Becoming a Multigenerational Community

This is challenging, important, on-going (and probably never-ending) work that we are doing.  It is no easy task to build a community where adults and children participate together, respect each other, and learn from each other.  The work is ours—all of us at UUCA.  Staff members can lead, train, cajole and invite, but this really is the work of the congregation.  What can you do to help?  So glad you asked.

Every Sunday that we gather for worship, we share time together lighting the chalice, hearing welcoming words, singing a hymn and listening or participating in a segment called “Time for All Ages” (TFAA) before our children go to their classes. This is a special time of multigenerational community building when we model and teach what we do in worship. There are large pillows on the floor so children can be close to the speakers and the choir, or, it is a time that can be used by families to sit together and share experiences. “Soul Work” packets (for all ages) are available on the table outside the Sanctuary to support centering and focus during this multigenerational time together.

Experiencing the rituals, hymns, and stories that are part of our living tradition is part of faith development. As the staff person overseeing this part of the service, my goal is to recruit a team of volunteer storytellers and readers of all ages who can share stories related to the theme of the sermon. I usually provide the story unless the volunteer has an appropriate story. If you are interested in being a storyteller for TFAA, please contact me.

How else can you contribute to building multigenerational community at UUCA?
¨ This Saturday, January 26, the Coming of Age (CoA) youth are hosting their “Big Event” which includes dinner, games and other surprises. It’s a great chance to get to know our 9th graders, and them you!

¨The weekly “Wednesday Thing” provides an opportunity for a multigenerational dinner, vespers, and activities that allow for socializing in a smaller setting as well as participating in programs for all ages such as story yoga, creative dance and game nights.

¨Signing up for the “Mystery Friend” program that launches February 3 and connects you with a youth with whom you share letters. The Reveal Party on March 6 will allow you to meet in person and celebrate with your new friend.

¨ It can be as simple as sitting with a family/elder during TFAA, Wednesday Vespers or “all ages worship” such as the YRUU*-led service on February 10 and the Coming of Age Credo Sunday on May 5. Mark your calendar! You can also engage with a family or elder you have not met during coffee hour or stroll out to the playground and say hello!  *YRUU=Young Religious UUs=9th-12th graders.

¨ Consider joining us for 9:15 or 11:15 RE downstairs in the Commons. I have had the opportunity to sit in on various classes. I have been impressed by the insights shared by our children and the meaningful curricula that are grounded in our UU values and principles.  Our volunteer teachers are well prepared and are part of a supportive teaching team. We welcome and train new volunteers to work with our children and youth as teachers or mentors.  

This is not a comprehensive list, but I think you get the idea. There are many ways to build bridges across the generations. You, too, can join the team, and contribute to building and strengthening multigenerational community at UUCA.

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development








Strengthening Your Generosity Muscle

Have I told you about this fabulous book I read about generosity?  OK, I realize that this may not be a book for everyone’s taste, but heck, I’m a church administrator! The book is actually a layperson’s version (meaning totally readable) of a five-year study called the Science of Generosity Initiative.  The book, The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, explores the tantalizing link between practicing generosity and leading a better life.  The authors make the case that generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression than ungenerous or less generous people.  And they go to great pains to show that the arrow of causality goes from generosity to health and happiness and not just that healthy, happy people are more generous.

Based on the assumption that you would like to lead a happier, better life, you should be heartened to learn that you can learn generosity.  By practicing generosity, you can become a more generous person and thereby reap the benefits. 

Right now, UUCA congregants, particularly those who attended Sunday Services on January 6, are getting a chance to practice generosity by doing random acts of kindness this month.  If you missed that service, or selected a random act that day that just doesn’t work for you, do an internet search for “random acts of kindness,” pick one you like, and do it! Do more than one! At our January 27 services, Rev. Claudia will be asking you how it felt to be generous in that way.

Practicing generosity in this way can be fun, and it certainly doesn’t require money to do it.  There are actually four forms of giving that are part of the generosity cluster: volunteering your time and skills; giving attention and sharing emotions with others (relational generosity); neighborly expressions of care (hospitality, friendliness, assistance with chores)—this is where I would classify random acts of kindness—and the one we all think of first, financial generosity.

Somewhat surprisingly, although generous people practice all these forms of generosity, it is financial generosity that is most highly correlated with health and happiness.  But there is still one more variable that needs to be met to activate the benefits of generosity; the attitude of the giver.  Giving dutifully, giving begrudgingly, or giving transactionally, no matter the amount, won’t do it.  It’s joyful giving that is the key.  Generously supporting groups, activities, or people that deeply connect with your own values is your ticket to a better life for you.  It’s science!

So do yourself a favor. Flex your generosity muscle with some random acts of kindness, donate your time and talent to benefit others, be kind, emotionally support friends and/or family, and find your passion—that place where generous financial giving will give you joy!

Linda Topp
Director of Administration

Two Recent Events

Two recent events, seemingly independent, deeply connected.

Last Saturday I spoke about “Who’s in charge here?” at the Membership Orientation that led to our welcoming of new members to our congregation on Sunday.  I had thirty minutes to talk about our way of being together—governance—a topic, though important, that does not always leave people on the edge of their seats.  My approach to the talk has been to say a bit about myself, then a bit about the history of our congregation, and then take a tour of governance-related documents on our congregation’s website.  This seems to work.

What I have found most meaningful in giving these presentations is reviewing some of the things I’ve accumulated from participating in our congregation since 1983.  Here are three things I found this year.  One, the list of the 11 people who joined UUCA on November 13, 1983; Mary Alm joined that day, as did my wife of 47 years Jean Larson.  Second, a sermon delivered by Mel Hetland, he of the scholarship featured in this month’s Community Plate, in 1997; this sermon is now in the hands of Rev. Ward.  And third, I recaptured the name of Rev. Clarke Dewey Wells who served as our sabbatical minister in 1998 as best I can recall.

This Tuesday our Board of Trustees met for its monthly meeting.  I always ask a question that allows us to get to know one another better.  This month, in light of our sanctuary experience over the last year, I asked about what the experience might mean for our congregation.  Answers varied—what has our experience meant for you?—but I recalled my uncertainty going in.  And I expressed my gratitude that our congregation, working with many other congregations, reached out and worked together to make a difference in the life of one person, one family, ultimately many congregations.

Connecting these events in my mind is a sense of possibility, an openness to something new.  Someone on the brink of joining our congregation has questions and perhaps some uncertainty about the path being embarked upon.  A congregation on the brink of providing sanctuary has questions and perhaps some uncertainty about the path being embarked upon.  And someone on the brink of taking sanctuary has questions and perhaps some uncertainty about the path being embarked upon.  But each of us, individually and collectively, chose to explore possibility rather than rest in certainty.  One definition of courage is “being afraid and doing it anyway.”  We may not always be afraid when we act, but when we are afraid, may we be courageous when the moment comes.

Bruce Larson, Board of Trustees


Step Into the Center

“Step into the center,” writes my colleague Rev. Marta Valentin. “Come in from the margins. I will hold you there.”

We enter the New Year together with much on our hearts and minds. Our busy lives hold many challenges and adventures in 2019. That’s work enough, but we also can’t escape the daily news of a government that seems to be decompensating before our very eyes, and so many people suffering from injustice. In the midst of this, how do we sustain some sense of peace and hope?

Our natural response is protective: to hold back, to pull in, to let fall the fragile threads that connect us and hunker down. Part of what we exist for as a congregation is to persuade each other to stay in the game, to set our gaze higher than the muck of the news cycle, and to reaffirm our life-giving deepest values.

A couple of years ago we concluded a congregational process by centering our understanding of what this congregation is for on four central values: Connection, Inspiration, Compassion, and Justice. Each of these values works to call us from those protective impulses, which are understandable, but in the end only make ourselves shallow, reactive, isolated and alone.

We gather in this place to remind each other that it is in each other’s company that spiritual awakening occurs; that hope comes from opening ourselves to sources of inspiration that open us to new views of our lives, of the world; that each of us and all people deserve love, respect and care; and that it’s not enough to sit on our laurels, rest on our privilege, enjoy our cozy community without making ourselves agents of the change that the world needs to see.

All this can be challenging, of course, which is why I like the way Marta frames it: she’s not writing a prescription or demanding terms. In the center where everything happens, it can be confusing, uncertain, uncomfortable. I think of our eight months as a sanctuary site for our friend Maria. A number of us had significant reservations about whether this even made sense, but in the end, we decided to follow our values. There was a bit of chaos along the way and some gnarly issues to work through, but with the assistance of dozens of people in faith communities surrounding us, we made it happen, and we all were transformed.

I’m not yet sure what awaits us in the coming year, but one way or another we will be at work in the community and also looking for ways to deepen our faith journeys to be better prepared for those challenges. But you have my pledge, and I hope you will join me, that when you enter the center, as Marta writes, “I will hold you here.”

“Don’t look back or around,” she adds, “feel my arms. The water is rising. I will hold you as you tremble. I will warm you. Don’t look out or away life is here between you and me. In this tiny space where I end and you begin hope lives.”

We can create such a space. Let us bring the intention to do so.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister


Rush. Rush. Breathe. Rush. Rush. Breathe.


What I Have Learned About Becoming a UU

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

The Dark Hours

“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