Upcoming Worship Improvements

This past fall, so many of you exhibited your generosity and love for the church by donating funds to be used to improve the worship experience here at Foothills. As a congregation that is growing rapidly, and already straining the limits of our facilities, we’ve spent a lot of time examining what our best options are moving forward. We have already purchased additional hymnals to ensure that we always have enough for everyone in attendance, and upgraded the mics used in our services to ensure that everyone can hear and understand the services more easily.

In the coming months we will be finalizing our improvements by replacing the window blinds between the kitchen and the social hall. Our goal in this is to ensure there is less noise crossover between the two spaces so that activities in the kitchen don’t interfere with the worship experience of those in the social hall. We will also be reworking our lighting to ensure we have a more effective use of light on our stage.

Perhaps the largest change will involve upgrades to our audio and visual systems in the sanctuary. While our sanctuary is beautiful and we are lucky to have so much natural light, the flood of natural light (300+ days a year thanks to the beautiful state in which we live!) does create issues with our current projector. To that end, we will be upgrading the projector which will allow us to easily see the images in all lighting conditions. This will allow us to consistently utilize video projections in our services. This means that we will be able to show announcements before and after services, have large print song lyrics on the screens, reinforce readings by having them visually available as they are being read, and other uses of video within services as appropriate. To ensure that the social hall has the best possible experience, it will also have a dedicated screen which will mirror what is being shown on the screen on stage.

Finally, we will be streamlining our podcasting so that episodes will be available more quickly and are integrated more directly within our website. In our efforts to give our community more options to experience what Foothills offers, we are also going to begin offer live streaming of our services. We plan to begin integration of all of these new technologies when we move back to our 3 service schedule on September 10th.

While this new level of visual integration in our worship experiences is exciting, it will also be a challenge, one which will require your help. I am assembling a new team of volunteers who are interested in helping to create and to run the weekly visual elements to our services. The software we will be using can be a bit challenging at first, but with training, it quickly becomes easy to navigate and I believe this will be a rewarding volunteer opportunity for many of you. If you are interested in learning more, or to offer yourself as a volunteer, please email me directly at chris@foothillsuu.org.

In partnership,
Chris Reed

Going Slow to Go Fast, Going Together to Go Far

Those of us who hang around churches a lot talk about the idea of “church-time,” by which we usually mean SLOW time.  It’s often talked about with a chuckle, and sometimes a sigh of frustration, especially for leaders inclined towards moving the church forward in a way that makes “perfect sense,” at least to them.

This was the story about Foothills’ when it came to governance change – at least whenever I’d heard it up until this past week.  We’d been trying for over 15 years to make an effective change in governance structure that would bring our underlying system into alignment with our church size and today’s best practices.  This sense that it had been going on for a long, long time inspired the Board in the first year of the interim after Rev. Marc Salkin retired (2014-15) to move quickly on a new direction.  What that Board – and all of us – quickly realized, however, is that even though it felt slow to some, not everyone was caught up, and after the retirement of a long-tenured minister, it felt like too much change, too fast.

The Board learned from that experience, re-grouped, and began a slower and more cooperative and consulting process beginning in the church year 2015-16.  As a result of many, many conversations with all sorts of people in all sorts of ways, this past Sunday we saw the flip side of “church-time,” what I call the “all-of-a-sudden-it’s-done” phenomenon: The congregation enthusiastically endorsed the Governance Task Force’s work and authorized the Board to move forward with its trial year.

It was a huge and wonderful accomplishment for this congregation, and it was a beautiful thing to witness – because it was both about a single moment, and about all the faithful, sometimes-frustrating, usually-thoughtful moments that the meeting constituted.  Thousands of hours and years of committees and teams all came together into one meeting where the the foundation had been properly set, the congregation was ready, and the time was right.

Even though people talk about church-time as slow time, that’s not at all how I see it. I see church as the embodiment of the principle that’s true in every case where you’re trying to do something big, and important and long-lasting – which is that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, you must go together.  And going together takes patient, careful time…conversations and care, humility and a great sense of humor. But then suddenly, in one hot June afternoon, you look around and realize, all-of-a-sudden, it’s done.  And then you just feel proud, and grateful, to be there at a time such as this.

We won the Bennett Award – the annual UUA Congregational Award for Justice!

If you were at the annual meeting, you already heard this great news that this year, our congregation was selected as the 2017 recipient for the UUA Bennett Award for Congregational Action on Human Justice and Social Action.  This award recognizes congregations that has done exemplary social justice ministry.

In the letter from the Bennett Award Panel, they wrote:

“From your congregational vision to ‘Unleash Courageous Love’ to your approach of accompaniment of the most vulnerable in your community, positioning ‘real life, on-the-ground presence’ and service as part of systemic social change, your justice ministry truly deserves this recognition.  It’s inspiring to learn about how your work for justice is driving by your mission and faith, and sustained by spiritual practices from breaking bread and vigiling to storytelling and companioning.”

Read the whole letter here.

This award recognizes the work of all of the many people who make our Faith Family Hospitality, One Village One Family, Food Bank, Immigration Coalition, and Climate Justice ministries happen – and have such a huge and consistent impact on our community.  Thank you to all those who have stepped up in big and small ways, over and over – I hope you take this award as a recognition of just how much these efforts mean.

A special thank you to Kay Williams, Anne Fisher and Sue Ferguson who compiled the application and the ministry leads who each helped tell the story of their areas of our total ministry for justice.

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Preparing for our Annual Meeting this Sunday

Dear members and friends,

We are excited to be nearing our congregational meeting this Sunday.  We hope you all received the following two documents to prepare you for this important gathering:

Because of the complicated nature of this year’s agenda, the Board leadership met earlier this week with a professional Parliamentarian to prepare.

In that meeting, we realized that it would be ideal to establish a few standing rules at the beginning of our gathering to ensure our meeting runs smoothly, respectfully, and within a reasonable time frame.  While these rules will need to be approved by the gathering on Sunday (2/3rd majority), we wanted to give you the heads up about what we’re thinking in advance.  So, here are a few of the sorts of rules we’re considering:

  • An agreed-upon time limit for speakers;
  • An agreement that everyone who wants to speak gets to speak before anyone speaks a second time;
  • An agreement to abide by our covenant of right relations as a part of our business;
  • For any amendments (particularly to the by-law portion) that they be submitted in writing in advance to the Board so that the whole gathering does not need to wait while editing/drafting occurs.

While we believe that our governance proposal has been thoroughly vetted through our many meetings and conversations with the congregation over the course of the last 18 months, our process leaves open the possibility that there remains something needing further consideration.  As a result, please do note this last potential rule if you are considering an amendment proposal, and please submit it in writing as soon as possible (and no later than 11:15 am on Sunday) to the Board of Trustees at theboard@foothillsuu.org.

Thank you all for your partnership and support as we continue to grow our congregation in service of our shared mission, unleashing courageous love across our whole community, and beyond.

In faith,

Erin Hottenstein, Board President

A Year of Courageous Love | 2016-17 Annual Report

Dear Members of Foothills Unitarian Church,

The church year 2016-17 has been a momentous year for our world, and for our congregation.  We have met the many unforeseen challenges with clarity and conviction and looking back together we truly have risen to answer the call of courageous love. Here are just a few of our highlights from our year together:

We enthusiastically and unanimously claimed Unleashing Courageous Love as our collective mission.

Not only did we install a new senior minister for the first time in 25 years, we also ordained our assistant minister, marking our first ordination in that same period.

Our community has rallied to found the first mobile food bank site in Larimer County ensuring that each month over 100 families have access to the food they need.

The day after the election, we gathered all together to sing, grieve, pray, and just be together. Responding to the pain and division in the wake of the election, we proclaimed our Universalist faith loudly for all to see on Drake.

We’ve ramped up efforts for Climate Justice, convened an Interfaith Coalition for Sanctuary, and given away our space for community organizing that aligns with our values.  

And our work for justice and healing has not gone unnoticed by our national movement. Foothills was announced as the 2017 winner of the Bennett Award for Congregational Social Justice efforts!  Read more about the Bennett Award.

To make space for all are seeking our progressive religious community, we added a 3rd Sunday morning service in February, resulting in more than 30% greater attendance on Sundays during this same period in any prior year since we began tracking in 1984.

We demonstrated a greater generosity than we have ever shown – breezing past our previous top-limit of 400 pledging units to a total of 404 households making a financial commitment to our mission, and giving away over $37,438 to our community partners through our Share the Plate efforts.

We also brought to completion our governance work that has been ongoing for the past 3 years.  The Governance Task Force has met with numerous leaders and groups so that we can make official the many changes that we’ve been experimenting with over the last 5 years, and add to these a greater degree of accountability and alignment.  

We hope you’ll dive into the 2016-2017 Annual Report which offers a fuller picture of our ministries and the governance proposal which summarizes the changes we hope to make official in the coming church year. We hope to see all our members at our Annual Congregational Meeting June 4th at 11:30 AM.  

There have been times in the past year when we might’ve given into despair. Instead, we responded to these challenges with a stronger and clearer sense of mission.

Looking ahead, together we can build on all we’ve learned and become this year as we seek to transform Northern Colorado – and beyond – with the power and promise of Unitarian Universalism.

In partnership,

Rev. Gretchen & Rev. Sean

The Rummage Sale is On! …and needs YOU!

I’m so happy to share that we have found both dates that will work and a Lead Team of three church members who have agreed to lead our Rummage Sale this year.  Which means….the Rummage Sale is on!

The dates for the sale will be August 4th through 6th.  (There may be an opportunity for an August 3rd pre-sale, but that’s something the Leads will be assessing.) 

The Leads Team is: Pam Stevens, Sara Steen and Julie Estlick.  (Thank you!!) 

What we need: They will next be looking to ensure they have Room Managers for all of the rooms, as well as a few other key roles.  If you are willing to be a Room Manager, or are just wanting to learn more about how to help us have a great rummage sale this year, please contact Pam Stevens directly at pamelahope@aol.com.  We will be posting job descriptions and time requirements for these roles in the next few weeks so look for that as well.

We are so grateful to our Rummage Sale Visioning Task Force of Pam Stevens, Sara Steen, Angie Noden, Diane Banta and Eve Enright to helping us find a new vision for how to have success in our Rummage Sale.  From their conversations and plans, we’ve come up with some changes we’ll be trying out this year – from trying out a “Share the Plate” model to scaling back the size of the sale, to having a more intentional leadership structure.   You can find out more in this blog post (from the April 5th Extra).

In the meantime, start saving up your GREAT stuff you no longer need! Though we won’t be taking clothing or electronics this year, we would love to receive those wonderful finds that will make someone really happy! Look for more information on this blog, in the Extra, and in church on all the ways you can help make this year’s sale a great success.

An Update On All The Things

An Update On All The Things

When Sean sent me the note about writing this week’s Extra lead article, he said that my topic should be “an update on all the things.” To help me narrow it down, he gave me a parenthetical list of examples of what that “all” might include: 1) the final decision on our worship times; and 2) the renewal of his contract. They may not be all the things – but they are pretty big things.
1.  Worship Times
The 3rd service experiment was a great success.  Our attendance over the last few months was exponentially greater than it has been in over 30 years, and is not slowing down.  In the past few weeks, we have taken our analysis of the data, in combination with the feedback we’ve received in small groups, in our survey, and through individual emails and conversations (thank you!), and come to a decision about our worship times for the coming year.
From May 28th (Memorial Day weekend) through September 3rd (Labor Day weekend), we will run two services: 8:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
This is a change from what was previously announced – because we became clear that the best times for worship starting September 10th and running through May 20, 2018 need to be: 
8:30 am, 10:00 am and 11:30 am
This new pattern has its upsides and downsides – as does every possible option.  The primary upside is we believe that it will assure the maximum “spread” of attendance, especially with some adjustments to when classes are offered for children.  The primary downside is the lack of social “hour,” and reduced capacity for between-services programming. We are already brainstorming ways to address the underlying needs for these and other things that will need to adjust. More info on both of these coming soon.
I am excited about this new worship schedule, and our commitment to ensuring that there is plenty of space for all who come seeking our community and who share our mission.  Although our “experiment” is technically concluded – let’s remember that everything we do is an “experiment,” so we can learn how this feels all next year, and if it isn’t working, we can adjust, and try something new once again.
2.  Sean’s Contract
As most of you know (and many have expressed some worry about), Sean is on a one year contract with us, which expires in July.  Over the past few months I have spoken with the Board, the staff team, and the Committee on Shared Ministry, and we all whole-heartedly agree that our hope is that Sean continues in his ministry with us for a long, long time.  Luckily, I also spoke with Sean, and he shares this hope.
From this conversation and reflection, we have offered and Sean has agreed to a renewed contract for the maximum possible length of his visa renewal – 49 months – which extends his contract through August 2021!  I hope you’ll join me in a happy dance / sigh of relief / prayer of THANKS and WOW!
I’m so happy for all of us – first that we found this great match with Sean, and second that we all get to continue to do ministry in partnership with him for at least the next 4 years.  Look for more information on what’s next for our shared ministry with Sean in an upcoming blog post and/or Extra.
An Update on All the Things
If you’re still hoping for the latest news on ALL the things…while I can’t quite offer that, I can at least tell you what I think is perpetually the good news about all the things:
Whatever it is, whatever is going on in your life, or in this world, however, you’re feeling about it – it’s not the end of the story. There’s more truth to be revealed, more truth to unfold, more change to come.  We get to be a part of this unfolding, and a part of the telling, a part of the creating – even as it remains mostly all a mystery to all of us.  So we keep showing up, keep doing what we can, and continuing to offer ourselves, in love, in hope, in faith.
See you in church – for a few more weeks at 8/9:30/11:30, but then starting on May 28th, at 8:30 & 10.
In partnership,
Gretchen