UU Asheville Weekly Message

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


October Reflections

Photo of Rev. Dr. Cathy HarringtonIn the middle of October, when the nights grow cool and there is a hint of fall in the air, I love to sleep with my window open. It is a delight to smell the fresh, cool air and snuggle under the protective warmth of my comforter and my dear dog. I remember one morning, just before dawn, in an October morning in Chattanooga, I woke to the sound of crickets. Instead of realizing I was hearing real crickets, I fumbled for my iPhone thinking someone was calling me. Yes, my ringer was set to the sound of crickets, for nostalgias sake. OMG, how much do I love the sound of crickets? When I lived in Alaska and California, there were no crickets, and I missed them something awful. No crickets or fireflies, can you imagine?

Welcome to the 21st century, where your phone ringer can play music (any song you like if you are willing to pay for it), church bells, jazz guitars, motorcycles, dogs barking, and, will wonders never cease, an old-fashioned telephone.  I once set my phone to sound like a barking dog for when my older son called but the problem was that I rarely answered in time because it sounded too realistic, it took time it to register that it wasn’t a dog but my phone! My son thought I was avoiding him, so the bark had to go.

My favorite time of day in Asheville is sharing a morning walk with my dog, Zoey. Most mornings we get in the car and drive to Lake Louise. The usual suspects are there with their dogs or their walking buddies. We nod with recognition of our shared morning ritual. The freshness of morning invigorates me as I listen to the ducks and the occasional geese and watch them feeding along the shoreline of the lake. Zoey sniffs every bloody inch of grass as if the landscape had somehow changed from the day before. Of course, it is has changed, there have been wild turkeys, bears, moles, and God knows what else passing through in the night. When the mornings are warm, I watch the edges of the lake for turtles peaking their head out of the morning mist. It’s a treat, and when I don’t see them, I feel a loss as if seeing a turtle everyday brings me luck.

I feel especially lucky when I hear that familiar honking overhead and look up to see a gaggle of Canada geese migrating in their “V-formation.” It’s magical. National Geographic reports “Geese can cover 1,500 miles in just 24 hours with a favorable wind! By flying in “V-formation” rather than in isolation, the whole flock adds 70% greater flying range. When the “leader” tires, he falls back to rest, and another takes his place.  Teamwork and shared responsibility pay off, and I never tire of looking up to witness their wisdom.  Lake Louise is a popular sanctuary for the Canadas as they head out on their journey in both Spring and Fall. But the wisdom of the morning doesn’t end here.

One morning, just as the sound of the geese began to fade, I heard an owl hooting in the distance. As I paused to savor the sound and thought about how as a society we have “adapted” to the noise of traffic, leaf blowers, construction sites, and the blather of endless political scandals of the day on the news or radio. I remember moving from Seward, Alaska to Berkeley, California, and the jarring culture shock I felt. I couldn’t fall asleep without earplugs for weeks but after a while I adapted, and the noise didn’t bother me. Adaptation is a remarkable survival tool, but what have we lost in our adapting?

It seems that everywhere I look, people are walking with earbuds or headphones listening to music or talking on the phone even when they are walking in the exquisite beauty and calm of nature, missing the gifts of its silence and gentle sounds. I think we should resist! The 21st century doesn’t have to mean that we stuff our ears, close our windows, and lose our sensitivity to noise and nature.

Sunday worship may seem old-fashioned or passe to some, but what if going to church on Sunday morning is a radical act of resistance? With its beautiful music, beloved community, deep reflection, a commitment to social justice, religious exploration, meditation, prayer, gathered hope, inspiration, and the joyful sound of laughter and children and friends as opposed to simply tolerating the unwelcome noise that insists on invading and poisoning our lives.

Resist! Renew your commitment to making life meaningful, joyful, and fun.  See you in church!

Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister


Q’ Pasa? What’s Happening?

rev Claudia JiménezWelcome back, y’all! Bienvenides de nuevo! It has been a joy to see our sanctuary alive with your presence. It has been heartwarming to see all our children, youth and Religious Exploration volunteers join us for the Wisdom Story. Kudos to our religious educators, Kim Collins and Jen Johnson for their preparation for another year full of learning, relationship building and spiritual deepening.

Religious Exploration for adults is also launching this month. Our lay team, Jim Steffe, Kelly Weddell and Sherry Lundquist, supported by Kim Collins and me, has also been preparing for the new congregational year. A few highlights:

Women & Spirituality: The Goddess Trilogy. Facilitators: Susan Foster and Sherry Lundquist

Reproductive Justice: Expanding Our Social Justice Calling. Facilitators: Jane Bramham, Neal Jones, Rev. Claudia
Initially scheduled for the Fall, we decided encouraging engagement with UU the Vote this fall is the best way to support reproductive justice and access to abortion healthcare in NC for women and our trans and nonbinary siblings. The program will be offered in January 2023.

Soul Matters Groups. Facilitated by members of UU Asheville.
Groups meet October-July. We have 9 groups that a ready to gather. There are three types of groups that gather to explore the monthly themes using the Soul Matters packets that include prompts and readings. Soul Matters Groups focus on dialogue; Creativity Matters groups focus on artistic expression; and UU Writers share written reflection. Questions? Contact Venny Zachritz.

And, of course weekly Vespers & Program.

I will also be hosting a Bagged Lunch Dialogue on the book Search by Michelle Huneven, October 21 from Noon-1pm in Sandburg Hall. Although the author broke covenant in writing the book and that is deeply troubling, it is a useful learning tool. I know some of you have read it and I think a conversation about it is important.

Y, tenemos un programa nuevo! And, we have a new offering to support spiritual deepening and the work of liberation. It is an opportunity to discuss novels (and an anthology) that invite us into covenanted, deep listening conversations that can be challenging. Rev. Cathy and I will be co-leading a 1st Thursday Noon Bagged Lunch and 7pm Zoom “Embracing Discomfort” Book Dialogue.

Nov 3               There There by Tommy Orange

Jan 5                Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, edited bu Saraciea J. Fennell

March 2           Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

May 4              On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel by Ocean Vuong

I look forward to seeing you at one of the many offerings at UU Asheville! Nos vemos!

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Purpose and Possibility

It’s been 17 years since our congregation last searched for a called minister. That means many of us have never engaged in the work of a ministerial search, and for others it’s been a while. So now is a good time to reflect on what the search process is all about and what role we all play in finding our new minister.

First, know that the process is well underway. We’ve chosen a committee to help guide us through the search process, but you may be surprised to learn that the committee’s job is not to decide who the next minister should be. Rather their task is to find the minister who can help us realize our vision for UU Asheville.

We all have a role to play and the committee can’t play their part if we don’t play ours. Our committee needs to know what we want “church” to look like, what role we want to play in our community, the concerns we have, and what we see as UU Asheville’s purpose. In other words, we tell the committee where we want to go, and they find a faith leader who can take us there.

The committee is not looking for their minister, they’re looking for our minister, so they need to hear from us. To make that easy, they’ve laid out two tasks for everyone in the congregation. Let’s do both.

First, complete the congregational survey. This is your first opportunity to tell the committee your hopes for UU Asheville. Admittedly, the survey is a little long so set aside some time to give it some real thought. You’ll find that the survey will not only help the committee get a picture of who we are, it’s also designed to help you envision what we could be. It’s well worth the time investment.

Second, attend a cottage meeting. In these small group meetings, you’ll once again be thinking about the purpose of UU Asheville, but unlike the survey, you’ll be sharing your ideas with and listening to those of fellow congregants. It’s an opportunity to begin building the community you want to be a part of.

Those are the two tasks we can all do to help. Complete the survey and come to a cottage meeting. Pretty simple.

While the search process is a time for reflection about who we are, it’s also a time filled with possibility. May we approach the search process with excitement, curiosity, and openness to the possibilities a new minister can bring.

Gina Phairas, Ministerial Search Committee Chair





Magical Moments and Grief’s Strange Journey

karen dill“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.”  Joan Didion
Death is inevitable and an undeniable fact.  Yet the grief that follows death can challenge facts.  In her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion chronicles her first year alone after the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne. She questions reality and her own sanity in the aftermath of John’s death. Embarking upon a surreal and dark journey, Joan struggles to understand the death of her beloved husband and the sudden end of their remarkable partnership.
In the days, weeks, months after my husband’s death in April (and the subsequent deaths of a college friend, a beloved 95 year old aunt, and our own Mark Ward), like Joan Didion, I also questioned reality. The order of the universe is shuffled. Life changes in an instant and the rational mind searches for an explanation…a meaning to the madness. Magical thinking becomes a survival tool.  It is a way to navigate the unthinkable and is a beautiful diversion from the agony of living without the life partner who has anchored your life for so many years.
And the strange journey of grief begins.  Perhaps, in this world of magical thinking, my husband of 35 years will return.  Magical thoughts, though illogical, can be comforting.  My husband’s shoes are left by the bed. The hair brush he owned since childhood stays by the bathroom sink along with the toothbrush. His favorite coffee cup with Thomas etched on the side waits in the kitchen cupboard. None of this makes sense but neither does his absence.
This strange journey of grief continues with magical thoughts that he’s out there somewhere. Maybe he is in the wind chimes that move without a breeze at the same time every evening.  Or is he the sweet wren that appears on the deck railing every morning at 6 AM with the same lyrical song?  The bedroom lamp that blinks at odd times must be a message.  Surely those are signs that he is present, still lingering in this hopelessly imperfect world. But are they just desperate and magical illusions in this insane world of grief?
“Grief is the price we pay for love”, said Queen Elizabeth II after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Grief is the inevitable price for loving our partners, our families, our friends, our anchors. In this imperfect world, we love and we lose that love.
Joan Didion says that we keep the dead alive in order to keep them with us. And magical thinking temporarily makes the pain manageable. But slowly, in time, the human spirit rallies.  And magic of a different sort materializes.
For me, these are brief and unexpected magical moments. Sunday’s service when the beautiful music filled my soul was a magic moment. The lit candles that created a brief moment of light in the darkness. The kind word and the smile from a congregant that fostered a sense of belonging. All magical moments.
Occasionally the tentacles of fear and sorrow that have entrapped my battered heart loosen  and I take a deep breath.  My soul lightens for an instant and my mind is gifted with the beautiful clarity that I have loved and have been loved.
Love is not lost. And knowing that love is not lost…that is the magical moment that gives meaning to his strange journey of grief.
Karen Dill, UU Asheville Board of Trustees

A New Church Year!

Dear ones,

It is a busy and exciting time as we begin the new church year and our second year of the interim process. Your seven-member Search Committee met with Keith Kron in August following the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop, and they met last weekend with their UUA coach for a retreat. Watch for invitations to join them for Cottage Meetings and other events that will assist them in their task of choosing your new settled minister. These meetings will be your opportunity to share your hopes and dreams for the future.

The UU Asheville staff had a wonderful retreat at the beautiful Montreat Conference Center in early August for teambuilding/brainstorming, and we spent time discussing UU Asheville’s assets and how they might be used to fulfill the mission of the congregation.  It is no surprise that aside from having a talented and dedicated staff, you have much to be thankful for!

YOU HAVE: a beautiful sanctuary with great acoustics, natural light, and a wonderful piano, a great location with beautiful outdoor spaces, a stone patio, a fire pit, a lovely Memorial Garden, and Sandburg Hall is a great place to gather. There are many Religious Exploration rooms, Les brings in wonderful guest musicians, you have a great choir, and you have Les J. Asheville is a beautiful place to live, and UU Asheville is connected to and benefits from and many non-profits and social justice organizations such as Beloved, CoThink, Planned Parenthood, Faith4Justice, Mother Read, the Arboretum, and so many more. UUCA has its fun annual Mountain Retreat, a rich and vibrant Religious Exploration Program that is under the creative and competent leadership of Rev. Claudia, Jen, and Kim J This includes the OWL Program, the Coming of Age Program, and the children’s religious exploration classes being this Sunday! OMG, we are so lucky to have our house band, the Sandburgers, the Soul Matters curriculum enriches our lives with Small Groups, Creativity Matters, UU Writers, and so much more. There is a new Buddhist Sangha that meets twice a month, and the 8th Principle/Anti-Racism work happening. The Wednesday night Vespers and programming are starting up this week, and the choir will be singing twice a month beginning on September 18th.  And then there is YOU!

Yes, your presence matters!

Don’t miss the fun and our Opportunity Fair on Sunday, September 18th.  Maria is bringing her food truck, the Sandburgers will serenade us while we eat tacos and explore opportunities to get involved in the shared work of creating beloved community.

Unitarian theologian, James Luther Adams, once said that church is where we get to practice what it means to be human. Being human, with all its ups and downs, is so much better in a community where you are loved for who you are, where you are safe and can grow and learn, share your gifts, and receive the gifts of others while working together to make the world a better place.  We look forward to seeing you in church!

In faith,

Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister









“Communication Leads to Community”-Rollo May

Many of you shared your frustrations with receiving too many regular emails from UU Asheville, and that’s a fair frustration. I know when I receive too many emails from any organization, I tend to skip reading all of them. I also find myself aggravated when I want to go back and reread something and can’t remember which of the multiple emails I found the information. We’ve heard you, and we understand.

We also want to keep you informed of what’s happening at UU Asheville. One of the joys about a community rich with programs and offerings is that it’s challenging to communicate it all effectively. So, we’re trying something new. This week we’re launching our reimagined Weekly eNews! Instead of receiving an email on Monday morning about worship, Tuesday afternoon with TLC news, Thursday’s eNews, and then Sunday’s worship link, you’ll now receive one regular email on Wednesdays (special topic emails will still happen periodically in addition to this weekly email). This Wednesday email will still be called our Weekly eNews and will include: worship information for Sundays and Wednesday Vespers, This Loving Community (TLC) news, the weekly blog (now called the weekly message), and all the information you’ve come to expect from the Weekly eNews.

While we’ve combined all the information into one email, it also means that it will be longer than usual. However, it will be a one-stop-shop which means you’ll know where to go when you are looking for information. We know not everyone will have the time to read it all, but we encourage you to scan through it each week to stay informed. We’ve broken the email into subject headers such as “Wednesday Vespers,” “Sunday Worship,” “This Loving Community,” and “News & Events.” Our hope is that you’ll be able to digest the information with a bit more ease. Of course, we still encourage you to submit your eNews items! Our deadline is now on Wednesdays at 10am, 150 words or less, and please use standard capitalization practices and a 12-point font.

Lastly, we’re changing how we share our virtual Sunday services. Instead of receiving a unique link each Sunday morning, you can now watch on our website. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. (and click the red “Subscribe” button).

As with all new communications practices, we ask for your patience as we roll out the new format (and work out the problems). We’ve listened to your feedback, and we hope our response meets our shared need for effective communications.

Brittany Crawford, Director of Administration

Invitation to Share the Journey

We are excited to start the 2022-23 year with all of our Religious Exploration groups meeting in person this fall, starting Sunday, September 11. We have been imagining and planning a robust program with 4 different *OWL classes, a PreK and Kindergarten class, 2 groups for elementary aged children, a world religions class with field trips for middle grades, high school youth group, and (NEW!) some all ages – that’s ALL ages, young to elder – spiritual practice and religious exploration opportunities, and family ministry events! We are enthusiastic to try some new things with y’all this year and to host some vibrant, enriching, faith deepening and justice oriented experiences at UU Asheville.

Our goals this year are to develop in all of our children and youth a strong sense of UU identity, an understanding of our principles and sources, a sense of belonging and being held by our congregation, and the understanding of why it’s important to organize and act for the rights of all marginalized peoples. Our curricular choices reflect that, with our elementary choices coming from the UUA’s Tapestry of Faith curricula, as well as a new (to us) World Religions curriculum, Crossing Paths, from Soul Matters. Our YRUU (high school) youth group will explore a combination of youth group theme materials from Soul Matters, OWL, justice learning and projects, planning and executing our beloved YRUU worship service, some fun traditions and new experiences, and a summer youth trip.

*OWL = Our Whole Lives, a comprehensive, faith based sexuality education program that was largely and unfortunately suspended for 2 years due to the pandemic preventing consistent in person gatherings. (We did offer a virtual parent/caregiver support group and a few high school OWL sessions in person.) We know that it is important, lifesaving information and are dedicated to getting the curricula to as many children and youth as possible this year. We are able to offer OWL to 7th-9th graders (2 different year-long classes!), 4th/5th grade, and 10th-12th graders. Leading OWL requires an intensive offsite weekend training, and we are grateful to the volunteers committed to this valuable program.

Please register your children and youth to stay in the loop about all the happenings in RE and Family Ministry at UU Asheville. This also provides us with important information to best support your child(ren)/family.

Serve in Religious Exploration! Our children and youth need a village of caring adults to know them and to help guide their faith exploration. Kids thrive by growing up in a loving community of adults who pay attention, laugh, create, listen, play, teach and learn alongside them. Young adults to elders are encouraged to join our amazing team of volunteers; this is not just a job for parents. No expertise needed; open minds, loving hearts and helping hands are the name of the game. We will train and help you, and the lesson/game plans are provided! Will you join our younger generation and explore Unitarian Universalism with them? We’re especially seeking some more people to care for babies in the nursery, assist our PreK-K staff, and lead/assist in our elementary aged groups (younger and older elementary). It is transformative work that can nurture your own spirit. In order to sustain the program we envision and our families desire, we need your support! Please contact us — and come to the RE volunteer training this Saturday, August 27 (begins at 9:45 in Sandburg Hall).

Religious Exploration will launch on Sunday, September 11. On that date, we will happily return to our pre-pandemic ritual of everyone gathering together in the Sanctuary each Sunday for the chalice lighting, opening, music, and wisdom story. Children, youth, and RE volunteers will be sung out to their classes following that Time for All Ages.

Note: we will also have periodic 9:30 RE for all ages and 11:00 all ages worship. Watch for those announcements in the Weekly eNews.

Still have questions? Contact us! If your child is Nursery-8th grade, please email Kim. If your youth is in 9th-12th grade, please email Jen.

Jen Johnson and Kim Collins, Religious Educators

Generosity & Meaning-Making

“Generosity costs us something–and it is because it costs us something that generosity is actually meaningful.” –Steve Lawson

The question of what makes a meaningful life is one we’ve all explored. It’s at the heart of every religious and philosophical tradition. Of course, that question contains a multitude of responses. We’re born into families and identities that shape how we make meaning in and of our lives, and our experiences along the way may redefine for us what is meaningful.

When I saw Steve Lawson’s email in my inbox, the subject line read, “The Ultimate Gift Is a Life of Meaning.” It was intriguing enough to open his monthly blog post, but I did not expect his first sentence to read, “Generosity is directly connected to meaning.” He argues that every choice we make comes at a cost in our lives, and because generosity costs us something, it inherently holds meaning.

If we follow Lawson’s premise, and what we give is an avenue to meaning-making, then the reverse may also be true. Perhaps we discern what is meaningful to us by examining where/what/who we are generous towards. We might examine questions that ask us how we spend our time, where we give our money, and who receives our gifts as a way to understand what gives our lives meaning. And in this examination, we might find a discrepancy between what we believe is meaningful and how we spend our days.

Often when we talk about generosity in congregational life, we’re almost exclusively referring to money. And yes, money matters—how we do our work depends on it. However, generosity in congregational life also involves the giving of our time. What we give our time to is not just what interests us but what we find meaningful. Whether it’s weeding the grounds, filling the BeLoved pantry, joining a committee, or serving as a worship associate, we bring meaning to our common life by sharing generously of our time, talent, and money.

As we begin this new program year, we invite you to explore meaning-making in the life of our congregation through generosity. We’ll have several opportunities for you to learn how to get involved. We’re also bringing back tabling on Sundays during after-service coffee starting this weekend. More information about opportunities will be available in future eNews editions.


Brittany Crawford, Director of Administration

Connect with us on Facebook

We are solar powered