As part of my work here at UU Asheville, I am compelled to contemplate “What is community?” Often in progressive spaces, and especially in progressive faith spaces, a common refrain is “It doesn’t matter who you are, you are welcome here!” I don’t like that sentiment. Yes, we need to create an inclusive space and third spaces need to be fully accessible, but… it does matter who you are! Who we are matters and should matter in community. We should reckon with the joy and rawness of each other’s lives. Details, identities, disabilities, and the very stories of our lives should inform how our congregation moves in the world. That’s actually something I like about UU Asheville, because it’s clear that those things do inform our work. We are a congregation shaped by our myriad of contexts, not a group of people that we are asking to fit into a prefab mold of what a UU congregation should be. 

But this extends beyond our walls and into our community as well. Last night I listened as my friend spoke with passion and anger about being on the bargaining team for Mission Nurses United, the nurses’ union at Mission Hospital. When someone asked them, “Why stay at Mission?” They’re answer wasn’t about job benefits, good pay, or how it’s a close commute. They’re answer was, “It’s my hospital. It’s the hospital I would go to if I was in an accident. It’s the hospital that my friend’s and family would go to. I stay only because I can make a difference through the union.” Our contexts matter, and they can shape the communities we build, but only if we choose to show up and participate in the ever-changing work of building a better community. 

Trevor Johnson
Connections Coordinator