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



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
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
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something,

To find
another’s voice
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
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
close in,
The step you don’t want to take.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Making A Difference $1 at a Time

Did you know that to date in 2018 we have raised $6,800 for organizations that support people of color here in Asheville or within Unitarian Universalism?

The Community Plate Team has dedicated 2018 Community Plate collections to organizations that are led by or directly serve people of color in our community and beyond.

In January, we collected $1,554 for the Mel Hetland Scholarship, which is funded entirely by our congregation and offers grants to students of color from Asheville going to college.

In February, we collected $1,693 for Building Bridges to support their work of education around dismantling of systemic racism in Asheville.

In March we collected $1,296 for the Mountain Retreat & Learning Center “Camperships” to go to kids of color attending Mountain Camps this summer.

In April we collected $1,407 to help the YWCA expand their Early Learning program, PLUS over $800 in a one time special collection to support undocumented immigrants detained in the recent ICE raids here in WNC.

For this initiative, the team looked for nominations of organizations that directly empower people of color or work to dismantle systemic racism rather than organizations that seek to mitigate secondary “symptoms” of systemic racism like poverty and hunger. While those are important things to fund, the Community Plate committee saw an opportunity to give more direct support and empowerment to children, youth, and adults of color.

In the months to come, we’ll be collecting funds for more such organizations, including CoThinkk, a giving circle that brings together community leaders who care about the economic and social well-being of communities of color in Asheville & Western NC, and My Sistah Taught Me That, an organization designed for the development, encouragement, inspiration, and education of young girls with a special focus on girls growing up in single parent homes without their father. 

If you’d like to add your personal impact to this congregational commitment by patronizing business owners of color, the Color of Asheville has a directory of African American owned businesses, professionals, service providers and clubs in Asheville, NC.

As the year goes on, the Community Plate Committee’s initiative will continue to honor the commitments to racial justice made by our denomination and congregation:

  • In 2015, UU General Assembly passed an Action of Immediate Witness, “Support the Black Lives Matter Movement,”
  • In 2016, our congregation committed to Black Lives Matter. (I couldn’t find the exact words of this congregational vote—I believe it was in 2016)

In June of 2016, this congregation passed a resolution affirming our commitment to working for racial justice in our congregation, community, denomination, and world.

The committee believes that leveraging our own resources to support leadership and empowerment of people of color is an effective way to live into the promise of the racial justice resolution. The percentage of Black owned businesses in Asheville is particularly low, and we know that part of the work of dismantling systemic racism is increasing opportunities and access to leadership roles for people of color.

FMI contact a member of the Community Plate Team (Linda Kooiker,  Emilie White, Eleanor Lane, Brenda Robinson, and Donna Robinson).


Why You Need Our UUCA Kids

Creating a worship service (YRUU this Sunday) or credo (May 13 services) doesn’t emerge out of nowhere!  Our now-teens have been building up to these services in all of their years of religious education. 

Our Religious Education (RE) Program depends on more than 70 volunteers each year to implement this foundational work for our congregation.  It takes many volunteer teachers every year to provide that consistent and compassionate presence; mentors to foster the growth of our Coming of Age youth; a dedicated RE Council; and people enacting the behind-the-scenes work (like cleaning closets and rooms, prepping materials, etc.).  We are grateful for this year’s and past volunteers for what they have given to our RE kids.  We also hear that the volunteers are appreciative of what RE has given them.

Here is what some of our teachers and parents have said about RE:

“I am happy that my children get to form relationships with a variety of adults in this intergenerational community — not only with the parents of their peers but with the elders in our community as well.” — RE Parent

“t is as much a learning experience for the teachers as the kids–and it’s fun!  And the kids are awesome. ” — 6th-8th Grade Neighboring Faiths Teacher

 “As an older person, I enjoyed getting to know this age group.  I was impressed by how bright, thoughtful and articulate they can be.  Visiting the different faith communities and learning about them was a great learning experience for me.” — 6th-8th Grade Neighboring Faiths Teacher

“Without RE volunteers and without RE classes, our children would be lacking in meaningful faith development.  We owe them this investment as the future leaders of this world!” — Parent and RE Teacher

“Working on an RE team with other congregation members allows you to form new relationships in this large community.…”  — RE teacher

“This year has been special. Asked to teach RE, we said yes and I’m so glad we did. We’ve been blessed with an intelligent, thoughtful, curious group of youth to learn from.  We’ve also worked with three amazing co-teachers who have become new friends we look forward to seeing at coffee hour.”   — RE teacher

(I have volunteered for years…)”During most of that time, I thought I was volunteering as an expression of my spiritual journey. Well, yes, it was that, but I began to realize that more importantly, I was discovering my spiritual community, and to my surprise it included 15-year-olds…. Are you ready to receive the gifts that our young people have to give you? But be prepared to have it be a life-changing experience, both for you and for them.”   — Coming of Age teacher

“I have seen children connect faith ideas to their everyday lives; ask the big questions in a safe space; be silly and have fun together; form new friendships and connections in a large community; learn from other perspectives;, and enjoy lots of food together!  There is value in taking time to slow down; to learn, reflect, and question together.” — 4th grade RE Teacher

Now it’s your turn.  We want YOU to be involved in RE!  What will YOU say after volunteering?  How will it transform you?  We are asking each of you to join us for Religious Education in 2018-19. You may ask, “But how?  What will I do?  How much of a commitment is it?”  Let us fill you in, because we know there are some myths and questions about volunteering in RE.

Visit our RE Council table on Sundays in Sandburg Hall to find out more, or email Kim or Jen.

Kim Collins and Jen Johnson, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinators

Emergence with Hope

I have been thinking of our April theme of Emergence.  Emergence surely implies hope.  Without hope, how would emergence be possible?  At our April meeting, board member Diane Martin opened with some words from the Christian “theologian of hope,” Jurgen Moltmann, who says that hope is a fine thing, an antidote against despair, but that hope without some action is ultimately a pretty sad thing, that hope grounded in faith “causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience” with the status quo, that hope is “the goad of the promised future” which “stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.”  As Unitarian Universalists, we are aware of so many things around us that cry out for change, and we certainly have high hopes.  As we emerge from our winter burrows into the glory and warmth of spring, may we all bloom exuberantly with high hopes born of our faith, and may we have the energy and the will to continue our efforts to bring those hopes to fruition, in ourselves, in our communities, in our nation and in our world.

Judy Harper, Board of Trustees

During a Time of Emergence

We enter April this year working on the theme of Emergence in worship and our small groups. It’s a powerful religious concept that embraces growth, renewal, hope, and surprise. And we see it this time of year realized in the celebration of Easter as well as the awakening of life all around us.

We celebrate emergence because we know that whatever it is we’re working on, or whatever is working on us, we’re not done. There is more to come. But the unsettling thing is we’re not exactly sure what is coming, or what shape it will take. So, the discipline that comes with observing emergence is keeping ourselves open, attentive and focused.

We at UUCA are aware that we are in the midst of change that invites us to attend to what we want of this community and how we might prepare to bring it about. We are headed toward an important transition this summer when we will bid farewell to our Associate Minister Lisa Bovee-Kemper and welcome our new Minister of Faith Development Claudia Jimenez.

Already we have begun talking about ways to mark Lisa’s leave-taking and Claudia’s arrival in a way that honors both the wonderful ministry we have had with Lisa and what we look forward to with Claudia. You’ll hear more about that in days to come.

With that change in ministers, we also anticipate a change in the ministry of this congregation. With Claudia’s arrival, we are embracing the notion that faith development, the growing, learning, and awakening that happens in spiritual growth, is something that all ages, all times of life, take part in. None of us is finished. None of us is done.

We’re not yet sure of all that will encompass, but we have some ideas, and you’ll be hearing more about that as well. Along with that, we will continue our focus on strong Sunday worship and deeply engaged social justice work. Throughout this, let me invite you to adopt the disciplines of emergence – to be open, attentive and focused – and to stay connected. We are moving forward into this new time together. It is good to be in this work with you.

I close with one of the poems offered in our latest small ministry packet. You can find more on Emergence by clicking “Worship Theme” on our Web site.

Song of the Shattering Vessels


Either the world is coming together,

or else the world is falling apart —

     here — now — along these letters,

     against the walls of every heart. 

Today, tomorrow, within its weather,

the end or beginning’s about to start —

     the world impossibly coming together

     or very possibly falling apart.

Now the lovers’ mouths are open —

maybe the miracle’s about to start:

      the world within us coming together,

      because all around us it’s falling apart. 

Even as they speak, he wonders,

even as the fear departs:

     Is that the world coming together?

     Can they keep it from falling apart?

The image, gradually, is growing sharper;

now the sound is like a dart:

     It seemed their world was coming together,

     but in fact, it was falling apart.

That’s the nightmare, that’s the terror,

that’s the Isaac of this art —

     which sees that the world might come together

      if only we’re willing to take it apart. 

The dream, the lure, is the prayer’s answer,

which can’t be plotted on any chart —

    as we know the world that’s coming together

    without our knowing is falling apart.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister