Be It Resolved…


We are days away from the congregational meeting at which this congregation will vote on whether to become a physical sanctuary. The discernment process has focused largely on logistical issues, which makes sense, because the commitment to provide sanctuary is a big one. At the same time, we have talked about how the Sanctuary Working Group and the leadership of the congregation believes that working on behalf of immigrants in our community by declaring sanctuary fulfills our Unitarian Universalist values. All of that is true, but there is another piece of this decision that I want to be sure is lifted up.

The reason this is coming to a full congregation vote is because it is a big decision, and because, like declaring UUCA a Welcoming Congregation or a Green Sanctuary, will impact our work as a congregation well into the future. Physical sanctuary is only one piece of the resolution. A positive vote for sanctuary on October 29 is a statement of our commitment to the broader issue of immigrant justice in our community.

There are four “be it resolveds” included in the resolution:

  1. Dedicates itself to educate and activate our congregants, to amplify and respond to the voices of immigrant leaders, and to speak out against discrimination.

This means that we will continue to build relationships with immigrant partners here in Asheville and work to be allies and accomplices as they organize for their own liberation. We will speak out when we can, and amplify the voices of the marginalized in our community.

  1. Commits to open our congregational spaces to accommodate those facing deportation, while they pursue a legal appeal.

This is the physical sanctuary bit.

  1. Resists any harmful and unjust policy proposals that further undermine due process and lead to racial profiling and discrimination.

Physical sanctuary is only one piece of this resolution. Legislative advocacy for policies and laws that support the immigrant community, as well as resistance of unjust laws are another important aspect of this resolution.

  1. Commits to work alongside our friends, families, neighbors, and partner organizations to create sacred space of sanctuary.

This statement is fundamentally about continuing the work we already do as a congregation. We have long been seen as a safe place for LGBTQ persons, for people of all religions, and more. We have committed to working toward racial justice. Creating a culture of sanctuary in the community within and outside of this congregation is a continuation of this work.


Each member of the congregation gets one vote on this important issue. Some of you may be ready to commit to direct engagement with a potential sanctuary recipient, volunteering your time and energy to working with our sanctuary partners in this way. Some of you may not agree with the assertion that becoming a physical sanctuary and working for immigrant justice is something that UUCA should do at all. Some of you may be in support of sanctuary as a concept, but can’t commit to daily support work for physical sanctuary. Some of you may feel that your energy is best used to advocate and organize for legislative and legal change. And, of course, there are many other assessments and positions on this issue among you. Each of these positions has strongly held values behind it, and some will result in a “yes” vote, while others will result in a “no” vote.

When it comes time to vote, all of the statements and questions and answers will have been made, and the most important thing to know is that all of you are called to vote your conscience. That is what democratic leadership and congregational polity mean. See you on Sunday at 4pm.

UUCA Religious Education Rocks

With my Acting-Director-of-Lifespan-Religious-Education hat on, I can tell you that not only did our planning and lead-up to this church year go well, but the programs are now hitting on just about all cylinders.  Our recruitment went fabulously (we could use a few helper-adults in Spirit Play classes), ALL of our teaching teams are deluxe(!), you heard from Gordon Clark a few weeks ago in this blog space that YRUU (the teens) is energized and well-attended, and Juliana Austin and Melissa Murphy have rounded up a Middle Grades Youth Group that is providing a way for both our middle-schoolers and their parents/guardians to get to better know each other.
Your Religious Education Council* is terrific, too.  They are thoughtful, helpful, and stepping up to take the leadership roles that a volunteer organization so depends on.  In a retreat this summer, the RE Council proposed this mission statement for itself.  (It’s still in draft but close enough.) 

The UUCA Religious Education (RE) Council’s mission is to act on behalf of the congregation in partnership with the Director of Lifespan Religious Education towards well-resourced and integrated faith development. Our dedicated RE Council members connect religious education with congregation members by communicating, inspiring, and supporting all of us as we develop our beliefs and live our UUCA values of connection, inspiration, compassion, and justice.

Practically, they meet once a month to briefly review how things are going in lifespan RE and then to look ahead at programming opportunities for children, youth, and adults.  This month the Council tackled issues like offering a multigenerational activity at the Wednesday Thing, thinking ahead to the Christmas Eve Family Service, and thinking about how we can help parents get to know one another better outside of Sunday mornings.  Next month we will be taking a look at adult religious education.  They also are often part of a teaching team, serve as family greeters on Sunday mornings, and are “on call” downstairs should things go awry.
Our two part-time RE staffers, Jen Johnson and Kim Collins, have stepped up brilliantly in this transition year.  They are, in fact, doing just about everything that needs to be done to support our active, caring Sunday school programs.  They buy and organize supplies, communicate regularly with the teaching teams; spend quite a bit of time helping with the organization of our Coming of Age and Our Whole Lives classes; hire, supervise and schedule our childcare workers; plan and sometimes help lead RE activities, and keep me informed of all that’s happening (well, the big stuff anyway).
And speaking of Coming of Age, that class and their parents and teachers have been doing a whole lot of planning so that we now know that the end-of-year trip for that class of 6 boys will be headed to the UUA General Assembly again (this time in Kansas City), the entire class will attend the Youth Con at The Mountain Retreat Center in late winter, and that you will see them a lot as they fund-raise with “Food Sundays” (it may not always be soup!), food at the Wednesday Thing, and their “big event” in February.
I told you RE rocks!
*Here are UUCA’s RE Council Members: Louise Anderson, chair; Jennifer Gorman, Ann McLellan, Katherine Murphy, Gina Phairas, Missy Reed, Jim Steffe, Kelly Moser-Wedell.  I THANK THEM and YOU SHOULD, TOO!
I don’t want to leave out recent past members who contributed last year and at the RE Council retreat:  Nancy Bragg, Joy McConnell.
Dr. Linda Topp
Director of Administration

Looking Back, Moving Forward

The future beckons.
A backward look will, perhaps,
Clarify the way.

Sunday, October 29 will be an important day in the life of our congregation. On that day, at 4pm in our Sanctuary, we will have a Special Congregational Meeting with two important items: a report on the draft Mission and Ends emerging from The LOV Project and a vote on the Resolution to Become a Sanctuary Congregation growing out of the work of the Sanctuary Working Group. You will want to be there.

In preparation for that event, you can expect to receive materials, by email or traditional mail, which will include the Agenda, the Resolution, a Sanctuary FAQ, an absentee/proxy ballot, and additional information. The materials will be sent to ensure that you have ample time to reflect on them.

As I have thought about that day to come, I have thought about three days that have gone before. On November 13, 1983, my wife Jean and I became members of this congregation. On October 22, 1995, I gave a sermon entitled “On Being and Becoming Welcoming.” And on November 15, 1995, our congregation overwhelmingly decided to become a Welcoming Congregation.

The October 22nd sermon—the only one I have ever given—was deeply meaningful to me. The stakes were high and it definitely took me out of my comfort zone. But I wrote the sermon, delivered it, and it was well received. One definition of courage that I’ve heard is “Being afraid but doing it anyway.” On that day, at least, I was courageous.

Perhaps our congregation, too, was courageous on that November day in 1995 when we voted to become a Welcoming Congregation. I do not know. Twenty-two years later it seems like there would have been little reason to be afraid. I’d like to think that we were just doing the right thing.

What will UUCA congregants in 2039 think about the decisions we make on October 29, 2017? Only time will tell. But I’d like to think that they will think that we were just doing the right thing.

I’m looking forward to our being together on Sunday, October 29 at 4pm!

Bruce Larson, Board of Trustees





Learning While Leading

I’m sorry to be missing our congregational retreat at The Mountain this year toward the end of October. Sadly, it conflicts with another obligation I have that weekend that I want to tell you a little about.

It began with a retreat I took at the beginning of my sabbatical called “An Academy for Leaders” run by the Center for Courage and Renewal. This organization uses principles developed by Parker Palmer to help people, as it says, “find the clarity and courage to bring our true selves to our life’s work.”

In this workshop, the focus was on people who serve as leaders in many different settings. There were about 30 people involved. We met for a long weekend, then broke into groups of five for monthly telephone conferences. The program concludes this month with another weekend retreat in Minneapolis.

In planning out my sabbatical, it seemed to me that it would be valuable to use some of my time away to focus on what my role of leader in this congregation demands of me. And what I like about the approach used by the Center for Courage and Renewal is that their retreats don’t hand you handy mantras or tricks to accomplish your goals. Instead, they invite participants to find their center for acting within themselves.

As they put it, “At the heart of authentic leadership is the courage to be fully human, to take risks, to care deeply, and to take action even in the midst of change and uncertainty.”

So, the time we spent together was involved in reflection and sharing, mediated by a process of asking each other open and honest questions. The process can be challenging because it invites us to ask questions of ourselves that we’re not used to asking. But by the same token, it is also freeing because what we center in on is the truth within us that motivates us in our work.

We were asked to reflect on such things as what energizes us and what depletes us in our work and steps to keep each of us using our strengths in our work.

In my case, for example, I told my group that what energizes me is collaborating with others to create something new that awakens hope and new energy in others, essentially all that’s involved in building community.

What depletes me, on the other hand, is when I feel that I am in trying to organize something or motivate people I am “pushing a string,” finding people are unwilling to take part or engage at a significant level. A learning that emerged for me was to make sure that my efforts stay focused on that which is mine to do, not taking on too much or giving energy to that which doesn’t engage others.

There is more to say and more to come, but I hope that gives you a flavor of the kind work that I’m pursuing in the hope of continuing to grow into a leader who is effective and acts with integrity.


Racial Justice Focus for Community Plate

racial justice

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

Toward that end, I am happy to announce a new initiative that’s comin’ down the pike: 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. You are invited to submit nominations now to be considered for the 2018 calendar year.

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. For this initiative, the team is specifically looking for nominations of organizations that directly empower people of color rather than organizations that seek to mitigate secondary “symptoms” of systemic racism.

How can I participate, you ask? Right now, we need your nominations for 2018. Community plate guidelines give precedence to local non-profit organizations, but the team also considers national and international organizations. In rare cases, they also consider for profit organizations that fit all the other selection criteria. We appreciate your generous giving on Community Plate Sundays, and invite you also to notice volunteer opportunities with recipient organizations.

To nominate an organization click here. FMI contact a member of the Community Plate Team (Linda Kooiker, Ben Fleming, Emilie White, Eleanor Lane, Brenda Robinson, and Donna Robinson) or Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper. Further, if you’d like to take concrete action before 2018, the Color of Asheville has a directory of African American owned businesses, professionals, service providers and clubs in Asheville, NC.

UUCA Youth Religious UU(YRUU) Program

As UUs, we begin with the assumption that religion for each of us begins with our own individual experience. One way to describe this feeling is as a sense of wonder, that we are deeply connected to each other and all things.

The Young Religious UU (YRUU) program helps our 10th-12th grade High Schoolers deepen their connection with each other and the congregation.

Many of them have just come off an intense year in the Coming of Age program, which culminated with them writing and presenting their Credo to the congregation. YRUU deepens this journey of faith for them.

YRUU is not just another Sunday School class with teachers and a curriculum. Instead, YRUU is about the students themselves engaging with their passions, collaborating with peers, maintaining a playful attitude, all while making a positive difference in the world around them.

Instead of teachers, YRUU has four advisors. Their role is to be the catalysts, sparking ideas, helping our young people navigate the learning process and providing new strategies to avoid frustration. We want to blur the boundaries so teachers become learners and learners become teachers.

This year about a dozen students from all high school grades are creating a new YRUU adventure. The group is about evenly divided between girls and boys, representing most of the public and private high schools in the area. They meet most Sundays during the second service.

In their first two meetings, they created their covenant and identified specific areas they plan to devote time to over this RE year:

  • First Sundays: Connection. What’s up in your life now?
  • Second Sundays: Inspiration. Using our awesome Maker Space to challenge and inspire each other.
  • Third Sundays: Social Justice. Making a difference in their own lives and in the wider world.
  • Fourth Sundays: Kitchen Meetup. A place to cook, collaborate, commune, and consume.

During the year, they will also be attending Youth Conferences at The Mountain, creating and leading a service in the Sanctuary, and producing a Bridging Ceremony for graduating seniors in the Spring.

The whole year represents our new approach in Youth Ministry, giving ways for YRUUs to make decisions, form faith identity, lead, teach, and learn.

Gordon Clark, YRUU Advisor


Living Our Values Project

This summer, I was honored and privileged to have spent a week at the Southern Unitarian Universalist Leadership Experience. SUULE was empowering and it gave me a true understanding of what our real work is, which is to listen to one another, to learn from one another and to grow from one another. That is what the LOV project is all about.

At SUULE, I spent a lot of time learning about the power of why. Why are we here?  Why do we come together? Why do we do the things that we do? The why, here at UUCA,  gives meaning to all that we do, not just at UUCA but in all aspects of our lives. The why, is our seven principles and our values of Connection, Inspiration, Compassion and Justice. and the rest of the Board of Trustees are asking you to embark upon a journey with us to discover and affirm together how we live out our why because your voice, your meaning, your heart, your actions and your behaviors make us who we are. When we focus on the why, the why becomes our reality.

Great things are happening at UUCA, we are working on so many amazing projects!  In this process, it is important to value differences. We will be asking you questions that will likely affect you somehow. In doing so, we create confidence and comfort to journey into the future together with parts of our past. The parts of the past that we bring with us should be the very best of us.

Our conversation about why we are here and why we live it,  is never over–it is ongoing. The Board of Trustees is committed to learning about and understanding your why. So please join in these conversations because we want to hear your voice.

What is it and why are we doing it?

Living Our Values, Imagining Our Future….aka The LOV Project, is a series of joyful and connecting workshops in which we will gather to explore our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our congregation. Our trained facilitators will guide you through a 2-hour process called appreciative inquiry. Together we will explore how we live our values of Connection, Inspiration, Compassion, and Justice, which will help us discern how to build our future based on our strengths. The primary outcome of the LOV project is to re-vision our congregational Mission and Ends to address our current aspirations.  This workshop is all about renewing our covenant together.

When and where is it…and are you going to feed me anything?


Friday, Sept 22th 6-8 23 Edwin BYO: Wine and Dessert
Saturday Sept 23rd 10-12 RE Commons Light Breakfast and Coffee
Sunday Sept 24th 1-3 Sandburg Hall Snacks
Tuesday Sept 26th 9:30-11:30 Sandburg Hall Light Breakfast and Coffee
Saturday Sept 30 9:30-11:30 Sandburg Hall Light Breakfast and Coffee
Sunday Oct 1 12:45-2:45 Sandburg Hall Snacks
Monday October 2nd 6-8 RE Commons Potluck Dinner
Wednesday Oct 4 6:30-8:30 Sandburg Hall Light dessert
Thursday October 5th 9:30-11:30 Sandburg Hall Light Breakfast and Coffee
Saturday Oct 7th 6-8 RE Commons BYO: Wine and Cheese
Sunday Oct 8 1-3 Sandburg Hall Snacks

Who is it for?

This project is for each and every congregant, it is hosted by the UUCA Board of Trustees. Please join us, we need your voice.

How do I sign up?

Sign up for a workshop here

Kate Hartnett, President, Board of Trustees