Membership: New Ideas, New Volunteers

Last year, when we re-imagined our paid staff and decided to create the position of Minister of Faith Development (hi Rev. Claudia!), I was assigned supervision of our membership programs. As Rev. Lisa and I discussed before her departure, we needed to decrease the amount of staff time that we devote in welcoming and nurturing our newcomers while also giving them more opportunities to connect and learn before they decide to become a member.

Venny Zachritz, our 15-hours-per-week Connections Coordinator, and I have been working on that this summer and have a plan. Now all we need are volunteers from our congregation to join in to help make it happen.

Here’s the plan: We want newcomers to get more information about UUCA sooner than was happening with just 3 Beginning Points classes per year. Instead of that, we will offer a monthly “class” for newcomers every 3rd Sunday after both services. We want newcomers to be way more connected to UUCA BEFORE they join. That’s why we suggest that they participate in a wide variety of programs before they attend one of the three Membership Classes we will offer each year (formerly called Connecting Points).

In between the Intro session and the Membership Class, we want our newcomers to experience UUCA. We want them to attend at least four worship services, try to get to a Wednesday Thing, participate in two theme group sessions, take a campus tour, attend one or more Newcomer Potlucks, give their time and talents to UUCA, and generally put themselves in situations to meet fellow UUCAers. (By the way, these are all things that committed members of UUCA do on a more or less regular basis!)

To help our newcomers find these offerings, we tell them to READ THE WEEKLY ENEWS! and we assign them a Connector. Our Connectors will meet with these newcomers, find out what they’re looking for by joining UUCA, and guide them along their way.

Here’s the volunteer help we need:

  • Session leaders to meet with any interested folks at the Intro to UUCA for Newcomers classes on third Sundays following both services.
  • Theme group leaders AND covenant group leaders.
  • Tour guides to provide campus tours on 4th Sundays after services.
  • Office computer help to enter data, send out emails and create nametags.
  • Potluck organizers.
  • Membership class organizers/food helpers.

Please let me or Venny know how you can help!

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

Much is Underway

Much is underway,
reach for a star and hold on,
evolve together.

It is hard to believe, but summer is almost over. Not the seasonal summer, of course, as that won’t end until September 22nd, but the psychical summer that ends when the school year is imminent.
    I am feeling that more this year because, on August 20th, I will once more be in the classroom at UNC Asheville. After teaching there for 32 years—I retired from full-time teaching on June 30th, 2015—I didn’t expect to teach again. But soon the curtain will go up and I will be back on stage. But just one course this time (Senior Research in Economics).
Perhaps because of my career, certainly because of my schooling, I have always experienced the fall as a time of rebirth, a time of the new when all things seem possible. There is a lot to like about that!
    As I look forward to our new congregational year—one doesn’t need to look far—there is a lot to like, too! This Sunday, Rev. Claudia Jiménez, our new Minister of Faith Development, will be in the pulpit for the first time speaking on “Transitions and Possibilities.” I am eager to be in her presence and hear her words.
    I am eager, too, to see a solar panel array on the roof of Sandburg Hall. We are effectively halfway toward our goal of 100 panels, as established by congregational vote at our Annual Meeting on June 3rd. Let’s support the efforts of the Earth Community Circle to create a more livable world for our children, grandchildren, and ourselves. How to do that? Talk with someone at the ECC table after a Sunday service or visit the Donate button on the UUCA webpage and designate Campus Dev. Contribution.
    The new, though, is not all that is happening in our congregation. In recent years we have made strong commitments to supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement (June 2016) and being a Sanctuary Congregation (October 2017), and that work continues. And The Wednesday Thing makes its return on September 12th. I will be there.
    So much is underway. I am grateful for all that we will do and be this year, developing in faith, serving and transforming our community and the world.

Bruce Larson, Board of Trustees

Finding Joy in “Yes”

Summer for us at UUCA is a time for planning and preparation. We try to catch up on reading and research and plan for the church year ahead, but we’re also organizing and recruiting. The success and effectiveness of what we as staff do depends strongly on finding people in the congregation who are willing to partner with us in advancing the ministries that help us achieve our mission. As with all great work, it takes a village to make it happen. And with us, it is an essential truth that all the ministry we do is shared.

All of this has me thinking about the challenges of leadership. There is hardly an organization I know of these days that is not struggling to find leaders, and we are among them. I understand why. People’s lives are busy, and the task of leadership often sounds like just one more thing. And even if we’re interested, some of us feel it’s a little immodest, even self-important, to offer ourselves as leaders. Who do we think we are?

Also, some of us inclined to volunteer may be initially wary, having found ourselves roped into leadership jobs in the past where we were lightning rods for criticism and rarely acknowledged for the good work we did. Or we were overburdened with responsibilities for which we were not prepared and for which we received little support.

That’s a way of saying that I get that you might be a little reluctant when “the ask” comes your way from one of us here. Still, I want to urge you to see if you can find a way to say, “Yes.” And here’s why.

The first reason is simple: accepting a role of leadership helps assure that those things that you are passionate about getting attention. In recruiting volunteers we try to make a point of matching people with their areas of interest. Of course, it’s also true that there are times you may be asked to help out with something that you’ve never done before, that’s outside your comfort zone. It can be a great opportunity to experience a beginner’s mind, and sometimes that’s the best formula for growth. We all have growing to do.

The second reason takes us to the covenant that gathers us as a congregation. The last sentence of that covenant sums it up nicely: “Our life together declares that the future of each depends on the good of all, and the future of all depends on the good of each.” Each of us has a role in the success of the whole. We bring our best selves, our best intentions into our work together, giving what we can, sharing in carrying the tasks that make this community go as we also share in the joys that result.

My third point comes from Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak. “If it is true that we are made for community,” he wrote, “then leadership is everyone’s vocation.” No matter how unsuited any of us may feel for leadership, he added, “I lead by word and deed, simply because I am here doing what I do.” None of us is outside the circle; we each influence it profoundly by our very presence.

Then, why not claim that presence, why not own the gifts that you bring and put them to service for this community of memory and hope that carries our hopes and seeks to realize the values that give our lives meaning, a community that touches our hearts, our souls, that abets our awakening?

So, please say, “Yes,” when the call comes, and we, in turn, promise to respect your needs, your limits, and to support you and celebrate you for work that is joyously given and gratefully received.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Changing, Even When It’s Hard

We at UUCA rightly take pride in our commitment to social justice. Our principles, our values call us to be advocates for change to make the world more fair, compassionate, and equitable, to disrupt patterns of historic wrong that oppress so many people and endanger the Earth. Yet, nearly always, it seems, the hardest kind of change that we are faced with is not in the world but in ourselves.

When you think about it, that’s not surprising, since some of the toughest problems that face us are the result of deeply-ingrained practices and thoughts, ways of thinking or doing things that are woven into the fabric of how things seem to work, that we don’t really even think about. Yet, that is precisely why we need to examine them.

This is especially true when we’re dealing with the heritage of white supremacy. Those of us with white skins pretty much get that there are patterns of oppression that put people of color at a disadvantage simply because of their color and also give us privileges simply because of our whiteness. It’s not something that we or they have a choice about; it’s marbled into our culture.

So, part of our work, as people who love justice, is to do what we can to change that culture, to disrupt assumptions, and to use our privilege, our advantages, to correct disparities that result from them. Much of our most important social justice work in the last several years has been focused precisely on that. And it’s helped us make important and lasting connections in communities of color and with other organizations allied with us in this work.

But as we get deeper into this work, we see how much further we have to go. Once we are in conversation with people of color, strategizing next steps, we find that even how we organize tasks can insinuate white supremacy culture into the work. For example, we may be stingy in how we allot decision-making power, seeking to hold onto it ourselves, rather than sharing it. Or we may bring a hyper sense of urgency or perfectionism to the work that stymies our effort. All of these, we’re coming to realize, are artifacts of the prevailing white culture that make it hard for people of color to fully participate with us.

To help sensitize myself to this I am participating, along with about a half-dozen UUCA members, in a webinar called “Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves” that helps address these issues. I’ll include links at the bottom of this column to some of the resources I’ve gleaned from this training that I hope you will consider taking some time to look over during the summer. This is all part of the inner work that we need to be doing if we are going to be effective advocates and allies in the work of justice.

Here are some resources from “Changing Sytems, Changing Ourselves:
I Love My Undocumented People” – a 3-minute YouTube video

Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo – a 22-minute YouTube video

White Supremacy Culture – a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture which show up in our organizations

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Teacher Appreciation

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

When considering those words of our congregation’s mission, it is evident we take them to heart in Religious Education.  And we are able to offer this type of full, enriching program only because of the large group of volunteers who help make it successful.

The skill and dedication our volunteer leaders provide the children and youth is truly amazing.  We see thoughtfulness from the teachers when planning and enacting the lesson or activity; our teaching teams are tuned in to the needs of their students and use their expertise and heart to navigate hiccups.  The independence, creativity, and capability our volunteers have shown to implement our RE program this year has been tremendous.  We have a talented and committed bunch of folks serving in RE!

People like Bob Roepnack, Mariah Wright, Mike Horak, Ann McLellan, Wendy Fletcher, Gordon Clark, Kay Aler-Maida, Will Jernigan, Melissa Murphy, Langdon Martin, Nancy Bragg, Jon Miles, Jodi Clere, Judy Harper, and Mike Neelon, to name more than a few.  You likely recognize these names not only because they might be your friends or who you sit next to during worship service or covenant group, but because many of them have other integral roles in our congregation as well: Board members, Buildings and Grounds team, Earth and Social Justice Ministry, covenant group leaders, musicians, and more.  AND they volunteer in RE.

The time and energy of about 80 volunteers make Religious Education happen here each year.  Because of them, our RE program is strong, meaningful, and laying a foundation for growing new UUs in a world that desperately needs them!  We provide age-appropriate, thought-provoking curricula and materials; we seek to honor the individual while being in community together; and we connect children with adults, parents with adults (!), and all of us together.

“When children know there is a whole community of adults working within our principles to wonder together and make change in the world, they can feel empowered to know they are not alone on this journey.”

— Melissa Murphy, 4th Grade, Love Connects Us

This is our community and we are full of gratitude for our volunteers!  We hope to see all of them at our RE volunteer appreciation event at the end of May!

p.s. Want to join us in Religious Education?  We have a solid volunteer roster started and are recruiting now to round out the teaching teams for 2018-19.  (It’s not as difficult as it sounds, and we hear all the time that it is meaningful to the adults too!) Or try it out by volunteering for 1-2 Sundays this summer — leaders and assistants wanted.  Find out more here and contact Kim or Jen with questions or to sign up.

 

 

 

Stand in Awe

One of our opportunities as UUCA Board of Trustee members is to take turns writing this little “blog” – the thinking being that the blog gives you an opportunity to know us a little better.  Just as I was pondering my topic this week my phone rang.  It was my husband John on his cell phone, enthusiastically inviting me to join him on the property across the street.  “You’ve got to see this nesting hawk and chicks!”

As I approached the area near the hawk’s 45-foot tree, two neighbors had already set up their camera tripods and were busy shooting away.  Their telephoto lenses captured the three (or was it four?) bobbing heads of the chicks as they energetically vied for each morsel from their parent’s beak.  We were all surprisingly mesmerized, though this was simply a predictable and ubiquitous act of natural parenting.

For each of us, at that moment, there was only this tree, this particular hawk family, this particular feeding of the chicks – this little ‘miracle’ happening on a beautiful spring day.  How rare and wonderful to step out of our own worries and concerns – for our planet, for our world, for our country –  and share this small but significant moment together: to appreciate and marvel at this simple act of nature.  Such a reminder to stay open to these happenings as we move through our days.

Let’s all leave a little space in our souls each day for something surprising – let’s be ready to “stand in awe” of the simple moments of beauty in the everyday world around us.

Diane Martin, Board of Trustees

 

Why You Need Our UUCA Kids

Creating a worship service (YRUU this Sunday) or credo (May 13 services) doesn’t emerge out of nowhere!  Our now-teens have been building up to these services in all of their years of religious education. 

Our Religious Education (RE) Program depends on more than 70 volunteers each year to implement this foundational work for our congregation.  It takes many volunteer teachers every year to provide that consistent and compassionate presence; mentors to foster the growth of our Coming of Age youth; a dedicated RE Council; and people enacting the behind-the-scenes work (like cleaning closets and rooms, prepping materials, etc.).  We are grateful for this year’s and past volunteers for what they have given to our RE kids.  We also hear that the volunteers are appreciative of what RE has given them.

Here is what some of our teachers and parents have said about RE:

“I am happy that my children get to form relationships with a variety of adults in this intergenerational community — not only with the parents of their peers but with the elders in our community as well.” — RE Parent

“t is as much a learning experience for the teachers as the kids–and it’s fun!  And the kids are awesome. ” — 6th-8th Grade Neighboring Faiths Teacher

 “As an older person, I enjoyed getting to know this age group.  I was impressed by how bright, thoughtful and articulate they can be.  Visiting the different faith communities and learning about them was a great learning experience for me.” — 6th-8th Grade Neighboring Faiths Teacher

“Without RE volunteers and without RE classes, our children would be lacking in meaningful faith development.  We owe them this investment as the future leaders of this world!” — Parent and RE Teacher

“Working on an RE team with other congregation members allows you to form new relationships in this large community.…”  — RE teacher

“This year has been special. Asked to teach RE, we said yes and I’m so glad we did. We’ve been blessed with an intelligent, thoughtful, curious group of youth to learn from.  We’ve also worked with three amazing co-teachers who have become new friends we look forward to seeing at coffee hour.”   — RE teacher

(I have volunteered for years…)”During most of that time, I thought I was volunteering as an expression of my spiritual journey. Well, yes, it was that, but I began to realize that more importantly, I was discovering my spiritual community, and to my surprise it included 15-year-olds…. Are you ready to receive the gifts that our young people have to give you? But be prepared to have it be a life-changing experience, both for you and for them.”   — Coming of Age teacher

“I have seen children connect faith ideas to their everyday lives; ask the big questions in a safe space; be silly and have fun together; form new friendships and connections in a large community; learn from other perspectives;, and enjoy lots of food together!  There is value in taking time to slow down; to learn, reflect, and question together.” — 4th grade RE Teacher

Now it’s your turn.  We want YOU to be involved in RE!  What will YOU say after volunteering?  How will it transform you?  We are asking each of you to join us for Religious Education in 2018-19. You may ask, “But how?  What will I do?  How much of a commitment is it?”  Let us fill you in, because we know there are some myths and questions about volunteering in RE.

Visit our RE Council table on Sundays in Sandburg Hall to find out more, or email Kim or Jen.

Kim Collins and Jen Johnson, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinators