Linking Inspiration and Generosity by Nate Donovan, Foothills Treasurer

Nate DonovanHello Foothills friends: As we begin another church year, continuing this journey, I reflect on where we’ve been as a community and the bright future we can help shape – together. Our stories can often highlight the inspiration that motivates us to give generously. Below is one from the Donovans, yet first, a few words from your Finance Committee:

Foothills Unitarian closed its books on the 2014-2015 year in good shape due to the generosity of members and friends and careful attention to expenses by staff, ministers and lay leadership. We ended the fiscal year June 30 with a slight deficit of $2733 on income of 669,204 and expenses of 671,937. We will cover this shortfall from reserves, which will then total about 32,000. Pledge income of 571,359 exceeded our budgeted pledge number by about 14,000. Thank you!

When our young family came to Foothills in 2001, our five and eight-year-old sons absolutely loved the RE program, and they got us parents out of bed many a Sunday morning, wanting us all to attend church. We grew to deeply love the people and culture we found and helped shape at Foothills, and we wanted to give back – by serving as RE teachers, on the Board and committees, and giving money and pledges that reflected the inspiration that we received on a daily and weekly basis.

We saw how that money was used inside the church and given to help individuals and groups in the larger community, and we were inspired to give more generously. We’ve made a practice of regular volunteering with Faith Family Hospitality, and over the years Nate has bought way too many good books at the Rummage Sale. I continue to be amazed at the generosity of the people at Foothills, as we grow together and expand our ability to serve each other and more people and causes in fulfilling our Mission. It has all been very meaningful to us, and lots of fun.

These are the stories that inspire me to give part of our personal income, consider gifts of capital and through our wills and estates, and serve as one of your Board members and current Treasurer. As one of the people authorized to sign checks, I see on a regular basis how the church responsibly uses your donations. Through the years serving on the Board in 2005-2006 and later from 2008-2011 as Pres-Elect, President and Past President, I have seen our church operation grow in complexity and size of budget, as more families discover our Sense of Place.

And though we delegate raising and spending of money, and many decisions, to our dedicated volunteers, paid staff and ministers, every dollar and every hour of volunteer time generously given, and gratefully received, still counts as much as it did yesterday, or in 2001, or 1976, or 1960. We are still inspired to work together to translate our values into impacts on lives at Foothills and in the wider community.

We look forward to a bright future filled with many meaningful adventures. Thank you for your generosity, and see you at the Start-Up Festival “Dunk Tank” and around church as we gather together finding “the strength to stand face forward, courage to walk into the dawning day.”

Growing Souls

Growing Souls

plant-growing-in-egg-shellMy husband and I recently realized that this will be the sixteenth year that our family has attended the Foothills Buckhorn Retreat. That means that our daughter, who will be a senior in high school this year, has attended the retreat every year, not missing a single year, since she was two years old! I can’t help but get a bit sentimental knowing that she has a lifetime of Buckhorn memories that she shares with her friends and their families in our Foothills community. And I know that she will have so many other wonderful memories of her life in our church community to carry with her – Pumpkin Carving Nights, Family Fridays, youth overnights, Religious Education classes, All Church Sundays and serving as a nursery care giver to name a few. It brings to mind our Unitarian Universalist child naming and dedication ceremony, and how we ask the entire gathered community to promise to support the child being named as they grow. I am so grateful for all that this community has given my family, especially my child – a rich network of friends that she has known her entire life, trusted adults that have taken the time to talk to her and really listen, people who have challenged her to reach out to help others and to look inside and reflect, a caring community of people that have helped her to strive to become the best human being she can be – a church family.

At its best, that is what a church community can be – a place for “growing souls.” We offer many ways that you can engage and connect with other families and members of all ages here at Foothills as you grow in spirit together.

All Church Sundays will be on the first Sunday of each month this year. Children and Youth join their parents in the Sanctuary for the first portion of the church service for music, stories and rituals that will introduce our monthly church worship and learning themes.

The Buckhorn Retreat, coming up on Labor Day weekend is a wonderful opportunity to meet other families and begin to make connections or deepen existing ones in a beautiful mountain setting. And did I mention how much fun it is! We still have space – for more information and to register Click Here.

Teaching in our Religious Exploration Program is a wonderful way to get to know other children and families, to provide a vital community of support and a place for our children to learn about our Unitarian Universalist traditions, world religions, and ethical living. We still have several openings for teachers of younger grades. Please consider volunteering. Our children need you! To learn more and volunteer Click Here.

“Parent Coffee Chats” are a new program this fall. These monthly gatherings for parents will be held on the second Sunday of each month, between our church services at 10:10 am with childcare provided. Topics will include “Why choose a UU Religious Exploration Program for my child?”, “How do I answer my child’s big questions?”, “Cultivating kindness,” “Creating family rituals” and more. Our Coffee Chats will be informal with a brief presentation followed by time to share our questions and experiences.

Family Nights will be held on the first Friday in October, and November. We gather for dinner followed by a fun family activity like board games, or a family dance party. On December 18th we will join the Foothills choir for a chili supper and caroling around the neighborhood.

Pumpkin Carving Night will be on Sunday, October 25th and is a favorite Foothills Unitarian fall tradition. Bring your pumpkin, your costume and some ice cream or a topping to share. We will carve pumpkins, tour the spook house created by our kids and cap off the evening with a sing-a-long and lighting the Pumpkins.

I hope that you will join us this fall for the great adventure of “growing souls”. My deep wish for you is that you may also discover the community of care and compassion that my family has found at Foothills.

In faith and service,

Eleanor VanDeusen – Director of Religious Exploration

Connecting at Buckhorn Retreat and Beyond – Guest post from church member Dee Wanger

Wanger, Mark and DeeTwenty years ago, our family experienced a “spiritual perspective-changing health crisis” that nudged us to look for a spiritual community that would take us from our current awakening to a more spiritual future. With Mark raised in the Jewish tradition, and myself raised in the Presbyterian tradition, we weren’t sure what we were looking for, but began our search by attending a service at Foothills.

The sermon that day had been written especially for me, or at least it seemed. I was able to deeply listen and apply the ideas to my current crisis. It was magical.  We and our daughters saw friends we knew from other walks in our lives.

It was as though we had walked through a think vine overgrowth into a secret garden. Yet, we soon learned that there was no secret here!

A very public Medieval Festival was offered to the community, there were several active human rights advocacy groups, and church representatives were involved with interdenominational organizations in the community. We wanted to be part of the fun and sharing!

We continued to hear that Buckhorn was one of the best ways to meet people and have a meaningful spiritual experience together. We signed up and did, indeed, have a bonding experience with conversation over meals, shared laughter and singing during evening programs, thoughtful discussion about books and articles, playing board, card and outside games, a nature walk led by a knowledgeable church member, and star gazing with powerful telescopes. There was something so organic about being in nature, playing, and talking that helped us appreciate the breadth and depth of the people in the Foothills community.

What we witnessed at Buckhorn, and have appreciated in our continued involvement with Foothills, is the talent, wisdom, humor, and commitment of the people. Just as programming at Buckhorn was organized and presented by congregants, so is much of the leadership and programming present and successful because of the contribution of congregants.

We found that we had much to gain, as well as much to offer. We have grown through our “receiving” activities with groups for women, men, mothers, crafting, reading, hiking, discussion, parenting, travel, and films, but also in our “giving” activities as ushers, coffee-makers, religious education teachers, youth group advisers, sound booth tech, OWL teacher, choir member, carpet cleaner, landscape crew, rummage sale helper (and shopper!), service auction event hosts, Madrigal Dinner servers, Faith Family Hospitality supporters, summer Sunday service coordinator, chalice lighters, and more.

Though we look back in wonder at the serendipity of that first visit, we’ve never looked back at our decision to join. In fact, it is what kept us going then. The messaging at Sunday services is inspiring, grounding and thought provoking, but it’s the connection to the people that keeps us coming now.

Through my work on the nominating committee, I’ve come to realize that there’s a lot of untapped wisdom, inspiration and talent that hasn’t found its place on the leadership path at Foothills.  If you are one who hasn’t yet found your place to give and receive, I want to encourage you to try Buckhorn this year – perhaps like it was for us, it may just be the beginning of a lifelong journey of connection and community.