to the Annual Budget Drive might be very good cues for you to make sure that you’ve sent in a commitment for the fiscal year starting on July 1.  I know it’s clearly impossible to know your financial status for next year right now, but we’re operating on the assumption that “normal” is the only way to plan.  We’ll flex and accommodate and adjust when we need to. Thanks!

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

 

So What Happens At GA?

I invite you to think about how it is that you show up for Unitarian Universalism. Think of the ways, large and small, that you come back to this place, that you do the work, that you share the good word. Now think about what it would be like to do that in the company of thousands of other UU’s. 

I attended my first GA in 2017 when it was held in New Orleans, LA. It was hot, crowded, and involved lots of walking. I hate being hot, get anxious in crowds, and have chronic foot pain. And I loved it. 

So what happens at GA? Well, if you think the committee meetings that we have here are exciting, just wait until you experience your first general session! Seriously though, GA is where a lot of the work of our faith happens. Sometimes it happens on a large scale in a big hall filled with congregational delegates who are voting on items like making the language of our bylaws more inclusive, or giving religious educators the right to automatically be voting delegates at GA just as ministers are. It’s also happening on a smaller scale through workshops and lectures. Sometimes it is happening in a very public way through our demonstrations of public witness.

Last year in Spokane, the public witness was a demonstration to show support for ending cash bail and putting a stop to building more jails in Spokane. The youth are there working, too. They are delegates and they help determine which Actions of Immediate Witness are voted on. They caucus together and do a lot of other activities together as well. There is also a middle school day camp that goes on expeditions in the host city, and child care for younger kids as well. There is even a child-friendly area in the main hall where all of the big events take place. There are workshops and lectures galore, for every different interest. The worship services are plentiful and diverse. The best part though, the best part is being together with so many other people who are showing up in all sorts of ways for Unitarian Universalism.
Kim Collins, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinator

UUCA Exists!

During times of change and uncertainty, when there are strange political realities, weather, and viruses, it can be easy to overlook and take for granted the things that we are used to and which are relatively unchanged.  With the backdrop of the coming minister change at UUCA and in the midst of the annual budget drive, it is a good time to remember that the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville does not have to exist.  

UUCA does exist because we want it to exist and beyond that we make it exist.  If you are reading this, I feel comfortable assuming you have at least some level of involvement with UUCA.  I encourage you to think about how you are engaged with UUCA and how engaging in more or different ways will benefit both you, UUCA, and the greater community.  

We are all so privileged and benefited by what we do and stand for at UUCA.  While it indeed does take considerable effort and determination to keep UUCA moving forward, when we all take part the the weight becomes light and I truly believe we get back so much more than what we put in.

James “Buck” Schall, Board of Trustees

Staying Safe, Supporting Community

With the increasing spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, we at UUCA are exploring ways to keep our people safe while also continuing the care and connection that is so important to our community.

So much remains uncertain about the nature of the virus and how it spreads, but there are some basic practices that we can promote that public health authorities tell us can make a difference in reducing the spread of the disease.

 Since the virus appears to be airborne, it is most easily spread when people infected with the virus cough or sneeze openly and don’t wash their hands. So, we can each help assure that the virus isn’t spread that if we cover our coughs and wash our hands frequently.

At church, this means that at least for now we should generally avoid shaking, holding or touching each other’s hands. Or at a minimum washing our hands or using hand sanitizers after we do. We have hand sanitizers in prominent places and boxes of tissues in the Sanctuary and elsewhere in our buildings. Don’t hesitate to use them. (Note that hand sanitizer supplies are low, as in we can’t buy any. Please be aware that hand-washing for 20 seconds is a very effective means of cleaning.)

This can be hard in our community, where hand-shakes and hugs are part of how we show care for each other. But in such a time we actually do more to show our caring by avoiding the touch and instead offering a smile and a few warm words.

While the corona virus remains a threat, we are encouraging staff at UUCA to avoid hand-touching. Our ushers will greet you when you arrive, but we’re discouraging handshakes, and when our weekly services close we invite you to offer an “elbow bump,” a bow and a “Namaste” to your neighbor, or just a smile. At least for now we will discontinue our traditional hand-holding.

If you’re not feeling well – especially if it’s a respiratory illness – it would be better not to come to church, but don’t hesitate to call a pastoral visitor for support. And if you need one, we’d be happy to arrange a meal train. Pastoral Visitors are Karin Eckert, Iris Hardin, Myrtle Staples, Carol Taylor, Christine Van Wandelan, and Dale Wachowiak.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

UUCA Youth Leading the Way

Last weekend we had two events that highlighted the importance of Faith Development and parent engagement in the lives of our youth. On Sunday, the Young Religious Unitarian Universalist (YRUU) youth group crafted and presented a service on the importance of friendship. They shared how their relationships deepened after the Coming of Age (CoA) trip to the Farm Sanctuary in Ithaca, NY last year. The creativity and thoughtfulness shared by the youth provided inspiration and food for thought.

We are grateful to the youth: Cameron, Ella, Fiona, Nora, Nick and Sydney for sharing their time and talent. And, for modeling what multigenerational worship can be like. A shout out to youth advisors, Langdon Martin, Sarah Hargrove, Steven Reines and Steve Lapointe for their guidance and support.

On Saturday, our Coming of Age group hosted their Trivia Night to raise money for their end-of-year trip. It was a great way for participants to get to know the youth better through the slideshow and touching introductions of each other.  The CoA event on Saturday was not only an important fundraiser for the trip, but also a chance for CoA families and youth to build stronger connections as they worked together to host a community-building event for the congregation.

A special thank you to all the parents and youth for a fun and delicious evening.  Great work!   An updated fundraising report will be available later next week. This congregation’s generosity and support of CoA is greatly appreciated. We thank Brett Johnson for his help in providing the trivia for the evening and Mary Alm for donating her winnings from the 50-50 raffle back to the CoA trip fund (more generosity on display!).

So, where are the CoA youth going this year?One of our parents shared the following information about the trip:

They are participating in a trip offered through the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) and their partner, Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS). The mission of SALS is to “provide education, research, and linkages for working class and disenfranchised peoples in order to promote understanding, empowerment, and change. SALS is committed to developing a real comprehension of the social, economic, and legal structures which affect the lives of the Appalachian People.’”

We’re excited for our CoA youth to be the first group from UUCA to participate in a UUCSJ program. Their WV program is an immersive learning experience. Our youth will travel deep into Fayette County to have a first-hand experience working and learning alongside community members with diverse perspectives on West Virginia’s past, present, and future.  It is a chance to put UU values into action, confronting the environmental, social, and economic injustices that revolve around coal mining. UUCSJ describes this program as immersion learning instead of service because it emphasizes the equal relationships and expertise among all community members and partners.  There will be some fun, too, as the youth also explore a beautiful region of WV together!

Our youth are leading the way by providing multigenerational worship that brings all ages together and engaging in justice work. They are supported by their parents, youth advisors, and the congregation in these endeavors. We look forward to hearing about the CoA group’s experiences in the fall. It does take a village to raise engaged UUs!

Faith Development work continues during The Wednesday Thing:

March 25 – The Hidden History of Asheville.
Some of Asheville’s racial history is hidden in plain sight; Patton, Vance, Merrimon, Dickson. Who were the people behind the names? Join local educator, Betsi Conti, in a discussion about how we as a community are affected by who and what we choose to remember. (Middle and High School youth are welcome!)

April 15 – Tech Talk
Join fellow parents in discussing challenges and strategies for handling teen use of technology. Facilitated by Kristi Miller.

Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development

Church or Cafeteria?

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

This past Sunday, UUCA Board President Ryan Williams spoke about his membership path at UUCA, where he arrived as a consumer (look at all the cool things I can get from this!) to his current position much further down that path as a supporter (what can I do to keep this congregation alive and vibrant?).

As luck would have it, Rev. Claudia ran across an article that speaks to this same idea but in a somewhat humorous (and yet telling) fashion.  The original author is Thom S. Rainer.  I have de-Christianized the language a bit and made it UUCA-specific in a couple of cases.  You’ll see.

Seven Differences Between Your Church and a Cafeteria

The article starts with a reminiscence of a first visit to a commercial cafeteria.  Mr. Rainer wrote, “For a small-town kid who had never seen such a feast, I was amazed.  The concept was basic.  If you paid your money, you could choose whatever you wanted.  Your preferences were paramount.  It was all about you.”  But a church is NOT a cafeteria.  And here’s why.

In a cafeteria, you pay for your preferences.
In a church, you give abundantly and joyfully without expecting anything in return.
If you ever hear someone say, “We pay the bills in this church,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, the focus is on you.
In a church, the focus is on others.
If you ever hear someone say, “I’m not getting my needs met in this church,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, you can expect to have things your way.
In a church, you should sacrifice your own needs for others.
If you ever hear someone say, “I want the order of service to be the way it’s always been,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, the business must continue to make things more appealing and attractive for you to return.
In a church, you should not expect to be entertained to get you to come back.
If you ever hear someone say, “I’m going to a church where the preacher is more exciting,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, if the customer does not get their way, the business must make every effort to address and remedy the complaint.
In a church, we should be so busy doing for others that we don’t have time or the desire to whine or complain.
If you ever hear someone say, “People are saying…,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, you have a full staff serving you behind the glass partitions, indulging your every desire.
In a church, you should not expect the staff to do all or most of the ministry or service.  Instead, the members are to do the work of ministry.
If you ever hear someone say, “Rev. Claudia, you should….,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

In a cafeteria, you will likely complain to others in person or on social media if you are not fully satisfied.
In a church, you should not have a gossiping or complaining spirit in public.  Complaints get directly communicated to the person with whom you are aggrieved.
If you ever hear or see public complaints, you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

And a bonus one from me:

In a cafeteria, you will not return if your needs or expectations are not met.
In a church, you should (and I’m quoting from our covenant) attend to our differences with openness, compassion and trust; create healing by listening and speaking in the spirit of love; and be steadfast in support of our community in times of disagreement.
If you ever hear someone say, “I don’t like the decision that was made so I’m leaving,” you know they act like the church is a cafeteria.

Have any you want to add?  Send ‘em along.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

Transition, Transition, Transition

Clyde Board

As almost all are well aware by now, our minister of 16 years is retiring in just a few months.  I myself have been here less than three years, but that too-short time at UUCA, with Rev. Mark in the pulpit, has left me wishing that I’d moved to Asheville much earlier!

Although I’m a newbie to UUCA, I’m an oldie to UUism.  I was raised as a UU, and before moving to Asheville, I spent 32 years at another UU congregation (I’ll call it UUCx).  During most of that time, I served in various leadership positions.  During those 32 years, my congregation went through three ministerial transitions.  Yes, three.  Since I saw those transitions “up close and personal,” I’m brazenly declaring myself “experienced” in ministerial transitions, at least from a congregant’s point of view.

I’d like to share a few thoughts about UUCA’s upcoming 2-year transition period, during which time we’ll be served by a professional Interim Minister.  We’ll be doing many things, the capstone of which is the selection of our permanent, “called,” or “settled” minister to start serving us after the transition period.  The Interim Minister comes “pre-fired” as they say, and is here specifically to help us through this period, and then move on.

Mainly what I want to tell you is that even though UUCx’s ministerial transitions presented many challenges, they all provided tremendous opportunities for growth, for both the congregants individually and the congregation at large.  I expect this will be the case for UUCA as well.  I expect we’ll come out of this process even stronger than we are now.

Back to UUCx:  Of those three transitions, two were departures of long-time, beloved ministers, both moving on to new experiences (which they certainly get to do, and in many cases should do).  UUCx was in pretty good shape when they left.  The other was a transition from a negotiated resignation, and the congregation had lots of issues centering around that minister.  We were a polarized community, and we needed healing.  In all three cases, however, we went through the same process; and in all three cases, the consensus was that UUCx came out better and stronger having gone through it.

As I mentioned, the Interim Minister is here specifically to help us navigate the transition.  Fortunately, the Interim we’ll hire will almost certainly be an Accredited Interim Minister (AIM).  AIMs have all received training targeted at transition work and common transition issues.  They come with the education, tools, and experience to guide us.  The ones I’ve experienced have focused on helping us recognize and understand ourselves as a congregation, largely independent of the minister:  What is our past – our conflicts and griefs as well as our joys and successes?  What is our identity now – our strengths, challenges, needs?  Where could we go in the future, and where do we actually want to go in the future – and from that, what sort of minister do we need to help us do that?

Referring to a congregation in conversation, I’ve often heard people say (and have even said myself) something like “that’s Rev. So-and-So’s church.”  That’s not really correct.  UUCA is not Mark’s church, even though I firmly believe his presence was absolutely central in making UUCA a truly great place. When our settled minister arrives, it won’t be his, hers, or their church.  It’s ours.  The congregation’s church.  The interim period allows us to recognize and internalize that ownership, take hold of it, and start planning the future for this gem we call UUCA.

I personally will miss Rev. Mark profoundly.  Full stop.  But I believe the upcoming years will be really good for us.  Lots of interesting things are in store.  So buckle up, and get ready to do the work we need to do as we usher in a new and exciting era at our beloved UUCA and, hopefully, have a little fun in the process!

Clyde Hardin, Board of Trustees

Bending the Arc Toward Better Elections

When I mention to people that before entering the ministry I spent 25 years in newspaper journalism, they often ask what I miss from that former life. The truth is: not much. At about the time I was leaving for ministry, the newspaper world was changing dramatically. Newspapers were shrinking, the demands on reporters were exploding, and compensation was falling. There is still good work to do in journalism, but it’s a rougher go these days than it was.

Still, there is one recurring moment when, even now, 15 years after leaving the field, I feel the old tug of newspaper life. And that’s on Election Day. It was always an electric moment. As reporters, we were among the first to get the election returns, and the adrenaline was pumping as we called in to the candidates for their responses and then banged out our stories as fast as we could for a deadline that was always NOW.

I had those same feelings watching the returns from the Iowa caucuses the other night. I sympathized with the beleaguered newsfolk, who I’m sure were tearing their hair out as the caucus machinery fell apart and they were left with nothing to report. But it also reminded me that for the quirks, faults and frustrations with our electoral system, it is in the end a marvel of sorts.

That for over 200 years we have managed to maintain a system that at least in concept and over the years increasing in fact assures every citizen a say in their government is kind of amazing. Yes, there have been setbacks: the Supreme Court has hobbled the franchise through the Citizens United decision, which put moneyed interests in the driver’s seat in campaigns in an unprecedented way, and by shrinking the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, once again endangering representation of minority voices. But the bones of a good system are in place and are waiting to be built on.

This is all a way of calling attention to the importance of the UU the Vote campaign that our congregation has joined in. Our country may be consumed in partisanship these days, but UU the Vote goes deeper. It takes us to the heart of trying to make our democracy truly representational. Look at the bulletin board in Sandburg Hall and you’ll find many things that we can all do to help assure that every person, especially people in marginalized communities, have a voice in our elections.

We can’t know how this work will impact the ultimate results in the election, but we can help bend the arc of justice toward a fairer and more equitable system of government.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead  Minister

Testing, Testing 1-2-3

Minister Claudia

One of the qualities of our congregation I admire is your willingness to experiment. We have been experimenting with The Wednesday Thing (this is year three!) and with multigenerational worship. These are two of the programs that generated excitement when I interviewed for my job with UUCA almost two years ago. I have updates on both.

Wednesday Thing

The purpose of The Wednesday Thing has been to create a midweek opportunity for multigenerational community-building and spiritual growth through a shared meal, worship and engaging programs. Much staff time and resources are allocated to making this midweek gathering possible. This year the planning team (Kim Collins, John Bloomer, Elizabeth Schell, Linda Topp, Winslow Tuttle, and me) has worked hard to diversify our programs with a focus on engaging multigenerational programs such as storytelling with David Novak, Fiber Friends knitting circle, Spiritual Experiences with Nancy Bragg, and drumming with Will Jernigan. We are grateful for all the volunteers who offer programs and preside at Vespers.

We have a small group of attendees each Wednesday and struggle to find hosts for the communal meal. At the last planning team meeting we discussed the value of this midweek program and the challenges of sustaining it. And….here it comes….we decided it is time to try something new! Starting in March—not February—in March we will offer only Vespers and Programs—no meal. Folks are welcome to bring their own food and eat in Sandburg Hall before Vespers. We will observe how this works as we continue to explore ways to create spaces for fellowship, fun, learning, and worship beyond Sunday mornings. Your thoughts and feedback are enthusiastically welcomed and encouraged. We are proud of our programming and hope that some or all of these will entice you to attend:

  • February 5: Storytelling with David Novak; Earth Community Circle’s Invitation to Green Sanctuary Projects
  • February 12:  Peacemakers’ Book Study – An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar- Ortiz
  • February 19: The Story of the UU Chalice Design with Jerry McLellan and Chris VanWandelen
  • February 26:  Black History Trivia with Brett Johnson
  • March 25:  Hidden Faces of Asheville: Exploring Asheville’s Hidden and Not So Hidden Racial History with local educator Betts Conti
  • April 29: Odyssey Interview: Rev. Ward

Multigenerational Worship

Multigenerational worship is another area of experimentation. I appreciate serving a congregation that understands participation in worship to be an important part of faith formation for our children. It allows them to learn to be part of our faith community and learn the songs, rituals, and cadences of worship. Multigenerational worship is an invitation for us to honor our differences and support our children in developing their “worship skills.”

I also acknowledge that crafting a multigenerational service is challenging. How does one craft worship that nourishes the spiritual needs of all ages? It isn’t easy, but it IS doable. I have received feedback about the things that work and those that don’t. I am reaching out to colleagues to discuss best practices and will be visiting our congregation in Oakridge, TN to observe one of their Whole Church services.

After meeting with RE staff and listening to your feedback (This is an ad: There will be more opportunities for feedback at the RE Town Hall after both services February 2nd!), we will experiment with offering Multigenerational Services for children in grades 3 and above with extended childcare. Whole Church services with childcare for PreK and younger will be crafted to be shorter, with more music and embodiment as well as content that appeals to adults and children.

So we begin experimenting!  For the remainder of the year we will have two Multigenerational worship opportunities (3rd grade and above) on February 23, our YRUU Service led by our youth group and May 17, the service where our Coming of Age youth share their credos. There will also be two Whole Church services (childcare for preK and younger) on March 8 for Celebration Sunday and April 19 for Earth Day/Flower Communion.

Mark your calendars and join us in this ongoing experiment in Faith Development.

Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development

UUCA Is S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g!

Minister ClaudiaLast Sunday after Melissa Murphy’s call to action to get out the vote and advocate for electoral justice, the congregation joined in “Social Justice Stretching.” We touched our toes reaching down to get the power of the grassroots. We reached our arms up to the sky for inspiration. We stomped our feet on the ground to stomp out injustice and used our hands to wipe out white supremacy. Finally, we raised our arms swaying side to side to move in the winds of change. That quick energy break during the service reminded us that we each should find our way of contributing to positive change this election year. Your participation matters.

This election year the Justice Ministry Council is encouraging all of us to participate in our denominations #UUtheVote campaign. The bulletin board in Sandburg Hall is continually being updated with ways we can each participate. You are invited to share your commitment on one of the forms on the bulletin board. So far, we have 39 commitments out of a possible 558 members & friends. I hope we have at least 100. Will you be one of those hundred?

To follow up that call to action, Melissa will be offering two workshops:

“Voting Essentials” January 29, 7PM; a Wednesday Thing program. Join us for dinner and Vespers if you can.  You would leave knowing:

1. How to look up your own voter info in the public voter search
2. Leave with your sample ballot on your phone
3. Leave with a good nonpartisan resource to use for candidate info
4. Leave with the early voting schedule in hand
5. Leave knowing the importance of sharing with all your friends as a voter turn-out strategy

There will also be a TED Talk “How to Revive Your Belief in Democracy” and discussion.

“Engaging Voters” February 11; 6:30 PM, Sandburg Hall. This training is for people who want to be active in educating voters in the spaces where they volunteer or work. It will provide more in-depth information on: voter registration; what’s on the ballot and the influence of those races on issues that align with our UU values; and how to show voters where to find essential voting information.

Lastly, there is one more opportunity to get involved. On February 23rd there is an opportunity to get “Souls to the Polls” after the YRUU (Young Religious Unitarian Universalists) youth-led service. Folks could carpool to the North Asheville library to vote early in the primary election. Why? Because NC could lose Sunday voting in any given year.  To keep it we need to show that it is needed. One thing faith communities can do is organize group voting on the Sunday of early voting to keep the numbers up, demonstrating to our government leaders that Sunday voting is used. If you are interested, please let me know at FaithDev@UUAsheville.org.

How will you s-t-r-e-t-c-h this year and make a commitment beyond your vote?

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Happy 2020, friends! I hope that your new year is off to a wonderful beginning. If, though, like me, you’re already feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything only ten days into the new year, I invite you to use this season of new beginnings and new approaches to try a maybe new-for-you approach: cut yourself some slack. Not a natural slack-cutter?  Yeah, me neither. As I type this, I’m feeling all the guilt: guilt for not finishing all the work I had scheduled for this week; guilt for this post being late due to aforementioned work; guilt for not helping my husband get my three kids to sleep, due to this post needing to get sent in ASAP. Etc. Etc.

I recently read Kate Northrup’s Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms. (Although the title specifies mothers, the book is suited for anyone in a caregiving role, and I think that’s pretty much everyone.) Anyway, the premise seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? How can we do less right now? Besides what’s going on in our personal lives, our country’s politics are in disarray; bigotry and hate crimes continue to occur daily; and the world is literally on fire. Where do we even begin, let alone stop?

While I’m not in complete agreement with every point in Northrup’s book, she does make a number of good ones, and one of them is that we simply cannot do (and hold) everything alone. We are a species built for community, despite the fact that many aspects of our modern lives leave us in isolation.

Here’s where I bring it back to UUCA. (You were wondering, weren’t you?) We begin with each other. With our community. When things are scary or overwhelming or just too darn much despite outward appearances maybe looking like you’ve got it all together (*raises hand sheepishly), we can always begin at UUCA. Our community uplifts (and challenges) its members. Our community has created social justice action plans. Our community offers hope. And the more we engage with that community, the more supported we can feel.  

This new year, I invite you to engage in some new-to-you ways. Perhaps join the Peach March and Rally on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, offer to lead a Wednesday Thing activity, or maybe sign up for a covenant group. Or, even simpler but perhaps more profound, make a point to connect with people you don’t know well at church coffee hour. Ask how they are and really listen. You can change the world more than you’ll ever know by these tiny seeds of kindness.

And yeah, we’ll make mistakes and missteps. We might occasionally miss deadlines (sorry, Tish!) and leave our spouses to do bedtime solo (sorry, Josh!) But if we put ourselves out there, the connections we make can relieve so much of the fretting, self-guilt-tripping, and despairing. And that can open up more time for the actual doing of the important work we all have before us.  

Nora Carpenter, Board of Trustees

Spirituality of Congregations

I’ve been looking at Susan Beaumont’s book, How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, again. This time I’ve been reading more about the soul of an institution.  As part of that discussion, Beaumont talks about the spirituality of an institution (pp. 57-59).  She first quotes Mary Ann Huddleston, who defines spirituality as “the manner, mode, or way in which an individual or group lives out its doctrines, ideas, values, hopes, traditions and habits of faith.” Then she presents Corrine Ware’s four styles of spirituality: thinking, feeling, being, doing.

Ware explains that each faith community has its own preferred type of spirituality, represented by some blending of the four basic types.  Most congregations express a strong preference for one or two types of spirituality and a lesser attachment to the other styles.  (Note that in these Beaumont excerpts, I have used “holy,” where Beaumont is  using “God.”  I figured it might be easier for you to read if I made the switch for you.

Congregations that favor a head, or “thinking,” spirituality are attracted to sermons, lectures, and study as a way of experiencing the holy. These congregations value understanding ideas about the holy….  They demonstrate a love of order and desire for things to be rational and logical.

 When I first read this, I stopped right here and said, YES, this is UUCA.  But then I kept reading.

Congregations with a heart spirituality know the holy by “feeling” the holy’s presence.  A congregation that favors this spirituality type over the others will experience highs and lows in religious feelings….  Heart spirituality is most often engaged through spontaneous experiences, through music, testimony, and more informal worship styles.

 Hmmmm…probably not us.

 A  congregation with a “being” spirituality values the journey.  In fact, the quest is more important than an arrival.  Being is more important than doing.  This spiritual type values a mystical approach to the holy.  They enjoy pausing to listen for the holy….  This congregation enjoys contemplation, wordless prayer, and experiences of silence and stillness.

 I thought the line about the journey was going to be us.  But turns out the journey is a bit more mystical than I was thinking so I would say that this definitely describes some of us, but we don’t practice it very much as a whole congregation. Although we are better than most UU congregations at holding a several-minute silence during the meditative part of our worship services.

 Finally, some congregations embrace a spirituality of “doing.”  These congregations experience the holy best when they are actively working to advance a cause for which they are passionate.  They are rooted in social concerns and are often impatient with the passivity of the other types.

 I know this is true of some of us, probably more of us than the “being” group, but again, is it the spirituality of the congregation as a whole?

 I am sure that every congregation does have its own recipe for spirituality, just like every classroom has its own “personality.”  But it’s not so easy to discern.  Here’s my guess.  Send me yours!

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

Back to Basics

If numbers stir your curiosity, then it’s a good bet that this new year has you wondering. 2020 – it’s been a century since we had a double year like this, and the last time we did – 1919 – was monumental, marking as it did the Versailles Treaty that ended the First World War.

Can we expect an event as epoch-making this year? Well, the potential is certainly there. And if I had to guess, I’d wager it could have something to do with the election in November. We UUs hope to have something to say in that, which is why we’re hopping on board the national initiative from UUA headquarters called #UUtheVote. Look for more details in coming weeks.

2020 will also be important for this congregation, marking with my departure in June the first turnover in the position of Lead Minister here in almost two decades. You will be learning more from your Board of Trustees about what that transition will look like.

Meanwhile, I’ve been giving thought to how our worship life might prepare us for this change. The way I’ve chosen to do this is to take some time reflecting on some of the basics of our religious tradition.

So, beginning this Sunday and continuing periodically over the next six months I intend to focus our worship on each of the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism. These principles were adopted 35 years ago in a major revision of the bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association as a way of describing what unites us as a community of faith. They are framed as elements of a covenant that all member congregations of the association agree to “affirm and promote.” And they are joined by a statement of first five, and now six sources that inform our living tradition.

These are the foundation stones of contemporary Unitarian Universalism. So, I thought that as you begin thinking about what you want for the next ministry here it might be worthwhile taking some time to examine them and consider what they call for from each of you and this congregation.

I look forward to the year ahead with you.

 Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister.

‘Tis the Season for Giving

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

xmas-gift-uucaSurprise! This is NOT about asking for donations. Though that’s not a bad idea. In fact, why don’t you just keep that idea in the back of your head while you keep reading? This IS about the many ways we accept donations. We aim to please so we try to make it as simple as possible for you to support UUCA. Here we go:

Sign up for a regularly scheduled ACH transfer from your bank account to ours. (This is our favorite–you don’t forget and we are charged lower fees than if you use a credit card.)

Sign up for a regularly scheduled donation by credit card. (Same as above but has higher fees. Does solve the forgetful problem.)

Write a check. Drop it in the Sunday collection, bring it to church and hand it to us or drop it in the black lock box outside my office, mail it. All good.

Use the Donate link on our website to make a one-time or recurring gift.

Text to give. Use that little computer in your pocket to send this message to 77977: UUAVL GIVE. Once you input your credit card info the first time, it’s easy-peasy after that.

Transfer stock shares to us. You give us stock shares and we sell them and keep the money. This has some tax advantages. (Check with your financial folks–we are NOT financial advisors.)

Set up a donor-advised fund and direct that the fund make donation(s) to UUCA. Donor-advised funds are like mini-grant foundations with you as the grantor. You get a tax deduction when you put money into your fund, not when it gets doled out by your directives. This has a tax advantage for some folks. (Same caveat about financial advisors.)

If you are 70-1/2 years old, you are required to withdraw a certain amount of money from your IRA each year (not Roth IRAs). The amount is defined by the IRS. Go look it up. If you send the money from your IRA directly to UUCA, you pay no income taxes on that contribution. (Still not financial advisors.)

If you want to leave money to UUCA upon your demise, we have our Legacy Circle Committee ready to sign you up. This does NOT have to be a large amount. And it can be as easy as making UUCA one of the beneficiaries of an insurance plan, a bank account, or investments. Contact Mike Horak.

Setting Our Priorities for a Happy New Year!

IMG_0386It’s that time of year for many of us when, in addition to thinking about holiday festivities, we are also beginning to think of resolutions for the coming year. Well, the Board is no different and this past Tuesday night, we sat around the table and started a conversation around changes we wanted to make for our board and how we do our work. The idea of change had actually begun a few months prior as we were going through the 1st module of a board training series offered by the UUA. In it, Unitarian Universalist minister Dan Hotchkiss shared his vision of how UU Boards of Trustees might construct their agendas led by values rather than policy. After all, board work, he suggested, can and even should be something that at its core is spiritual work.

I bet that if I were to ask people in our congregation what they think of when they hear the words “Policy Governance,” many would quickly conjure up ideas centered around bylaws and procedures and checklists regarding less-than-spiritual topics such as facility repair and staff contracts. And while these things are crucial in keeping our UUCA boat afloat, these are not the work of the Board.  Hotchkiss reminded us that policy governance is actually intended to make space for more lofty matters. “The purpose of good governance,” he says, “is to free the Board to spend more time on thinking about the future of the congregation itself in relation to a deeper and better understanding of the congregation’s mission.” Hotchkiss went on to describe his idea of how to do this, in what he called “An Annual Vision of Ministry” that would set three “Priorities” for the Board as well as an “Open Question.” The priorities guide the work of the year. The open question starts a conversation around the years to come. Though this would not limit the Board in regards to addressing other issues as they arise, it would establish a core focus for the Board’s annual work in a way that would allow for a more “values-driven” agenda. It would also provide for a common language which we could use to communicate the big picture of our work with the congregation. So this past Tuesday, we set out to decide which big priorities would guide our board work through the end of the church year.

The priorities chosen to guide our work for the current year are as follows:

Finding the Right Interim: This might seem like an obvious priority, but as you can imagine it will require everything from establishing a search committee that can navigate the paperwork and procedures required by the UUA to working within the Board as well as the greater congregational community to collect and communicate what people are feeling in regards to the interim process.

Widening Our Welcome: All members of our congregation’s leadership recently participated in a series of surveys, interviews, and training in a process called the IDI or Intercultural Development Inventory, which measures cross-cultural competency and suggests ways of broadening our goal of creating a more inclusive space for all. By setting these ideals into our agendas, we hope to explore ways as a Board to share some of our learning with the congregation as well as to make space for reflection on our practices and places that might lead a more welcoming environment and experience for all.

Building Board Visibility: As we enter in a time of transition/departure in leadership, we felt that greater Board visibility could help provide an aspect of stability during the change. In addition, as the Board is ultimately responsible for making the hire of the interim minister, it serves us all that the congregation better know who we are, what we are doing, and how to comfortably communicate with us their feelings around the transition.

In addition, we agreed on one Open Question:

How Will Transformation Be a Part of Our Coming Transition? Though this does not guide our action steps for the current year, this question will be a recurring theme regarding conversation and outreach with the congregation as we begin to think about the bigger picture of UUCA after Mark. Mark has led this community through many transformative changes over the last 15 years. The question for us now will be what transformations might we want to communicate and create in time when a new minister is called?

In the coming months, the Board will be using these priorities and questions to guide what we do both during our monthly meetings as well as outside of them. We will be communicating and reaching out to you as the congregation to help us in this work as well as for us to make sure that this work is helping you. Be on the lookout for information in the newsletter, on the Board of Trustees bulletin board in Sandburg Hall, on Facebook, in order of service inserts, and in conversations over coffee, just to name a few. And feel free to reach out to me or any member of the Board if you have questions or comments regarding this work ahead. (I have a new email address at board@uuasheville.org)

This coming New Year, I am making the usual resolutions to curb some of the bad habits and strengthen some of the good ones. But perhaps one of my biggest goals for the coming year is that I do my part to help our congregation move into 2020 celebrating what HAS BEEN while also building something NEW together! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you all!

Ryan Williams, President, Board of Trustees

Connect with us on Facebook

We are solar powered