Faith Development Update

Spring is here and I am so grateful to be in Asheville. It has been awesome to witness the vibrant colors and hues of green of the plants and trees in our neighborhood and lining the roads I drive to get to UUCA each morning.  Spring also means our programs begin to wind down as we celebrate transitions (check out the calendar below) and launch our summer program:

Summer Magic – Hogwarts Summer Sunday School

June 9-July 11, 2019

Explore the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism through the lens of the Harry Potter Universe. Leaders and assistants still need! Contact Kim Collins if you can help out

We also begin preparations for the 2019-2020 Faith Development programs for children and youth. That means it is recruitment time! Our program is a cooperative program relying on parents and non-parents alike to nurture and accompany our children and youth as they explore spirituality while developing their UU identity. On Sunday, April 28 and each Sunday in May we invite volunteers to sign up in Sandburg Hall to join a teaching team, mentor or support the program in other roles (visit our table for details). This is an opportunity for faith development for the adults as well as a way of building inter-generational community. We have integrated numerous social justice activities for different class levels and the whole congregation.  We welcome those of you engaged in social justice to share your passion with our youth. It takes the whole community to nurture future UU adults. As one of our volunteers wrote:

“Teaching our youth draws me into the life of UUCA in a way that nothing else does. It reminds me of what it is like to be a kid—both remembering my own experiences and seeing the new experiences of kids today.  I marvel at the strengths of my fellow teachers, and the special fellowship that occurs among us.  Because it is what we do in our program, I end up taking a deeper look at myself and my beliefs, and discussing meaningful ideas with adults and youth… And the kids themselves have literally taught me things that have changed the way I live my life.  I’d be a poorer soul for having missed all those experiences!” 

– Coming of Age Teacher

           You Are Invited…

May 5 Coming of Age Credo Service. Led by our youth featuring their “credos” or statements of belief.  One of my favorite services!
May 15 Wednesday Thing Parent Support Group, 7PM; Facilitator: Jill Preyer
May 19 Senior Bridging Ceremony during Time for All Ages. An opportunity to recognize an important life transition for this year’s high school graduates.
May 21 Workshop: Racial Equity Engagement and Language- advocate Marta Alcalá Williams will discuss asset-based community development and language to equip participants to engage diverse communities with respect for the assets and ideas as they support and partner to reduce inequity. Details forthcoming.
November 2 Workshop: Mental Health First Aid. Sponsored by the Pastoral Care Team. Training to help participants identify, understand and respond to signs of addiction and mental illness. Contact Rev. Claudia for details




2019-20 Budget Hearing Coming Up on May 5 (following the second service)

Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z….NO!  No snoring!  This is NOT going to be a boring presentation.  There will be slides with cute cartoons! There will be interesting information! Well, yeah, there will be numbers, too, but you’ll actually learn stuff about this congregation.


Have you ever heard the phrase, “Follow the money?” Turns out that people in the know have figured out that if they understand how an organization gets and spends money, they understand quite a bit about that organization.  That’s the reason there are people who WANT to be part of the Finance Advisory Committee.

But I digress….. 

At the budget hearing you will be privileged to receive the detailed budget of the congregation.  A one-page summary budget with notes is distributed for the annual meeting, but budget-hearing attendees get “the big one!”  I’ll go over the details of our income projections and expense expectations, and then I’ll give you a little more information on what we’re planning to do with the money we will be receiving from the UUA Legacy Challenge program (Wake Now My Vision) that our Legacy Circle Committee was so successful at executing (yay team!!).  The entire meeting takes less than an hour (I think I remember that correctly) so you might want to make sure you have a snack so you can last until 1:30. 

I admit that there are no surprises in this budget, but still, it would sure be nice to see you there.  We usually have 40-50 attendees, but that’s just 10% of our membership.  How about if we try for 25%?  See you there!?!

Linda Topp, Director of Administration


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

UUCA’s Message Map

What are the few words you would put in the central core? Keep reading to find out more about message maps.  Then submit your ideas as a comment to this blog or directly to me.  I already have a favorite–let’s see if I like yours better.

Message MapA message map is a tool to accomplish the following:

Provide a prompt for speaking about the organization to others.
Help to align the organization as everyone uses the message map to describe the organization.

It is a radial chart with the organization’s core work listed in the center in about 6 words, with supporting programs around it, and stats or other prompts related to the effects from those programs radiating from those support programs.

The example used in my workshop (Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising) was from one of the instructors who had been a long-time CEO of the United Way of St. Louis, MO.  Interestingly, it even took United Way a while to get that central message down to just a few words.  But those few words ended up being, “We help people.”  (Seems obvious now, doesn’t it?)

As the CEO, he would use the message map to frame all his talks, and because it included important programs and supporting data, he could use it for very short talks, very long ones, and everything in between.  As a speaker, he would start by saying that United Way helps people.  “For example, we help youth strengthen basic life skills by supporting programs like Girls on the Run, the regional Girl Scout Council and the local public school foundation.  In fact, we touched the lives of XX youth in St. Louis in 2017.  United Way also helps children improve their basic academic skills.  For example, our Read to Succeed program meant that XX children had much better access to reading materials and the encouragement to improve.  That will help them throughout their lives.”  Etc.

The message map above is one we’ve been playing with in senior staff and Board meetings.  The closest four blocks are directly from our mission statement.  The radial blocks are examples of work in each of the blocks.  It is obviously not comprehensive right now.  But it DOES give an idea of how this works. So what are the few words you would put in the central core?  It does not have to be unique (“we help people” certainly isn’t) but it does have to match why we exist.  It is, after all, the core of who UUCA is.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration


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