Exploring Calling – A Reflection on the Recent “Called to Be” Workshop by Rosemary Coslit

I was immediately drawn to the “Called to Be” workshop held at Foothills in late September. I am recently retired and though I love hiking and biking, I have felt a need for something with more meaning. I hoped the day would give me some insight.

When it came time for the intensive “Clearness Committee” opportunities, I volunteered to be a focus person and describe my problem/issue to the group, who would ask me objective questions (as opposed to giving me advice). It was a little intimidating to be discussing my life with people I didn’t know (will they judge what I say?), and I probably didn’t trust that this group, with no experience of this method or knowledge of me, could offer much.

But, I was wrong. Each person asked questions that were from a different perspective – many with laser insight! By not offering me solutions, I felt supported in coming to my own conclusions. As the group asked questions, I could hear my answers. I could hear what I said….and what I didn’t.  I could hear myself trying to justify some of my volunteer activities, and the lack of conviction in my voice. I could hear the examples I used, and how I talked about moving from New York (and being new to Colorado) as much as needing to find more meaning ; and realizing how these were clearly connected.

The most helpful part was the mirroring where each person in the group could say what they heard ME say. They told me where they heard energy and excitement. And where they didn’t.  I learned that my words and my face could tell different stories. (I trust my face- my words tend to be what I ‘should’ do).  I also knew the feedback was correct.

Why couldn’t I do this on my own? I don’t know. The ‘Clearness Committee’ does just that- it takes the jumble of things in your mind, and gives clarity. Maybe it highlights what you knew all along.

After this experience, I knew what to pursue, and what to let go. That sounds so simple, but trying to do this alone was a round and round experience of getting nowhere – I brought no new insights to myself. Based on the group’s input, I have already made some changes in my current volunteer work. It is gratifying to better understand that what I felt I ‘should’ be doing may not be a good fit for me.

At the end I felt, and I hope the group felt, that we had accomplished something important. They had helped me define my path forward. I felt close to these people who were learning about my life and giving me loving attention. It is so interesting that a group of people, who had never met me, could be so helpful.

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Envisioning Music Ministry at Foothills

A note from Our Music Visioning Team, submitted by member, Sue Sullivan

Last January, we heard many requests from members of our choir to take the time and the opportunity to look deeply at what we could ask for and aspire to in the way of music ministry at Foothills. Our former music director had been  here for a dozen years and the director before him served for a decade as well. As a result of these long tenures, it has been many years since this congregation has asked itself – in a deep and open-to-all possibilities way — how we could imagine music ministry manifesting at Foothills.

The Committee on Shared Ministry (which consists of Glenn Pearson, Sally Harris, Anne Hall, Herb Orrell and myself), as part of its on-going responsibility to gather effective and meaningful feedback about how Foothills is manifesting its various ministries and how we might unleash more courageous love in our community and beyond, has taken on the leadership of this task of exploring the wide range of possibilities for music to manifest in our faith and our community, and to listen deeply to what our music makers and our whole Foothills community would find meaningful, transformative, creative, and powerful.

To that end, the COSM convened a sub-task force (composed of myself and Herb, plus two non-COSM members, Gretchen O’Dell, Dave Montanari, and in partnership with Rev. Haley) are beginning a multi-step process of:

  • gathering feedback from Unitarian congregations and other churches known for their strong and innovative music ministries
  • reporting back to the congregation about the ideas and programming we discover in those interviews
  • asking members of the congregation as a whole to take a music visioning survey, which will include questions about what has been meaningful or transformative in our own experiences of music ministry at Foothills in the past and what new possibilities we might wish to explore in the future
  • holding small-group feedback circles for various groups within the church who make the music we experience, as well specific groups of people whose experience of music ministry we would like to understand more deeply
  • gathering up all that visioning and feedback and reporting back to the congregation as a whole what we heard and how that can be shaped into a vision of how music manifests as a ministry at Foothills in the coming years
  • and finally, writing a detailed job description of what sort of candidate would be the right kind of leader for this ministry in our church, including such details as part-time or full, choir director or music director or music minister.

We intend to post this position by December in order to begin a nationwide search through Unitarian Universalist circles and networks.  This would typically conclude around April with the start of the new person by mid-summer. We are most grateful and happy to have the musical leadership of Chris Reed as our Interim Music Director through next May as we conduct this search. Chris is eligible to apply for this position, and he will be working with Gretchen in December after the position is finalized, to discern if and how he sees this is a potential fit.

We are digging in right away to our first task, which is asking the music directors of congregations with nationally known music ministries to tell us about their music programs. We’ll ask what works and what doesn’t, what they love about it, how it relates to the rest of the church’s programming. We’ll ask how many different avenues are there for people to create music in their ministry and whether they use music as an outreach to the larger community. What instruments do they use and where do they find the pieces they perform? How do children and youth participate in music? How do people learn music in these churches? How does music turn up as a spiritual practice?

The congregations we will talk to include: All Souls Church in DC; All Souls Tulsa; Middle Collegiate Church in NYC; the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor; and First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque.

After we gather this feedback, we’ll report our findings back to you and craft a survey to help identify what you have found to be powerful and transformative in the past and what new possibilities you would like us to pursue musically. We will also hold small-group feedback circles to ask and listen to your experiences and hopes about music in our collective life, with both the makers of music in our church and those who experience it deeply and meaningfully.

We are very excited about this chance to be intentional, expansive, creative, and transformative as we re-vision music as a ministry and a spiritual practice here at Foothills Unitarian, and we look forward to hearing from you!

In partnership,
Sue Sullivan, on behalf of the Music Visioning Team

Seeking Board Committee Members

As a follow up to this post from the Board of Trustees, the Board is looking for a few additional members to join their newly formed committees:

  • Governance Committee – the committee charged with editing and drafting of policies, and drafting of new policies to be brought to the full Board
  • Finance Committee – the committee responsible for auditing the church’s compliance with financial policy
  • Space Task Force – the committee responsible for leading the conversation around our building and our space needs
  • Personnel Committee – the committee responsible for auditing the church’s compliance with personnel policies

Each of these need at least one additional person beyond Board members.  We have begun recruiting for these positions, and wanted to make sure that anyone who may be interested had a chance to express that interest.  If you want to learn more and see if your gifts may be a fit for these teams, send an email to theboard@foothillsuu.org before September 30th.

An Update from the Board of Trustees

Your Board of Trustees had a very productive retreat and planning session this last weekend.  It was a full and joyful experience that resulted in a committed and unified Board and a very thorough plan for moving forward this church year.

The BOT adopted a new policy book that was proposed by the Governance Task Force.  This is the first stage in the new governance implementation approved by the congregation on June 4, 2017.  A big thank you for the excellent work done by the GTF.  They have completed their task and a new Governance Committee of the Board is being established and they will pick up responsibility for monitoring, reporting and revising or adding policies as required.

Five other Board Committees were also formed including Nominating, Personnel, Congregational Engagement, Building/Space and Finance.

The Board also agreed on three “Future Oriented Questions” to engage with the congregation and other stake holders. This is a process over the next several months that will provide congregational input for the development of a strategic plan and annual goals and focus for the church year 2018/2019.

Keep posted on this blog as further details are established.

Your Board of Trustees

We Are A Sanctuary Congregation

Dear Foothills friends and members,

The sanctuary was filled with an incredible energy on Sunday as 165 members and another 30 or so friends came together to discuss and ultimately vote on the question of becoming a sanctuary congregation.  A few wondered if this was the best way to improve our broken immigration system, and others were concerned about the risks involved.

Ultimately, however, these concerns did not overcome the 92% who voted to affirm that becoming a sanctuary congregation was a core part of our religious practice, deeply connected to our affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person and our understanding that we are all in this life, together.  With this overwhelming majority, we are now officially a sanctuary congregation. 

Which of course means, the real work begins! Today many of us were working on logistics, which basically fall into the following areas:

a) Our Guest – The Guest Relations Team (previously the Applicant Team) has been solidified to include Jessica Davis, Jeff Dean and Johanna Ulloa, and myself.  We have finalized the applicant process and are moving through the steps.  My sense is that we should know by the end of this week or early next week who will be the first guest to take sanctuary with us, and when.

b) Funding – We have established a fund to support building enhancements, legal counsel, furniture, living items for our guest, staff support dedicated to supporting the sanctuary initiative, and other incidental costs required to ensure we and our guest are able to make this work.  Donate to this fund here (and feel free to pass this on): foothillsuu.org/sanctuary-fund

c) Communications – There’s going to be a lot happening, and quickly, especially in the next few weeks.  We are creating systems to ensure that those of you who want all the information can get it – and those who want just the highlights can get that too – and everything in between.  Look for more information on this in the next few days.  Meanwhile, we’ve already been connected with the local press – check out the article in the Coloradoan.  An article with the North Forty News will be coming, and there will be more extensive press release once we have someone in sanctuary.

d) Volunteer coordination – Sue Ferguson is working with Rev. Sean to establish an easy and integrated way to schedule our volunteers into the needs.  We’ll soon have more information on this.  Meanwhile, you can express your desire to be a part of the core volunteer list by joining this group here.

e) Building, Safety and other details – We already have a new and improved plan for where our guest will be staying during the time before we can remodel the basement. We also moved forward with the insurance policy application.  And we formulated the organizational structure for this work moving forward – more information on this in the coming days.

On Sunday I spoke about leaning into uncertainty as our friend – this process definitely gives us some good practice in this – as there’s a lot we’re trying to work out, and quickly.  So it’s a good thing we all have a good sense of humor, and that we know we are all just doing the best we can to try to do that next right thing.

Thank you all for your partnership,

Rev. Gretchen

Becoming a Sanctuary Congregation – Vote on August 27th

Dear Foothills friends and members,

While the blatant hatred and racism displayed in Charlottesville on Saturday left me feeling helpless and despairing, our time together yesterday morning engaging the questions of becoming a sanctuary congregation brought me to gratitude, and resolve.  It is a privilege to serve a community that is engaging in such important and compassionate work.  

If you missed the service yesterday, you can catch the sermon from the Rev. Mike Morran on this video.  It was a powerful exploration and charge for us to get real and serious about this very real opportunity before us.  As I shared on Sunday, our partners at the American Friends Service Committee have already approached us about a potential guest for our congregation, a woman seeking sanctuary with us.

She has six children, age 3 to 17, all US citizens, and she also cares for her niece. She has been in the US for over 20 years after immigrating from Guatemala, and other than minor traffic violation in 2005 that brought her into deportation hearings, she has never committed a crime.  Without sanctuary from a faith community, her deportation will occur within the next month.

This process reminds me so much of my process of adopting my children – who were adopted through foster care.  As with then, there’s the timeline you have in mind, and then there’s the reality of receiving a call.  We did not anticipate having this possibility looming as we were reaching these two weeks of discernment, but also, this is how it sometimes works when you begin to be in relationship with those doing the on-the-ground-work of immigration justice.  

Our work now is to decide if a) we feel it is our congregation’s mission to be a sanctuary congregation and accept someone into sanctuary; and if yes b) to get the space, people, systems and finances ready to go to be able to do this.  

A lot of the initial groundwork was laid in yesterday’s service and workshop after the service.  If you missed the workshop, please plan to attend the workshop on August 23rd at 6:00.  You can sign up here.  If you can’t make that but want more information, or if you want to start reading up on our process and plans, check out this Q&A, this summary of our application process, and this resource describing our partners in this work.  

Most of all, we hope you will join us on the 27th for the vote at 11:30.  Please see this letter from the Board describing the details of our vote, the percentage required for a “yes,” and other information on the meeting.

Thank you for taking up this important conversation, and for continuing to travel this path of justice and compassion together.

 

In partnership,

Rev. Gretchen

Congregational Meeting on Becoming a Sanctuary Church

August 14, 2017

Dear Members and Friends,

There will be an important Congregational Meeting on Sunday August 27 at 11:30 AM to consider a resolution to designate Foothills Unitarian Church as a Sanctuary Congregation. The meeting will include a lot of very valuable information about what this means, how it works, and the conditions and limitations we’ve proposed.

According to our Bylaws, those who have been members for 30 days or more can vote, meaning you would need to have “signed the book” by July 29, 2017. A three-fourths majority of those present is required for us to proceed.

The text of the resolution on which we’ll vote is as follows:

With our policies and procedures in place, as well as the established Guidelines and Limitations set by the Board of Trustees, the Foothills Unitarian Church affirms the following statement:

As people of faith and conscience, we pledge to resist any policies that target and/or deport millions of undocumented immigrants and discriminate against marginalized communities. We will open up our congregation and community as a sanctuary space and accompany our immigrant neighbors in their journey for justice and safety.  We will work alongside our friends, families, and neighbors to ensure the dignity and human rights of all people.  We hereby designate ourselves as a Sanctuary Congregation, aligning ourselves with the traditions and practices of the New Sanctuary Movement and affirming our willingness to receive a guest seeking sanctuary into our congregation and to provide hospitality support for them during their stay.

Before the vote, there will be a series of presentations and opportunities for discussion and questions, as well as some very informative handouts.

Please come to this important meeting and urge your friends and family to attend as well.

 

Sincerely,

Your Board of Trustees