When to Call the Minister

As the church year and the school year wind down, as things get somewhat less busy (I know, it’s wishful thinking!), it seemed like a good time to post my annual reminder of When to Call the Minister — or when to contact a Pastoral Visitor. There is a Pastoral Visitor on call every week, and that information is posted in the order of service and our This Loving Community (TLC) email blast. Also, stop by the Congregational Care table on Sundays and you’ll find cards to sign for congregants who may be experiencing a crisis or hospitalization.

  • When you don’t know your minister, but would like to…
  • When you are facing a problem with your job, children, parents or anything or anyone else where a sympathetic conversation might be helpful…
  • When you’ve lost your job…
  • When you’re considering a new career…
  • When you’re having trouble in your relationship or marriage…
  • When someone you know is interested in the church…
  • When you’d like to invite a friend to church but you’re not sure how to go about it…
  • When there is illness or hospitalization. Remember that hospitals can no longer legally notify a church when you are in the hospital. We won’t be able to visit and offer support if you don’t let us know you’ve been hospitalized…
  • When someone close to you has died, is critically ill, is struggling or is facing an operation…
  • When there is a wedding planned…
  • When you are considering a divorce…
  • When you must make an important decision…
  • When you are pregnant and glad you are or wish you weren’t. When you would like to have children but can’t.
  • When you feel ready to join UUCA…
  • When you are unhappy about UUCA…
  • When you are delighted with UUCA…
  • When you need someone to talk with in confidence…
  • When you are facing a religious struggle…
  • When you have religious questions…
  • When you want to have your child dedicated…
  • When you are feeling joyful and want to share your joy…

Remember, we are a congregation that cares for one another, and these are some of the ways we do that.

See you on Sunday!

Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper, Associate Minister





Thoughts On Inspiration

The Board of Trustees recently wrapped up our Values Project. With the help of the congregation, we identified UUCA’s core values. Connection, Inspiration, Compassion, and Justice express who we are and guide what we do. Wow! We are such an awesome community! I love the fact that we value INSPIRATION!
What does it mean to be inspired? Where do we get inspiration, and how can it guide what we do? The sermon and worship service each week is one source of inspiration for a congregation. Here at UUCA we are blessed with gifted ministers and talented members who get us thinking and engaged. The music and readings can motivate us with the beauty and wisdom imparted. Sitting together, in community, can be inspiring. Knowing that there are like-minded people that we can lean on and learn from is energizing!
By volunteering in our congregation, we can gain inspiration from and encourage others. Have you ever worked with youth in RE or served on a committee at UUCA? If so, you know how these things can strengthen your spirituality beyond belief. If not, I certainly hope you will feel INSPIRED to do so. You don’t have to be “good” at these things to do them. Your community needs you, expert or not! And you will be pleasantly surprised by how much more you receive than give.
Most of us are also inspired by the natural world. The sense of awe and wonder that a sunset gives can be moving beyond words. The circle of life, with its beauty and pain, can give rise to a greater understanding of our world, and ourselves. And while we are inspired BY Mother Nature, we are also moved to care for our environment, to protect this amazing planet for our future generations. In this way, our value of inspiration could very well save the world!
Figure out what inspires you and how you can be an inspiration to others. Share it. Teach it. We have decided that this community values and needs the creativity, insight, and vision of each of us in order to strengthen us as a whole. Let’s really live this value and give the gift of inspiration to each other and the larger community.

Mariah Wright, Board of Trustees

Thank You For “What’s Happening”

In my role of Sabbatical Coordinator, one of the things I do is to put together a report for the Board of Trustees on all the work that staff has been doing with the Congregation over the past month. Although I had received these reports from Mark when I was on the Board in the past, I now realize that he has always had to really distill what is happening since there’s so much great work going on in our Congregation. As I put together the “What’s Happening” report over the past week, I was struck that sometimes as we are so busy that we need to pause, smile at how lucky we are and say Thank You to everyone who helps out in the work of the Congregation. You folks are amazing.

So go ahead and indulge and reward yourself. Go outside, sit in the grass and take in the beauty of the Asheville spring. Mara and I are particularly thankful to the Pastoral Visitors who, a year ago, came and sat with her as she was dealing with a brain tumor in Mission Hospital. I’m sure each of you has a story of thankfulness for acts of kindness or compassion, inspiration or insight, someone going out of their way to help. Take just a moment out and feel good if you’ve been on either the giving or receiving end. Feel better? Good, you deserve it!

John Bates-Sabbatical Convenor


How Am I Doing?

As a former New Yorker this phrase is firmly associated in my mind with Mayor Koch who loved to ask it – particularly when his ratings were favorable. Less so when he wasn’t doing that well. It’s the question many of us encounter in a variety of settings but for sure in our annual employment review process. It’s a particularly tricky one when we consider ministry.

The role of a called minister in a large congregation is complex and multi-faceted. The expectations outlined in the Letter of Call encompass a wide range of responsibilities. Any effective review process for a called minister needs to be broad enough to assure an accurate performance review yet not become daunting or cumbersome. To conduct an ongoing ministerial review process the Board has created the standing Task Force on Ministerial Review.

The Task Force on Ministerial Review is composed of five members of the congregation, serving staggered two-year terms. Members of the current Task Force are Wendy Seligmann, Chair, Nora Carpenter, Laura Hansen, John McGrann, and Amy Moore.

Ministerial reviews will be an ongoing annual process with focus on half of the areas of responsibilities as outlined in the minister’s Letter of Call each year so that all areas of responsibility receive a biennial review. Areas that will be under review this year are: worship, rites of passage, pastoral care, spiritual development, and leading the faith into the future.  After the review process is completed the minister will advise the Board of his/her specific biennial goals for the areas of responsibilities most recently reviewed. These goals will form the basis for the next review of these areas.

It is not the purpose of this Task Force to mediate individual complaints regarding one of the ministers. A congregational member with an issue regarding one of the ministers is encouraged to discuss the matter directly with the minister. If the member feels uncomfortable doing this, they may contact the Board President who will follow the policy regarding complaints to the Board as outlined in the Governance Document Section II Board of Trustees, Policy K.

Kay Aler-Maida, UUCA Board President

Time To Think About What’s Next

What’s next in this work of liberal religion? It’s a question that I have to say is much on my mind these days. We live at a time when, on the one hand, many churches are closing and commentators of all stripes are predicting the demise of religion. At the same time, many people are responding to political and social turmoil by going to church – some renewing old faith connections, others exploring this whole area for the first time.

We see that struggle at UUCA, too. At the same time that we are seeing a huge new influx of people looking to make connections to a progressive community, other people are quietly leaving us, saying they’re not sure this religion thing, or at least the way we’re doing it, is for them. It’s a challenging environment to work in, and it requires some careful discernment. That’s a good part of why the Board of Trustees is inviting you into some deep digging these days. You’ve had a chance to sort out the values that center this community. Next the Board will invite you to revisit our Mission Statement and the Ends that guide our ministries to help decide whether they truly fit the work that you see for this congregation. It’s good work, and I hope you will weigh in.

I have to say that your staff, myself included, is really happy to see you doing this, because the clearer all of us are on what this congregation exists to do, the better we can focus our energies in helping you accomplish it.

As your lead minister, I have an important role in this. My Letter of Agreement with you describes my job as providing “spiritual leadership and initiative,” helping you set and articulate your vision, and providing “professional performance and oversight” of the congregation’s programs in collaboration with the board, the staff and other lay leadership.

It’s challenging and exciting work, a real privilege, to be honest. But an important aspect of that work is finding what we call “a balcony perspective,” moments to step above the crush of the day-to-day and get a sense of the whole. As you can imagine, those moments are often hard to find, which is why I’m planning a brief sabbatical this spring. I’ll be gone just two months – from April 17, the day after Easter, through June 19, the day before I join the Coming of Age class on its trip to General Assembly in New Orleans.

During that time, my duties will be covered by other staff or lay volunteers. Associate Minister Lisa Bovee-Kemper will oversee pastoral care and Sunday worship. She’ll be assisted in the pulpit by some special guests who I’ve invited and who I think you will enjoy. On May 5, we’ll welcome Rev. Guy Sayles, former senior minister of First Baptist Church in Asheville and now a professor of religion at Mars Hill College. On May 28 our guest will be the Rev. Duncan Teague, who is the founder of Abundant LUUv, a new Unitarian Universalist congregation gathered in the African-American community in Atlanta, Ga. And on June 18 we’ll welcome Rabbi Justin Goldstein of Congregation Beth Israel in Asheville.

Director of Administration Linda Topp will be the key contact on administrative matters and UUCA member John Bates will serve as sabbatical convener to gather senior staff and provide a staff liaison to and reports for the Board of Trustees.

And what will I be up to while I’m away? I’m looking forward to participating in an Academy for Leaders run by the Center for Courage and Renewal, a group organized around the work of Quaker author and educator Parker Palmer. I’m also planning to be in touch with and visit a few congregations, ministers and leaders who are wrestling with the questions I posed above. And, yes, I plan a little time to rest and recharge.

I am grateful to you for providing this sabbatical time. It is a great gift to the ministry of this congregation, and I value the opportunity to get a little more of that “balcony perspective” and to check in with others who are struggling with the same questions that we are. I’ll look forward to sharing what I learn.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister

Identifying Our Core Values

A comprehensive process culminated in identifying our congregation’s core values of connection, inspiration, compassion and justice. In November, the Board of Trustees hosted a series of events for congregants to participate in a values conversation workshop. Our congregation gathered together to explore our most fundamental values as a religious community and began the process of renewing our covenant together. Our religious faith community is built on our commitment to covenant;  we promise to work together to make our shared values come to life in our religious community and beyond. This process allowed us the opportunity to have an explicit conversation together about the values that drive everything we do in the congregation.

From those workshops, the Board of Trustees then engaged in a discernment process facilitated by Laura Park from Unity Consulting. We considered and deliberated the values that came about from the congregations’s discussions and aimed to find the center. The words, connection, inspiration, compassion and justice are expansive and include multiple themes and ideas from the values conversations. They are powerful words that embody who we are as a congregation and will guide our actions and decisions. These values will also help inform our planning for the future.

We are now asking you to tell us how you can imagine the congregation living into those values more fully and faithfully. We want to know how these values authenticate who we are as a gathered community. For the following two Sundays, we invite you to identify a value that resonates with you and to share how that value expresses who our congregation is and how it guides what we do. You are also welcome to share your stories about how you are connected to these values on this blog by entering a comment below.

Kate Hartnett
UUCA Board Vice President


Ministerial Sabbatical Planned

A sabbatical is a period of special leave granted for professional development in a manner not possible during the typical press of activity. The demanding ministerial work schedule provides little opportunity for the thoughtful enrichment, analysis, and study that a sabbatical leave allows. For these reasons, the Board of Trustees has granted a request for sabbatical leave from Lead Minister, Mark Ward.

His leave will run from April 17 (right after Easter) until June 18 (back in time to get on the GA bus). Although Mark’s last sabbatical was longer (January to June 2012), he felt this time a two-month period would provide sufficient time for the study he has in mind. Mark will be sharing his specific plans in his April column.

Whether a sabbatical is long or short, we need to plan for how to attend to the minister’s many duties and responsibilities. In planning for this leave we’ve used the very successful template that was developed for Mark’s prior sabbatical.

Major among Mark’s responsibilities is worship and the schedule for this has been set for the remainder of the year. Sundays will include a mix of services – some led by Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper, some with guest speakers and a couple of special programs such as Earth Day and Coming of Age. All will be supported by our talented Worship Associates.

As Executive, Mark is the glue that connects, coordinates and convenes. And for this sabbatical, as we did for the prior one, there will be a Sabbatical Convener. The Convener will coordinate among staff, liaison with the board, prepare monthly monitoring reports, clear Mark’s email and phone messages and so on. A Big Job.

Last time this role was ably filled by Stephen Jones. For this sabbatical, we are very fortunate to have John Bates filling the role of Convener. With John’s experience as immediate past president and as well as his many other contributions to UUCA – how lucky can we get?

The rest of our very capable staff will all be in place and attentive to any area where they can bridge any gap that may arise. So, all in all, it looks like we’ve got all the bases covered and all that remains is to extend our best wishes to Mark for a fruitful sabbatical.

Kay Aler-Maida, UUCA Board President