Seven Last Thoughts

35296309_2138138173128045_8498647072168214528_n (2)As seven years of our ministry together draws to a close, we can look back with fondness and pride. As we say goodbye, we can acknow-ledge the times we have disappointed one another and forgive ourselves and each other. We can be grateful for the big moments and the little ones, and know that our journey together has been meaningful and fruitful. I, for one, have been changed for good. I owe you my deepest gratitude for the moments you have shared with me, some public, and some deeply personal.

And so much has happened in that time – in your lives, in my life, and in the life of the congregation. as my ministry among you comes to an end, I leave you with seven thoughts:

  1. Remember that this is a community that cares for one another. To love one another, they say, is the greatest commandment. Love wins. But remember that love doesn’t win by itself. It wins because we fight for it, because we choose it again and again and again.
  2. Come on Sundays even if you’re not interested in the sermon topic.  What you are doing here together is not consumable, it’s not a product. As you sit in the Sanctuary surrounded by these people working toward creating beloved community together, know that it matters that you are here – to the person sitting next to you, and to everyone. As Horton the Elephant said, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Plus, you never know what magic is waiting for you in unexpected places.
  3. When someone asks you to volunteer for something, say yes. But only if you really want to. And by that I mean two things – One, this community is yours, it only exists because of the commitment of each of you. And two, it’s no good to have volunteers who aren’t really into the commitments they’ve made. So if you are asked to volunteer for something and it isn’t your thing – give a gracious no, and then go find something that IS your thing. Which brings me to number 4:
  4. This community matters. It matters to all of us here today. It matters to the community around us. It matters to the queer kids who met here years ago before there were other places that would give them a meeting space. It matters to the couples who had no place else that would celebrate their marriage. It matters to the earth when we limit our collective carbon footprint. It matters to immigrant partners when we declare this a sanctuary congregation. This community matters because you live your values every day both inside and outside this building.
  5. The children are NOT the future. They are the present. They will become the future, but they are here now, and they are participating in the life of this congregation now. They are learning how to do church. How to live in community. How to be Unitarian Universalist. How to live their values. Help them, support them, get to know them. Really see And let them help you. You won’t regret it.
  6. Go deeper. No really. That’s the greatest opportunity we have in religious community. You’ve gathered here for fellowship and fun, to connect and reflect and the relationships you build here are special. This community is built to hold all of you – both “all of you” and all of YOU. Go deeper, ask questions, explore your authentic selves. Because the greatest gift you can give the world is authenticity.
  7. And seven’s a duplicate: It’s so important I’m going to say it again. Love one another. And keep fighting for love to win. Even when things look bleak and we have to fight harder than we ever thought we would, keep choosing love. Keep choosing love again and again and again. Choose fierce, active love. Live your values, fight for justice. If you do these things, love will always win because hate will never get the last word.

It has been my goal these seven years to help you trust yourselves, to support you in finding your own voice, to believe in what is possible when we come together and try. And I do believe in what is possible. I believe in this community and I believe in what it has to offer

I will miss you a great deal, and hold you in my heart as I travel this next stage of my journey.  As I leave, I hope you will remember just one thing:
It’s possible. Anything’s possible.

Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper
June 10, 2018

Changing, Even When It’s Hard

We at UUCA rightly take pride in our commitment to social justice. Our principles, our values call us to be advocates for change to make the world more fair, compassionate, and equitable, to disrupt patterns of historic wrong that oppress so many people and endanger the Earth. Yet, nearly always, it seems, the hardest kind of change that we are faced with is not in the world but in ourselves.

When you think about it, that’s not surprising, since some of the toughest problems that face us are the result of deeply-ingrained practices and thoughts, ways of thinking or doing things that are woven into the fabric of how things seem to work, that we don’t really even think about. Yet, that is precisely why we need to examine them.

This is especially true when we’re dealing with the heritage of white supremacy. Those of us with white skins pretty much get that there are patterns of oppression that put people of color at a disadvantage simply because of their color and also give us privileges simply because of our whiteness. It’s not something that we or they have a choice about; it’s marbled into our culture.

So, part of our work, as people who love justice, is to do what we can to change that culture, to disrupt assumptions, and to use our privilege, our advantages, to correct disparities that result from them. Much of our most important social justice work in the last several years has been focused precisely on that. And it’s helped us make important and lasting connections in communities of color and with other organizations allied with us in this work.

But as we get deeper into this work, we see how much further we have to go. Once we are in conversation with people of color, strategizing next steps, we find that even how we organize tasks can insinuate white supremacy culture into the work. For example, we may be stingy in how we allot decision-making power, seeking to hold onto it ourselves, rather than sharing it. Or we may bring a hyper sense of urgency or perfectionism to the work that stymies our effort. All of these, we’re coming to realize, are artifacts of the prevailing white culture that make it hard for people of color to fully participate with us.

To help sensitize myself to this I am participating, along with about a half-dozen UUCA members, in a webinar called “Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves” that helps address these issues. I’ll include links at the bottom of this column to some of the resources I’ve gleaned from this training that I hope you will consider taking some time to look over during the summer. This is all part of the inner work that we need to be doing if we are going to be effective advocates and allies in the work of justice.

Here are some resources from “Changing Sytems, Changing Ourselves:
I Love My Undocumented People” – a 3-minute YouTube video

Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo – a 22-minute YouTube video

White Supremacy Culture – a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture which show up in our organizations

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

This and That: Auto-debits and Religious Education

OK, I know, auto-debits and religious education are not two topics that go together, but since my job covers both areas AND I have something to ask you in each category AND I only have one blog to do it in, here we are.  Auto-debits first.

ATTENTION!!  We have 60 donors who use bank account or credit card auto-debits whose accounts will not be debited starting in July unless you take ACTION!!!  You have already been individually contacted multiple times.  Now it’s time to go public.  IF your commitment payments happen automatically right now and you have not already acted, they will stop in July unless you either use REALM to change your account information or contact your bank and ask them to make the change through their system.  (Contact Tish Murphy for the UUCA bank routing number that you need.)  Here’s how to use REALM to make the necessary changes.

This action is necessary because REALM uses a different set-up than MY INFO and I decided to stop paying for both systems.  This has caused confusion that I regret, but it won’t help now to reverse that decision because we have about an even distribution of people using the new REALM set-up and those that have not yet changed over.  So please, if you have not yet done so, avoid a phone call from our follow-up team by changing your auto-debit details today.

Next up, religious education.  The soon-to-be-Rev. Claudia (she gets ordained THIS Sunday!) was in Asheville for a few days last week looking for housing and took some time to meet some of us.  She met with me, Rev. Lisa, Kim, Jen and the RE Council and attended a Wednesday Thing.  We all came away feeling like this whole new staffing arrangement might actually work out well, while still admitting that change is definitely uncomfortable. 

Be that as it may, we told her lots of good things about UUCA, one of which is that we are growing our proportion of non-parent RE program contributors.  Now, I sure wouldn’t want to be wrong about that, so I’m asking all of you child-friendly folks to think long and hard about how you can volunteer in our RE program.  We have easy Sunday tasks (classroom assistant for the summer or in Spirit Play), non-Sunday tasks (usually organizing stuff or copying), the stereotypical Sunday task (part of a teaching team for grades 4-8 or leading one summer program) and our most challenging tasks (1) previously trained teachers for Our Whole Lives classes—we pay for your training, 2) Coming of Age teachers, or 3) YRUU advisors.

Pick your interest level, your capabilities, your time commitment and volunteer to work in our program.  For more information or to volunteer, contact Kim Collins (LREC@uuasheville.org).  We need you.  The kids need you.  And what you will learn is that you need our kids for your own faith journey.

As We Begin to Say Goodbye

When my departure from Asheville was announced in November, it seemed so very far away that I didn’t put much thought to it. On Christmas Eve walking into the late service, Mark and I looked at each other, realizing at the same time that it would be our last Christmas service together. But we both shook it off and quickly said, “nope, we’re not going to go THERE yet, it’s too soon!” and moved on.

And now, seemingly all of a sudden, it’s the end of May and the “lasts” are coming fast and furious. The goodbyes are beginning. I sat in the Coming of Age credo service realizing that the sharp and articulate young men speaking that day had been 7 or 8 when I arrived here in Asheville — and now they’re so grown up! A lot happens in seven years, even for those of us whose rate of growth has slowed. And so we begin to say goodbye.

As you have already heard, I’ll be going down the mountain a bit — to Greenville, SC where I will serve as the minister of the Greenville UU Fellowship. I am looking forward to the new position at the very same time that I will miss all of you very much. Greenville seems so close, almost as if we could still meet for coffee or hang out; however, it is important to know that there are certain boundaries I will be observing when I leave.

These boundaries are part of the covenant I share with my colleagues in ministry, and they are intended to support the health of our respective ministries. My observation of clear boundaries upon leaving facilitates your process of building a relationship with your new minister of faith development, who, incidentally, I’m totally psyched about.  I look forward to observing from afar the terrific ministry you will share.

Once I leave, I will no longer be available for any of your pastoral or other needs. For at least a year after I leave UUCA, I will not return to preach or visit. My ministry among you will end completely. That doesn’t mean I’ll ignore you if we run into each other at a UU event, or if I happen to come back to Asheville once in a while for a little taste of Ginger’s Revenge or Ultimate Ice Cream. We can chat, but we won’t talk about UUCA.

You will also see less of me on social media — for example, my FaceBook settings limit the visibility of posts to honor these boundaries I describe above — much of what I post is only visible to close friends, colleagues, and current congregants. Some is limited even further.

Know that these boundaries are not easy — but they are necessary. I appreciate you taking the time to understand their purpose. We have shared so much these past 7 years, and I’ve been present to so many important moments in your lives — and you in mine. I will miss you deeply.

Teacher Appreciation

“Our open and welcoming congregation connects hearts, challenges minds and nurtures spirits while serving and transforming our community and the world.”  

When considering those words of our congregation’s mission, it is evident we take them to heart in Religious Education.  And we are able to offer this type of full, enriching program only because of the large group of volunteers who help make it successful.

The skill and dedication our volunteer leaders provide the children and youth is truly amazing.  We see thoughtfulness from the teachers when planning and enacting the lesson or activity; our teaching teams are tuned in to the needs of their students and use their expertise and heart to navigate hiccups.  The independence, creativity, and capability our volunteers have shown to implement our RE program this year has been tremendous.  We have a talented and committed bunch of folks serving in RE!

People like Bob Roepnack, Mariah Wright, Mike Horak, Ann McLellan, Wendy Fletcher, Gordon Clark, Kay Aler-Maida, Will Jernigan, Melissa Murphy, Langdon Martin, Nancy Bragg, Jon Miles, Jodi Clere, Judy Harper, and Mike Neelon, to name more than a few.  You likely recognize these names not only because they might be your friends or who you sit next to during worship service or covenant group, but because many of them have other integral roles in our congregation as well: Board members, Buildings and Grounds team, Earth and Social Justice Ministry, covenant group leaders, musicians, and more.  AND they volunteer in RE.

The time and energy of about 80 volunteers make Religious Education happen here each year.  Because of them, our RE program is strong, meaningful, and laying a foundation for growing new UUs in a world that desperately needs them!  We provide age-appropriate, thought-provoking curricula and materials; we seek to honor the individual while being in community together; and we connect children with adults, parents with adults (!), and all of us together.

“When children know there is a whole community of adults working within our principles to wonder together and make change in the world, they can feel empowered to know they are not alone on this journey.”

— Melissa Murphy, 4th Grade, Love Connects Us

This is our community and we are full of gratitude for our volunteers!  We hope to see all of them at our RE volunteer appreciation event at the end of May!

p.s. Want to join us in Religious Education?  We have a solid volunteer roster started and are recruiting now to round out the teaching teams for 2018-19.  (It’s not as difficult as it sounds, and we hear all the time that it is meaningful to the adults too!) Or try it out by volunteering for 1-2 Sundays this summer — leaders and assistants wanted.  Find out more here and contact Kim or Jen with questions or to sign up.

 

 

 

Stand in Awe

One of our opportunities as UUCA Board of Trustee members is to take turns writing this little “blog” – the thinking being that the blog gives you an opportunity to know us a little better.  Just as I was pondering my topic this week my phone rang.  It was my husband John on his cell phone, enthusiastically inviting me to join him on the property across the street.  “You’ve got to see this nesting hawk and chicks!”

As I approached the area near the hawk’s 45-foot tree, two neighbors had already set up their camera tripods and were busy shooting away.  Their telephoto lenses captured the three (or was it four?) bobbing heads of the chicks as they energetically vied for each morsel from their parent’s beak.  We were all surprisingly mesmerized, though this was simply a predictable and ubiquitous act of natural parenting.

For each of us, at that moment, there was only this tree, this particular hawk family, this particular feeding of the chicks – this little ‘miracle’ happening on a beautiful spring day.  How rare and wonderful to step out of our own worries and concerns – for our planet, for our world, for our country –  and share this small but significant moment together: to appreciate and marvel at this simple act of nature.  Such a reminder to stay open to these happenings as we move through our days.

Let’s all leave a little space in our souls each day for something surprising – let’s be ready to “stand in awe” of the simple moments of beauty in the everyday world around us.

Diane Martin, Board of Trustees

 

Beginnings

So, where do I begin?

I’ve had increasing numbers of people at UUCA ask recently about how they might find a way into social justice work. Justice work has always been a priority for us as a congregation, but at a time when the nation feels so polarized and we’re watching the current administration repudiate long-standing principles and commitments across the board, many are feeling an increasing sense of urgency to act.

As a congregation we offer many opportunities for you to participate, ranging from our congregation’s Sanctuary program in support of immigrant justice to Black Lives Matter, environmental justice, gun control, voting rights and more. You can find congregational leaders in all of these areas in our Weekly eNews and on bulletin boards, and if none of those work, ask any staff member for help.

But I also know that it’s easy to be daunted by all of this. If you’re just finding your way into this, let me urge you to take the time to reflect on what kind of work calls to you and what you feel you can do. It is so rewarding to be working in community for the values that stir your heart. But it can be challenging to take the first step.

With that in mind, let me share with you this poem that Associate Minister Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper shared with our staff meeting this week:

Start Close In  by David Whyte

Start close in,
Don’t take the second step
Or the third,
Start with the first
Thing
Close in,
The step you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something,
simple.

To find
another’s voice
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
The step you don’t want to take.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister