Wait, Vespers, What?


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


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,


Be It Resolved…


We are days away from the congregational meeting at which this congregation will vote on whether to become a physical sanctuary. The discernment process has focused largely on logistical issues, which makes sense, because the commitment to provide sanctuary is a big one. At the same time, we have talked about how the Sanctuary Working Group and the leadership of the congregation believes that working on behalf of immigrants in our community by declaring sanctuary fulfills our Unitarian Universalist values. All of that is true, but there is another piece of this decision that I want to be sure is lifted up.

The reason this is coming to a full congregation vote is because it is a big decision, and because, like declaring UUCA a Welcoming Congregation or a Green Sanctuary, will impact our work as a congregation well into the future. Physical sanctuary is only one piece of the resolution. A positive vote for sanctuary on October 29 is a statement of our commitment to the broader issue of immigrant justice in our community.

There are four “be it resolveds” included in the resolution:

  1. Dedicates itself to educate and activate our congregants, to amplify and respond to the voices of immigrant leaders, and to speak out against discrimination.

This means that we will continue to build relationships with immigrant partners here in Asheville and work to be allies and accomplices as they organize for their own liberation. We will speak out when we can, and amplify the voices of the marginalized in our community.

  1. Commits to open our congregational spaces to accommodate those facing deportation, while they pursue a legal appeal.

This is the physical sanctuary bit.

  1. Resists any harmful and unjust policy proposals that further undermine due process and lead to racial profiling and discrimination.

Physical sanctuary is only one piece of this resolution. Legislative advocacy for policies and laws that support the immigrant community, as well as resistance of unjust laws are another important aspect of this resolution.

  1. Commits to work alongside our friends, families, neighbors, and partner organizations to create sacred space of sanctuary.

This statement is fundamentally about continuing the work we already do as a congregation. We have long been seen as a safe place for LGBTQ persons, for people of all religions, and more. We have committed to working toward racial justice. Creating a culture of sanctuary in the community within and outside of this congregation is a continuation of this work.


Each member of the congregation gets one vote on this important issue. Some of you may be ready to commit to direct engagement with a potential sanctuary recipient, volunteering your time and energy to working with our sanctuary partners in this way. Some of you may not agree with the assertion that becoming a physical sanctuary and working for immigrant justice is something that UUCA should do at all. Some of you may be in support of sanctuary as a concept, but can’t commit to daily support work for physical sanctuary. Some of you may feel that your energy is best used to advocate and organize for legislative and legal change. And, of course, there are many other assessments and positions on this issue among you. Each of these positions has strongly held values behind it, and some will result in a “yes” vote, while others will result in a “no” vote.

When it comes time to vote, all of the statements and questions and answers will have been made, and the most important thing to know is that all of you are called to vote your conscience. That is what democratic leadership and congregational polity mean. See you on Sunday at 4pm.

Racial Justice Focus for Community Plate

racial justice

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

Toward that end, I am happy to announce a new initiative that’s comin’ down the pike: 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. You are invited to submit nominations now to be considered for the 2018 calendar year.

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. For this initiative, the team is specifically looking for nominations of organizations that directly empower people of color rather than organizations that seek to mitigate secondary “symptoms” of systemic racism.

How can I participate, you ask? Right now, we need your nominations for 2018. Community plate guidelines give precedence to local non-profit organizations, but the team also considers national and international organizations. In rare cases, they also consider for profit organizations that fit all the other selection criteria. We appreciate your generous giving on Community Plate Sundays, and invite you also to notice volunteer opportunities with recipient organizations.

To nominate an organization click here. FMI contact a member of the Community Plate Team (Linda Kooiker, Ben Fleming, Emilie White, Eleanor Lane, Brenda Robinson, and Donna Robinson) or Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper. Further, if you’d like to take concrete action before 2018, the Color of Asheville has a directory of African American owned businesses, professionals, service providers and clubs in Asheville, NC.

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.