Snow and Heroes

To me, snow is magical. One of my favorite things is a snow day, especially now that I work from home and don’t have to scramble for snow-day child care. While growing up in Asheville, school closed frequently, even being closed for almost the whole month in January of 1978. A pack of a dozen neighborhood kids, including my older sister and me, spent hours outside, sledding on a breathtakingly steep hill and building bonfires to stay warm. Now, as an adult, I still have my breath taken away when I ride up a ski lift, look over the beautiful mountains, and zip down the slope with the wind rushing through my helmet.
    On a recent snow/work day, I was marveling at the falling snow outside my office window when a coworker called me to ask me question.
    “Isn’t the snow beautiful?” I asked him.
    “Ugh, I hate snow” he responded. How could anybody hate snow? “I grew up in Philadelphia, and school never closed. When I see snow, I see oily, gray crust,” he went on to explain.
   This got me to thinking about how experience and perception affect how people can see the same thing in such polarized ways. One person sees a racist and alleged pedophile; another sees a good Christian man with family values.
    Fortunately, my view of snow has not been sullied, but recent events have caused me to rethink whom I respect and admire. A beloved journalist from this state who knew my uncle has been revealed to be a sexual predator. A woman I looked up to at my job with the county is under federal investigation and has made front-page news on a few occasions. From now on, I will only see them as frauds, not as the pristine heroes they once were, and this breaks my heart.

Stay warm!

Michele Gregory, UUCA Board of Trustees

 

Wednesday Thing Kicks Off a New Year!

I think I can officially say that the Wednesday Thing is not a new program anymore! And what a success it has been so far. We’ve done yoga together, and learned about Buddhism, empathy, and nonviolent communication. We’ve eaten delicious food and shared worship together. We’ve discussed the monthly themes, and we’ve made gratitude jars. As the new year begins, the volunteers and staff who make it happen are working on a stupendous line up of classes and activities for the weeks to come.

If you haven’t yet been to the Wednesday Thing, I do hope you’ll venture out and join in! On tap in January are a session called “Save, Share, Spend” on finances & values with Laurel Amabile (Jan 17), a presentation for youth and adults from Helpmate (Jan 31), and more. As we move into the Spring, Mark will be teaching a class on Parker Palmer’s work, and lots more!

The Wednesday Thing brings together all ages for fun, fellowship, spiritual growth, and community. It is a program that was created specifically to meet a number of needs — more faith development opportunities for people of all ages, a short mid-week worship opportunity, and community building.

See you there!

The Gifts We Give and Receive

Abundance was our church theme last month.  We talk about our congregational themes with our Religious Education (RE) kids, too.  Take a listen to what they said about what our church has an abundance of:  chalices, fun, love, stories, kind people… kind people, indeed!  I have been inspired this year to witness an abundance of wonderful gifts shared within our 2017-18 “under construction” Religious Education program. 

We began the year strong with fully recruited teaching teams for our classes.  Then, as Coming of Age mentors were needed or other jobs arose (like needing a rock star handywoman and organizational guru), people flexed and adjusted their commitments as we hoped they would to share their talents to meet the needs of our program and participants.  As the year has progressed, our volunteer leaders have worked together and supported one another and their students beautifully.  Our fabulous RE Council has been providing leadership as well, and is adapting to the evolving vision and work of the church.

A new kind of “call and response” emerged:  when one member of the team had a need and called for help, other members always responded with compassion.  And they have stepped forward with heart and thoughtfulness for parents or kids needing additional care, too.  It has happened time and time again.  We are living out our new mission: Our open and welcoming congregation connects hearts, challenges minds and nurtures spirits, while serving and transforming our community and the world and our core values of connection, inspiration, compassion, and justice.  The support from one to another is a gift within our community.

And we see these gifts in our children and youth also.  At 9:15, we have programming for all ages (kindergarten through adult – you are welcome to join us!), and that allows a special opportunity for multiage interaction and learning.  During one of our stories recently, we had some participants sharing “who they are” in the story of Supriya’s Bowl.  From young to old, there were thoughtful responses and patient listening to what others had to say.  (We have some really cool 6th graders who were attentive to hearing a 5 year-old’s rationale for how the rice bowl got filled, and who shared their own thoughts with us, too.)  When making our blessing bags, the big kids help the little kids with packaging goods and making notes or drawings for our neighbors in need.  The Coming of Age youth volunteered at the church work day outside recently, raking leaves, moving stumps and rocks, etc. to beautify and winterize our campus; our Sunday worship chime ringers and chalice lighters are children and youth; when the multigenerational choir sings, our children and youth are giving to the church.  You’ll soon see the pageant with (hopefully) a good amount of kid participation.  All of those are special gifts to our community.

We are hearing from families that the kids are bringing their parents to church because they want to be here!  And why not?

  • Star Wars or Harry Potter yoga for all ages at 9:15
  • YRUU revitalization for 10th-12th graders
  • Neighboring Faiths curriculum, expanding horizons of 7th-8th graders
  • And so much more… every class has awesome stuff happening!
  • Plus, youth CONference attendance continues to grow

All of that takes volunteers – people who are sharing their time and talent – with UUCA.  Presence is one of the greatest gifts a person can give or receive.  We in RE have received many gifts this year, and we are grateful to all of you in the RE roles and in the many other ways our church is served by all of you.  You are a gift.

And on that note, another important gift we can give and receive is affirmation.  We have created a new bulletin board in Sandburg Hall to share that gift in our community.  Like a little free library, we invite you to take or to leave a gift of affirmation.  This is open to anyone:  member, friend, regular or first-time visitors, youth, adult, or children.  See more at the big GIFT bulletin board near the main office.

Jen Johnson, RE Staff

What Would You Do If You Won the Lottery?

Last month, my nephew, Greg, called from Santa Barbara. “Hey, Uncle Dale,” he exclaimed, “I won the lottery!”

“No way,” I said.

“Way!” he said, “I won big time. No kidding.”

“That’s great. How much did you win?”

“A lot,” he responded… Long pausethen the punch line. “I was born White in America.”

No, Greg isn’t a White Nationalist. Far from it.  Greg realized that he had hit the jackpot by being born White in America.

Greg is a skilled carpenter. Often, he needs to hire an assistant. He drives to the corner in Santa Barbara where day-hires, largely Latino, hang out looking to catch a job. He recognizes that a roll of the dice put him on the hiring end of things, rather than on the street corner hoping to be hired. Greg recognizes the White American privilege that came to him by dint of his birth.

Last year, UUCA named “compassion” and “justice” as core values, and we recently voted to put those words into action by opting in a Special Congregational meeting to become a Physical Sanctuary congregation. We recognized that there are good people in our midst who are in need of temporary protection, and we are lucky enough to have sufficient space in 23 Edwin to host a guest. We collectively announced by that vote: “We can’t turn our backs on those in need, let’s do what our good fortune allows us to do!” I am extremely proud of that congregational decision.

The wheels are rapidly moving in the direction of turning the Sanctuary vision into a reality. Rev. Lisa has recruited a Sanctuary Steering Committee, and they have begun meeting to put together a list of all that must be done to prepare for a sanctuary guest. Lisa and Linda Topp have selected the room and adjoining bath at 23 Edwin that will serve as quarters. A donated washer and dryer have been installed in the basement. Rev. Mark has begun meeting with CIMA (Companeros Immigrantes de las Montanas en Accion), a local action group on behalf of immigrants, to inform them of our Sanctuary program and to learn more about their organization. We have received our first financial contribution from another congregation.

 Soon it will be your, and my, turn to help. Let’s do it. Let’s, like nephew Greg, share our collective lottery winnings by aiding someone not so lucky.          

Dale Wachowiak, Board of Trustees     

 

Winter: The Season For Slowing Down

Up until now, it’s been an odd autumn for this part of the world, with temperatures hovering around what we’re more accustomed to for September. But in the last week, the early winter grey visited, and daytime highs tumbled to a more seasonal chill. And so it feels like finally, I can settle into the quieter, darker days of this season. As Rebecca Parker puts it, “let us go gently into the night, its dream-drenched, glittering stillness, a haven for our souls.”

 Just as the earth takes its rest at this time of year, we need to give ourselves some space from the hectic, screen-centered lives we’ve built for ourselves. So, isn’t it just like the tone-deaf culture of consumerism that floods our lives to urge us instead in this holiday season to make our lives more frantic with rush to buy presents?

Giving should and can be joyful. It is a wonderful gesture that helps us express our gratitude to people we love or with whom we stand in some relationship. But it becomes less so when it’s driven by a sense of fear or obligation. So, let me urge you to look for ways to turn down the pressure: look for gifts of services, rather than things; agree on limits to your purchases, and stick to them; be creative, have fun, and then be done with it.

Leave space for quietness, long walks, or casual, low-pressure gatherings with family and friends. There is a special beauty in these mountains in the winter time. Take time to get to know it. Maybe it’s time to renew an acquaintance with a friend. Look for that which can reconnect you with your life, with what matters, and attend to it.

One of my favorite hymns for this time of year is “Dark of Winter,” #55 in Singing the Living Tradition, by Shelley Jackson Denham. It closes with these words:

“Darkness, soothe my weary eyes that I may see more clearly.
When my heart with sorrow cries, comfort and caress me.
And then my soul may hear a voice, a still, small voice of love eternal.
Darkness, when my fears arise, let your peace flow through me.”

May you find peace in this holiday season.  

Rev.Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Change Is the Only Constant

change

They say that change is the only constant. (Turns out in this case, “they” is actually Heraclitus!) It’s been a few weeks since the announcement of the restructuring of the second minister position and my departure from UUCA. Change is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. For some, the news was a shock, for others, it was not.  I want to be sure that all of you know that I am OK. I, too, have seen the budget numbers over the past few years, and knew that this year’s process of congregational visioning and assessment of staffing models would result in some major changes. Now we know what those changes will look like. I believe that the changes in staffing will meet the needs of the congregation, and I look forward to watching y’all succeed from afar.

This final year with you is my seventh year serving as your second minister, which is a good long run. No minister stays at a congregation forever, and I am more than ready to embark on the next phase of my career. You, too, will find gold in the new perspective of a new second minister. I do not yet know where my family will end up, but I will be seeking a new position for summer/fall 2018. Your good thoughts and prayers are welcomed as I enter that liminal space of job searching!

Know also that I will miss you. The ministry we have done together has been powerful and life-giving to me, and I hope to you as well. I am deeply appreciative of the messages of support and gratitude I have received from so many of you over the past few weeks. As we move through the next 8 months together, I look forward to celebrating the work we’ve done together.

With gratitude,

Lisa-signature

UUCA’s Mission and Your Mission at UUCA

This month, the Board of Trustees has finally wrapped up our LOV (Living Our Values) project. Throughout this year, we worked with many of you in the congregation on this project in order to come up with new Mission and Ends Statements for our community. And I am so proud of what we have come up with, especially our new mission:

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

All right! But… what next? What do we do with this? Hopefully, this mission will encourage us to all really live into our values of connection, inspiration, compassion, and justice. As you may notice, this mission is not about what the church does, or the minister, or the staff. This is what the congregation does. Meaning you, and me, and everyone here.

So how do we go about connecting hearts and challenging minds and nurturing spirits? How will we be able to serve and transform? Well, it starts with seeing yourself as a valuable part of this place. Being a leader in church can be such a spiritually rewarding experience. Imagine being able to see yourself in a new way, making a real difference in your life and the lives of others. Stepping up and serving your congregation should not be a chore. It should not be because you have to, or because no one else will. It can be a path on your own spiritual journey, allowing you to dig deeper, form stronger connections, and truly grow as an individual. For many, serving their church IS their experience of the holy.

I think a great example of this is our Sanctuary Working Group. While they got support and resources from the leaders and staff of UUCA, this group was lay led. These members succeeded in seeing their vision through, from conception all the way to getting the majority of the congregation on board with their plan and now it is a reality! They are making a real difference in their own lives and in our community, providing compassion, justice, and hope. And the work continues, now being the work of our whole faith community. How inspiring for the rest of us who have so many ideas on what we want our congregation to be and to do!

So what is it that you envision for our church? What do you want this place to be, and for whom? How can YOU make your UUCA dreams come true?  If you have never served at UUCA, what are you waiting for?! There are so many opportunities to find your place. Not everyone can form a working group and do something as large as Sanctuary. And that’s OK! Whatever your gift or talent or field of expertise, no matter how “small,” we need you at UUCA! There are always calls to serve in the Weekly eNews, the order of service–or just ask. Trust me, someone can always find something for you to do! I really hope our new mission statement inspires you to plug in and connect, finding the true joy of serving a place you love.

Mariah Wright, Board of Trustees