UUCA Youth Religious UU(YRUU) Program

As UUs, we begin with the assumption that religion for each of us begins with our own individual experience. One way to describe this feeling is as a sense of wonder, that we are deeply connected to each other and all things.

The Young Religious UU (YRUU) program helps our 10th-12th grade High Schoolers deepen their connection with each other and the congregation.

Many of them have just come off an intense year in the Coming of Age program, which culminated with them writing and presenting their Credo to the congregation. YRUU deepens this journey of faith for them.

YRUU is not just another Sunday School class with teachers and a curriculum. Instead, YRUU is about the students themselves engaging with their passions, collaborating with peers, maintaining a playful attitude, all while making a positive difference in the world around them.

Instead of teachers, YRUU has four advisors. Their role is to be the catalysts, sparking ideas, helping our young people navigate the learning process and providing new strategies to avoid frustration. We want to blur the boundaries so teachers become learners and learners become teachers.

This year about a dozen students from all high school grades are creating a new YRUU adventure. The group is about evenly divided between girls and boys, representing most of the public and private high schools in the area. They meet most Sundays during the second service.

In their first two meetings, they created their covenant and identified specific areas they plan to devote time to over this RE year:

  • First Sundays: Connection. What’s up in your life now?
  • Second Sundays: Inspiration. Using our awesome Maker Space to challenge and inspire each other.
  • Third Sundays: Social Justice. Making a difference in their own lives and in the wider world.
  • Fourth Sundays: Kitchen Meetup. A place to cook, collaborate, commune, and consume.

During the year, they will also be attending Youth Conferences at The Mountain, creating and leading a service in the Sanctuary, and producing a Bridging Ceremony for graduating seniors in the Spring.

The whole year represents our new approach in Youth Ministry, giving ways for YRUUs to make decisions, form faith identity, lead, teach, and learn.

Gordon Clark, YRUU Advisor

 

Living Our Values Project

This summer, I was honored and privileged to have spent a week at the Southern Unitarian Universalist Leadership Experience. SUULE was empowering and it gave me a true understanding of what our real work is, which is to listen to one another, to learn from one another and to grow from one another. That is what the LOV project is all about.

At SUULE, I spent a lot of time learning about the power of why. Why are we here?  Why do we come together? Why do we do the things that we do? The why, here at UUCA,  gives meaning to all that we do, not just at UUCA but in all aspects of our lives. The why, is our seven principles and our values of Connection, Inspiration, Compassion and Justice. and the rest of the Board of Trustees are asking you to embark upon a journey with us to discover and affirm together how we live out our why because your voice, your meaning, your heart, your actions and your behaviors make us who we are. When we focus on the why, the why becomes our reality.

Great things are happening at UUCA, we are working on so many amazing projects!  In this process, it is important to value differences. We will be asking you questions that will likely affect you somehow. In doing so, we create confidence and comfort to journey into the future together with parts of our past. The parts of the past that we bring with us should be the very best of us.

Our conversation about why we are here and why we live it,  is never over–it is ongoing. The Board of Trustees is committed to learning about and understanding your why. So please join in these conversations because we want to hear your voice.

What is it and why are we doing it?

Living Our Values, Imagining Our Future….aka The LOV Project, is a series of joyful and connecting workshops in which we will gather to explore our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our congregation. Our trained facilitators will guide you through a 2-hour process called appreciative inquiry. Together we will explore how we live our values of Connection, Inspiration, Compassion, and Justice, which will help us discern how to build our future based on our strengths. The primary outcome of the LOV project is to re-vision our congregational Mission and Ends to address our current aspirations.  This workshop is all about renewing our covenant together.

When and where is it…and are you going to feed me anything?

 

Friday, Sept 22th 6-8 23 Edwin BYO: Wine and Dessert
Saturday Sept 23rd 10-12 RE Commons Light Breakfast and Coffee
Sunday Sept 24th 1-3 Sandburg Hall Snacks
Tuesday Sept 26th 9:30-11:30 Sandburg Hall Light Breakfast and Coffee
Saturday Sept 30 9:30-11:30 Sandburg Hall Light Breakfast and Coffee
Sunday Oct 1 12:45-2:45 Sandburg Hall Snacks
Monday October 2nd 6-8 RE Commons Potluck Dinner
Wednesday Oct 4 6:30-8:30 Sandburg Hall Light dessert
Thursday October 5th 9:30-11:30 Sandburg Hall Light Breakfast and Coffee
Saturday Oct 7th 6-8 RE Commons BYO: Wine and Cheese
Sunday Oct 8 1-3 Sandburg Hall Snacks

Who is it for?

This project is for each and every congregant, it is hosted by the UUCA Board of Trustees. Please join us, we need your voice.

How do I sign up?

Sign up for a workshop here

Kate Hartnett, President, Board of Trustees

 

The Wednesday Thing and REALM

Tomorrow night is the first Wednesday Thing but it’s just the first.  We’re doing it EVERY WEDNESDAY.  Get here at 5:30 to eat ($5 per person, $20 maximum per family), stay for the vespers service at 6:00, and then dabble in whatever activities are offered, beginning at 6:30.  There will always be something for everyone, often multigenerational, occasionally, um, unigenerational(?).  (You know, kids and adults apart.)  Leave when you need to.  Child care for little ones (6 and under) starts at 6:00.

Anyway, I need help from you leaders.  MANY of our congregants are not on REALM yet. REALM replaces MY INFO so unless you’re on REALM you will have no way to find your friends’ contact information  or your own giving information.  We have all the data from MY INFO, but it’s important that everyone signs on to REALM because frankly we just don’t have time to answer everyone’s calls and emails for contact or giving information.

PLEASE, please tell your friends (I’m not saying YOU are not on REALM–it’s just your friends) to sign in to the system.  Everyone who has not signed in yet received an email from me today, and will get one with a link tomorrow (from onrealm.org) that they can use to sign in.  ANYONE needing help can come to the REALM-Help Room during the Wednesday Things.

Shall We Be Sanctuary

It was last March that we at UUCA hosted a gathering of hundreds of people who took part in a peaceful march in Asheville in support of undocumented immigrants and in protest of accelerating arrests and deportations that were tearing apart people’s lives. Ever since then many of our members have been in conversation about what part we as a congregation might play in this increasing justice concern.

Last spring a group of our members expressed interest in UUCA joining congregations of different faith traditions across the country in providing physical sanctuary to undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Our Board of Trustees asked those members to research all that making such a commitment might entail and what consequences we might face by taking such an action. The members came together as a Sanctuary Working Group and spent the summer researching those questions, holding Town Hall Meetings and making contacts with immigration advocates and people in the Latinx community as well as members of other churches interested in sanctuary.

Last Tuesday the board reviewed what the Sanctuary Working Group had to report as well as further information that staff had discovered and agreed to convene a congregational meeting at 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 29 where the congregation would be asked to decide if we would provide sanctuary on our campus.

It is an immense step for us to consider, and I’m grateful to the Sanctuary Working Group and my colleague Associate Minister Lisa Bovee-Kemper for doing so much to vet the many complex dimensions of this decision. You will be hearing and reading more about what this decision would mean, its impact on us as a congregation, and what it calls for from us. For now let me share these initial details with you:

  • We expect that any guests we keep in sanctuary would be housed at 23 Edwin. We expect they would occupy an upstairs bedroom and have access to the kitchen and shower downstairs. We have learned from others who have done this that we would not have to segregate space for them. We could share the space, so we would not have to make major changes to the building or interrupt regular church operations, including maintaining offices upstairs and holding meetings downstairs.
  • We would not intentionally violate any laws. We would announce publicly the presence of our guests and, since we would consider this use of the building a form of practicing our faith, we would not violate our zoning as a church. Our insurance agent has assured us this action would have no impact on our insurance.
  • While our community would be called on to assist a person or family in sanctuary, other congregations committed to sanctuary work are volunteering help to reduce the impact on our congregation. By the time of the vote, you will learn more about the nature of the help that has been offered.

Of course, most of these are just logistical considerations. The deeper question for each of us to consider is, “Is this what we are called to do?” Commitment to sanctuary means more than just offering space. It means orienting our social justice work toward building a culture of sanctuary in this part of the world, affirming that these endangered immigrants and other marginalized people are our neighbors who have claim on our attention, on our commitment to justice, on our love, that part of our work as a congregation is to contribute to the building of places of hope and peace.

And wouldn’t you know it, this question comes at a time of great synergy when our Board of Trustees is inviting us to reflect on how we live our values. In the next month or so you’ll have a chance to join facilitated conversations to help us discern what the values that we identified last fall as core to our work as a congregation call us to in the world. Look for the LOV (Living Our Values) announcements and make sure to find a time to join the conversation in one group or another.

Once they gather your thinking on that, the Board will use your thoughts to refocus our Mission Statement and the Ends that drive our work as a congregation. On October 29, before we vote on the sanctuary proposal you will hear what conclusions the board has come to.

This is challenging work at a challenging time, but it is good work, our work, exactly what we should be doing. As the mystic Howard Thurman put it:

How good it is to center down!

To sit quietly and see one’s self pass by!

The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic;

Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,

While something deep within hungers and thirsts

 for the still moment and the resting lull.

With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes,

A fresh sense of order in our living.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

 

The Wednesday Thing

Remember a few weeks ago when I said we were working on launching a new program? I wasn’t kidding! And now I’m quite excited to be able to announce that program!

Coming Soon to UUCA: The Wednesday Thing!

What IS the Wednesday Thing, you ask? It is a weekly event that brings together all ages for fun, fellowship, spiritual growth, and community. For a long time, your staff has wanted to provide a weekly program like this: a third worship service, intentional multigenerational community, opportunities to work together on social justice projects, spiritual practice, and personal growth. More connection. More friendship. Deeper relationships. More fun together.

The RE visioning process suggested it would be a great addition to our faith development program. All the “best practices for congregational life” literature we have seen lately suggests that it would be a great addition to our outreach work. And WAY more important than all that jargony stuff, when I share the vision with folks, y’all say, “That sounds awesome, I want to come!” So we’ve decided to go ALL IN, and here is what we’ve created:

A bold new all-church program that begins September 13 at 5:30PM and will continue every Wednesday. Come share a meal, worship together, and participate in faith development, fellowship, and other opportunities to learn and build community. Childcare for ages 6 and under will be provided beginning at 6:00PM. A homework space for older kids & teens will be available each week as well.

Food from 5:30-6:00PM – It’s NOT a potluck, you don’t have to bring anything. Call it No-Cook Wednesday! All you have to do is show up and eat great food from local businesses! (suggested donation $5/person, no more than $20/family)

Vespers from 6:00-6:30PM – Great music. No sermon. Creative & collaborative worship.

Programs from 6:30-8:30PM – There will be multiple opportunities each Wednesday to engage in activities, small group experiences, and more. If your kids need to go to bed (or if you do!), stay as long as you can, leave when you need to.

Bring yourself. Bring a friend. Bring the whole family. The Wednesday Thing is a weekly event that brings together all ages for fun, fellowship, spiritual growth, and community.

Here are some of the programs that are already on the schedule for this fall: Multigenerational Choir, Drop-In Theme Group, Identifying Your Spiritual Gifts, Sierra Club, Creating Your Credo, Resilience Circle, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and so much more! Plus, we’re looking for more program ideas!

This program will succeed with strong collaboration between staff and lay leadership, and buy-in across all of our existing programs. Do you have something you could offer? Are you a member of a group here at UUCA that wants to host a program? Would you like to volunteer to host, help clean up, tutor kids, and more? Do you have a question about this exciting new program? FMI contact Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper or any member of the Development Team (James Cassara, Brett Johnson, Missy Reed, Joy McConnell, & Julie Stoffels)

We’ll see YOU at the Wednesday Thing!

All are welcome.

Why Sanctuary?

This week’s blog has been generously offered to members of the Sanctuary Working Group to share with you why the concept of Sanctuary is so important to them.

immigrant poster

Gathering for meetings since last spring, members of the Sanctuary Working group have been hard at work collecting information to better enable our congregation to decide whether it is called to offer physical Sanctuary to an individual, couple, or family who is at risk of deportation. In the last 8 months, there has been a great increase in detentions for deportation and thus a growing anxiety within the undocumented community. Many have stopped driving and are fearful of showing up to their ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) appointments. It has been made clear to those of us doing this work that the need for Sanctuary is unquestionable. Obviously the need for physical Sanctuary is just one of many justice-related crises presently facing our local community. Why are the members of UUCA’s Sanctuary Working Group so passionate about this issue?

Cecilia Rawlins, a member of the Sanctuary PR team, has traveled to many parts of the world. Her encounters have convinced her that all people want better lives for our children.  As a former school principal, the needs of children have always been at the top of Cecilia’s personal list. Learning that the children of undocumented immigrants are increasingly terrified of what might happen, refusing free lunches at school so they don’t get their parents in trouble, and having meltdowns if their parents are late picking them up at their bus-stop has tugged on Cecilia and other group member’s hearts. “Contrary to what has been said in Washington, DC, immigrants to this country are not rapists and thieves.  Instead, they are hard workers in this community.” Cecilia speaks of being repulsed by what is happening to the members of this community. She does not feel that she can make changes on a big, national level; however, she feels there is the possibility of making a difference in her small section of the world.  Working on Sanctuary at UUCA is Cecilia’s attempt to make a difference. As the closing quote on the bottom of any email from Cecilia proclaims, she invites all to “Be the change you want to see in this world.”

Sharon LeDuc, who is on the Sanctuary Legal Team, says this work is important to her because she believes in “loving, respecting, and supporting others, especially the weak and marginalized.” For Karin Eckhert, a member of the Sanctuary PR group, this work is extremely personal. Karin experienced the fear and unknown of being a refugee as a child. We hope that Karin will be sharing her story with the congregation at a future Sanctuary Town Hall meeting. Nancy Bragg, member of the Program Team, reflects that she is by her nature, “a doer” and an “early adopter” especially of “ideas that resonate” with her. She says she “jumped onto the Sanctuary bandwagon” because it resonated with her “values and UUCA values and seemed like the right thing to do.”

Katie Winchell, another member of the WNC Sanctuary Liaison Group, also speaks of the worth of members of the immigrant community. Her lifestyle has allowed her to get to know various members of this community.  She is distressed by our broken immigration system which is harming so many who are willing to do the jobs so many of us are unwilling to do.  Members of this community are hard workers who pay into the social security system with no expectation of receiving any benefits from it. Like Cecilia, she is shocked by the characterization of these members of our community as criminals and thinks “we should be wary of this system which is criminalizing them.”  Katie hopes she “would have been the person that helped Jews escape the Nazis, and been part of the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape their oppression.” “Resisting unjust laws and standing up for human rights,” she says, “seems the right thing to do.” She feels this is her “opportunity to take a stand for those who can’t speak up for themselves, but deserve more respect for their life choices.”

Many members of the Sanctuary working group have been regularly attending WNC Sanctuary meetings since the beginning of the year. They have been impressed with how many members of other congregations want to work on this issue. And yet dismayed to find out that no other congregations in our area feel able to offer physical Sanctuary at this time. This reality has made this work all the more important to the group who have also been made aware of the reality that  undocumented immigrants also pay taxes yet are not eligible for Food Stamps, Medicaid, ACA insurance, Disability, or any other public programs paid for by their tax dollars. Immigrants are on their own to make it in our community. So Sanctuary members have wondered, “how can we show solidarity in this moment?”

Other working group members have pointed to words of their fellow congregants that continue to inspire them in pursuing this work. One RE parent proclaimed, “What a good push! I would love to see this come to life.” Other adult members have said that they are “honored to belong to a group who will do this!” and that they are “happy to see that this is being seriously pursued.” A potential new member shared their gratitude for the potential of offering Sanctuary as a meaningful action embodying our UU Principles.

Sanctuary Working group facilitator, Elizabeth Schell, struggled with the decision to take on this project in the midst of the ongoing work she’s been trying to challenge our congregation on in relation to our commitment to the Movement for Black Lives. But the more she reflected on it, the more she realized that voting to provide physical Sanctuary would allow this congregation to truly lean in to the teachings of anti-racism work and the Movement for Black Lives: by following People of Color leadership; by leaning in to discomfort and taking risks; by leveraging our privilege and our resources; by enabling us to get proximate to a need; by allowing us to  answer with hope to a world presently filled with messages of fear and scarcity. Elizabeth’s experience at General Assembly this past June solidified this understanding as she heard many of these practices echoed by Black Lives of UU as they challenged the whole denomination in this intersectional work.

Some have wondered about the sensibility of pursuing providing physical Sanctuary at this time — when our congregation is in the midst of staff transition, financial struggle, and discernment about our Mission. Yet what better time than this? Not only is this an urgent need within our community (locally and beyond), it actually dovetails with all the discernment work of the congregation. Last spring the congregation centered our focus in on four values that we hold dear: Connection, Compassion, Inspiration, and Justice.   Providing sanctuary allows us to put our UUCA values into action as we continue our discernment process.

Providing physical Sanctuary will build Connections: between those stepping up to volunteer; between our faith community and other congregations (of all kinds) who are stepping up to support us in this work; between our congregants and the immigrant community (those who will be in sanctuary as well as coalition partners who we will work with in providing sanctuary). Providing physical Sanctuary is an embodiment of our Compassion towards those in need. It allows us to move outside individual selves and our congregational self to embrace a need within the community we live in. Providing physical Sanctuary can inspire us through the relationships built and the possibilities for future engagement that we imagine through this work. Providing physical Sanctuary is us responding to an injustice and creating space for justice to be made visible. Providing physical Sanctuary enables us to do justice in many of the ways that we are called to.

We encourage you each to look into your hearts and vote accordingly at the upcoming congregational meeting.

Congregants are invited to the Friday night Service & Sanctuary Presentation at Congregation Beth Ha-Tephila this Friday, August 25 at 7:30pm. The evening will include presentations from members of CIMA (The Compañeros Inmigrantes de las Montañas en Acción) and Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper.

Also save the date of our next Town Hall on  THURSDAY, SEPT. 28, 6:30pm. As part of this special meeting, we will be welcoming JoAnn Weiss from El Refugio which is a hospitality house and visitation program outside of Stewart Detention Center (SDC) in very remote Lumpkin, GA.  A member of the UU Congregation of Gwinnett in NE Atlanta, JoAnn will share with us about the work of El Refugio and the current climate of immigration detention and deportation in our country. Other potential Sanctuary partners and leaders in the Sanctuary movement may also be present. Please join us for this meaningful conversation towards helping us discern about providing sanctuary. There will be space for further questions about the Sanctuary proposal.

Stop by the Earth and Social Justice table on Sunday with any questions or to learn more about the work of our Sanctuary group. Also keep looking for our regular announcements and updates about Sanctuary in the weekly E-news and the inserts in the Sunday Order of Service.  We hope you have completed the survey which gives you the opportunity to ask any necessary questions and share your support, questions, thoughts or concerns. The Sanctuary survey can be found here.

Members of the Sanctuary Working group include: Ann Perry, Beth Gage, Cecilia Rawlins, Elizabeth Schell, Geri Solomon, Jackie Iskovitz (from Beth Ha-Tephila), Jan Beech, Joe Maio, Julie Stoffels, Karin Eckert, Katie Winchell, Nancy Bragg, Ron Sanga, Sharon LeDuc, Susan Dupree, Venny Zachritz, and Virginia Bower.

 

Saying Yes

I’ve been saying yes to a lot of things lately. Things that are outside my normal comfort zone. Things that I would have said no to a year ago. In a way, I have you all to thank for that. With recent staffing changes in the Religious Education department, I have felt that it was important for me to become more visible in the congregation. I have always been comfortable being behind the scenes. I’m not a fan of speaking in front of large groups of people, or being part of a large crowd. Coordinator is part of my job title and that’s what I like to do. I like to make arrangements for other people and make connections with people from the safety of my office in 23 Edwin.

Standing up in front of the congregation for the Time for All Ages part of our service was not something I ever longed to do, but I’ve grown to appreciate that time because it feels good to be a part of welcoming the children in our congregation. It also feels good to stand up there and be seen and to hopefully let you all know that I am here and committed to serving this warm, loving community that has made me feel so welcome. Over and over again this community has held me when I needed to be held. While I may not get to attend services as much as I would like, my spirit is fed by spending time with our children and youth in ways I couldn’t imagine when I started this job.

I am learning to let go of some of the rigidity that I have used to protect myself over my adult life. I am learning to not always worry what “the plan” is and to be flexible and let things fall where they fall. Working here with our children, youth, and adults has helped me immensely in learning to go with the flow.

This past Sunday evening, I said yes to attending the solidarity demonstration held at Pack Square in response to the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend. As I said above, I am not a fan of large crowds. Like many of you, I was left heartbroken by the hate, scare tactics, and violence perpetrated by the white supremacist, KKK, alt-right, and other hate groups in Charlottesville. I cried over the death of Heather Heyer. I needed to go somewhere and say her name. I needed to be with people who understood that this is not normal. It is not normal for white supremacists to be marching through college campuses bearing torches. It is not normal for someone to be so filled with hate that they drive their vehicle into a crowd of peaceful folks who are showing up to speak out against hate.

The demonstration in Asheville on Sunday evening was not perfect. There were different groups of people there with very different ideas about how to fight hate. There has been a lot of focus on that aspect of the demonstration in social media over the last few days. People who can’t bring themselves to condemn racism and white supremacy seem to have no issue with condemning people who go out and publicly stand up for marginalized groups. I have been struggling to reconcile my own thoughts and feelings towards hate groups with my Unitarian Universalist values.

Here’s the thing though, you all said yes too. I saw many of you there. Some of you were there with your young children. You said yes to standing up against hatred, racism, and violence. You said yes to coming together as a community to confront those who think that killing in the name of white supremacy is okay. You say yes over and over again to building a better world. You say yes to fighting climate change and trying make sure that our children have a safe planet. You say yes to making sure that everyone has the right to vote safely and without fear. You say yes to helping others in our community that struggle with food security and homelessness. You say yes to welcoming visitors and new folks to our community, especially in the wake of tragic events. Thank you for saying yes. Thank you in particular for saying yes to me and allowing me to continue saying yes to you.

Kim Collins, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinator