We strive to live justly by covenanting to build just relationships and dismantle unjust practices and institutions, both in the church and in the world. In solidarity with the history of the United Church of Christ–which was the first historically white denomination to ordain an African-American, the first to ordain a woman, and the first to ordain an openly gay man–we honor the voices and stories of those who live on the margins, as Jesus did. We offer our thanks to God by working for a more loving, just world. We believe that the social expression of love is justice and spiritual growth is inseparable from a commitment to building God’s realm of peace in our corner of the world. By God’s grace, we extend our hands to others through service projects, outreach dollars, and educational events.
Acknowledging the History of this Land and Our Commitment to Just Land
On this, the 10th birthday of our community, as well as this year that we have decided to take over the stewardship and title of the Land we are meeting on, we who are involved in the Justice ministries of this church decided it would be fitting to consider what took place here before us.
Before North Carolina and before Asheville, the convergence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers was a center of life for Indigenous peoples. Since at least 8,000 B.C., people were residing, celebrating, and tending the lands alongside the river waters.
Though there were many names in many languages that described them, the migratory Shawanoe people had villages on both sides of the Swannanoa River, for several miles up from the mouth of Untakiasti, the French Broad River. This means, that there were humans walking, living, and being on this very Land we are standing on now. These people experienced differing times of peace and intermarrying, as well as war with the Cherokee people. They left this area around 1730.
Years after foreign invasion on this continent, the Cherokee people had lived relatively undisturbed in this area. The US invaded this land, which, though it was supposedly protected in perpetuity under the British Royal Proclamation of 1763 that said the colonizers would never cross the Blue Ridge Escarpment, these mountains were forcibly settled immediately after the Revolutionary War. We are standing on broken treaty land that represents at least three direct broken promises of the US government with the Cherokee nation (The US broke more than 36 treaties with the Cherokee in North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, all before Removal, a.k.a. the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma).
Before the treaty of Hopewell, 1785, this land (up to Swannanoa) represented the Eastern border of the Cherokee nation. After the treaty, the Swannanoa settlement land was given to 24 settlers, and the hills west of Tunnel Road, by the mall, was the new border of the Cherokee Nation…for less than 6 years. In the treaty of Holston, 1791, all of present-day Buncombe County, Madison County, and parts of surrounding counties were stolen by the U.S. government. Today, Cherokee land, which itself is an amazing story of Cherokee survivance, is reduced to a small speck comprising mainly the town of Cherokee on the Qualla Boundary.
So we are standing on ceded Indigenous land that was given up because of fear mongering, manipulation, deceit, greed, blind piety, treachery, and violence. Though wealth and glory fueled this land theft, the alien colonizers used their Christian god to justify it through such foreign concepts as the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny. This is why it is right, some 500 years after initial contact, that here on this very Land, at this location we call 15 Overbrook Pl., in a Christian church, that we recognize this history and our commitment to a just future through the following acknowledgment:
“We acknowledge that we are standing on sacred Cherokee Land ceded through multiple broken treaties. We fully recognize our complicity in settler colonialism: the inequalities, environmental degradation, and racialized ills it has created; and actively seek ways in which to live justly on this sacred Land through acts of repentance and reparations”
Today, on our community’s 10th birthday, as we look ahead to the next 10 years, at the complicated responsibility to steward this land–and all the land in this watershed to which we hold a historically illegitimate title-we will regularly revisit this commitment of acknowledgment, coupled with acts of reparations. And in honor of this history and the legacy of colonization, we commit to the following acts of repair:
- We will offer space to community organizations doing the work of healing the legacy of genocide and colonization.
- We commit by year’s end to engage leaders in Cherokee to begin exploring ways land could be used in service of ancestors of those pushed from the land
- Utilize reparations funds for both Black and Indigenous lives
Land of the Sky United Church of Christ
Justice Team, June 9, 2019
Racial Justice Resources
Amazing things take place at Land of the Sky UCC… get involved in the difficult work of liberation and justice for all God’s people.
Prison Ministry Team: Our Prison Ministry takes place at the local women’s prison (minimum security). All volunteers must attend a mandatory orientation at the prison. We serve the prison in a variety of ways: Sunday evening worship services, book groups, Read Me a Story program, Holiday parties, and a retreat for incarcerated mothers and their teens.
Racial Justice Team: Our Racial Justice Team is tasked with examining all of our ministries through the lens of racial justice and making recommendations to move us toward being a racially just community. This team plans racial equity trainings, small groups studying racism through various books (including the Bible), and helps make possible programming for our children and youth. Click here to learn more about our Racial Justice Team and our work on reparations.
Christians for a United Community Team: Christians for a United Community (CUC) is a coalition of churches working together to dismantle the root causes of racism and disparity. This team gathers monthly for the CUC Steering Committee meetings to break bread with CUC teams from other local churches and for a monthly program. Each team member is invited to serve on one of CUC’s ministry teams: dismantling racism, advocacy, or fellowship.
Our Justice Projects Include: Participating in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace March * Hosting Community Potlucks and Social Justice Film Screenings * Cultivating a Community Garden * Dining Out for Life Through the WNC AIDS Project * Serving meals to residents at Haywood Street Respite * Worshiping and serving meals with the Beloved Community * Serving Dinner to Women at Room in the Inn * Leading Worship with Our Children at the Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Treatment Center * Providing Hygiene Kits to Those Living on the Streets or Experiencing a Natural Disaster * Assembling School Kits for refugee children * Providing Basic Household Supplies for Veterans Moving Into Permanent Housing * Tabling at Blue Ridge Pride Festival * Walking in the CROP Walk * Providing Christmas Gifts to Foster Children Through Our Giving Tree * Earth Clean-up with Asheville Greenworks * Providing Breakfast and craft projects at A-Hope Day Center* Writing advocacy letters on important justice issues * Sacred Conversations on Race
As good stewards of God’s resources, Land of the Sky UCC tithes its offering back into our community and the world. Outreach dollars have supported the following organizations: Helpmate * Christians for a United Community * Beyond Coal Campaign * Christians for the Mountains * Asheville GO! (Green Opportunities) * Campaign for Southern Equality * Camp Lakey Gap * Dragonfly Spectrum * Association for a More Just Society * Our Voice * Pisgah Legal * WNCAP Homeward Bound * Buncombe County Foster Care Association * Prisoner Assistance* Nuestro Centro * Room in the Inn * Center for Participatory Change * MotherLove, YWCA * Emergency Housing Assistance * Special Offerings of the UCC: Neighbors in Need, Strengthen the Church, One Great Hour of Sharing, the Christmas Fund * WNC Association of the UCC * Southern Conference of the UCC * Our Church’s Wider Mission