Freeing Forgiveness – Exploring October’s Theme

forgive-everyone-everything“What does it mean to be a people of Forgiveness?”

As a child, growing up Catholic, my sense was that we should give away forgiveness like candy at Halloween: freely and readily, to anyone who comes asking.  As an adult Unitarian Universalist, however, I have realized that forgiveness is a lot more complicated and challenging than that image would imply.

What should we ask of those who have hurt us before we offer forgiveness – if anything? Must someone seek your forgiveness in order for you to forgive them? What if they can’t or won’t? What about self-forgiveness? Is there a point where something or someone is beyond forgiveness? What about forgiveness of a group, community, or institution? …Or life itself?

Forgiveness is connected to memory and time.  It asks us to engage our feelings about something in the past in order to change our experience in the present, and move into the future.  Forgiveness is an act of vulnerability – both from the one seeking forgiveness and the one offering it – as it reveals the risks of trying to love in an imperfect world.

In September, we have been asking “What does it mean to be a people of Invitation?” Inviting requires we make space in our lives and in our hearts – create a clearing, open our hands, and let life move freely in, and out – as it is all a gift.  And living with open hands and an open heart requires we become a people of forgiveness.

Since forgiveness is not as simple as candy on Halloween, we will offer many opportunities this month for reflection, practice and exploration of October’s monthly theme, forgiveness. This Sunday, October 4th, we will begin with a multi-sensory worship experience exploring forgiveness.  After service, we will offer a workshop on the theme from 12:30-1:30.  I will be leading Forgiveness Practice Circles on Tuesdays in October at 6 pm – come to one or all of these to literally practice forgiving – whatever or whomever needs forgiveness in your life.  Our popular evening vespers (contemplative) services return October 15th at 6 pm where we will be exploring forgiveness through song, meditation and ritual.  And finally, I want to encourage you to join our new small group that will delve deeper into the Sunday sermons and the theme, which kicks off Sunday the 18th, although after this month will run every 2nd and 4th Sunday at 12:30. You can “drop in” to experience these sermon-based reflection circles, though our recommendation is you attend at least 6 throughout the year to strengthen the experience for everyone.

It will be a rich month, and I look forward to exploring all of this and more with you.  – Gretchen

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Visitor from our Partner Church in Transylvania by Bob Viscount

Visitor from our Partner Church in Transylvania by Bob Viscount, Partner Church Committee Co-chair

Annamarie BodocziFoothills Unitarian Church has had a partner Unitarian church in Transylvania since 1990, starting right after the overthrow of the communist government of Nicolae Ceaușescu. From the beginning we have worked to support this small congregation in Bethlenszentmiklos as they struggle to maintain their church and culture in the face of the Romanian government’s support of the Serbian Orthodox church as the “official” religion of the country.

Annamaria Bodoczi, a member of our partner church’s congregation, will be with us from September 23 to October 6th. She will help us celebrate this 25 year relationship. She will be the chalice lighter on September 27th, and she will attend the service on October 4th. Stop by the Partner Church Committee’s table in the Social Hall to talk with her.

Annamaria has a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Babes-Bolyai University in Koloszvar, and she works as the press attaché for the Hungarian Democratic Party’s members of the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest.

Since 2005 the major activity of the Partner Church Committee has been to raise money for the scholarship program so that the young people from the village can afford to attend a Unitarian high school in Kolozsvar or a Protestant high school in Aiud. If they had to attend a government high school, the only religious education classes would be about the Serbian Orthodox religion. Also there would be no classes taught in Hungarian.

In the 10 years of this program, we have raised nearly $30,000. But the need continues. There are usually about 15 young people and their families who are helped by this program each year.

The other activity of the Partner Church Committee is to organize trips to Transylvania through the UU Partner Church Council. We are planning another one for May of 2016. Stop by the table in the social hall to learn more.

U + U = We, Guest Post from Board President Jenn Powell

This past Saturday the Board of Trustees and lay leadership met with the Rev. Nancy Bowen, our Lead Interim Minister Rev. Howell Lind and Associate Minister Rev. Gretchen Haley for a start up meeting as we begin our second year of the interim period. During the morning we worked together to create our Ministerial / Lay Leadership Partnership. We looked at where we have been, what was accomplished, and what still needed work. We spoke of the following qualities as what we thought were necessary to have a successful year together:

  • Collaboration
  • Mutual trust & respect
  • Open & direct communication
  • Transparency
  • Humor, comfort, ease & effectiveness, willingness
  • Connection
  • Good Intention
  • Maturity
  • Strategy
  • Balancing the need to be patient & urgent in our work

We talked about the need for us to work with our mission, and have that be the foundation for the church’s work. We talked about being leaders in a time of change as well as leading a change. We broke up into groups to look at different ways we can do our work.

We looked at working together, how we could improve our communication and what practices would help us with each other and the congregation. We looked at what it takes to work well in covenant, as well as working inside of our mission.

Midday we enjoyed a delicious lunch welcoming the members of the Greeley board. In the afternoon, the two boards met together with our ministers and Rev. Nancy Bowen to look at how we would work in partnership.

We were co-creating what would be faithful and helpful in Northern Colorado. We spoke of sharing generosity between the two congregations, faithful expression of our UU values, supporting all kinds of goodness. Knowing that this year is an experiment, we reminded ourselves of what is written in our covenant of Partnership. We ended our day filled with peace, new ideas, collaboration, and yes, a good dose of excitement.

imageThe Boards of Foothills and the UU Church of Greeley

U + U = WE

Read more about our partnership with Greeley

A Great Foothills’ Retreat at Buckhorn!

11053670_10102404822837743_5154279513734232499_oThanks to the over 150 members and friends who attended the amazing Foothills Family Retreat at Buckhorn Camp over the Labor Day Weekend – it was a wonderful time of play and conversation, community building and spiritual renewal.  Adding a 3rd day allowed for additional programming, including a second worship service on Monday.  If you missed it this year, we hope to see you next year at Buckhorn!

Thanks to Amy Wimberger for the amazing photos! 

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Thanks to Eleanor Van Deusen for these great shots!

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An Invitation…to Return Home by Ryan Marvel, Music Director

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2014-02-05 07:08:21Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com

In late August of this year, I returned from my vacation on a Tuesday afternoon. I walked in to the office and sorted through some mail, phone messages and emails. I began ordering choir music and thinking about new hymns I would like to introduce this year. In a sense, catching up and getting organized for the year.
I was surprised at how comforted I felt at the smell of the church. Hmmmm. Had I ever noticed it? I must have, pausing at this recollection. It was odd…and quite poignant. After a few moments, I began to focus on the upcoming Sunday service.
The drive in to church that Sunday was a little bittersweet. Anytime one returns from an extended break, there is bound to be a little re-entry anxiety. Right? And especially after some challenges last year, I was very aware of that feeling. I walked in, saying hello to my wonderful colleagues and exchanging hugs and smiles with the many volunteers who make this place go. Some of that anxiety began to melt away.
What I did not anticipate, however, was what happened next. I began the prelude and said my usual “Good Morning!” to invite everyone to sing. The echo came back, reflected on faces and through eyes. By the time we got to the end of the first line of “There’s a River flowin in my soul…”, I was overwhelmed. I felt a powerful, unexpected and beautiful feeling of returning home. I couldn’t sing. My throat was closed. Tears. I could only listen as I played. The harmonies, the smiles on your faces, the vitality of this community, the people who make this church what it is…the entire experience was what I could only define as deeply spiritual. We continued with “Hush” and I walked up and down the aisle, touching many of your shoulders as I passed. Again, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and a sense of renewal.
This building – the sights, sounds, smells – is home. This community – the people, the love and respect that reside here – is home. You all brought me back to this place of love and comfort. This place where we all find friends and family, new and old. This place where we can sing at the top of our lungs and not be ashamed if we are off key. This place where we can be challenged and rewarded by questioning our own path. This place where we can weep silently or celebrate exuberantly. This place…is home. May we continue to invite one another to return home on Sundays and beyond.

Beginning to Begin

What does it mean to be a people of invitation? 
It’s September! The weather is already shifting and the colors are beginning to turn.  School is back in session, and as of this past Sunday, our new church year has officially begun.  It is a time of many new beginnings.
As a part of the new year, we are returning to our monthly theme-based ministry, this time using the Soul Matters Sharing Circle themes, which are being used by over 120 other Unitarian Universalist congregations.  Find out more about Soul Matters here.
For September, the theme is invitation, with our grounding question: “what does it mean to be a people of invitation?”
Last Sunday, you may have spent time with one or more of our Reflection Stations in the Remembrance Garden (these stations will stay out all month, and I encourage you to spend some time walking and reflecting there in the quiet of that space).   One of the reflections there asked us to consider the poem, “Beginning to Begin” by Gunilla Norris, and then to ask ourselves what in our lives is “beginning to begin.”
As we move into this new church year, and new school year, this new season, let us ask ourselves this question: What is the invitation our lives are making to us now? What is beginning to begin? And, what space would you need to make so that this new beginning could have the room to take hold? What new clearing would you need to create in your life, in your heart?
Being a “people of invitation” means constantly making space and clearing the way for new arrivals.  It is not always easy work, and it can bring a mix of feelings of grief, and relief, and it can take time.  And so we take a deep breath, and be kind to ourselves, and keep trusting that, as Julian of Norwich said, “All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” 

In partnership,

Gretchen

The Fabulous First Start-up Festival!

11990642_10207688678521946_3182699664064836605_nThanks to all who made our Water Communion and 1st Start-Up Festival such a fabulous time.   Church member Lynn Young wrote to the staff on Monday to let us know about her experience -her note is representative of many enthusiastic comments we got, so we want to share it here with all of you.

To the wonderful Sunday breakfast planning team:

Thank you for such a great experience!!  After such a long tradition of our “back-to-church-breakfast gatherings” in a park setting, I really wondered how it would work changing to our church setting.  But, you all made it happen, and with such ease and organization.  From starting with the meaningful water sharing ceremony and the vibrant singing and music, through a well-planned, breakfast offering from members to the final dunking of Board of Trustees, Carolyn and Eleanor in the dunk tank, it seemed everyone had a special time.  Having tables on the lawn, all under a covering made it possible for us to spread out, relax and enjoy the companionship of all our church friends.  My sincere thanks to all who had a hand in planning and helping with this event.  I am so thankful to be a part of this U-U community and family.   – Lynn Young

Thank you Lynn, and thanks everyone, for showing up and for making this event such a success.  It was great to see everyone at our church having such a good time, and connecting, and seeing us talk together about all the amazing stuff that we do at the church – and in a fun way.

With a core team of over 30 volunteers, the campus was filled with activities and engagement for all ages.  If you missed it, we hope to catch you next year with a new slate of engaging booths filled with information about our ministries and ways to connect across all ages and stages of life.

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Water Communion service began at 9 with Eleanor VanDeusen and Jason Latta lighting the chalice.

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The brief service led by Revs. Howell Lind and Gretchen Haley was filled with story and song

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What’s a festival without a bouncy house?

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Board President Jenn Powell with son Owen anticipating the start-up of the DUNKING!

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David Edwards points the way (?) to the bike parking. Many thanks to the Climate Justice team for helping to make this a bike-friendly event.

Inspired by the "hobbit" maps, we wanted to make sure everyone knew about all the great stuff spread out all over the campus.

Inspired by the “hobbit” maps, we wanted to make sure everyone knew about all the great stuff spread out all over the campus.

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The booths filling the east path way made up our “welcome walkway”

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The Climate Justice team also made sure we were a reduced impact event – thanks to Cami and Spencer for setting up our recycling and compostable containers.

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Shanna Henk and Kristina Ruff show off the awesome new Foothills t-shirts with a logo designed by church member Steve Sedam and inspired by our mission to further the reach of love in our lives, in Northern Colorado, and beyond. Shanna and Kristina were also handing out the new Lifespan RE catalogues – packed with programming for the year.

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Anne Haro Sipes and Jane Everham staffed our ESL and One Village One Family tables along the Justice Journey, and church member Jeanne Kennedy was one of many who stopped to check out all the information.

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Elizabeth Stanley staffs the Middle East Peace table along the Justice Journey.

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LUUAuction! How clever Kay Williams and Peg MacMorris of our Auction Team!

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Church member Bob Viscount pulled out all the stops for the Partner Church booth!

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Church member Kay Hood was raffling a teddy bear on behalf of our Caring team.

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David Levinson staffs the Climate Justice table along the Justice Journey and helps people log their carbon credits.

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Carolyn Myers helps promote the Scrips and Grocery cards.

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Karen Harder and Jack Zak engage Andy Vancil to “Guess the number of Jelly Beans in the Chalice” – while noting all about Membership By The Numbers at the Membership booth….

And look at all those numbers!

And look at all those numbers!

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Church members – especially the under 18 set – were enthusiastic about sharing a vision for the church, which earned you a chance to try to dunk a board member at the Dunk Tank. Great visions from all ages!!

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President Emeritus Rich Young was very game for the dunking!

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Board members Erin Hottenstein and Jenn Powell show off some more visions.

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11949322_952280351495349_7723755905699114577_n   Dave Montanari solicited donations to encourage administrator Carolyn Myers to take the plunge – she caved, and down she went….Church member Loren Jones threw the “winning” ball.

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With all the kids around, it was inevitable someone would also encourage Director of Religious Exploration Eleanor Van Deusen to get dunked….and down she went!

Many thanks to Lyndy Latta, Jen Iole, and Lenny Scovel for the great photos! Looking forward to seeing those from official event photographer Elijah Price!