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

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.

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).

 

Good Friday In Simon’s Words

Recently I preached about what Isaac might have said, if his voice had been part of the story of Abraham’s sacrifice. As we approach Easter Sunday, which, of course, focuses so much on Jesus’ voice and story, here is my imagining of how Simon of Cyrene (the bystander who helped Jesus carry the cross on his way to be crucified) might have described his experience on Good Friday.

You may have heard of a man named Jesus who lived almost two thousand years ago. He taught people to love each other and to, and he also said that he was the Son of God. I had heard of him, too, but at that time we only knew that he traveled around the countryside teaching, and that he had a large following. The leaders in Jerusalem thought that his message was very dangerous.

Early in the morning of the day that I arrived in Jerusalem for the holy feast of Passover, there were crowds and shouting, and many Roman guards in the square. I was in a huge and crushing throng of people, pushing and shoving, shouting and waving their fists. There were three criminals being led up the hill to be executed by crucifixion, which was the way they did things in those days—and this man Jesus was one of them. The Roman guards were impatient with him, because he kept stumbling—dropping the huge wooden cross he was carrying. Suddenly, they yelled into the crowd—and pointed right at me—perhaps because I was not from Jerusalem—I looked different than the other folks who were there—they called to me, and made me help Jesus.

I felt awful. I had stumbled upon the crowd—and the taunting and yelling made me uncomfortable in the first place—and now I was being forced to participate in it. There was something about this man named Jesus, though, an energy that radiated from him—a peace that made me feel lighter somehow, even as I trudged up the hill next to him. I still can’t quite find words to explain it. As soon as we reached the top of the hill, I left as quickly as I could—I did not want to participate any further in this violent act—especially during the most holy week of Passover.

I know that Jesus died later that day, and so did the two thieves, but I tried very hard to put the day’s events out of my mind. Sometimes it is just too difficult to think about how much violence and hurt there is in the world. A few days later, as I was leaving the city, I began to hear rumors about Jesus. They said he had been buried in a tomb—a cave outside the city—and a huge stone had been rolled in front of the opening to the tomb. They said that three days after he died, his body was no longer in the tomb—he had disappeared.

It took me a long time to understand what the events of that day meant to me, and even now, it is hard to find words to describe them. I know that Jesus was a great teacher. I know that I can never be sure of what happened in the cave when Jesus disappeared. I know that his followers stayed together and carried on his teachings. Some said it was a miracle—that he came back to life because he truly was God’s son, others said his friends had taken him and buried him somewhere else. There were so many stories, and these things like God and miracles and faith and justice can be confusing to think about. But I kept remembering how I had felt as I walked next to him, and I realized that it didn’t matter exactly what was true about the story—what mattered was that I might have helped a fellow human being as he walked a difficult path.

Wait, Vespers, What?

vesper

Have you had a chance to attend Vespers at the Wednesday Thing? If not, have you wondered about the word “vespers” and why we would have such a service at a UU congregation? The overarching goal of the Wednesday Thing is to bring together all ages for fun, fellowship, spiritual growth, and community. Toward that end, we want to create a worship experience that feels different from Sunday mornings and creates space for many more voices to be heard. Every vespers includes music, as well as a chalice lighting, candles of joy & sorrow, and the closing song, but otherwise the services vary.

In any case, a number of you have asked what vespers means, or why we would do a service that “sounds so Catholic.” It’s pretty simple, actually! The ever-helpful Internet (via vocabulary.com) tells us:

vesper is an evening song. It also refers to evening prayers, and then it’s usually plural as vespers. Whether it’s a church service or a jazz band at sunset, if it’s in the evening, it’s a vesperVesper hasn’t changed much over the years, in Latin it means “evening star,” and in Old English it’s æfen-sang, which sounds a little like “evening song.”

So, basically, we decided to call it Vespers because it’s a worship experience that happens in the evening. It’s a great opportunity to take a pause in the middle of the week, to start to wind down and reflect at the end of the day, and to be in beloved community.

One of the main purposes of this new service here at UUCA is to engage more voices in worship. Les and I are currently looking for people of all ages who are interested in leading, providing music for, or participating in a service. If you have an idea, but aren’t sure where to begin, I’m here to help you figure it out. Let’s get together and do this vespers thing!

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!

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