By the time this blog is posted, my lovely ancient mother will have turned 99-years-old, outliving her four siblings literally by decades.  We are stunned by her longevity, but she’s a little less of herself each day, ravaged by the inevitable physical and mental declines of ancient age.  But once in a while – though increasingly rarely – I get a little peek at the original ‘Marion’ who still inhabits, somewhere deep inside, one little corner of this now almost unrecognizable mind and body.

I see Mom several times each week, at her dementia assisted living facility just minutes from our house. Always a sweet and sensitive person, Mom had often spontaneously shared poetry she’d loved and memorized through the years.  On a recent visit, she surprised me by reciting her favorite stanza from Invictus, a poem by William Ernest Henley.

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.”

 The last two lines of Invictus declare, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Marion really isn’t the “master of [her] fate” any more.  From dawn to dusk, her day is planned and prescribed by others. They choose her clothes, puree her food, and roll her wheelchair into activities that are far beyond her now-reduced understanding.

Honestly, my visits with Mom, who can no longer engage in lucid conversation, can be draining and frustrating. It’s a little too easy for me to disengage and mentally review plans for my own day.  But Mom’s poetic recollection brought me right back into the room – fully.

What a joy and relief for me to think that ‘Marion’ still has one small part of herself that feels “unconquerable.”  And it’s a welcome reminder to me to try a little harder to be fully present, to honor and embrace that “unconquerable soul” every time I visit.

Diane Martin, Board of Trustees




Continuing the Work of Immigration Justice

Our support of La Mariposa in sanctuary last year connected us more deeply to the whole struggle over immigrant rights, which is an ongoing mess. Much of what we read comes from the debates in Washington and the human rights crisis at our Southern border. But there’s also news here in North Carolina that merits our attention.

About a month ago you may have seen me among area clergy and immigration activists in a news photo standing in support of Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller. At that news conference, he announced that absent a court-approved warrant, his department would not honor requests by officers of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrants that it was seeking. Nor, he said, would his deputies participate in ICE raids or investigations.

Miller is among a number of North Carolina sheriffs who have refused to participate in a program called 287(g), which sets out an agreement for ICE agents and deputies to work together. Miller is right to refuse to participate in such an extra-legal arrangement that puts the immigrant community at risk.

But now under a bill proposed in the North Carolina House, sheriffs would be required to work with ICE, including asking people about their immigration status, notifying ICE when they come upon people who are undocumented and detaining those people if ICE asked them to. It would, in other words, put sheriff deputies in the position of enforcing unjust racial profiling throughout the state.

This is a moment when our voice could matter on behalf of our immigrant neighbors. While ICE action has been limited locally, hundreds of people have been seized across North Carolina in the last month or so. So, let me urge you to consider writing a letter to your representative or even the local newspaper opposing this move.

And while we’re at it, I welcome your participation in our immigration justice work. Recently, over the course of two Wednesday Thing programs I met with about 20 UUCA members to talk about what in our work in the last couple of years was most fulfilling and effective and how that should guide us in the future. We agreed that we appreciated being a part of an effort that built bridges to others, not walls, and that expanded our own awareness about and contact with our immigrant neighbors. And we are grateful to have built and still maintain a relationship with Maria and her family.

We also agreed that this experience and our commitment to affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all have called us to go further. Among other things, we hope to continue bringing the Spanish language into our worship and into our community. Maria’s presence with us prompted us to begin organizing Spanish language classes. We hope to continue those. We also want to look for ways to build contacts and relationships with the immigrant community in our area and raise our awareness of and act on justice issues that affect them.

If this interests you, I invite you to be in touch with me or members of our organizing team – Katie Winchell, Carol Buffum , or Elizabeth Schell. We remember, as Theodore Parker put it, that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. But lest we forget, for that to happen, it needs a few benders. Let us be among them.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister


Let’s Talk About the Wednesday Thing

ballonsLast Wednesday I called my daughter as I was leaving work at 8:30 pm. Yes, 8:30 pm.  “What are you doing at work so late?!” was her greeting. I replied that I was leaving the Wednesday Thing.  I had just shared a delicious vegetarian meal with folks from the congregation; participated in an engaging, reflective Vespers service and created a dance sequence with a small group of women to set our collective intentions for the spring. “Oh!” she replied, “Sounds like fun, not work.”

Of course, for me it is both. Our hosts that evening took care of all the dinner set-up details–thank you, Winslow Tuttle and Tobias Van Buren! Elizabeth Schell led a multigenerational justice-focused Vespers service– thank you, Elizabeth! That Wednesday we offered three programs: UU Journeys which involved a discussion of UU theology, a drop-in parent support group and a multigenerational creative movement class. Thank you to facilitators Venny Zachritz, Jill Preyer and Lisa Zihaya who made it possible!  This is just a snapshot of one Wednesday.

The Wednesday Thing planning team has worked behind the scenes to organize a myriad of volunteers who host, facilitate programs and lead Vespers each Wednesday. They also make sure childcare is available each Wednesday.  We are grateful for all the volunteers and staff who make Wednesday Thing possible!

As a relatively new member of the UUCA family, the Wednesday Thing has been a great way to meet people of all ages in the congregation. This is its second year and the planning team is getting ready for year three. Before we start planning, we would like to hear from you about your Wednesday Thing experience. Why do you attend? Why haven’t you joined us yet? 

Hey, that sounds like we need a survey!  And just like that, next time you come to the Wednesday thing pick up a survey at the check-in table. If you’re not a regular, here’s a link to the survey which you can email me or place  in my mailbox. You can also share your thoughts with members of the planning team: Kim Collins, Jeff Jones, Ellen Brown, Linda Topp or myself. See you at the Wednesday Thing!

Mark Your Calendar
BoyOn Sunday, April 7 at 3pm, in partnership with Helpmate and Our Voice, we will be screening The Mask You Live In. This documentary follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating society’s definition of masculinity. The film explores how society can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men. There will be a facilitated discussion afterward. This is a very powerful and timely documentary. The FREE screening is made possible through the generosity of a UUCA donor. Join us and bring a friend.

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development


At our recent Board of Trustees meeting, Bruce Larson, inspired by this month’s worship theme of Journey, challenged us to reflect upon our individual life journeys. Where are you now? Where did you come from? What are you hoping to see on the horizon? The conversation that soon traveled around the table glowed with gratitude while also offering hints of the bittersweet. It was one of those contemplative interactions that gently reminded me of what I love about serving on the UUCA Board with such good people as well as about being a part of the larger UUCA community of good people in general. It also happened to remind me of another Journey-inspired moment that had taken place in my life 20 years prior.

In my mid-20’s, I was living in Seattle and desperately trying (not trying) to determine in which direction I was heading and if it was actually where I wanted to go. However, my metaphorical traveling song at the time seemed stuck somewhere between “Life is a Highway” and “Highway to Hell” and there were many a moment in which I found myself, despite having been the one behind the wheel, somehow losing track of long stretches of road. Perhaps “Road to Nowhere” would have been more apropos. Anyway, the point is that I was young and unsure of where I was going.

Returning home in the early hours after sunrise from a 3rd shift job, I passed a man on the sidewalk asking for change. Having none, I offered him a smoke and sat down beside him to talk. The story that quickly unfolded was both unexpected and unbelievable. A young drummer’s band had made big. A world tour had unfolded. Wealth won rapidly. Wild excess run rampant. I remember him telling me that despite being “a sharp tack,” the sheer reckless speed of his life had left him driving blindly into each new day. Sadly, tragedy ensued and he was soon without a band, a plan, or a purpose. “I had been living with a reckless ‘Be here now’ now attitude without any reflection on my past or my future. Don’t make the same mistake,” he warned me. “Be present in the moment but keep in mind your sense of purpose if you want to stay on track. Without some kind of map of what matters to you, life might throw you a detour and you’ll wind up lost.” As we parted ways, he smiled, raised his fist and quoted from one of his band’s most famous songs: “Wheel in the sky keeps on turning brother.” I raised my fist back at him and returned “You don’t know where you’ll be tomorrow.” Yes, according to my momentary friend, he had been a member of the band, Journey.

I have never attempted to see if his story was true. Finding out if it was fact has never seemed to be the point. All I know is that in 1999, I sat on a sidewalk with a stranger who told me a surreal story that, at the time, I needed to hear. And now, 20 years later, my journey having led me to a family, a job, and a community that matters immeasurably to me, I still remember it vividly. My past has shaped me, my present helps ground and make meaning for me, and my vision of a future I believe in helps me stay more awake at the wheel as I travel onward. Being a part of UUCA has become an integral part of my navigation. Be it Mark’s and Claudia’s Sunday reflections, my work with the Board, or my participation at the Wednesday Thing, I maintain a better balance between where I currently am and the horizon I seek. Like the song says, I may not know where I will be tomorrow, but UUCA at least helps me stay aware of the journey itself. My hope is that it helps do the same for you as well.

Ryan Williams, Board of Trustees


Harvest Time

We are a community of aspiration – we have all kinds of great hopes for what difference we can make for this congregation and in the world. And, to be honest, a few of those hopes remain just that, great ideas that for various reasons never quite reach fruition. But, as I reported to your Board of Trustees this month, happily we have come to a time when we have some successes to point to. I called it “a harvest moment for this congregation.” And so I thought it would be worthwhile sharing a few of our successes with you.  

  1. Solar Panels
    The installation of the 105 PV solar panels on our flat roof is the most obvious example. This was something that we as a congregation had dreamed about for years, but making it happen was a pretty big lift that we weren’t quite able to figure out. It was complicated, requiring research into solar systems and energy rebates and all that. But the replacement of our flat roof and approaching deadlines on Duke Energy rebates gave us the impetus we needed to get moving, and our hard-working Net Zero task force got to work. Once we knew what we wanted, we needed to figure out how to pay for it.  
    Board President Bruce Larson came up with the idea of inviting congregation members to purchase a panel and UUCA friends Darwin & Myra Smith offered the congregation an incentive to purchase 10 panels if we could complete the fundraising in a month. And we did it: altogether, 172 people contributed. As a result, we now have a solar array that will generate roughly 35 kilowatts, taking care of about 85% of the electrical needs in our main building. This will not only keep our electric bill down but, more important, reduce our energy demand on the nation’s electric grid and reduce the need for extracting coal and gas. Many thanks to our Net Zero folks – John Bates, Ken Brame, Dan Clere, Larry Holt, Judy Mattox, John McGrann, Bob Roepnack, and Wink Zachritz. Bob Roepnack deserves special recognition as our chief liaison with the installer.
  1. “Wake Now Our Vision”
    When our Legacy Circle Committee learned that the UUA and the Shelter Rock Congregation on Long Island would be collaborating on a program to encourage planned giving by congregations, they jumped on it. The “Wake Now Our Vision” project promised to give participants in the program contributions equal to 10% of each new or increased planned gift that they received during the campaign.

    The committee arranged for us to be a pilot project for the campaign and went to work contacting UUCA members about planned gifts. Over 18 months they recruited and documented more than $2 million in new planned gifts to UUCA or other UU entities. As a result, our congregation will receive unrestricted funds totaling $138,000 over the next two budget years. Congratulations to committee chair Beverly Cutter and members Mike Horak, Aubrey LeFey, Mara Sprain and Myrtle Staples.
  1. Annual Budget Drive
    All of this comes at the start of a beautifully organized Annual Budget Drive. Thanks to the terrific advance work and planning of our Annual Budget Team we entered Celebration Sunday last week having already raised nearly half of what we are seeking in donor commitments – $331,100 toward our goal of $707,000 – from 28% of our congregation. Then, Celebration Sunday itself was a creative and inspirational moment for our entire community. And we made good progress toward gathering our commitments for the coming year. If you haven’t had a chance to fill out yours yet, please do. As Will Jernigan said Sunday, this is not an ask, this is offering you an opportunity to participate in something that matters, to support this warm, vibrant, inspired and spiritually-rich community. Special thanks to our Annual Budget Drive team, co-chairs Will Jernigan and Gina Phairas as well as Iris Hardin and Dan Phairas.

Congratulations, folks. All this is evidence of a community where people do good work, care about what they do, and get a good return on all they’ve invested.


Faith in Action

Unitarian Universalism challenges us to put our beliefs into action. Our faith development programs for children and adults explore what those beliefs are and how they inform our actions. This year during Sunday worship (yes, worship is faith development) we have been inviting you to participate in Random Acts of Kindness and share your experiences on the last Sunday of the month during Time for All Ages. Engaging ourselves and others with kindness seems so simple, and yet, the simple can be overlooked in a world of busy-ness, political divisiveness, and social media distraction. The slip of paper with a suggested Random Act of Kindness that I picked up at service in January (you can still pick one up from the loom in the Sanctuary) is tucked in my agenda and serves as a reminder to get out of my head and my schedule, and be more present to others. It has helped me be more appreciative of family, friends, and co-workers as well as more attentive to others when I am out in the community. Exploring opportunities to surprise someone with an unexpected kindness can be fun.

Another way of putting our beliefs into action is by partnering with local organizations that engage in social justice work. On Sunday, April 7 at 3pm in partnership with Helpmate and Our Voice, we will be screening “The Mask You Live In.” This documentary follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating society’s definition of masculinity. The film explores how society can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men. There will be a facilitated discussion afterward. This is a very powerful and timely documentary whose screening is made possible through the generosity of a generous UUCA donor. Mark your calendar, and plan to join us.

Lastly, this month I have been working with our religious educators, Jen and Kim, planning next year’s children and youth programs. We are being intentional about integrating social justice projects into each grade level that are experiential and address racial justice and equity issues in a developmentally-appropriate way. Ideally, these projects will tie into social justice work being carried out by the adults in the congregation. If you are engaging in social justice work that you would like to share with our youth, please contact me.

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development


Instilling Values and Creating Community for the Next Generation

I’m so glad we have UUCA to help us raise our child.

My husband, daughter and I joined the congregation in 2013 when she was eight years old. At UUCA, we found a place that shares our values, a place where those values are brought to her by other people, in different ways than she gets at home. At UUCA, she sees that cool people – a.k.a. non-parental units – share those values. She is immersed in a whole community that strives to live with kindness, compassion, integrity, and justice.

She has come into a community of peers she loves, through youth group activities, and youth retreat weekends (“cons”) and camps at The Mountain.

She learned about world religions in our religious education program last year. And now, as an eighth grader, she is in the OWL (Our Whole Lives) class, a sexuality education program offered at UUCA every year.

In truth, OWL is one of the main reasons we joined the congregation. If you aren’t familiar with OWL, UUA describes it as a “sexuality education program for youth that models and teaches caring, compassion, respect, and justice. A holistic program that moves beyond the intellect to address the attitudes, values, and feelings that youth have about themselves and the world.”

In OWL, they discuss everything from body image to consent, gender identity, sex and sexuality in the media (including social media), and much more. Her parents have discussed many, though not all, of these subjects with her. But it is a relief to know that if we miss something, or get something wrong or incomplete, that she is getting correct, value-based information from a trusted source. I wish this were available to every adolescent regardless of their congregation, regardless if they even have a congregation.

OWL is taught by a dedicated team of four teachers who have to be trained, then prepare for and thoughtfully present sensitive material to (easily embarrassed) teens every Sunday for 90 minutes from September to May. Bless ‘em for their service to our children and the world!

Louise Anderson, Board of Trustees