Making A Difference $1 at a Time

Did you know that to date in 2018 we have raised $6,800 for organizations that support people of color here in Asheville or within Unitarian Universalism?

The Community Plate Team has dedicated 2018 Community Plate collections to organizations that are led by or directly serve people of color in our community and beyond.

In January, we collected $1,554 for the Mel Hetland Scholarship, which is funded entirely by our congregation and offers grants to students of color from Asheville going to college.

In February, we collected $1,693 for Building Bridges to support their work of education around dismantling of systemic racism in Asheville.

In March we collected $1,296 for the Mountain Retreat & Learning Center “Camperships” to go to kids of color attending Mountain Camps this summer.

In April we collected $1,407 to help the YWCA expand their Early Learning program, PLUS over $800 in a one time special collection to support undocumented immigrants detained in the recent ICE raids here in WNC.

For this initiative, the team looked for nominations of organizations that directly empower people of color or work to dismantle systemic racism rather than organizations that seek to mitigate secondary “symptoms” of systemic racism like poverty and hunger. While those are important things to fund, the Community Plate committee saw an opportunity to give more direct support and empowerment to children, youth, and adults of color.

In the months to come, we’ll be collecting funds for more such organizations, including CoThinkk, a giving circle that brings together community leaders who care about the economic and social well-being of communities of color in Asheville & Western NC, and My Sistah Taught Me That, an organization designed for the development, encouragement, inspiration, and education of young girls with a special focus on girls growing up in single parent homes without their father. 

If you’d like to add your personal impact to this congregational commitment by patronizing business owners of color, the Color of Asheville has a directory of African American owned businesses, professionals, service providers and clubs in Asheville, NC.

As the year goes on, the Community Plate Committee’s initiative will continue to honor the commitments to racial justice made by our denomination and congregation:

  • In 2015, UU General Assembly passed an Action of Immediate Witness, “Support the Black Lives Matter Movement,”
  • In 2016, our congregation committed to Black Lives Matter. (I couldn’t find the exact words of this congregational vote—I believe it was in 2016)

In June of 2016, this congregation passed a resolution affirming our commitment to working for racial justice in our congregation, community, denomination, and world.

The committee believes that leveraging our own resources to support leadership and empowerment of people of color is an effective way to live into the promise of the racial justice resolution. The percentage of Black owned businesses in Asheville is particularly low, and we know that part of the work of dismantling systemic racism is increasing opportunities and access to leadership roles for people of color.

FMI contact a member of the Community Plate Team (Linda Kooiker,  Emilie White, Eleanor Lane, Brenda Robinson, and Donna Robinson).


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

Emergence with Hope

I have been thinking of our April theme of Emergence.  Emergence surely implies hope.  Without hope, how would emergence be possible?  At our April meeting, board member Diane Martin opened with some words from the Christian “theologian of hope,” Jurgen Moltmann, who says that hope is a fine thing, an antidote against despair, but that hope without some action is ultimately a pretty sad thing, that hope grounded in faith “causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience” with the status quo, that hope is “the goad of the promised future” which “stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.”  As Unitarian Universalists, we are aware of so many things around us that cry out for change, and we certainly have high hopes.  As we emerge from our winter burrows into the glory and warmth of spring, may we all bloom exuberantly with high hopes born of our faith, and may we have the energy and the will to continue our efforts to bring those hopes to fruition, in ourselves, in our communities, in our nation and in our world.

Judy Harper, Board of Trustees

During a Time of Emergence

We enter April this year working on the theme of Emergence in worship and our small groups. It’s a powerful religious concept that embraces growth, renewal, hope, and surprise. And we see it this time of year realized in the celebration of Easter as well as the awakening of life all around us.

We celebrate emergence because we know that whatever it is we’re working on, or whatever is working on us, we’re not done. There is more to come. But the unsettling thing is we’re not exactly sure what is coming, or what shape it will take. So, the discipline that comes with observing emergence is keeping ourselves open, attentive and focused.

We at UUCA are aware that we are in the midst of change that invites us to attend to what we want of this community and how we might prepare to bring it about. We are headed toward an important transition this summer when we will bid farewell to our Associate Minister Lisa Bovee-Kemper and welcome our new Minister of Faith Development Claudia Jimenez.

Already we have begun talking about ways to mark Lisa’s leave-taking and Claudia’s arrival in a way that honors both the wonderful ministry we have had with Lisa and what we look forward to with Claudia. You’ll hear more about that in days to come.

With that change in ministers, we also anticipate a change in the ministry of this congregation. With Claudia’s arrival, we are embracing the notion that faith development, the growing, learning, and awakening that happens in spiritual growth, is something that all ages, all times of life, take part in. None of us is finished. None of us is done.

We’re not yet sure of all that will encompass, but we have some ideas, and you’ll be hearing more about that as well. Along with that, we will continue our focus on strong Sunday worship and deeply engaged social justice work. Throughout this, let me invite you to adopt the disciplines of emergence – to be open, attentive and focused – and to stay connected. We are moving forward into this new time together. It is good to be in this work with you.

I close with one of the poems offered in our latest small ministry packet. You can find more on Emergence by clicking “Worship Theme” on our Web site.

Song of the Shattering Vessels


Either the world is coming together,

or else the world is falling apart —

     here — now — along these letters,

     against the walls of every heart. 

Today, tomorrow, within its weather,

the end or beginning’s about to start —

     the world impossibly coming together

     or very possibly falling apart.

Now the lovers’ mouths are open —

maybe the miracle’s about to start:

      the world within us coming together,

      because all around us it’s falling apart. 

Even as they speak, he wonders,

even as the fear departs:

     Is that the world coming together?

     Can they keep it from falling apart?

The image, gradually, is growing sharper;

now the sound is like a dart:

     It seemed their world was coming together,

     but in fact, it was falling apart.

That’s the nightmare, that’s the terror,

that’s the Isaac of this art —

     which sees that the world might come together

      if only we’re willing to take it apart. 

The dream, the lure, is the prayer’s answer,

which can’t be plotted on any chart —

    as we know the world that’s coming together

    without our knowing is falling apart.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister


Good Friday In Simon’s Words

Recently I preached about what Isaac might have said, if his voice had been part of the story of Abraham’s sacrifice. As we approach Easter Sunday, which, of course, focuses so much on Jesus’ voice and story, here is my imagining of how Simon of Cyrene (the bystander who helped Jesus carry the cross on his way to be crucified) might have described his experience on Good Friday.

You may have heard of a man named Jesus who lived almost two thousand years ago. He taught people to love each other and to, and he also said that he was the Son of God. I had heard of him, too, but at that time we only knew that he traveled around the countryside teaching, and that he had a large following. The leaders in Jerusalem thought that his message was very dangerous.

Early in the morning of the day that I arrived in Jerusalem for the holy feast of Passover, there were crowds and shouting, and many Roman guards in the square. I was in a huge and crushing throng of people, pushing and shoving, shouting and waving their fists. There were three criminals being led up the hill to be executed by crucifixion, which was the way they did things in those days—and this man Jesus was one of them. The Roman guards were impatient with him, because he kept stumbling—dropping the huge wooden cross he was carrying. Suddenly, they yelled into the crowd—and pointed right at me—perhaps because I was not from Jerusalem—I looked different than the other folks who were there—they called to me, and made me help Jesus.

I felt awful. I had stumbled upon the crowd—and the taunting and yelling made me uncomfortable in the first place—and now I was being forced to participate in it. There was something about this man named Jesus, though, an energy that radiated from him—a peace that made me feel lighter somehow, even as I trudged up the hill next to him. I still can’t quite find words to explain it. As soon as we reached the top of the hill, I left as quickly as I could—I did not want to participate any further in this violent act—especially during the most holy week of Passover.

I know that Jesus died later that day, and so did the two thieves, but I tried very hard to put the day’s events out of my mind. Sometimes it is just too difficult to think about how much violence and hurt there is in the world. A few days later, as I was leaving the city, I began to hear rumors about Jesus. They said he had been buried in a tomb—a cave outside the city—and a huge stone had been rolled in front of the opening to the tomb. They said that three days after he died, his body was no longer in the tomb—he had disappeared.

It took me a long time to understand what the events of that day meant to me, and even now, it is hard to find words to describe them. I know that Jesus was a great teacher. I know that I can never be sure of what happened in the cave when Jesus disappeared. I know that his followers stayed together and carried on his teachings. Some said it was a miracle—that he came back to life because he truly was God’s son, others said his friends had taken him and buried him somewhere else. There were so many stories, and these things like God and miracles and faith and justice can be confusing to think about. But I kept remembering how I had felt as I walked next to him, and I realized that it didn’t matter exactly what was true about the story—what mattered was that I might have helped a fellow human being as he walked a difficult path.

Summer Breezes Make Me Feel Fine

We want to try something new and awesome in our summer RE classes this year.  But we need help.

As I write this, the snow is coming down outside as it has been all day, so it’s not unnatural to be daydreaming about summer breezes, drifting down a river, campfires, and fresh herbs and veggies from the garden. One of my other favorite things about the season is Summer Religious Education. First off, RE staff gets to sleep in a little later so that’s nice. We also have a lot more unstructured play time on the playground. There is definitely a more relaxed feel. We might spend time talking about what everyone is up to all summer. Among vacations, camp at The Mountain, sports camps, music camps, and day camps, our kids sure have a lot going on.

You may have noticed some changes to our outdoor spaces lately, including most recently, our new raised-bed garden planters! Jodi Clere has done a wonderful job coordinating and implementing much of this work and has taken the burden of worrying about where to go next with the playground off the shoulders of RE staff. Our kids love spending time outdoors and they especially love our playground. I’m betting they’ll be pretty delighted with the new garden, as it’s a much better and more friendly set up than our past two years of container gardening in an old sandbox.

We’ve been doing some thinking about what our plans are for Summer RE lately and we all agree that we’d like our kids to get the chance to spend as much time outside in our new “outdoor classroom” spaces as possible. What we really need now are some dedicated folks to help us develop a plan for nature-focused religious education this summer. People with knowledge of gardening, local flora and fauna, and other environmental subjects would be great! We have some ideas and have put together some resources to cull from, but we need some nature-minded volunteers to help make it happen! If you can help make this summer dream come true, please get in touch with Jen or me and let us know you’re in!

Kim Collins, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinator

Your Congregation

As you probably know, the UU Asheville membership and Board of Trustees reviewed the congregation‘s overall purpose and reason for being over the last year. The result of this effort was a set of updates to the Mission, Core Values, and Ends Statements.
One of the things that we as a Board wanted to reinforce and which came up organically and repeatedly was that the congregation was a living community that needs your input and energy.  It is not something that can be only passively enjoyed if we want to thrive (or even ultimately survive long term).
From what I can see, this refocusing on the active aspect of engagement with each other in the congregation is making positive change. With the annual budget drive being only the latest example, there seems to be more engagement in all aspects of our congregation. We have added the Wednesday Thing, the preparations for offering sanctuary are progressing, and people are taking part in a variety of roles who have never done so before. 
I acknowledge that one of the challenges of our current society is being “too busy“ all the time. There are countless tasks and superficially interesting things constantly competing for our attention. However, when we can accomplish the feat of finding purpose rather than just being busy we can experience that paradoxical magic that happens where we come out of giving more energized than when we went in.
I thank you and the congregation thanks you for everything that you have done, are doing, and will do. As it has been said:
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
James Schall, Board of Trustees