Ages and Stages-Our Whole Lives at UUCA

A key part of each orientation for our OWL program is asking folks to think about the sexuality education they received as a child or youth. Think about it for a minute, what were you taught? Was it through school? Did your parents talk to you about it? Did you learn from your peers? What books did you read? What feelings are associated with your own sexuality education? As a facilitator for these orientations, I can tell you that shame comes up a lot. I am here to tell you, there is no shame in our sexuality education.

From the OWL website: Honest, accurate information about sexuality changes lives. It dismantles stereotypes and assumptions, builds self-acceptance and self-esteem, fosters healthy relationships, improves decision-making, and has the potential to save lives.

The Our Whole Lives program is a comprehensive sexuality education program with levels of curricula ranging from kindergarten through adults. One of the most common questions I get when talking about the OWL program is, “What are you teaching little kids about sex?” My answer is that we’re not really teaching little kids about sex. We’re teaching them about their bodies, and how they are in control of their own bodies. We’re teaching them about families and about how families can look different than their own. We’re teaching them about healthy friendships and how to have good, respectful relationships with others. We do get into the baby stuff at that age (like “where do they come from?”), but it’s in an age-appropriate way that they can understand.

The most intense level of OWL is the 7th-9th grade class. This class is 26 sessions long and is one of the most important learning opportunities we offer. It is a formative experience for our youth and will stay with them as they navigate their way into adolescence and beyond. Sometimes the kids are not super-thrilled about it. But they come every week and they learn. They learn how to make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health and behavior. The class provides accurate, developmentally-appropriate information about a range of topics, including relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual health, and cultural influences on sexuality. This is truly a comprehensive learning experience.

We are dedicated to offering as many OWL classes as we can here at UUCA. We are currently offering 7th/8th OWL and are about to offer 4th/5th OWL beginning in February. While this is one of our most popular programs (I frequently get phone calls from folks outside of our church wanting to get their kids into our program), it is also one of the most resource-consuming classes. Our teachers go to a special training and they commit to teaching OWL at least 3 times in the 5 years after they get trained. While the training is pretty intense and takes a whole weekend, it is so very rewarding. We are always looking for folks who want to get trained and I am always keeping an eye on upcoming trainings. If you want to get trained or find out more information, let me know!

Kim Collins, Lifespan Religious Education Coordinator

Living Your Values

chalice w dollarWe all think that living our values is an important part of being a UU.  We all agree that it’s easy to say stuff, but what we DO about it is what counts.  And as we have been learning through the “Stories of Us” series that has been featured one Sunday a month this year, our members say they highly value UUCA.  They have personally been supported, they have witnessed how their fellow congregants have been helped or how they have grown, they have experienced pride in knowing that a UU congregation is visible in Asheville.

The question is, if you say you value something, how do you show it?  What do you DO?  Great active responses include volunteering to do work the congregation needs to have done (membership, event planning, maintenance, singing, teaching, and most especially leading).   But what may be the most helpful act of all is being as generous with your monetary contribution as you can be.  THAT is a concrete and impactful way to live your values.

Every congregation, non-profit organization and for-profit company runs on money.  Without adequate financial resources, organizations wither.  They lose vitality.  They become focused on their own survival rather than enjoying and sharing the abundance that comes with generosity.

Not coincidentally, our annual budget drive is coming up.  It’s the time that we ask you to estimate your giving for the next fiscal year so that we can produce a balanced operating budget for the Board’s review in April, and your voted approval in June.  It is a perfect opportunity to live your values.

On the spending side we have done a lot this year to improve our standing as a good employer.  By losing a senior staff member (Joy Berry left after the budget was approved last June), this year we have been able to increase hours and pay for our RE staff, including the Director of Administration/Acting Director of Lifespan Religious Education. (Whew! What a title.)  Now that Rev. Lisa has made the decision that moving up and out to continue her career climb as a UU minister is right for her, we will hire a Minister of Faith Development to lead pastoral care and faith development for all ages.  (Rev. Mark will lead the Earth and Social Justice Ministry while Linda Topp will work with Venny Zachritz on Membership.)  That will still result in just three senior staff members instead of four, providing room in the budget to pay those senior staff members more equitably.

Everyone is clear that a generous contribution of money from one member will be a completely different amount from another member who may be more or less financially able.  No one is asking you to impoverish yourself to fund UUCA.  What we ARE asking is that you deeply ask yourself if you are being as generous to UUCA as you can be.  You’ll be getting more information about how to make this consideration in a few weeks.  In the meantime, please know that UUCA’s health and vitality depends on the collective energies and resources of all of us.  With everyone’s re-evaluation of their giving levels, both of time and money, UUCA can totally jump to a higher level of commitment and value for its members and the greater community.

By the way, if you would like to explore what money means to you, how it influences your feelings, attitudes and habits, plan to attend this week’s Wednesday Thing.  Laura Amabile will be leading a session called “Financial Sanity: Creating a money plan that works for you.” The session is designed for ages 15 to 100, and will be fun and engaging, not heavy! It contains information for individuals as well as parents interested in helping their children understand money and values, with an emphasis on developing healthy and realistic saving, sharing, and spending practices.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

Snow and Heroes

To me, snow is magical. One of my favorite things is a snow day, especially now that I work from home and don’t have to scramble for snow-day child care. While growing up in Asheville, school closed frequently, even being closed for almost the whole month in January of 1978. A pack of a dozen neighborhood kids, including my older sister and me, spent hours outside, sledding on a breathtakingly steep hill and building bonfires to stay warm. Now, as an adult, I still have my breath taken away when I ride up a ski lift, look over the beautiful mountains, and zip down the slope with the wind rushing through my helmet.
    On a recent snow/work day, I was marveling at the falling snow outside my office window when a coworker called me to ask me question.
    “Isn’t the snow beautiful?” I asked him.
    “Ugh, I hate snow” he responded. How could anybody hate snow? “I grew up in Philadelphia, and school never closed. When I see snow, I see oily, gray crust,” he went on to explain.
   This got me to thinking about how experience and perception affect how people can see the same thing in such polarized ways. One person sees a racist and alleged pedophile; another sees a good Christian man with family values.
    Fortunately, my view of snow has not been sullied, but recent events have caused me to rethink whom I respect and admire. A beloved journalist from this state who knew my uncle has been revealed to be a sexual predator. A woman I looked up to at my job with the county is under federal investigation and has made front-page news on a few occasions. From now on, I will only see them as frauds, not as the pristine heroes they once were, and this breaks my heart.

Stay warm!

Michele Gregory, UUCA Board of Trustees


Wednesday Thing Kicks Off a New Year!

I think I can officially say that the Wednesday Thing is not a new program anymore! And what a success it has been so far. We’ve done yoga together, and learned about Buddhism, empathy, and nonviolent communication. We’ve eaten delicious food and shared worship together. We’ve discussed the monthly themes, and we’ve made gratitude jars. As the new year begins, the volunteers and staff who make it happen are working on a stupendous line up of classes and activities for the weeks to come.

If you haven’t yet been to the Wednesday Thing, I do hope you’ll venture out and join in! On tap in January are a session called “Save, Share, Spend” on finances & values with Laurel Amabile (Jan 17), a presentation for youth and adults from Helpmate (Jan 31), and more. As we move into the Spring, Mark will be teaching a class on Parker Palmer’s work, and lots more!

The Wednesday Thing brings together all ages for fun, fellowship, spiritual growth, and community. It is a program that was created specifically to meet a number of needs — more faith development opportunities for people of all ages, a short mid-week worship opportunity, and community building.

See you there!

The Gifts We Give and Receive

Abundance was our church theme last month.  We talk about our congregational themes with our Religious Education (RE) kids, too.  Take a listen to what they said about what our church has an abundance of:  chalices, fun, love, stories, kind people… kind people, indeed!  I have been inspired this year to witness an abundance of wonderful gifts shared within our 2017-18 “under construction” Religious Education program. 

We began the year strong with fully recruited teaching teams for our classes.  Then, as Coming of Age mentors were needed or other jobs arose (like needing a rock star handywoman and organizational guru), people flexed and adjusted their commitments as we hoped they would to share their talents to meet the needs of our program and participants.  As the year has progressed, our volunteer leaders have worked together and supported one another and their students beautifully.  Our fabulous RE Council has been providing leadership as well, and is adapting to the evolving vision and work of the church.

A new kind of “call and response” emerged:  when one member of the team had a need and called for help, other members always responded with compassion.  And they have stepped forward with heart and thoughtfulness for parents or kids needing additional care, too.  It has happened time and time again.  We are living out our new mission: Our open and welcoming congregation connects hearts, challenges minds and nurtures spirits, while serving and transforming our community and the world and our core values of connection, inspiration, compassion, and justice.  The support from one to another is a gift within our community.

And we see these gifts in our children and youth also.  At 9:15, we have programming for all ages (kindergarten through adult – you are welcome to join us!), and that allows a special opportunity for multiage interaction and learning.  During one of our stories recently, we had some participants sharing “who they are” in the story of Supriya’s Bowl.  From young to old, there were thoughtful responses and patient listening to what others had to say.  (We have some really cool 6th graders who were attentive to hearing a 5 year-old’s rationale for how the rice bowl got filled, and who shared their own thoughts with us, too.)  When making our blessing bags, the big kids help the little kids with packaging goods and making notes or drawings for our neighbors in need.  The Coming of Age youth volunteered at the church work day outside recently, raking leaves, moving stumps and rocks, etc. to beautify and winterize our campus; our Sunday worship chime ringers and chalice lighters are children and youth; when the multigenerational choir sings, our children and youth are giving to the church.  You’ll soon see the pageant with (hopefully) a good amount of kid participation.  All of those are special gifts to our community.

We are hearing from families that the kids are bringing their parents to church because they want to be here!  And why not?

  • Star Wars or Harry Potter yoga for all ages at 9:15
  • YRUU revitalization for 10th-12th graders
  • Neighboring Faiths curriculum, expanding horizons of 7th-8th graders
  • And so much more… every class has awesome stuff happening!
  • Plus, youth CONference attendance continues to grow

All of that takes volunteers – people who are sharing their time and talent – with UUCA.  Presence is one of the greatest gifts a person can give or receive.  We in RE have received many gifts this year, and we are grateful to all of you in the RE roles and in the many other ways our church is served by all of you.  You are a gift.

And on that note, another important gift we can give and receive is affirmation.  We have created a new bulletin board in Sandburg Hall to share that gift in our community.  Like a little free library, we invite you to take or to leave a gift of affirmation.  This is open to anyone:  member, friend, regular or first-time visitors, youth, adult, or children.  See more at the big GIFT bulletin board near the main office.

Jen Johnson, RE Staff

What Would You Do If You Won the Lottery?

Last month, my nephew, Greg, called from Santa Barbara. “Hey, Uncle Dale,” he exclaimed, “I won the lottery!”

“No way,” I said.

“Way!” he said, “I won big time. No kidding.”

“That’s great. How much did you win?”

“A lot,” he responded… Long pausethen the punch line. “I was born White in America.”

No, Greg isn’t a White Nationalist. Far from it.  Greg realized that he had hit the jackpot by being born White in America.

Greg is a skilled carpenter. Often, he needs to hire an assistant. He drives to the corner in Santa Barbara where day-hires, largely Latino, hang out looking to catch a job. He recognizes that a roll of the dice put him on the hiring end of things, rather than on the street corner hoping to be hired. Greg recognizes the White American privilege that came to him by dint of his birth.

Last year, UUCA named “compassion” and “justice” as core values, and we recently voted to put those words into action by opting in a Special Congregational meeting to become a Physical Sanctuary congregation. We recognized that there are good people in our midst who are in need of temporary protection, and we are lucky enough to have sufficient space in 23 Edwin to host a guest. We collectively announced by that vote: “We can’t turn our backs on those in need, let’s do what our good fortune allows us to do!” I am extremely proud of that congregational decision.

The wheels are rapidly moving in the direction of turning the Sanctuary vision into a reality. Rev. Lisa has recruited a Sanctuary Steering Committee, and they have begun meeting to put together a list of all that must be done to prepare for a sanctuary guest. Lisa and Linda Topp have selected the room and adjoining bath at 23 Edwin that will serve as quarters. A donated washer and dryer have been installed in the basement. Rev. Mark has begun meeting with CIMA (Companeros Immigrantes de las Montanas en Accion), a local action group on behalf of immigrants, to inform them of our Sanctuary program and to learn more about their organization. We have received our first financial contribution from another congregation.

 Soon it will be your, and my, turn to help. Let’s do it. Let’s, like nephew Greg, share our collective lottery winnings by aiding someone not so lucky.          

Dale Wachowiak, Board of Trustees     


Winter: The Season For Slowing Down

Up until now, it’s been an odd autumn for this part of the world, with temperatures hovering around what we’re more accustomed to for September. But in the last week, the early winter grey visited, and daytime highs tumbled to a more seasonal chill. And so it feels like finally, I can settle into the quieter, darker days of this season. As Rebecca Parker puts it, “let us go gently into the night, its dream-drenched, glittering stillness, a haven for our souls.”

 Just as the earth takes its rest at this time of year, we need to give ourselves some space from the hectic, screen-centered lives we’ve built for ourselves. So, isn’t it just like the tone-deaf culture of consumerism that floods our lives to urge us instead in this holiday season to make our lives more frantic with rush to buy presents?

Giving should and can be joyful. It is a wonderful gesture that helps us express our gratitude to people we love or with whom we stand in some relationship. But it becomes less so when it’s driven by a sense of fear or obligation. So, let me urge you to look for ways to turn down the pressure: look for gifts of services, rather than things; agree on limits to your purchases, and stick to them; be creative, have fun, and then be done with it.

Leave space for quietness, long walks, or casual, low-pressure gatherings with family and friends. There is a special beauty in these mountains in the winter time. Take time to get to know it. Maybe it’s time to renew an acquaintance with a friend. Look for that which can reconnect you with your life, with what matters, and attend to it.

One of my favorite hymns for this time of year is “Dark of Winter,” #55 in Singing the Living Tradition, by Shelley Jackson Denham. It closes with these words:

“Darkness, soothe my weary eyes that I may see more clearly.
When my heart with sorrow cries, comfort and caress me.
And then my soul may hear a voice, a still, small voice of love eternal.
Darkness, when my fears arise, let your peace flow through me.”

May you find peace in this holiday season.  

Rev.Mark Ward, Lead Minister