Learning While Leading

I’m sorry to be missing our congregational retreat at The Mountain this year toward the end of October. Sadly, it conflicts with another obligation I have that weekend that I want to tell you a little about.

It began with a retreat I took at the beginning of my sabbatical called “An Academy for Leaders” run by the Center for Courage and Renewal. This organization uses principles developed by Parker Palmer to help people, as it says, “find the clarity and courage to bring our true selves to our life’s work.”

In this workshop, the focus was on people who serve as leaders in many different settings. There were about 30 people involved. We met for a long weekend, then broke into groups of five for monthly telephone conferences. The program concludes this month with another weekend retreat in Minneapolis.

In planning out my sabbatical, it seemed to me that it would be valuable to use some of my time away to focus on what my role of leader in this congregation demands of me. And what I like about the approach used by the Center for Courage and Renewal is that their retreats don’t hand you handy mantras or tricks to accomplish your goals. Instead, they invite participants to find their center for acting within themselves.

As they put it, “At the heart of authentic leadership is the courage to be fully human, to take risks, to care deeply, and to take action even in the midst of change and uncertainty.”

So, the time we spent together was involved in reflection and sharing, mediated by a process of asking each other open and honest questions. The process can be challenging because it invites us to ask questions of ourselves that we’re not used to asking. But by the same token, it is also freeing because what we center in on is the truth within us that motivates us in our work.

We were asked to reflect on such things as what energizes us and what depletes us in our work and steps to keep each of us using our strengths in our work.

In my case, for example, I told my group that what energizes me is collaborating with others to create something new that awakens hope and new energy in others, essentially all that’s involved in building community.

What depletes me, on the other hand, is when I feel that I am in trying to organize something or motivate people I am “pushing a string,” finding people are unwilling to take part or engage at a significant level. A learning that emerged for me was to make sure that my efforts stay focused on that which is mine to do, not taking on too much or giving energy to that which doesn’t engage others.

There is more to say and more to come, but I hope that gives you a flavor of the kind work that I’m pursuing in the hope of continuing to grow into a leader who is effective and acts with integrity.


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


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

What’s Our Mission? Our Purpose?

I have taped a reminder to the desk in my study at UUCA. Printed in 48-point type, it says:

“Connection, Inspiration, Compassion and Justice
express who we are and guide what we do.”

These are the words that your Board of Trustees settled on earlier this year to describe the values that underlie our work as a congregation. They emerged from an intensive, months-long process that dozens of UUCA members took part in last fall guided by Laura Park from Unity Consulting. It began with an invitation to all of us to describe an experience of the holy. Then, in dyads and then groups of four, people sorted through their experiences to identify the values that those experiences expressed. From those many words the Board distilled the four that you see above.

Yay! We’ve agreed on four powerful and evocative values that guide us as a congregation. That’s good, but four nice words floating in space don’t accomplish much. We need to bring them down to earth. What do those words call us to do and be as a congregation? Starting in September your Board of Trustees will invite you into a process to help answer that question. Like last fall, you’ll be invited into conversations facilitated by trained congregation members. The goal of this process will be to help update what we understand to be our Mission and then what Ends, what specific goals that mission calls us to accomplish. Those Ends will then guide the work of UUCA staff and lay leadership.

This is the kind of good, generative work that will give us a strong foundation for where we go and what we do in the years ahead. I hope you will all find a way to take part. It will be organized around a process intended to help us name what is best in what we do now and how we can build on it to realize our hopes and dreams for this community.

In tumultuous times it is all the more important that those of us seeking Connection, Inspiration, Compassion and Justice be centered, clear and unified that we may be part of the work that makes this congregation a blessing to the world.