Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion characterized by a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Unitarian Universalists assert no creed but instead are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. As such, their congregations include many atheists, agnostics, and theists within their membership. The roots of Unitarian Universalism lie in liberal Christianity. –Wikipedia
I was raised in a small United Methodist community church west of Asheville. As a young man in my early teens, I started having some questions regarding the Bible and other of the religious teaching. The Sunday school teachers and ministers could not fully answer my questions to my satisfaction. It was in 1979 that I was first introduced to the UU religion.
Here I learned that questioning was an accepted way and I got a variety of answers. Differing beliefs were accepted. In discovering this new religion, I really started looking at the beliefs of my upbringing. I started looking at new answers to my questions. This also brought new questions for me to research for answers.
There is no creed or dogma for us to follow. Instead, we have an inclusive and diverse set of beliefs. We have a shared covenant of the seven principles which are used as a guideline in our religious quest. We also incorporate diverse teachings from Eastern and Western philosophies and religions.
We question and reflect together on subjects of life and death, higher power existence, prayer, spiritual practices, various sacred texts, and other topics of interest. In our search for answers we are sharing our experiences with each other and we are able to learn from each other, thus increasing our understanding and knowledge. We have open and exciting worship services touching on many varied topics; rites of passage ceremonies; sharing expressions of our love; and an RE program that teaches our youth about life and the many differences to be expected and a way of dealing with life’s issues.
We are a religion of various backgrounds and beliefs that we bring together. Our religious backgrounds differ: no religious background; people who believe or not in God; UU’s pagans; agnostics; atheists; humanist; and many other choices.
We promote gay rights. ( UU’s have been active in this area for over 40 years). We welcome people of all ethnicities no matter where they come from and whoever they love.
We come from many backgrounds with many varying beliefs. We are compassionate, deep thinkers, and doers. We work for social justice and community and more love and understanding in our lives. We stand on the side of peace, justice, and love.
We come together under the banner of Unitarian Universalism and together we will continue to grow with help and understanding from each other. These are some of the reasons why I was drawn to this path.
Cecil Bennett, Board of Trustees
“I love the dark hours of my being,” writes the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. “My mind deepens into them. There I can find, as in old letters, the days of my life, already lived, and held like a legend and understood. Then the knowing comes: I can open to another life that’s wide and timeless.”
This is a time of year that invites us into the dark hours of our being: not necessarily sorrow or gloom, but a more contemplative, reflective state of mind. Even as our Internet feeds fill with holiday ads, our minds and hearts feel drawn to follow our body’s advice to pull in and nest a bit. The advance of literal darkness, the shortening of days and with it the chill of winter, makes us a little sleepy, a little less sharply focused and invites a longer perspective on our lives.
It’s a good time to take stock and maybe attend to some of the mania that can drive us day to day. In the days of our lives, already lived, what lessons can we find? What is tugging for our attention that merely saps our spirit, that distracts us from that which truly feeds us? How might we organize our lives to better attend to that?
Mine is a job that often demands rapid-fire multitasking – planning worship one moment, arranging a pastoral call next, then completing a board report, or making a connection for a social justice event, and more. It’s important work, but sometimes it pushes me pretty hard. So, I am drawn to questions like: What tasks need my attention now? What can wait and what of this can I share or pass on to others? And on a larger scale, for us as a congregation, what is called of us now? What are we positioned to take on?
In the dark hours of the year it is a good time to create space for these questions as well as for the fallow times in our lives when we need to ease up on the accelerator. This work of ours is something we are in on for the long haul. Let us create space for it so that rested and refreshed we can, as Rilke puts it, open to life that’s wide and timeless.
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
It’s holiday time! Let’s talk turkey…..um, Wish Lists! (Still working on leftovers 🦃). First off, I’d like to report on our amazing generosity from last year. We were able to buy EVERYTHING on the list! So thank you, thank you, thank you! Technically, we haven’t spent all the money from last year because some of it went toward plantings and we’ve been slowly buying new plants all year long. The final chunk helped buy the plants and mulch for the new pollinator garden.
A funny thing happened to my Wish List this year. Well, not funny, more like astounding. I had started my list just when we got a substantial donation from a lovely, generous, long-time member. So, that donation covered several items that would have been on the list but that we no longer need—because we have them!: 20 new hymnals; the completion of the hearing sound loop in the choir area of the Sanctuary (new technology has allowed us to do something we could not do just 3 years ago); video equipment to be used to record in the Sanctuary; with the remainder being applied to the long-term (i.e., expensive) project we have in mind for the yard between the main building and the Memorial Garden, now to be known as the “Main Building Backyard Project.” (It will be awesome when it’s done, I promise.)
But fear not! (Holiday spirit, right?) I still have a Wish List for this year! Just like for the solar panel project, you may donate to a particular item in any amount you desire. However, please designate your donation to the WISH LIST so we can use it for any item on the list if we need to.
Nursery changing table – $100
Our hand-me-down table is in sad shape.
Entry sign for the Memorial Garden – $500
The current one is peeling AND has “church” instead of “congregation” in the name.
Furnish a designated “teen space” in RE Commons – $500
Every church needs a hang-out space for teens, and the way we are spread across campus, there is no place in the main building for that. Our great RE folks have set aside an area in RE Commons now, but we need to get some seating for it and make it cool.
Screen the movie, The Mask You Live In, at UUCA, and open it to the community – $500
The Mask You Live In follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media weigh in, offering empirical evidence of the “boy crisis” and tactics to combat it. The Mask You Live In ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men. We think it’s an important movie for both our UUCA and greater community.
Install LED lights in Sandburg Hall – $1,000 more!
Who could object to brighter, dimmable lighting in Sandburg Hall? We’ll change out those 30-some-year old fluorescent fixtures. This project will cost $2,000 but Ken Brame and Judy Mattox have offered a $1,000 match, so all YOU need to do is come up with $1,000 more. We can do it!
Compost Now – $1300
Between bear raids and the fact that getting food waste out of the landfill is environmentally correct, we’ll be using Compost Now to collect our food waste every week from the main building and 23 Edwin Place. This service will cost $2500 a year but I’ll manage to get it officially into the budget next fiscal year. This will pay for the unbudgeted amount this fiscal year.
Pavers from lower parking lot to Memorial Garden – $4,000
Instead of pouring concrete, we want to use pavers like the ones on our front patio to make a handicap-accessible path to the Memorial Garden. This is another part of the Main Building Backyard Project.
Linda Topp, Director of Administration
Last Sunday a group of adults and children gathered in the RE 4 to continue working on the giant masks for this year’s Christmas pageant. One of our youngest UUs joined an adult in choosing colorful ribbons and gluing them to the horn of the Unicorn mask. At another table, a group of children and adults with the help of local puppeteer Jennifer Murphy created another mask. They used balls of newspaper held together by packing tape to mold the face of an old wise man which they covered with strips of paper saturated in paper maché paste. As I observed everyone creating, laughing and conversing I thought about how what I was witnessing exemplified multigenerational community building. Yes, multi-generational; all ages together. Other activities like the talent show or group singing in the tree house at The Mountain during this year’s October congregational retreat in which all ages gathered, cheered each other on and sang together also contribute to building multigenerational community. They help us get to know each other and appreciate the diverse needs we each have as we participate in the life of our congregation.
We are making progress in working together to dismantle the “upstairs, downstairs divide” between children and adults. I am grateful that UUCA is willing to take on this challenge. This divide meant faith formation for children usually occurred downstairs in the RE Commons. For adults, it happened upstairs in worship or adult programs. More frequent whole congregation services provide opportunities for all ages to engage in faith formation through the practice of communal worship. Children receive the message that worship is for them, too, and they witness the rituals, songs, and rhythms of worship. There may also be more opportunities for all ages movement or clapping to accompany stories, songs or meditations. I invite you to experiment and “do when the spirit says do.”
At times the energy level and engagement of our youngest UUs may be distracting. And, yet they are a reminder of the gift of the children’s presence among us. The discomfort we may feel is normal and a reminder that the work of inclusivity calls us to de-center our individual needs so that all of us may share the worship space. This can be challenging and is part of the process of faith formation.
Opportunities for multigenerational connection also occur during weekly Wednesday Thing programming. The planning team is scheduling regular all age events such as story yoga, game nights, creative dance, art projects, and multigen choir. There are many opportunities for multigenerational engagement at UUCA that will let our children know that they are important members of our community and strengthens their UU identity.
During this month of gratitude, I am grateful to be on this journey with you. I hope you will explore how we can continue to build multigenerational community and support lifespan faith development at UUCA. I welcome opportunities to hear your ideas and feedback. I also invite you to participate in future whole congregation worship services and multigenerational programs.
If Thanksgiving is a time for celebration, may it be a joyous, delicious occasion shared with loved ones. If it is a day of mourning a loss or grieving the injustice done to native peoples know that you are held in our hearts. Below is a link to a few conversation starters that may enliven conversation around the dinner table. Enjoy!
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development
If you are a highly risk-averse person, this blog title has your attention. If not, you are about to stop reading (if you got this far). To you I say, keep going! Your life may depend on it.
At the moment, this congregation has no “active” emergency response plan. A couple of years ago we got something started and did manage to hold a fire drill during worship services, but the plan was complicated, the volunteers got overwhelmed and everything just kind of faded out of existence.
So, it’s time to try again. This time we’ll try to create a less-complicated plan and only address two “emergencies”: the most likely, fire, and an extremely unlikely but probably scarier, active shooter. Other things can go wrong, of course, but if we can master these two, we’ll be doing great.
As an aside, all of our RE classes have already practiced a fire drill this year, and one of the strategies to use for an active shooter is to evacuate, just like a fire drill. So they are ahead of the rest of us.
If you are interested in volunteering to help UUCA develop and implement an emergency response plan, please contact me. This work absolutely requires dedicated volunteers—six or so to create the plan and many more than that to put it in place. This is NOT a staff job although there will obviously be staff support.
But just as importantly, EVERYONE needs to be educated on what to do, both during a fire and in the event of an active shooter. To begin that process, we have scheduled a presentation by the Asheville Police Community Resources unit to tell ALL of us what to do during an active shooter incident. It’s a sad thing to have to do, but here we are.
Please attend this presentation on Sunday afternoon (4pm) on December 2. We’ll learn the 3 things every person needs to do if in the area of an active shooter: Avoid. Deny. Defend. Or, saying the same thing a different way: Run. Hide. Fight.
Linda Topp, Director of Administration
Maybe it’s the approach of Thanksgiving, but lately, I find myself experiencing frequent unanticipated spells of gratitude.
Walking up the sloping sidewalk in front of our main building on a recent Sunday, I was struck by the beauty and condition of our UUCA rain garden. My appreciation continued as I stepped onto our open plaza and then entered our expanded and welcoming lobby, designed to promote the connection of those who enter. Well, that started the gratitude ball rolling.
I thought about how many projects have recently come to fruition because we are blessed with not only a talented and committed professional staff – we have a corps of inspired and dedicated volunteer ‘giants.’ It’s tempting to acknowledge some of them by name, but that’s too risky, as there are many more of them than I even know about. (And, as they say, you know who you are!)
Just pause for a moment and think about how our UUCA congregation has responded to recognized congregation need. We have a wonderful piano, enhancing the inspiration of our services (and even making our space more inviting to other groups, some of whom provide significant revenue streams). It was some of the volunteer ‘giants’ who stepped right up and made that happen. Our congregational response to the successful solar panel project is another example of our congregation being inspired by ‘giants’ to live our values.
How many of the ‘giants’ made the Welcome Project happen? And remember when 23 Edwin became available and our congregation quickly raised the funds to buy it? Think about how UUCA responded to the need to provide sanctuary and how that has become a meaningful reality, expressing our values of compassion and justice.
There are so many other volunteer ‘giants’ who help us express and live our congregational values: pastoral visitors and worship associates; those devoted to the fiscal success of our congregation through annual campaigns, special events and Legacy work; those who work in RE; organizers and leaders of small groups; committee chairs; social justice leaders; those who water the plants and greet us each week.
So many reasons to be grateful to all the ‘giants’ who enhance our present congregational life and help us live our values – connection, inspiration, compassion and justice – now and into the future.
Diane Martin, Board of Trustees