Towards a Covenant of Right Relations – Join us for lunch December 6th

“If we agree in love, there is no disagreement that can do us any injury, but if we do not, no other agreement can do us any good. Let us endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace.” – 19th Century Universalist Minister, Hosea Ballou

One of the great benefits of Russell Lockwood Leadership School was making contact with UU’s from other congregations around the western USA, and learning from their experiences.  I’m put in mind of this incredible resource today because our Transition Team is beginning work on a “covenant of right relations” for Foothills.  Peter Caldwell of Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach (CA) was kind enough to share his congregation’s excellent example with us at RLLS, and I’ve referred to it countless times in the months since.  I offer it here as an example, and to prime the pump of our congregation’s work towards something similar:

Covenant of Right Relations -Adopted by UUCLB at Congregational Meeting Nov. 1, 2009

We covenant to build a religious community guided by respect and sustained by our principles. We want to listen appreciatively, speak with care, express gratitude, honor our differences and assume good intentions. We endeavor to communicate directly, honestly and compassionately, particularly when we are in conflict. When we hurt one another, we will try to forgive, make amends and reconnect in a spirit of right relationship. In celebration of the common purpose that unites us, we will do our best to abide by this covenant.

If you like the sound of UUCLB’s covenant and want to be part of drafting a similar guide for our community, I hope you’ll consider attending the Transition Team’s Right Relations Workshop on Saturday, December 6th, at 11:00 a.m. in the social hall at church.

See you Sunday,

–Rich Young


Transitions Team member, Jen Iole adds:

Please join us for lunch on December 6th where Rev. Gretchen Haley and I will be facilitating a workshop to help us, as a community decide how we go about the important work of communicating with each other.  This time of transition is meant to bring up ideas  for growth, change, direction, and focus.  Not everybody will agree with the ideas and not all the ideas will be put into action.  The important thing to remember is that as we disagree, we stay in “Right Relations”.  We’ll discuss that during the workshop and help craft a document that helps us move forward with open hearts and minds, working towards the best possible outcome for the church.  We look forward to your participation. 

Tell Us Your Story, From Interim Senior Minister, David Keyes

Rev. Haley and I sometimes meet at Everyday Joe’s in Old Town, a coffee shop operated by the evangelical Timberline Church.

Whatever you might think of their theology, there can be little doubt that the volunteers at Joe’s make a mean latte, and that the church serves the campus and community in many constructive ways.

On a visit to Joe’s the other day, I picked up a flyer inviting all to “Tell us your story.” The text seems a little like it could have been written for Foothills Unitarian:

“[We] are changing. We can feel it in the air.

We might stay where we are. We might need to rethink what it means to be a benefit & service to our community.

What does the neighborhood need?

What does it all look like?

Only the Good One knows, but it will probably blow all our minds when we see it.

Tell us your story about this place. Stories remind us of where we’ve been, They’re the topography of who we have become.

They are clues to where we are going….Tell us yours.”

If I didn’t know better, I might suppose that Timberline had borrowed a piece of the message of Foothills’ Transition Team. They, too, are asking folks to dream dreams and tell stories–all toward a tomorrow when your church serves members and the community in creative new ways. You’ll be hearing more about that soon for the Transition Team, and from special guest Rob Eller-Isaacs, one of our movement’s most effective and experienced leaders, who will be in the pulpit on December 7.

I look forward to hearing from you about the “topography of who you have become.”



Our Great Experiment

Unitarian Universalism draws from six sources, and among them is my personal favorite: “Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science.”   I’ve always admired the steady, incremental growth of knowledge that flows from open-mindedness and experiment.  Applying that attitude to decisions I’ve faced has  led to a life I could never have predicted or planned, but have found richly rewarding.

Perhaps that’s why I’m not just optimistic about this time of change in our church, but also a bit eager to see what comes of it.  We’ve embarked on a great experiment.  Its aim is to discover how we can retain what has been so wonderful about this church throughout Rev. Marc Salkin’s ministry, and build on it to create an even stronger, more welcoming, more effective home for the liberal religious community of Northern Colorado.

Of course, change can be disconcerting, uncomfortable… scary, even.  When those feelings creep up on us, there are some tactics that can help:

  • Try to understand the goal.  Talk to a minister or board member about it why we’re making the change that’s concerning you.  The inspiration for the change might have come from common practice among other churches like ours, or from a suggestion by another congregant, or it might be intended to address a particular inefficient or awkward practice Rev. Keyes, Rev. Haley, or a member of the board has noted.
  • Share your perspective.  That same minister or board member can listen to your feedback on what’s been changed, and make sure it’s conveyed to the rest of us on the board and ministry team.  This kind of feedback from the congregation is crucial to our work as representatives and stewards of the congregation.
  • Give it a chance to work.  Try to remember that it’s all an experiment, and no experiment is complete without the crucial task of observation.   It may turn out to be a surprising success  – or perhaps we’ll go back to the old way of doing that particular thing, if that seems the better course.  But we can’t know whether a new idea will work for our congregation without giving it a try.
  • Stay engaged.  It’s my central goal as the board president this year that the core of what makes our church so important in our lives – the feeling of community, the shared principles, and the experience of working together to further the reach of love in our world – will remain unchanged as we explore ways to grow into our potential.  Each of you is a part of that vision.  I hope that, even when the pace of change is challenging, you’ll be able to trust in that future and your part in it.

And one final note: feel free to drop me a line if there’s a particular issue you’re curious or anxious about.  Chances are it’s been on somebody else’s mind, as well, and I’d like the chance to address those questions here on this blog.

Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you on Sunday.


Yes is Our Song – Guest Post from Transitions Team Member Lenny Scovel

Unitarian Universalist theologian Rebecca Parker reminds us that we do not create covenant, but that we inherit it, that we live into it, as it existed before us and as it will remain after we’re gone. Our church, this Foothills Unitarian Church, is that covenant. None of us, not you nor I created it whole and complete. We have inherited it, breathed our life into it, imbued it with our hopes and our dreams, sometimes with our disappointments, but always with our passion.

Rev. Marc Salkin used to tell the story of a defining moment in the history of this congregation when, in the 1930’s, the decision whether to fold as a congregation or to go forward was made by one vote, one person saying ‘yes.’ I believe that from that moment the culture of this congregation was defined by its willingness to say ‘yes.’ And just think for a moment where we would all be today had that one person said ‘no.’ I can’t imagine we’d be here today. Whether they knew it or not, that congregation was preparing for us – for you and for me – and for this moment now.

We are in the midst of transition once again, a time when all of our spiritual resources will be called upon, the first of which is love. We – you and me – are preparing now for the church of tomorrow. We are preparing for the church we will give to our children. We are preparing the church that promises hope to a troubled and increasingly disenfranchised world. We are preparing the church that has a powerful message of transforming love and affirming worth. It is a heavy chore, and yet I know you all, and I know you will undertake it with gladness and purpose and wisdom and love. For love IS the spirit of this church, and Yes is our song!

We, your Transition Team, have been in conversation and discernment as to what our particular purpose in this time should be. First, we believe that celebrating the history of Foothills Unitarian is absolutely essential, for if we have no appreciation for where we have been and what we have overcome, how can we possibly look toward any future? In that spirit, between now and January during worship services we will hear from representatives of seven decades in the life of this church, who will share what they found when they first wandered through those doors right out there. We’ll also be holding a couple events where we celebrate our whole history – all 116 years.  These remembrances are the embodiment of this living covenant of congregation, that the doors were open at a time in their lives when it mattered. That there was a congregation that said, ‘Yes – we are here and you are welcome and invited to join us.’

In January and February we will invite ALL of you into a process of appreciative inquiry, during which we will share with each other what you find great about this church, and what keeps you coming, and what nourishes your soul, and what gives you strength. We’ll consider BIG questions such as what would be missing in your life and in our community if this congregation was suddenly to disappear. We are counting on you to say ‘Yes’ to this invitation, to help us as a congregation form a clear vision of who we are right now, and why our mission is so important.

The discoveries made during these inquiries will serve as the seedling information that will enable a new search committee to determine what our future goals are, and what are our needs in our next called senior minister. Clarity will be brought to our mission and our purpose, and as a congregation we will have a deeper understanding of who we are and what we wish to become. We may even get a glimpse of that future church, whose doors will be open, whose people will be welcoming, whose purpose will be healing, and whose clarion call will forever be Yes.

Lenny Scovel shared these words as a part of the worship service on Sunday November 9th, where the Transition Team was commissioned by the congregation to their work of the upcoming months.  

An Update on Our Immigration Ministry – Guest Post by Anne Hall with Rev. Gretchen Haley

photo(1)A few years ago, Foothills responded to the UUA’s call to learn about immigration justice in preparation for our Phoenix General Assembly.  We worked with Plymouth Congregational Church to offer workshops around immigration, and reached out to local partners to better understand the needs of immigrants in our community.  From this work together, a number of new initiatives for greater partnership and companioning of our immigrant neighbors have emerged….

  1. ESL Tutoring Program at La Familia – First, we heard the need for ESL Tutoring to be offered in conjunction with child care so that working parents especially could access the tools of increased fluency in English.  Over the past two years, over 80 Foothills and Plymouth members and friends have provided tutoring at La Familia – the Family Center – a childcare center in north Fort Collins.  Check out some photos of our ESL Tutors at work.
  2. DACA Workshops – We have been a part of a couple different efforts to reach out and support applicants for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an administrative effort to defer deportation for people who arrived here as a child from another country without legal status.
  3. Larimer County Immigration Advisory Council for Jared Polis’ Office – Foothills sends at least 1 or 2 representatives to quarterly small group meetings with Jared Polis to advise about what we see in our community in terms of the immigrant experience and ways of enhancing justice, and to hear about happenings in congress towards immigration justice.
  4. Float this Family – Members of our congregation have taken the lead on companioning an immigrant family impacted by the floods of last fall, supporting them in rebuilding their life after losing so much, particularly without being able to access federal support due to their documentation status.
  5. Companioning Immigrant Family in Greeley – In partnership with the UU Church of Greeley, we are companioning a single mother who spent many months in a detention center and finally received asylum, but not without suffering the cost of losing her home and her job.  Our support has allowed her to better access legal services and begin to rebuild her life after such significant losses.
  6. Immigration Play – Co-sponsored with Plymouth Congregational Church, “Do You Know Who I Am?” at Bas Bleu theatre, a play about the experience of immigrants who arrived in the United States as a child as they graduate from high school and find their opportunities lacking.

photo(2)Many of these efforts were enhanced through Foothills’ generous Share the Plate offerings in September, raising approximately $1500 towards immigration ministry.

As we look ahead, we are thinking about ways to expand our outreach even further.  We are building relationships with Together Colorado, a faith based organizing group, to help reach out across faith communities in the area.  And we are starting to think about creating a Northern Colorado Immigrants Relief Fund that could be used to support more people facing legal fees, scholarship needs, the impact of detention, and beyond.  We are also imagining another workshop to assist applicants for a deferred action program for the family members of those who have already received DACA that many anticipate (hoping!) President Obama will enact in the coming months.  We are listening to our interfaith community partners about the ways we can make a difference for all of our good.  We continue to look for ways of walking with our neighbors – to be companions of this shared journey of life – as we further the reach of love in our own lives, in Northern Colorado, and beyond. photo

If you have questions or want to get more involved with our Immigration Ministry, contact Anne Hall at