Membership: New Ideas, New Volunteers

Last year, when we re-imagined our paid staff and decided to create the position of Minister of Faith Development (hi Rev. Claudia!), I was assigned supervision of our membership programs. As Rev. Lisa and I discussed before her departure, we needed to decrease the amount of staff time that we devote in welcoming and nurturing our newcomers while also giving them more opportunities to connect and learn before they decide to become a member.

Venny Zachritz, our 15-hours-per-week Connections Coordinator, and I have been working on that this summer and have a plan. Now all we need are volunteers from our congregation to join in to help make it happen.

Here’s the plan: We want newcomers to get more information about UUCA sooner than was happening with just 3 Beginning Points classes per year. Instead of that, we will offer a monthly “class” for newcomers every 3rd Sunday after both services. We want newcomers to be way more connected to UUCA BEFORE they join. That’s why we suggest that they participate in a wide variety of programs before they attend one of the three Membership Classes we will offer each year (formerly called Connecting Points).

In between the Intro session and the Membership Class, we want our newcomers to experience UUCA. We want them to attend at least four worship services, try to get to a Wednesday Thing, participate in two theme group sessions, take a campus tour, attend one or more Newcomer Potlucks, give their time and talents to UUCA, and generally put themselves in situations to meet fellow UUCAers. (By the way, these are all things that committed members of UUCA do on a more or less regular basis!)

To help our newcomers find these offerings, we tell them to READ THE WEEKLY ENEWS! and we assign them a Connector. Our Connectors will meet with these newcomers, find out what they’re looking for by joining UUCA, and guide them along their way.

Here’s the volunteer help we need:

  • Session leaders to meet with any interested folks at the Intro to UUCA for Newcomers classes on third Sundays following both services.
  • Theme group leaders AND covenant group leaders.
  • Tour guides to provide campus tours on 4th Sundays after services.
  • Office computer help to enter data, send out emails and create nametags.
  • Potluck organizers.
  • Membership class organizers/food helpers.

Please let me or Venny know how you can help!

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

Much is Underway

Much is underway,
reach for a star and hold on,
evolve together.

It is hard to believe, but summer is almost over. Not the seasonal summer, of course, as that won’t end until September 22nd, but the psychical summer that ends when the school year is imminent.
    I am feeling that more this year because, on August 20th, I will once more be in the classroom at UNC Asheville. After teaching there for 32 years—I retired from full-time teaching on June 30th, 2015—I didn’t expect to teach again. But soon the curtain will go up and I will be back on stage. But just one course this time (Senior Research in Economics).
Perhaps because of my career, certainly because of my schooling, I have always experienced the fall as a time of rebirth, a time of the new when all things seem possible. There is a lot to like about that!
    As I look forward to our new congregational year—one doesn’t need to look far—there is a lot to like, too! This Sunday, Rev. Claudia Jiménez, our new Minister of Faith Development, will be in the pulpit for the first time speaking on “Transitions and Possibilities.” I am eager to be in her presence and hear her words.
    I am eager, too, to see a solar panel array on the roof of Sandburg Hall. We are effectively halfway toward our goal of 100 panels, as established by congregational vote at our Annual Meeting on June 3rd. Let’s support the efforts of the Earth Community Circle to create a more livable world for our children, grandchildren, and ourselves. How to do that? Talk with someone at the ECC table after a Sunday service or visit the Donate button on the UUCA webpage and designate Campus Dev. Contribution.
    The new, though, is not all that is happening in our congregation. In recent years we have made strong commitments to supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement (June 2016) and being a Sanctuary Congregation (October 2017), and that work continues. And The Wednesday Thing makes its return on September 12th. I will be there.
    So much is underway. I am grateful for all that we will do and be this year, developing in faith, serving and transforming our community and the world.

Bruce Larson, Board of Trustees

Finding Joy in “Yes”

Summer for us at UUCA is a time for planning and preparation. We try to catch up on reading and research and plan for the church year ahead, but we’re also organizing and recruiting. The success and effectiveness of what we as staff do depends strongly on finding people in the congregation who are willing to partner with us in advancing the ministries that help us achieve our mission. As with all great work, it takes a village to make it happen. And with us, it is an essential truth that all the ministry we do is shared.

All of this has me thinking about the challenges of leadership. There is hardly an organization I know of these days that is not struggling to find leaders, and we are among them. I understand why. People’s lives are busy, and the task of leadership often sounds like just one more thing. And even if we’re interested, some of us feel it’s a little immodest, even self-important, to offer ourselves as leaders. Who do we think we are?

Also, some of us inclined to volunteer may be initially wary, having found ourselves roped into leadership jobs in the past where we were lightning rods for criticism and rarely acknowledged for the good work we did. Or we were overburdened with responsibilities for which we were not prepared and for which we received little support.

That’s a way of saying that I get that you might be a little reluctant when “the ask” comes your way from one of us here. Still, I want to urge you to see if you can find a way to say, “Yes.” And here’s why.

The first reason is simple: accepting a role of leadership helps assure that those things that you are passionate about getting attention. In recruiting volunteers we try to make a point of matching people with their areas of interest. Of course, it’s also true that there are times you may be asked to help out with something that you’ve never done before, that’s outside your comfort zone. It can be a great opportunity to experience a beginner’s mind, and sometimes that’s the best formula for growth. We all have growing to do.

The second reason takes us to the covenant that gathers us as a congregation. The last sentence of that covenant sums it up nicely: “Our life together declares that the future of each depends on the good of all, and the future of all depends on the good of each.” Each of us has a role in the success of the whole. We bring our best selves, our best intentions into our work together, giving what we can, sharing in carrying the tasks that make this community go as we also share in the joys that result.

My third point comes from Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak. “If it is true that we are made for community,” he wrote, “then leadership is everyone’s vocation.” No matter how unsuited any of us may feel for leadership, he added, “I lead by word and deed, simply because I am here doing what I do.” None of us is outside the circle; we each influence it profoundly by our very presence.

Then, why not claim that presence, why not own the gifts that you bring and put them to service for this community of memory and hope that carries our hopes and seeks to realize the values that give our lives meaning, a community that touches our hearts, our souls, that abets our awakening?

So, please say, “Yes,” when the call comes, and we, in turn, promise to respect your needs, your limits, and to support you and celebrate you for work that is joyously given and gratefully received.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

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.