Please join us for conversation, coffee and snacks after the service!
When Shakespeare put these words into the mouth of Hamlet, this question about existence, Hamlet is asking what it means to live. He is asking whether or not people should even exist. Heavy stuff. In this soliloquy, he is contemplating suicide and he compares death to sleep which he thinks actually wouldn’t be so bad. But then Hamlet begins to wonder if it’s better to put up with the bad things one knows about life than to run off into death’s “undiscovered country.” Life is a mystery and so is death. But what is it that compels us, urges us, to desire to live, to keep going? Is this desire to be (or not to be), this desire to exist — is it sacred? I answer in the affirmative! Out of the primordial desire to exist, everything else comes. This sacred force is different from clinging, which is the source of attachment and frustration. Let’s explore.
Upcoming Sunday Services:
With all that is going on in the world today it is easy to lose sight of the goodness and sweetness in our lives. This Sunday I want us to focus on one blessing that many of us have enjoy — that is the blessing and the gift of having a friend. The old adage is that a true friend is rare indeed. A friend who loves us at our worst as well at our best. It’s been said that in order to have a friend we must learn how to be a friend. I personally know many people, I have many acquaintances, yet I have very few people I would label a friend, for friendships take time to cultivate. All love does. This is why they are precious. Exploring the ideas of the late Celtic poet and scholar, John O’Donohue, as well as the words of C. S. Lewis, Cokie Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, and Jesus of Nazareth, we will embrace a bit tighter the notion of friendship.
Proverbs 31: 10 tells us that a wife of good character is “a price above rubies.” That may be true. But if one cannot find that wife or partner, a good friend will fit the bill as well.
Here’s a chance to to explore emerging cultural views on death and dying, including such phenomena as midwives or doulas for the dying, the revival of home funerals, and more sustainable approaches to burial. Music will be offered from the tradition of Threshold Choir, people who sing quietly in small groups at the bedsides of those nearing the end of life. Nancy Gavin and Ginny Moreland are the Sunday Service Associates.
Michele began her journey in Death Care in 2004 as a Therapeutic Music Practitioner with training through the Music for Healing and Transition Program (MHTP). She trained in End of Life care and as a Home Funeral Guide with the Center for End of Life Transitions (CEOLT), a service project of the Anattasati Buddhist Sangha in Asheville, NC, and assists area families with body care and disposition. Michele is currently pursuing a professional certification as an End of Life Doula through the University of Vermont. She is on the board of the WNC chapter of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a national advocacy organization and teaches workshops on “Creative Deathing”. Michele is passionate about bringing death back into the circle of life.
This morning I want to present another biographical sermon which many of you know that I like to do on occasion. This morning I would like to introduce to you a great American and an even greater human being. She also hails from my hometown of Baltimore, Md. Her name is Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray. The sun rose on her life was November 20th, 1910, sunset July 1, 1985. In between those dates, in those 74 years of life, Pauli Murray was an American Civil Rights Activist, a Women’s Rights Activist, a lawyer, an author, and the first woman of color to become ordained as an Episcopal Priest. She was friends with the likes of Langston Hughes, Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Friedan, Thurgood Marshall, and many others. Ms. Murray, was a passionate advocate for women’s rights. Pauli Murray also identified as a man.
Past Sunday Services:
Many, but not all, therapists treat shame as a pathology—an unhealthy low opinion of yourself that prevents you from being all that you can be. It’s not difficult to understand this general reaction against shame, for the feeling that you don’t look good in the eyes of others can be a powerful one. But shame is not something to be abolished, for there are two kinds of shame: there is toxic shame or the shame that’s the opposite of self–esteem; and then there is the healthy shame that’s the opposite of shamelessness. You see healthy shame lets us know our limits. It lets us know that we’re not god. Using our President as an example, I want to explore the difference between a healthy sense of shame, and the toxic shame that if left unchecked produces sociopaths and extremely damaged individuals who present a clear and present danger to our society and way of life.
An agreement is a belief that we accept as true. Who we are as human being is determined by our belief system. It is the combination of all the things we accept as true—our agreements—that define us. Elizabeth and Katherine will share with you the ideas of Don Miguel Ruiz on how to change our agreements in order to create change in our lives.
Elizabeth Braun is an associate professor in the English department at Catawba Valley Community College. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education at Gardner Webb University. Elizabeth enjoys many outdoor activities as well as reading, crafting, and spending time with family and friends. Katherine Farris is a family physician who specializes in women’s reproductive health. In addition to medicine, her passions are cooking, reading, and spending time with her husband Steve and sons, Zack and Kyle. Elizabeth and Katherine have been Unitarian Universalists since 2008 and Lay Ministers for Worship at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Catawba Valley since 2012. However, their collaboration started almost 45 years ago – they are sisters!
A few months back I came across an interview cultural critic Curtis White, who is Professor Emeritus of English at Illinois State University, a novelist, and the author of several non-fiction books. In his 2013 work, The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers, White takes on the topic of what he labels “scientism.” White identifies scientism as an unwarranted triumphalism based on unproven premises—such as the claim that science has got the world nailed down (or soon will, anyway), that the answer to all of our human problems lies in the discovery of natural laws, or that submitting to a scientific perspective is a choiceless imperative dictated by impersonal facts. White says that this attitude is wrongheaded, dangerous and wreaks social, cultural, and political damage. Just remember, Professor White, is not anti-science, but anti-scientism. Not for the faint of heart.
History does so often repeat itself until we learn its lessons. This is where we find ourselves today as a species. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, President Roosevelt issued an executive order that began the largest migration in American History. During this period, over a hundred thousand Japanese American families were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to internment camps across the western United States. What many do not realize is that religious affiliation played a great role in the days after Pearl Harbor, with many Buddhists deemed a national security threat by the FBI and sent to high security camps—a year before non-Buddhist Japanese Americans were arrested and sent to the camps en masse. As our nation toys with the idea of a “Muslim Registry,” racial and religious persecution looms large and there are quite a few parallels between what our nation did to the Japanese and what our government is proposing to do to our Muslim brothers and sisters. History may repeat itself yet again in our lifetime.
From 24/7 news cycles driven by partisan politics both local and global to climate change, mass migration, and rising nationalism, these times aren’t for the faint of heart. But neither paralyzed by despair nor hiding our heads in the sand, we engage the world with empathy and integrity while knowing that even the end of the world may not be the end after all, for every ending is a new beginning. These are tough times and we are called to find a clear path through them. The old adage says that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Let’s talk about the tools and outlook we will need to survive the challenging, exciting, and yes—the tough times ahead!
*Just a reminder that this is our Homecoming Sunday and we will be having our Water Communion Service as well.
You are changing the world whether you like it or not! Inspired by David LaMottes’s book and work for social justice, we will explore how the choices we make can make more difference than we realize. We will take a look at how big change can be made up of small changes. Eric Bannon is a musical storyteller whose songs travel the bleak desert highways and lush mountain hollows of the heart. He has been called to share his art and craft to inspire, motivate for positive change and build community. In that spirit, Eric has completed a preaching practicum under the guidance of Rev. Thom Belote at his home church: Community Church of Chapel Hill U.U.
The prolific African American writer James Baldwin was once quoted as saying that he had to leave home in order to preach the Gospel. The notion of “home” and what it really means has always intrigued me (especially since Baldwin was an expatriate in France) however, that is another subject for another time. Yet his statement resonated within me on many levels because of my leaving the African American Baptist tradition of my youth, and the so called good news of the gospel at that time being the “good news” of someone being a savior to and for me. Let’s explore the many ways we each have to at one time or another swim against the tide of society, family, loved ones; let’s discover the pearls of wisdom we gather when we have the courage to go against the grain.
In a wonderful book written by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams, entitled, The Book Of Joy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that ultimately, the greatest joy is the good we seek to do for others. Now many people will wonder if the way to lasting happiness is really that simple. Yes, that masses of humanity lead lives of quiet desperation, as Thoreau famously wrote. But Tutu says that the joy or happiness that we are seeking is much more than just a feeling. And he is correct as feelings change from moment to moment. The “pursuit of happiness,” enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence, is a worthwhile endeavor only when considered within the context of other pursuits— the search for meaning for instance, acts of service, the following of conscience. And yes, suffering is involved, including that of relinquishing the ego for happiness is not something that can be corralled and fenced in. But happiness can be cultivated. Indeed, research suggests that cultivating your own joy and happiness has benefits not just for you, but for others in your life. When you are able to move beyond our own pain and suffering, we are available we are more available to others; pain causes us to be extremely self -centered or focused, and leaves us with very little attention for others. Psychiatrist Howard Cutler wrote a book along with the Dalai Lama, and shared these findings: “In fact, survey after survey has shown that it is unhappy people who tend to be most self-focused and are socially withdrawn, brooding, even antagonistic. Happy people, in contrast, are generally found to be more sociable, flexible, and creative, and are able to tolerate life’s daily frustrations more easily than unhappy people. And, most important, they are found to be more loving and forgiving than unhappy people.” ( The Book of Joy) p.62-63. Let’s search together this morning for a lasting happiness.
Shakespeare reminds us in his play Romeo and Juliet, that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Why do we name anything? Why do we give a label to a rose for example? Why must we always label a person, or even a feeling? We do this either to communicate one’s feelings, (for instance if I say, I am angry) or to describe a flower, or to identify oneself with that feeling, and let’s face it, by giving something a name, we think we have understood it. Many times (but not all of the time) there is a sort of mental laziness that comes over us. Yet by giving something a name we have merely put it into a category, and we think we have understood it but we sometimes need to go deeper. By not naming something, we can look at something with fresh eyes; we look at it as though we are seeing something for the first time. The same is true when we label not only ourselves but other people. In his poem about six blind men experiencing an elephant for the first time, John Godfrey Saxe writes about how each man had a different opinion of what an elephant is; a wall, a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan, and a rope. Yet they were all wrong. Is there a better way to view this world of ours?
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Rev. DiAnna Ritola
Fanning the Fires of Desire: Passion, Transformation, and Sustenance
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman. DiAnna Ritola feels that desire and passion often get relegated to the back burner when it comes to religion and spirituality. For Unitarian Universalists, there can also be the fear of “losing our cool” or “not being rational”. Yet, it is from our passions that we come alive, that we find the ways to change ourselves and change the world around us. Let’s get passionate and find what we can transform and what can sustain us on the journey!Rev. DiAnna Ritola is a minister and teacher of Sacred Embodiment. She believes we are most connected to the Divine when we are intimately connected with our embodied human experience. She’s been living in Asheville for 16 years and will be moving to New York City to live and work.
Chris Highland was an Interfaith Chaplain in the SF Bay Area for over 25 years. He will share a small selection of the true stories from those years, drawing images and ideas for reflection. Author of My Address is a River and other books, Chris teaches Freethought at the UNCA Reuter Center and writes a weekly “Highland Views” column for the Citizen-Times. He and his wife Carol, a Presbyterian minister, live in Asheville. For more information see www.chighland.com.
We need your questions for God! You read that correctly. On July 23, Jeff Hutchins, a friend and regular speaker at UUCSV, will present “A Press Conference with God,” which he calls “a bit of theological theatre.” Jeff has led this service at many other UU churches and societies, and is bringing it back to the Swannanoa Valley. The premise of the service is that Jeff will portray God’s press secretary, come here to answer your questions for God. So… what would you ask God if you had the chance? Your questions may be serious, silly, or anything in between, and UU’s of all ages are encouraged to join in. Jeff will pick about a dozen questions that he will “submit to God” before the service. This service is meant to be satirical and thought provoking, but not blasphemous or offensive. There will be an opportunity for discussion for those who wish to comment or continue the dialogue.
We welcome back David Roth for his second visit to UUCSV. This morning David will speak and sing about how the power of simple action can make a remarkable difference in the world. David Roth is a songwriter, singer, speaker, and advocate for the human spirit, and a frequent guest at Unitarian Universalist congregations. It’s been said that “David Roth strikes many chords, hearts, and minds with his unique songs, offbeat observations, moving stories, sense of the hilarious, and powerful singing and subject matter.” See and hear more at davidrothmusic.com
This morning we will be discussing Law & Order from a slightly different perspective than that of President Trump or our 84th Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions. Perhaps an alternative view of what Law & Order means will make our lives a little less frustrating, a little less stressful. The question I want to pose is that in a cosmos( which by the way means “order” or seeing the universe as a well ordered whole) can there really be such a things as random events? In a world of impermanence where everything is in a constant state of change, we suffer because we want to hold on to things that by their very nature are subject to change. Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we learn to “suffer” correctly, we suffer less. If death and taxes are the only two things we can count on in this life, how do we live? A wise Zen master once said, “ an intelligent individual learns something new every day. A wise individual will let go of something everyday.”
Ordained to the UU ministry in 2007, Ernie completed a BA in Philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, a Master of Religious Education from Duke Divinity School, and a Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He began his ministry in the United Methodist Church, serving as director of education, assistant pastor, and minister, and eventually Chaplain and Instructor at Brevard College. In 2002 he resigned his position at Brevard College and became part-time minister to the small congregation of Unitarian Universalists who are now known as UUTC. This is Ernie’s first visit to UUCSV. His talk this morning is inspired his journey from Methodism to Unitarian Universalism.
UUCSV Choir will sing
We are often told to get in touch with them. We are often told to keep them in check. We are often told and taught to repress them. In certain schools of Eastern thought we are taught to just be aware of and to observe them as they are impermanent and ever changing. There is truth to all of this, yet however one looks at it, we cannot really become a healthy human being without them. Obviously, I am referring to our feelings. How do we get over this Western notion, this love affair with the intellect, to balance heart and mind, to become the whole, authentic, and integrated people we are meant to be? Let’s explore this balancing act of what it means to be human; let’s talk about feelings.
The idea: On Father’s Day we honor our dads, obviously. Some of us do that with joy, others with misgiving, and others don’t have a dad around to connect with. But, good dad or not-so-good dad, this day is an opportunity to take stock, to reflect, to look around and realize that we are all blessed by the gift of life—everyone of us got started because a father connected with a mother and here we are. It is the gift of life that we have been given, the greatest gift there is or ever could be. In this sermon we will celebrate that gift and remember the fathers, good and bad, who gave it to us.
The Rev. Chris Andrews is a lifelong resident of Louisiana except for stints in graduate school and a work assignment in England. Formerly a minister in the United Methodist Church for 42 years, he served at 1st United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge for many of those years. Chris now leads Jubilee Pioneers, an eclectic group of folks in Baton Rouge seeking ways to practice “good religion.” He is not a Christian, but instead calls himself a “follower of Jesus.
Do you have good manners? I’m not speaking of the etiquette of meeting and greeting people, or the way we conduct ourselves at the dinner table (knowing what knife, fork, and spoon to use at just the right time.) I’m asking about the etiquette we use in our day to day living while experiencing life on this wonderful planet of ours. We are merely guests on this planet while in this incarnation, and yet if we look closely enough, we have many of the tools we need to survive. Most of us have our health or have had it. Many, but not all, of us have or have had some sense of stability and support in our lives. With these tools at our disposal, are we minding our manners? I’m talking about spiritual manners; the manners that assist us in excavating and cultivating our inner lives.
Sunday, 4 June 2017, 11 am
“The Crack in Everything:
The Theology of Leonard Cohen”
Of the great songwriters of our time, Leonard Cohen was perhaps the most spiritual. He spent five years in a Zen monastery. His songs are cryptic koans, about the contradictions of seeking light, love and justice in a dark and fallen world, while holding onto humor and hope. Songwriter Steve Brooks sings and unravels several of his favorites, while he explores their lessons for surviving the New Dark Age.
A longtime member and former board member of Austin’s Wildflower Church, speaker and singer-songwriter Steve Brooks has performed at more than 30 UU churches around Texas and beyond. His services are an entertaining and thought-provoking blend of sermon and song, in which he integrates homilies, hymns and special music. A master of words as well as music, he was featured on TV’s “I’ve Got a Secret” as six-time World Pun Champion. His seventh CD, “I’ll Take You Home,” was released January 29. http://www.stevebrooks.net/
UUCSV Choir will perform
The springboard for this sermon is Nancy’s recently published non-fiction book Before It Was Legal: a black-white marriage (1945-1987) It is described as ” the story of an independent white woman, a talented black man, and the times in which these two remarkable people lived.”
After decades of career hopping—from educator, editor, Realtor, communications consultant, back to educator—Nancy discovered a passion for writing. Her political opinions frequently appear in the Op-Ed section of the Asheville newspaper and on her blog: www.nancypoling.com/blog. Nancy lives in Black Mountain with her husband, Jim Poling, a retired seminary teacher turned avid bird watcher.
As we come to the end of our program year in children’s RE, we celebrate the wonders of growth and the many bridges we have crossed. This year, crossing bridges will be a little more tangible for 2 of our UUCSV youth who are graduating high school and crossing the bridge here from the children’s & youth’s classrooms to the exciting world of adulthood. Teacher appreciation will also be part of our service as we recognize, thank, and celebrate the dedication of all of our wonderful teachers & other volunteers for their service to our younger members.
One of the legacies of our free, progressive faith tradition is social action. Many UUs are drawn to this social justice ministry as an avenue whereby they can put their faith into action. Many times I as your minister have said that if one wants to change the world, one must begin by changing oneself, for as within so without. For some, but not for all, this is a hard saying. Yet, it is not an either/ or premise but both/ and. I am a mystic and by that I mean that I draw my spirituality from encounters that I have had with at times visible and invisible energy. I do not say that everyone has to but I do. I believe that genuine transformation, of the society and the individual must occur from within. We have a choice how to channel this energy. Let’s explore!
Our First Principle is one that is refreshing and, sometimes, challenging. We will consider some ways to put into practice and live out our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person – including ourselves. The First Principle is so important that we decided a different perspective on the topic within a month could be worthwhile! So even if you heard the April 23rd service, join us May 7th for a psychological approach.
Robert Hughes is a retired Unitarian Universalist minister who emphasizes practical spirituality. He has also worked as a licensed massage therapist, medical social worker, and co-owner of a small business. He taught world religions for several years. In addition to folk music he has an interest in holistic living, enjoys therapeutic narrative, and is a Psychosynthesis Life Coach. He has been married to Judy for 41 years and they are the parents of two children and four grandchildren. They moved to Matthews, North Carolina to be close to family, especially their 2 grand daughters!
This is our Stand Against Racism Sunday Service. I want to share my musings on art and the artist, race, creativity, politics, and life in general from the perspective on what it means to become an artist with our very lives as the canvass. “ Art is the fundamental living equipment for our existence as human beings,” says Kenneth Burke. “Art is our way of humanizing the world, says Andre Malraux. “Activism helps pay the rent. The rent I pay for being alive,” says Alice Walker. “ In the best of circumstances, we require an enormous amount of mutually consistent support to be emotionally able to look straight into the face of the powers aligned against us and still do our work with joy. it takes determination and practice,’ says Audre Lorde. This Sunday, while looking at the lives of some artist of color as well the lives of some European American artist, we will explore what it means to rise above the petty, myopic, and jaundiced perspective of our current American racial lens, and discover what it really means to be not only a creative non-conformist— but what it means to be an authentic and creative human being.
The first of our 7 principles states that we, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalists Association, covenant to affirm and promote, “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.” Sounds wonderful, right? I agree. Yet many people have said to me that for them this First Principle was always difficult, and that it is especially difficult to put into practice now that we have a new president and a new administration. I too struggle with this principle, because it is to be lived and not just agreed on intellectually. Perhaps you and I can struggle along together on this Sunday morning and see what we can come up with as we unpack what it means not only to have dignity, but not to lose sight of the dignity of others.
Naturalist John Muir (1838-1914) was raised in a strict religious household in Scotland and Wisconsin before setting off on a lifetime of exploration in Nature’s “heaven on earth.” As the parent of our national park system, Muir opened the trails for all people to enter Nature as a classroom and cathedral. We will hear his words and hike around some of his most radical thoughts on “natural spirituality” asking–what would the resurrection of Muir mean today?
Chris Highland is the author of Meditations of John Muir, as well as My Address is a River and eight other books. He teaches at the Reuter Center on the history of Freethinking in America. A former Protestant minister and interfaith chaplain, Chris is now a Humanist celebrant. His column “Highland Views” is published weekly in the Asheville Citizen-Times. Chris and his wife Carol, a Presbyterian minister, moved to Asheville from the San Francisco Bay Area in 2016. His website is www.chighland.com.
Rabbi Jesus remarked in the book of Matthew 18:3 of the Aramaic Translation of that book, “…let the children come to me and do not forbid them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” I’ve always loved that verse. This “Kingdom” and “Queendom” also includes adults as well who may still have that childlike sense of wonder and awe when we look at our world. I believe that The Rabbi was also implying that we are, as much as humanly possible, to retain this childlike, (but not childish) perspective on our lives to remain truly alive in a world that is constantly at war with itself. This is one of the many lessons we can learn from our children, for although they may not vote, children are people too. Let’s explore with the open heart and the open mind of a child on this Palm Sunday. Please remember to bring a flower for our Flower Communion during the service. Shalom!
Sunday, 2 April 2017, 11 am
“The Art of Starting a Movement”
WINDING COUNTRY ROAD IN THE MOUNTAINS SURROUNDING ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA – MORNING… Thus begins Pana Columbus’s screenplay, “The Apple and The Radish”. How did movements that have changed history begin? What can we tangibly do that would pull up the root cause of our current environmental and social justice crisis? How can a story mobilize the community into modeling new systems that can literally change the world? Join Pana Columbus, back once again to UUSV, to share the premise, “when a diverse community learns to work together, anything is truly possible.”
Pana Columbus is a writer, director, and producer of theater and film. Her film production company, Mystic Blue Films, was founded in 2013 to “foster collaboration and catalyze transformation for the common good.” Her current project, the feature film “The Apple and The Radish”, will be shot in the greater Asheville area. The purpose of the movie is to help catalyze an electric car movement in response to our current environmental/social justice crisis. It is being co-produced with the one-and-only singer/producer Kat Williams.
In the book of Matthew, chapter 13:44-46, we are told that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that was hidden in a field and a man discovered it, and because of his joy he went and sold everything he had and purchase that field. Again the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant who was seeking good pearls. And when he had found one costly pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it. Well, it’s that time of year again, its canvass time. And so the question I want to raise is this. Now that you have found this pearl of great price; now that you have found this liberal religion, this congregation, The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of The Swannanoa Valley, what would you do without it? And what are you willing to do to keep it? See you on Sunda
Why are the Irish considered lucky after centuries of war, conquest and famine? On the Sunday after St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll explore history and luck, and the ways communities find both healing and grace in challenging times. Step out of the cycles of despair and grief and find your inner luck.
H. Byron Ballard is a western NC native, teacher, folklorist and writer. She has served as a featured speaker and teacher at Sacred Space Conference, Pantheacon, Pagan Spirit Gathering, Southeast Wise Women’s Herbal Conference, Glastonbury Goddess Conference, Scottish Pagan Federation Conference and other gatherings. She is senior priestess and co-founder of Mother Grove Goddess Temple in Asheville, NC.
Her essays are featured in several anthologies, she blogs and writes a regular column for Witches and Pagans Magazine. Her book “Staubs and Ditchwater” debuted in 2012 and the companion volume “Asfidity and Mad-Stones” was published in Oct. 2015. Byron is currently at work on “Gnarled Talisman: Old Wild Magic of the Motherlands”. Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org
[This service was cancelled due to snow.]
Sunday, 12 March 2017, 11 am
Rev. Michael J.S. Carter
“The Pearl of Great Price”
In the book of Matthew, chapter 13:44-46, we are told that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that was hidden in a field and a man discovered it, and because of his joy he went and sold everything he had and purchase that field. Again the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant who was seeking good pearls. And when he had found one costly pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it. Well, it’s that time of year again, its canvass time. And so the question I want to raise is this. Now that you have found this pearl of great price; now that you have found this liberal religion, this congregation, The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of The Swannanoa Valley, what would you do without it? And what are you willing to do to keep it? See you on Sunday!
Kitty Richards will offer a sermon based on her life experiences as a “Bipolar Buddhist.” The topic is based on her struggles and triumphs, her work with developmentally challenged individuals, and her spiritual practice. A Black Mountain resident, is affiliated with NAMI, a national grassroots organization for mental health awareness, support and recovery. She’s also a published author of memoir, poetry and essays, and has appeared in the WNC Woman Magazine. Her book, Battles of a Bipolar Buddhist, won first place in a Buncombe County library contest and is available on Amazon. In addition, she is an alternative healing practitioner and a Buddhist teacher and inspirational speaker.
How we see human nature is the most important political question of all. Have you ever really thought about that? As offspring of the Protestant Reformation, UUs split away from Christian religious orthodoxy by declaring that humanity is always in a state of becoming or evolving and not stagnant and born in sin. We have a higher vision of what human beings can possibly become. Many religious and political conservatives (certainly not all) hold the belief that humankind is inherently bad and born in sin, and that we cannot evolve beyond a certain point because of something within us that is in arrested development. Just as we can become dogmatic in our progressiveness or liberalism, the attitude (conscious or not) of many religious and political conservatives divides humanity into “us and them” because of this belief. Do you really believe in and trust the basic inherent goodness of humanity? Not just that we pay lip service to it, but what do we really believe deep down inside us. This is an important topic of discussion, not only for your status as a “card carrying UU,” but because your theological lives are at stake; for as UUs we affirm that humanity is always in a state of becoming and not stagnant beings born in sin. See you on Sunday the 26th!
The Ministry of Hope is a community-funded program which provides on-site chaplains at Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women (SCCW). The chaplains conduct religious services in the center’s chapel and provide pastoral care and spiritual guidance to the inmates. The women at SCCW are within five years of release or parole. Rev. Spencer will talk to us about how the ministry offers the prisoners a sense of hope and real-world self-care tools for the future. Inmate Gwendolyn Wharton will share her personal story.
Gwendolyn is from Greensboro, NC. She has been incarcerated for more than two decades. Her favorite foods are granola, string cheese, and Oreo cookies. While in prison she has earned a degree in dental technology and is looking forward to sharing her gifts upon release. Shannon is an ordained UCC minister serving part time at SCCW as a chaplain. She is also the Founding Director of Asheville Poverty Initiative and 12 Baskets Cafe, and adjunct Pastor for Missional Engagement at First Presbyterian Church of Asheville.
Well, it’s that time of year again and I’m not referring to “ground hogs day.” No, it’s Valentine’s Day, the day for lovers! Tons of money will be spent on flowers, romantic dinners and candy, movies, and other gifts, no doubt babies will be made during this time as well. New romances will begin and old romances will be rekindled, well at least attempted to be rekindled, and it’s usually a fun time for many. Bars will be filled with people drinking and having fun and most people will be doing the same thing—Flirting. But what exactly is flirting? Let’s talk about it.
Murphy Capps will be offering a sermon entitled “Unpacking Your Spiritual Baggage” The topic is based on the concept that for some religion is a means of releasing one’s burdens and for others it is its own burden. Murphy Funkhouser Capps is a speaker, author, performer, mother of three and business owner at Kudzu Brands in Black Mountain. She is also the creator of two award-winning one woman shows Crazy Bag and Carry On which have been performed from Denver to Asheville. Her plays reflect on her upbringing in the church, her subsequent rebellion and her eventual return to a deeply spiritual life.
Ministry could never happen without the faithful service of so many people. From those who teach, to those who set up coffee and those who participate in the worship service, all of the ministry you do is important. It is a shared ministry. When you consider how many people we need to be able to offer this gathering today, it takes more than several volunteers to make this service happen. So, based on that thought it would be easy to conclude that we ask you to volunteer so that we can function, and on the surface, that is true; however, there are some deeper reasons we ask for volunteers. Join us this Sunday as we talk about the church volunteer. Hopefully, this talk will inspire you for the Volunteer Fair after the service. See you there!
Whether you call it the Civil War, The War Between The States, or The War of Yankee Aggression, the American Southland is still fighting the Civil War. Since wars are never “civil” it is an interesting label. Americans were killing each other wholesale; father against son, brother against brother. When I first moved to Asheville from New York City, I was enamored by the natural beauty, the politeness of the people I met. “Yes sir”, and “no sir”. “Yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.” “Doin’ well, and yourself.” There was a flicker of hope as I too was raised this way by my parents. Yet beneath the natural beauty of the area, beneath the genteel civility, the overt politeness, I could feel the lingering, seething, unfinished business of race. In order to understand the current cultural and racial situation that we inhabit in our nation today, it is my belief that we must take a look again at this “uncivil war.” Our very democratic experiment depends on it!
Sunday, 15 January 2017, 11 a.m.
“9/12: Moving From Victim to Victor through the Power of Forgiveness”
Lyndon Harris’ journey to forgiveness began while standing at the foot of the South Tower of the former World Trade Center as it exploded into an apocalyptic fireball on September 11, 2001. As the priest in charge of Saint Paul’s Chapel, directly across the street from the WTC site, for 8.5 months he coordinated the efforts of over 15,000 volunteer to provide over 500,000 meals to police officers, fire fighters and other rescue workers at “ground zero.” But like many traumatized first responders, Lyndon’s service came with a tremendous price. This is the story of his personal journey to forgiveness which began on September 12, 2001, and continued to the war-torn city of Beirut, Lebanon, to post-genocide Rwanda, to Jerusalem, and to a series of personal new beginnings, and why forgiveness is vital for us all.
Lyndon Harris is the Co-director of Tigg’s Pond Retreat Center in Zirconia, NC, where he is developing a Journey to Forgiveness Institute. Harris is also a forgiveness coach, and an inspirational and motivational speaker. His work at Ground Zero as priest-in-charge of Saint Paul’s Chapel (located directly across from the World Trade Center in New York City) has been written about widely, including the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Christian Science Monitor. His work in forgiveness is featured in the award winning documentary, “The Power of Forgiveness” (Journey Films 2006). Harris is also the Executive Director of the Gardens of Forgiveness, an educational non-profit dedicated to teaching the way of forgiveness as tool for conflict transformation and peace making.
Due to the weather conditions, UUCSV was closed Sunday, January 8
Watch for this service to be rescheduled!
Sunday, 8 January 2017, 11 a.m.
Rev. Michael J.S. Carter
“Law and Order”
This Sunday I want to talk about law and order from the perspective of Universal Laws. As we enter this new year, perhaps an alternative view, a different perspective, may help us or at least remind us so we can achieve a little less stress, a little less frustration, a little less suffering in our lives. In a cosmos which means “order” are there really random events? In a world of constant change and impermanence, we suffer because we want to hold on to things that by their very nature are subject to change. Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we learn to suffer correctly, we suffer less. If “death and taxes” are the only things in life we can count on, how do we live? A wise man once said we should learn something everyday. A Zen master once said, we should let go of something everyday. Happy New Year!
We welcome back Med and Todd Hoke, who presented a service entitled “Five Happy Things” a few years ago. This service builds on the themes Todd and Meg have spoken on before – paying attention to the world around, deciding how you will relate to it, and then sharing and connecting with it. In this presentation, Meg discusses her experiences in “BEING” through her work with inner city kids and hospice and how the experience of the very personal and profound connects us to the “Universe”. As Meg talks, Todd plays music echoing these sentiments. It’s a little bit of a quieter, more poignant presentation than their last service, but they hope you will find it to be uplifting and powerful as well.
Meg and Todd met in the early 90’s while serving as full-time volunteers at a residential hospice for people with AIDS in Baltimore. They have worked in health-care related fields ever since. The daughter of a Methodist minister and of a teacher/community worker, Meg holds a Master’s degree in Social Work. She currently works for Care Partners Hospice in Asheville and is also available for private home consultations for people wanting to prepare for their health future or struggling with difficult health situations now. Todd grew up in Conroe, TX. Besides being an RN at a hospice house, Todd is a singer-songwriter with 3 CDs under his belt and is working on his 4th. He donates 100% of the money from CD sales to Feeding America.
Come join us for our Christmas Eve Service on Saturday, December 24, 2016 at 5:30 pm. There will be music from the choir along with your favorite Christmas Hymns, and with a slightly different take on the Christmas story. This is the first Christmas Eve Service that I can remember us having since I have been serving you for the last 4 years, so it’s a very special event. Bring a friend. Hope to see you there!
(Note: UUCSV will be closed Sunday Morning, December 25th.)
Rebecca Williams and Linda Metzner are long-time devotees of the Old Religion of the Goddess. In this service, we will relive the odyssey of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna into the dark underworld of her fearsome sister Ereshkigal, and ponder what lessons the ancient tale might hold for us. We will look at faces of the Divine Feminine in Her dark aspects, both feared and respected as the Crone and the Ancient One. The Sahara Peace Choir will sing.
Its been awhile but its time to explore the African American holiday know as Kwanzaa. For some folks (like me) December 26th is just the day after Christmas when I recuperate from the festivities and celebration of the day before. But for many other African Americans, Kwanzaa is a holiday to reaffirm a commitment to themselves, family, community, and to a shared sense of collective struggle. From Umoja (unity) to Imani (faith), the seven principles of Kwanzaa provide a blueprint for many African Americans to reaffirm heritage and commitment. We will have a special guest artist, Mr. Steve Townsend as our drummer that morning. Join us as we explore the holiday that Dr. Maulana Karenga began back in 1966— Kwanzaa.
UUCSV String Band
So many of our thoughts, words, actions, and character are driven by an attempt to either avoid or reduce suffering. Whether recognized or not, the human condition is often driven by the avoidance of suffering and an attraction to bliss. It is there a path to achieve this goal more consciously and easily? Are we able to more consciously control our response to circumstances, the words of others, our own thoughts and feelings in a manner that reduces not only our own suffering, but also the suffering of humanity? We will explore the key concepts, and practice together, varied techniques which uncover the true root cause of suffering in each of us. We will create a path personal to reduce and eliminate our individual and collective patterns which have been unconsciously motivating us- establishing freedom from suffering…forever.
After our LUUNch Bunch discussion on Tuesday, October 4th, I decided to rework this sermon. Our topic that Tuesday afternoon was on the “Fear of Death.” The vulnerability expressed during that hour, the courage to lay bear feelings about life and death; sharings about grief and loss, inspired this new look at what it means during this season of giving thanks, to learn the lessons of acceptance, letting go, and thanksgiving. My own personal reflections will be my sharing of the story of two patients I had the privilege of ministering to when I was a staff chaplain in a major New York City Hospital, serving on an AIDs unit. Join us!
UUCSV String Band
This is an intergenerational service (the children remain in the Sanctuary) and we’ll again welcome to our pulpit the exceptional storyteller Becky Stone, who will share stories and legends about nature, especially plants and animals.
For the past year or so I have been myself immersing myself in eastern thought and philosophy. It’s been quite a challenge for me in many ways but I am enjoying it very much. Part of the difficulty is that I must keep reminding myself that I am part of a whole and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Now, it’s not as difficult as I am making it sound but it is in my consciousness. I am talking about something that I am calling individualism and collectivism. I have come to the conclusion (and I am not alone in this nor original in the thought) that compared to individualistic cultures (aside from First Nations people here in this country), people in collective cultures tend to pay more attention to the groups they belong to rather than the individual. Yet they can also be more bigoted and narrow minded when carried to the extreme. Individualistic extremism is equally as dangerous as it can lead to no acknowledgement or respect for others in a society. Let’s explore the middle road between these two worldviews and perhaps move from Me vs. We, to Me and We.
When we access altered brain states, we open our hearts and minds to hear the whispering of the divine. We spend most of our waking life in a hurried, beta mind state. How can we access the alpha and theta brain waves which are known to bring peace, healing, and insights? “An uninterpreted dream is like throwing away an unopened letter from God.” (quote from the Talmud) When we dream, we access a unitive field of consciousness full of hidden meanings and symbolism. How do we begin the journey of working with dreams? How do dreams intersect with daytime life? And which is the true reality: Your waking life, or your dreams? Learn how indigenous dream cultures answer this question.
Tayria Ward has a Ph.D. in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. She worked for 20 years as a minister in an interfaith community in Los Angeles and, later on, as a professor at undergraduate and graduate levels. In 2004 she moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina to found Bridging Worlds Mountain Retreat Center before moving to Asheville to begin a private practice working in dream analysis and depth psychology. She also conducts dream groups,and offers lectures, retreats and workshops on topics related to Jungian thought, with a special passion for recovering Indigenous perspectives.
Halloween is October 31st and we all know a bit about that “holyday,” but November 1st is All Saints Day and Nov. 2 is All Soul’s Day in the Roman Catholic Church Tradition. There are a few UU congregations across our country with the name “All Souls,” but in my research I have found none named “All Saints.” Be that as it may, I will argue this morning that we as UUs can also benefit from the sentiment of these two holy days of our Catholic brothers and sisters by perhaps looking at them in a slightly different light. For instance, by replacing the start of the word “Saint” with a small “s” instead of a capital one, we too can honor our heroes and sheros who have inspired us and accompanied us along life’s journey. After all, Unitarian Albert Schweitzer reminds us that “one does not have to be an angel to be a saint,” and C. S. Lewis tell us that “we don’t have a soul. We are a soul. We have a body.” Let’s explore!
A few years ago I wrote a sermon entitled The Spirituality of The Atheist. I was the new minister here and as a Theist, this was my attempt at letting the humanist, agnostic, and atheist members know that they were not invisible. Lately, I’ve been reading and re-reading the works of the Dalai Lama, and Bishop John Shelby Spong, I began to think more deeply about why a secular ethic is needed only with religion in our culture today, as well as whether or not UUism is really a religion in the traditional sense and use of the word. Without a so called elevator speech to tell folks, when asked, what it is that we as UUs believe, it has been difficult, but perhaps we don’t need one. UUs have always seemed to know that the world was more complicated than we thought; and we always knew that a more inclusive perspective was needed. It certainly appears now that perhaps religion, as well as a secular ethic was always the way to go. Let’s explore.
UUCSV String Band
When we tell a story, we weave together the threads of our personal experience and beliefs; we express our values, even sometimes unintentionally. When someone hears our story and they are moved or inspired by it, a little strand from that thread connects the teller and the listener at the heart. We will explore how our personal stories connect us as families and as a community. Eric Bannon is a musical storyteller whose songs travel the bleak desert highways and lush mountain hollows of the heart. Eric is based in Pittsboro, NC. His home congregation is The Community Church of Chapel Hill U.U.
This sermon is partly inspired by volunteering and witnessing other volunteers serve community residents and the homeless for the “Open Table” located each Wednesday at the Black Mountain United Methodist Church. It has been a thing of beauty to behold and to be a small part of. Many of the volunteers are from our UUCSV. I want to discuss what hunger, home, and righteousness can mean when we put our faith into action with others, regardless of our theological differences, for all religious traditions call us to share our blessings and to provide faith, hope, and charity for the less fortunate among us. We are all hungering for a sense of home and righteousness that flows down like water from a mighty stream. We as UUs and perhaps more importantly, we as human beings are in our true essence, what some would call– love beyond belief.
Are we saved by faith or intellect? People who might describe themselves as liberal or progressive tend to fall into two camps, those who embrace belief in the supernatural and others the un-super.
Cecil Bothwell is an artist, musician, organic gardener and author of ten books. He is serving his second term as a member of Asheville’s City Council and his other car is a raft. He believes one can never be too blasé about the possibility of another Genesis flood.
Lewis Latimer was born on September 4th, 1848 in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He was the youngest of four children. He died December 11, 1928. Lewis Latimer was an American inventor and draftsman, as well as being a highly accomplished engineer and a pioneer in the development of electricity. He was also a poet and musician. He worked with two of the leading inventors of his time, Alexander Bell and Thomas Edison, to help bring about the 20th century’s technological revolution, (which will be the focus of our talk this morning) and yet so many know so little about him. Lewis Latimer was one of the most brilliant people this country has ever produced. Lewis Latimer was an African American — he was also a Unitarian. Join us for another “Sermon In Biography,” as we celebrate the life of Lewis Latimer—Renaissance Man.
UUCSV String Band
Katie Player shares the journey of her accidental awakening after being a lifelong atheist, when she and her husband made major dietary changes in 2010 because of health problems. Katie is a PhD Economist, blogger, mom, founder of The Equilibrium Diet, and author of Atheist to Enlightened in 90 Days (forthcoming October 2016).
Join us for our Homecoming Service and Water Communion on Sunday, September 11th, 2016. We will explore the theme of homecoming and what it means to assist others in finding their way back home as well, remembering that all who wander are not lost. Some of us choose not to return home. For us as UUs, we gather to affirm and to live our principles, to have fellowship, to nurture one another, and to strengthen each other for the road ahead. At times the road seems rough and meandering. At times it may feel as if we are taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. But just try to remember these 4 words which may help to make the journey a little less cumbersome— I Am Still Learning.
Our own Mamie Davis Hilliard spent her early years living and learning about life’s mysteries on a farm in eastern North Carolina. After college, she and her family lived in nine different states and one foreign country. Today, she is a great-grandmother, aspiring poet and Mountain Woman. She received a Master of Divinity degree, from The Church of God School of Theology, a Pentecostal Seminary in Cleveland, TN and was ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), in Chattanooga. She worked as a hospital chaplain at Erlanger Medical Center in that city and the Veterans Hospital in Asheville. She also served as interim associate minister at Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Rev. Michael J.S. Carter
What is it about human life that motivates us to greater and greater heights and accomplishments? Can this inner desire or longing be a blessing as well as a curse? Is it the search for authenticity within ourselves and others, and with the entire planet? Is this really the desire for inner peace? My desire to find the real me, “the pearl of great price” as it were, stubbornly persisted, in spite of all of my best efforts to ignore it. I believe it is a universal human longing, yet I could be wrong. As usual, there may be more questions than answers. Let’s talk about “Desire.”
Sunday, August 21, 2016
“Civil Liberties in North Carolina:
the General Assembly, the Courts, and the ACLU.”
We are delighted to welcome to our pulpit Hilary Chiz, who has graciously agreed to speak to us on very short notice! Ms. Chiz is a specialist in human and civil and rights training, and currently serves as president of the Western North Carolina Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Rev. Michael J.S. Carter
“Bending Towards Justice: Theodore Parker & MLK, Jr.”
What does a 19th white Unitarian Christian Minister and abolitionist have in common with a 20th century African American Baptist Preacher and social activist? You guessed it—plenty! In fact many people do not know that the quote that King used in many of his speeches was first coined by Theodore Parker. That quote is that, “… the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Rev. Parker was not without his own patriarchal racism but he walked his talk. This man kept a gun in the pulpit with his bible just in case any slave catchers attempted to take members of his congregation back to slavery! Talk about putting your faith in the “Good Book.” Let’s talk about these two champions of social change and justice.
In this experiential service, Dr. Lenington will explore this topic, including periods of guided meditation. A meditator in various traditions over the past 40 years, Ken Lenington, MD has been practicing in the Buddhist tradition over the past 15 years, and was ordained in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing in 2007. He has led classes and workshops in meditation and mindfulness for mental health professionals and the general public over the past few years, and currently leads an open weekly meditation and mindfulness group. He is an active member of Mountain Mindfulness sangha in Asheville. Prior to retiring in 2015, he had a psychiatric practice, specializing in addiction medicine and health care administration.
This service explores how gratitude can benefit our lives, and ill include wisdom shared from Rumi, Eckhart Tolle, Jung, and others. Learn about what neuroscientists have discovered in the “science of happiness,” and what gratitude does for our hearts and our relationships. Make gratitude a daily practice to increase your joy! (NOTE: Cathy will offer a follow-up workshop for us on August 14th – see this page for details!)
Cathy Holt studied NonViolent Communication with Marshall Rosenberg. She has been teaching “HeartSpeak” and Communication for Connection for over four years. She is author of HeartSpeak: Listening & Speaking from the Heart and The Circle of Healing. She is also a biofeedback therapist and works with guided imagery for sleep induction as well as preparation for surgery.
During the Pope’s speech to congress on September 24th, 2015, he singled out four great Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day. As is so often the case, the woman in the group is the least known and celebrated. Catholic Nun Joan Chittister, OSB, said that Dorothy Day led, “ a revolution of personal responsibility.” She was a maverick in life and her legacy still resonates down the corridors of time. We need leaders and activists like her because, like Dorothy Day, we can become the kind of leader for social change, if that is our choice or calling, not by changing other people, but by changing ourselves. I believe we as UU’s can learn something from the life of this great human being and generous soul known to us Dorothy Day.
How do we unplug from the demands of daily life and reconnect to that which we deem most sacred? Is there a magic formula for finding ways in which to slow down and breathe into the space of wholeness? Indeed there is—well, sort of. Many faith traditions have spiritual practices that allow us to find our centers and the tradition of Sabbath is a good place to start.
Rev. DiAnna Ritola received her ordination as an Interfaith Minister from The New Seminary for Interfaith Studies. Her ministry centers on spiritual counseling for sexuality and intimate relationships. She is a professional speaker on the integration of spirituality and sexuality. She has lived in cities large and small, explored her inner Earth Mother in rural Vermont where her two children were born, and moved to Asheville, NC in 2001 and immedately joined the Unitarian Universalist Congregation where she is still a member. DiAnna is also on the clergy team with The Mother Grove Goddess Temple in Asheville. DiAnna is available for counseling sessions in person, or via phone or Skype, as well as weddings, commitment ceremonies and other rites of passage. Her website is www.DiAnnaRitola.com.
What is it about human life that motivates us to greater and greater heights and accomplishments? Can this inner desire or longing be a blessing as well as a curse? Is it the search for authenticity with ourselves and others, with the entire planet? Is this really the desire for inner peace? My desire to find the real me, “the pearl of great price” as it were, stubbornly persisted, in spite of all of my best efforts to ignore it. I believe it is a universal human longing, yet I could be wrong. Religious Scholar Houston Smith says it this way in his remarkable book, Why Religion Matters: “There is within us—in even the blithest, most lighthearted among us—a fundamental dis-ease. It acts like an unquenchable fire that renders the vast majority of us incapable in this life of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies in the marrow of our bones and the deep region of our souls. All great literature, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, and religion tries to name and analyze this longing. We are seldom in touch with it, and indeed the modern world seems set on preventing us from getting in touch with it by covering it with an unending phantasmagoria of entertainments, obsessions, addictions, and distractions. But the longing is there, built into us like a jack-in-the-box that presses for release.” Let’s talk about “Desire.”
Saying “yes” to an inquiry when a “no” is almost reflexive can yield great surprise, growth, and change. On July 3rd David will speak about what happens when you say “yes” when “no” seems to make more sense. Opening a “doorway of discomfort” can lead to great things if you’re willing to consider a response other than the one that first appears.
We are delighted to welcome to our pulpit the gifted songwriter, singer, speaker, and advocate for the human spirit, David Roth, who will offer us a “Sermon in Song.” David is a frequent guest at Unitarian Universalist congregations. It’s been said that “David Roth strikes many chords, hearts, and minds with his unique songs, offbeat observations, moving stories, sense of the hilarious, and powerful singing and subject matter.” See and hear more at davidrothmusic.com