Why I’m A Unitarian Universalist by Rich Young

One might expect me to use this last newsletter of my Board presidency to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished and where the church is heading. But the violence last week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, has me thinking of bigger questions. The attack has brought into focus for me why it is that I am a UU.

Certainly, I’m proud that we Unitarians are a clear voice in the national discourse about racial injustice. Our first principle, which proclaims the inherent worth and dignity of all people, calls us to continue working to heal this divided world. And of course I’m proud that we are not newcomers to this struggle. I’m proud of our presence alongside the civil rights activists of the 1960’s, working to bring about Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision. More generally, I’m proud of our heritage as early adopters on the fringes of justice. I’m proud of our abolitionists and our feminists. I’m proud that my gay friends can get married now, and that our denomination played such a big part in making that simple decency possible. I’m proud of all that we stand for. But I am not a UU because of that pride.

When last week’s racially motivated attack hit the news, I felt myself slipping into the too-familiar pattern of anger and hopelessness and isolation. I felt my heart begin to harden, to focus on all of the ways that this was not happening to me – to protectively separate myself from the tragedy. It’s something I’m not proud of. But it’s how I’ve always responded when the world reminds us just how broken it is, and the shock and pain and outrage and hopelessness set in.

What’s different, now, is that the roots I’ve put down in this faith have given me options other than turning away or despairing. In this community, we mourn together, we seek understanding together, and we work to find ways to address the underlying issues. I’m under no illusion that the enduring injustices in our society will magically recede before us. I know that it is beyond our power to heal the world unilaterally, or else it would long since have been healed. But I also know that whenever progress is made, whenever love wins a small, incremental victory, our people will be part of the reason. And I know that working in service to that effort beats the heck out of giving up.

I’ve chosen to be a UU, in other words, because I’m a better person when I’m rooted in this community, and it’s the best chance I have of helping this broken world bloom.

President Obama was asked in an interview this week whether he felt despair that such an act of racially motivated terrorism could still happen, after all this time. “Do not say that nothing’s changed when it comes to race in America unless you lived through being a black man in the 1950s, or ’60s, or ’70s,” he replied. “But what is also true is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives: that casts a long shadow.” 

Listening to the president’s response, I felt the magnitude of this wound in the fabric of our society. I was reminded of hiking out of the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Starting at the banks of the Colorado River before dawn, we struggled upward as the sun climbed the sky and the heat intensified. The hike seemed endless; the canyon was so vast that the rim didn’t seem to be getting any closer. But every so often, we would round a bend and see the river impossibly far below, and the scale of both our efforts and our goal would snap into perspective. We have come so far, I would think. And yet we have a long way yet to go. 

Which brings me in a roundabout way to the things I perhaps should be addressing in this final newsletter article of my term as your president. Ministerial transition is a difficult process, and ours has been perhaps more so than we might have expected. But the abundant capability, resilience and good will that make this congregation so special will see us through. As I pass the torch to Jennifer Powell, I’m at ease that we are in good hands and headed in the right direction. I’m comfortably certain that our church and the larger denomination will continue to thrive.

Which is a wonderful thing, because this world needs us. It needs our voice in the chorus of justice; it needs our diversity to find a way forward in these changing times. It needs our strength and stability supporting smaller partners in neighboring communities, so that the values we share have a champion everywhere they are needed. And it needs our walls to shelter us when we might despair, so that we can pause, take comfort, and go back out into the world strong and loving again.

Thank you all for an amazing year. I’ll see you Sunday,

–Rich Young

SearchLight: the new Ministerial Search Committee Blog

Did you know the Ministerial Search Committee has its own blog? Be sure to check it out for regular updates about the process of searching for our next settled Senior Minister.

The address is: https://foothillssearch.wordpress.com/ Just like with this blog, you can subscribe to receive regular updates.

Thank you and an Invitation from the Transition Team

The Transition Team would like to thank the over 200 members of Foothills Unitarian Church who participated in the Appreciative Inquiry process over the last several months.  We are so excited to share with you both the full re-cap of our process that began in January, as well as the resulting documents (click for report).  We hope you will take some time reading through this information, especially the Provocative Proposals, which as you’ll read, we will be exploring in numerous ways in the coming months.

The Transition Team would now like to invite as many members as possible to participate in the Mission/Support project we are beginning. This project will involve members of the team facilitating approximately hour-long conversations with many of the over thirty different groups/committees that are an integral part of our church community. We will be talking with you about the mission and focus of your group, how you are supported by the staff, how decisions are made in your group, how leadership and membership in your group are determined, as well other topics your group would like to share that will make this transition time in our church life as valuable as possible. The Transition Team will be contacting group leaders over the next several weeks to set up meeting times. We hope many of you will be able to participate in these important conversations. Please contact me at annehall4@comcast.net or at 970-282-3829 with questions.

Our New Shared Ministry Position with the UU Church of Greeley

In case you missed our Chalice Lighting on Sunday, we are excited to share that the Selection Committee appointed by the Boards of the UU Church of Greeley and the Foothills Unitarian Church has selected our candidate for our new shared ministry position.  (Here is the email/post with all the background regarding our shared position.)

It was a wonderful announcement offered both at Foothills and at Greeley’s worship services with representatives from both of our congregations sharing simultaneously to both congregations.

Here’s a summary of their announcement….

Hollis Berendt and Bill Gotchey from Greeley and Karen Harder and Rev. Gretchen Haley from Foothills were each appointed to the Selection Committee and had a wonderful experience interviewing 3 strong candidates for our shared position.  After a thorough review, the team selected Diana McLean, who has been most recently serving as the Intern at the UU Church of Boulder.  Diana brings a wealth of congregational experience, and a passion for our faith as a lifelong Unitarian Universalist.  She has a particular call to leading worship, to pastoral care and the partnership across congregations.  And she brings the extra bonus of having just worked with Foothills’ incoming Interim Senior Minister Howell Lind as his intern.  Check out the video and introductory letter from Diana below.

IMG_0448

Diana McLean with incoming Interim Senior Minister, Rev. Howell Lind

Diana will start on August 1st as a 3/4 time Assistant Minister for both of our congregations. Initially, her time will be focused on getting up to speed with Greeley, but Foothills can expect to see her around as well over these next few months, as she begins to work with Gretchen and our Membership team to better connect all who come, filling the role that many of us have long thought of as “membership and volunteer coordinator.”  Over the course of the year, we look forward to seeing how all three of our ministers and our two congregations can work together to further the reach of love all across Northern Colorado.   If you are interested in being a part of the team that grows our partnership between Greeley and Foothills, please let Rev. Gretchen Haley know.

Please find below a video from Diana introducing herself to the two congregations, as well as a letter from her with a little more information.

– Rich Young and Jennifer Powell, Board of Trustees for Foothills Unitarian Church

– Karen Harder, Board of Trustees for Foothills and Selection Committee member

– Marcia Free, Board of Trustees for UU Church of Greeley

– Hollis Berendt and Bill Gotchey, Board of Trustees for Greeley and Selection Committee members 

– Rev. Gretchen Haley, Associate Minister and Selection Committee member

Video from Diana McLean

Letter from Diana McLean

Dear members and friends at the UU Church of Greeley and Foothills Unitarian,

I am delighted to be joining the ministerial team that will serve the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley and the Foothills Unitarian Church. It’s an exciting time to be serving these two congregations, as we all partner to extend the impact of Unitarian Universalism in Northern Colorado.

Diana with her son Aidan

I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist since childhood, and am passionate about ourfaith and what we have to offer to the wider world. My call to ministry began about 15 years ago, and I answered first by deepening my involvement as a layperson in Unitarian Universalist churches as I moved to various parts of the country. I eventually served as a monthly guest speaker at the North Idaho Unitarian Universalists (a church similar in size to the Greeley church) for a number of years before the move to Colorado. Although I had envisioned ordained ministry as something that would wait until my son was grown, I made the leap and began theology school in 2011. I’ll be finishing up over the next year, and also going before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the UUA this fall.

I have been serving as the Ministerial Intern at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder since August 2014, and have been active in the Boulder-Denver Cluster of Congregations in a variety of ways since moving to Colorado in April 2011. In addition to the natural beauty around us here, I believe we are also surrounded by opportunities to share our faith with others hungry for our messages of love and justice.

Diana Benediction in California April 2015Our faith is covenantal, and for me the power of religious experience is found within our communities, in the human connections we make with each other, which also allow us to deepen our individual spirituality in ways we wouldn’t alone. I look forward to making those connections with you, and to sharing a journey of exploration and depth with you.

In gratitude and anticipation,

Diana

In Gratitude: Plans for the Coming Year

(This post was sent the week of June 2nd as an email to all Foothills’ active friends and members, so just posting here so that it is easily accessible for all who may have missed the email, or if we want to reference it later…)

Dear friends,

You might remember, a few months ago, our Stewardship team sent out a great letter talking about our goals for moving our church forward in the coming year and inviting your partnership to make these goals a reality.

They identified 3 specific goals for “moving forward” this year:

  1. More fully support our homelessness ministry;
  2. Increase campus ministry programming and staff support; and
  3. Hire a staff position to support the areas of membership integration and volunteer coordination (“congregational life” – you may remember us talking about how we gain 100 members a year, and lose 100 members, and we can’t even tell you why….).

I am so happy to report that as a result of your generosity we are able to move forward in all three of these areas!! We are building on our successful Faith Family Hospitality ministry by launching the exciting new One Village One Family ministry with over 30 members walking along side homeless families as they move into housing.  And we are adding additional hours and budget to support the full launch of campus ministry in the fall – even as we seek to strengthen our partnership with the Gellar Center and Foothills’ member Elizabeth Sink’s new interfaith community.

But perhaps most exciting of all is the opportunity we have been presented to move forward with the congregational life staff.  Though the pledge drive didn’t yield the kind of results necessary to fund a full time position, over the past few months, the UU Church of Greeley has approached us to see if we would be interested in sharing a staff position primarily funded with their budget dollars.

Because they are in need of a minister (half time), the opportunity is not just to have a staff position, but to add a religious professional who is trained and passionate about how we welcome, integrate and invite into service all those who seek a liberal religious home in Fort Collins.

Sharing staff across UU congregations is a leading experiment going on across the country to serve more people within limited resources.  For a congregation like Greeley that has struggled to grow beyond its small (40 members) size in recent history, this is a great opportunity to strengthen their system and capacity to offer stability to their minister.  For us, it is a wonderful opportunity to help strengthen Unitarian Universalism across Northern Colorado and to enhance our support for members and to better track and employ all of our members’ gifts.

You’ll find a link below to a statement describing in detail the background and plan for this opportunity.  I encourage you to read this for all of the details.

Greeley’s minister (Rev. Kelly Dignan) was called to Boulder in April, so we have had to move fast.  The Board appointed Board member Karen Harder and me to a shared search committee with two of Greeley’s Board members.  We interviewed three strong candidates last week, and we are in the final stages of being able to announce our candidate.

Over the course of the next few months Foothills will be focusing on our transition in our Interim Senior Minister position.  But as that transition takes hold, because of your generosity, we will also be able to keep moving forward with our positive vision for the future, living our values of being a welcoming place for everyone and strengthening Unitarian Universalism all across our area.

We don’t know exactly how this shared ministry position will work, or even if it will work.  Our plan is to try it for a year, and see how it goes.  If it goes well, we keep going.  If it isn’t working out, we identify what we learned and we try something else instead.

Thank you so much for moving our church forward through this transition time, and helping our community focus on a positive vision for what we can do together.  Read the linked document, and please let me know your questions and ideas for what this inspires in you.  And look for information about our shared hire with Greeley to be announced in the next few weeks!

In partnership, and with gratitude,

Gretchen

Full Background Information Document link

Appreciative Inquiry Results – from the Transition Team

We began our Appreciative Inquiry Process in January with a series of workshops and conversations where members could share their stories about the church and their sense of our core values and their dreams for our future.  A summary of that process can be found here.

Since those conversations concluded in mid-February, the interview summary sheets were typed into a spreadsheet, and then that spreadsheet was given to a Analysis Team headed by Tim Pearson and including Carolyn Mita, Peg MacMorris, and Ruth Rice.  The Analysis Team produced a report summarizing the trends and information in the sheets.

Additionally, in the workshops themselves, groups of 6 participants came together and summarized their self-understanding of their own trends and most important points.  This information has been captured on a 2-sided single sheet called “Our Appreciative Trends from the Summary of Six Conversations.”

Next, our Provocative Proposals team of Lenny Scovel, Anne Haro-Sipes, Clay Carter and Brendan Mahoney used these two ways of summarizing the interview data to create vision statements.  These statements were to be: stated in the affirmative, linked to a dream acknowledged in the data, and based in a strength already existing in the congregation.   The team came up with a total of 20 Provocative Proposals that can now be used as the starting point for the Board and the Search Committee and for any other leadership body to use as a jumping off point for a strategic plan as well as other plans for our future.   Throughout the next few months, we will engage these Proposals through an interactive display, and in August and September, there will be a series of Chalice Lighting reflections around each of these Proposals.

Thanks to the many people who participated in this process, and to the Analysis and Provocative Proposals Teams for your time and attention and care to summarize and distill and discern the core messages and possibilities within these conversations.  This is a great beginning for our ongoing process of looking ahead and creating the church of the future.

– Transition Team: Anne Hall, Chris Frey, Lenny Scovel, Bob Bacon and Jen Iole

Appreciative Inquiry Documents (paper copies are available in the office): 

Our Shared Ministry of Welcome and Connection – An Update from the Membership Team

“Welcome to our church!  What brings you here?  Let us help you get connected!”

If you’ve ever stopped by, wandered past – or perhaps volunteered at – the Visitors’ Kiosk, you’ve probably heard those words or variations on the theme.  They are what our Membership Team has focused on this year – welcoming visitors and helping them find their way into our church.

Under our beautiful new “Welcome” sign at the Kiosk repositioned to make sure our smiling faces are the first thing newcomers might find when they come in our front door, we seek to share our 4 Ways to Connect – Intro Sundays, Explorations Small Group Ministry, Path to Membership classes, and Connections Dinner. 

Our Team sponsors these offerings throughout the year so there’s always an upcoming  way “in”  regardless of when newcomers find us.  We plan our programs to promote our 5 Practices of Meaningful Membership: Gather for Worship, Grow in Spirit, Serve in Partnership, Give in Gratitude and Connect in Community. 

Our work is fueled with a passion for warmly welcoming fellow seekers to our liberal faith.  We are excited to be launching our new Radical Welcome Team this summer.  With those folks focusing on “the front door” and with expanded professional staff hours through an experimental shared position with the Unitarian Universalist Church in Greeley, the Membership Team will be broadening its focus.  We dream of finding better ways to identify new and existing members’ gifts and passions to connect all of us with new opportunities to serve,  grow and strengthen our church community.

Does this sound like exciting work?  If so, please join us!  To get involved, contact Kathryn Boyle at kathryn@foothillsuu.org or 493-5906.

Membership Team:  Kay Williams; Karen Harder; Mary Rundquist; Jack Zak; Ann Molison; Kathryn Boyle, Staff Support; Rev. Gretchen Haley, Associate Minister