What’s Our Mission? Let’s Keep Talking

This Sunday, January 31st our meeting will be in the Triple RE.

This Sunday, January 31st our meeting will be in the Triple RE.

It’s not too late to join the important conversations happening this month about Foothills Unitarian Church’s reason for being.  Please join us January 31 at 10:10 to 10:50 a.m. in the Triple RE Room.  (This is a venue change from the sanctuary, but the purpose remains the same: dialogue with the Board of Trustees’ Mission Task Force as we refine our understanding of our mission.)

So far, the Mission Task Force has facilitated three conversations this month with congregants with much to say about what is uniquely ours to do.  The task force asked congregants to reflect on how our current working statement resonates and what we might be missing.

This past Sunday, we deepened our inquiry to invite congregants to share specific examples of Foothills at its best.  We’ve honed in on the impact Foothills has at the individual level, within our internal church community and in the wider world.

What people have shared is as diverse as our church body.  We’ve heard of pride and meaning in our recent interfaith vigil at the local mosque, profound value in the interfaith effort to house homeless families that is Faith Family Hospitality, the power of SOUUL Circle connections, and the impact of Standing on the Side of Love.  We’ve heard deep callings to embrace diversity, protect our environment, cherish our traditions of freedom of thought, lead in social justice at home and abroad, and act with courage, compassion and love.

Come hear more and be heard at our final session this Sunday.  If you cannot make the session and have ideas or additional input, please email mission@foothillsuu.org.  You also may contact one of the task force members by phone or email:

Karen Harder, 218-3664, karenharder41@gmail.com
Erin Hottenstein, 226-1501, stewarshipgal@gmail.com
Michelle Venus, 218-7951, michelle@michellevenus.com
Larry Watson, 482-8310, lwatson@sc-guru.com
Rich Young, 237-1516, corich@gmail.com

The task force will review input along with our congregational survey results, the provocative proposals from the appreciative inquiry sessions and prior mission statement work as it prepares a recommendation for the Board of Trustees February meeting.  The goal is a mission statement that is memorable, meaningful and moving to guide us all in our work ahead.  Any recommended change will be presented in March for additional congregational input in preparation for a vote at the annual congregational meeting in May.


Update from the January 10th Congregational Informational Forum by Howell Lind

Howell LindFirst, let me say how appreciative that many of you come to the quarterly Congregational Informational Forums as it offer both for me and your leadership an opportunity to hear from church members and for church leadership to briefly share some of programs, projects, and thinking that is going on here at Foothills.


At this most recent Forum on January 10th, I read a list of some of the highlights of this current church program year and several folks asked if the list of these exciting highlights could be shared electronically. So let me do just that and share some of these notable efforts that have transpired in the first six months of this current 2015-2016 church year.


Some highlights in our congregation this year:

  • Fun and engaging All Church Start-Up Festival got the year off to a great start
  • High level of engagement in our search process and a successful call of a new senior minister
  • New Mission Statement Task Force and Governance Task Force are in place, working, and moving the church forward in ways that keep the members informed and on track
  • One Village One Family has added a 6th Village, and in the next couple months nearly all of our initial families will be in housing
  • Huge generosity in our Share The Plate program has resulted in about $20,000 given in the past year to our community partners
  • Powerful Interfaith vigil with about 100 in attendance from Foothills at the Islamic Center showed our strength as a leader for inclusivity and respect across diversity in our community
  • Sunday Services have seen consistent high attendance with sermons of depth and meaning and consistently excellent music
  • Vespers Services have continued to grow in popularity – about 160 in attendance in December
  • We will run OWL (Our Whole Lives) for K-1, 5th Grade, 8th Grade, High School and Young Adults this year – the most offerings of this excellent program that we have ever been able to offer
  • Big improvements in communication systems – people are responding well to the new way we’re doing our inserts, and our “clicks” on the blog have never been higher – we consistently see at least 39% clicking on our main articles
  • New members are getting connected more easily and more fully due to Diana McLean’s outreach and our programming “4 Ways to Connect” – this will improve even more in the coming year with the addition of our Hospitality Learning Community
  • New support for parents of younger children (which we are seeing a lot of right now!) – twice a month “coffee chats” are seeing on average 20 in attendance. Also new Dads of Young Kids group about to start with leadership from one of our newer members.
  • Climate Justice efforts are growing in clarity and strength (note the great forum we hosted in November). Much more to come from this emerging group in terms of its impact on our members and our wider community
  • Strengthened presence of Unitarian Universalism in Greeley through our partnership there – especially with our ministers’ presence and leadership on Sunday
  • Hilarious fun and filled-with-talent Cabaret this fall!
  • Highly successful Auction underscored our community’s generosity
  • Very successful Rummage Sale that highlighted the hard working efforts of the members of our congregation
  • Added a few new short-term small groups – Forgiveness Practice Circles and Grief/Loss over the Holidays – and ran another round of Powerful Tools for Caregivers (this time facilitated by our own members who we sponsored to get certified as trainers) – these all created set-aside space to address important issues in our community
  • New speaker system for sanctuary to be installed in the coming months!
  • And – whew! – much much more!


In the last half of this current 2015-2016 Church Program Year, we are anticipating: looking forward to:

  • The hiring of our new assistant minister!
  • Continued growth and strength in our staff team – professional development, living into our new structure and system, more cohesion across programming
  • Continued growth and clarity in our Adult Religious Exploration/Faith Development program – including additional access to information online
  • Enhanced parish visitors (thinking about support as issues arise on Sunday morning) – offering a person for people to talk to
  • Visioning process that will build on our new clarified mission
  • Continued progress in our living into and owning our new mission
  • Continued reaching out to the full lifespan of our community – all ages and stages
  • Growing our presence as leaders in the wider community, particularly in the areas where we are active – homelessness, climate justice, immigration
  • A much more enhanced process for membership integration and leadership development
  • Continued enrichment of our programs to address our members’ needs and spiritual growth, as well as the needs of our wider community and our world
  • Starting to set the stage for addressing our facilities/grounds needs now and to the future – including additional experiments of neighborhood gatherings in outlying communities


Phew! So much has been initiated in the first half of this Church Program Year and quite a few exciting ideas and projects being considered as we head into the latter half of 2015-2016.





stir your passion, ignite your curiosity and feed your soul

feed-your-soul-headerOur Religious Exploration Catalog for the Winter/Spring semester is hot off the press! We hope that you will find something inside that will stir you passion, ignite your curiosity and feed your soul. You can pick up a catalog on our new display wall in the church foyer or in the Social Hall. It’s easy to sign up for Adult Programs in the Social Hall on Sunday or SIGN UP ONLINE

Brand New this semester is a Wednesday night series called FOUNDATIONS – Every 2nd & 4th Wednesday evening from 6:00 – 7:15 in the Sanctuary, beginning January 24th. Each session is led by one of our ministers, Rev. Gretchen Haley or Reverend Howell Lind.

This series is a direct response to the questions and ideas that were lifted up during our Candidating Week, and get to the heart of who we are as Unitarian Universalists – our past, present, and emerging future.  As the series’ title implies, the sessions offer foundational tools, practices and information for us as individual Unitarian Universalists and as a congregation in community.

Topics Include –

Jan 27            Changes in Culture/Society & Church –  with Rev. Gretchen Haley & Eleanor VanDeusen DRE
Feb 10            Generational Trends – with Rev. Howell Lind & Rev Gretchen Haley
Feb 24           History and Theology of Unitarian Universalism – with Rev. Gretchen Haley
March 9        UU Sources: Protestant Christianity – with Rev. Gretchen Haley
March 23      UU Sources: Transcendentalism – with Rev. Gretchen Haley
April 13           UU Sources: Religious Humanism – with Rev. Gretchen Haley
April 27        My Spiritual Journey and Unitarian Universalism – with Rev. Gretchen Haley
May 11          Emotional Systems and Right Relations – with Rev. Howell Lind
May 25         Five Smooth Stones and Five Jagged Rocks – with Ministerial Resident Diana McLean
 June 8          Final Session: Review and Debrief – with Rev. Gretchen Haley

Through these gatherings we are the living practice of our 3rd and 4th principles to engage in spiritual growth in our congregations, and to continue our free and responsible search for truth and meeting in community.

And to make it even more convenient – we are offering a Pizza & Salad Supper every 2nd & 4th Wednesday evening at 5:30 pm, just prior to the Foundations Class. Come for dinner, and stay for the Foundations Class. You can bring the kids because childcare is provided with an rsvp to childcare@foothillsuu.org (48 hours in advance.)

If you are new to Foothills, we have several programs to help you to get connected, and find out more about Foothills and how your spiritual path connects with Unitarian Universalism. Join our Explorations Small Group or attend one of our Sunday Inquirers sessions, at 10:15 am on 1st & 3rd Sundays. Join us for our  Path to Membership Class on Saturday March 5th or our Connections Dinner on March 24th.

Having a personal spiritual practice can be lifesaving in our stressful and overscheduled world. This semester we will also offer an array of Spiritual practices including –

Our Monday Meditation Group  – 2nd & 4th Mondays at 5:30 pm

Our Saturday Morning Yoga – 1st & 3rd Saturdays at 8:00 am

NEW! Writing as a Spiritual Practice – Jan 31st & Feb 7th at 2:00pm

Or if Justice is your passion, engage with one of our many Justice Ministries at Foothills. Climate Justice, Homelessness and Economic Justice, Immigration Justice,  UU’s for Justice in the Middle East or our Partner Church in Transylvania.

We hope that you will join us for several of our Adult Religious Exploration Programs this spring. Let’s learn and grow together as we discover and continue to create our shared living tradition!


Partner Church Trip to Transylvania in August 2016 by Bob Viscount, co-chair partner church committee

For 25 years Foothills Unitarian Church has had a partner church relationship with the small Unitarian congregation in Bethlenszentmiklos, Transylvania, Romania.  We have had various levels of contact over the years, and for the past 10 years we have provided funds for scholarships to help the youth of the congregation attend private secondary schools where Hungarian is used as a language of instruction and choices are available for the religious education classes.

For 2016 in August we want to have a group from our congregation tour Transylvania and participate in a work project in Bethlenszentmiklos.  This trip is organized by the UU Partner Church Council and will be from August 8 to 18, with an optional extension to Budapest from August 18 to 21, which will include Hungarian National Day on August 20.

The time in Transylvania will concentrate on places that are important for Unitarian history, which dates back to the 16th century —

  • Torda – where the first act of religious tolerance was signed in 1568
  • Kolozsvár – where the Transylvanian Unitarian Church has its headquarters, high school, and 1st Church which houses the “Rock” of  Francis David.
  • Marosvasarhely – home to the spectacular Art Nouveau Cultural Palace and the Teleki Library, Transylvania’s oldest public library, which houses one of the world’s great rare book collections.
  • Gyulaferhervar – where a 1000 year-old church shelters the remains of the Unitarian King – John Sigismund and his mother Isabella.
  • Sighisoara – the medieval walled city which is both a UNESCO World Heritage site and the purported birthplace of Vlad Tepes – aka “Dracula”.
  • Biertan – the magnificent Saxon fortress church (a UNESCO World Heritage site) that served as the seat of the Lutheran Bishop of Transylvania for 300 years.
  • Meszko – the “Alabaster Village” made famous by the book of the same name.
  • Deva – the ruins of the prison where Francis David died

In Bethlenszentmiklos we will help with the restoration of the old Hungarian school building, which the Unitarian congregation plans to use as a community center.  The building was “nationalized” in 1947 when the communist government came to power, and it has stood empty, unused and deteriorating until 2015.  Now the exterior walls have been stabilized and a new roof installed.  But there is a lot of interior restoration still needed, and both front and back yards need help.

The cost of the land package is $1,150 (double occupancy) plus a $150 non-refundable registration fee.  Add $125 for single supplement.  The package does not include air fare, gratuities, alcoholic beverages, or other personal expenses.  The optional Budapest extension is $570 (double occupancy), and a $130 single supplement.

For the detailed itinerary, contact Bob Viscount (970-223-5975) or rrviscount@yahoo.com.  Or see the Partner Church Committee section of the bulletin board in the social hall.

When you are ready to reserve a spot on the trip, the trip id number  is 3287059. It is up on the UUPCC website  and ready for registration. Just go to www.uupcc.org and click on Pilgrimages, then select “group pilgrimages” from the drop down menu. Scroll down to where you enter the above id number. That will take you to a page specifically devoted to the Foothills trip. Registration is set to close on April 30th.

Assistant Minister Update

The search for a new Assistant Minister is under way! Here is the timeline for the process as shared in Sunday January 3rd’s forums:

  • Congregational Input / Conversation – Sunday January 3rd
  • Job Description Finalized and Posted – Week of January 4th 
  • Selection Committee (3 People) Appointed by the Board – Week of January 25th at latest
  • Application Deadline January 31st
  • Review Applications and Schedule First Interviews (with Gretchen) – Week of February 1st 
  • Phone Interviews with Gretchen – Week of February 8th 
  • Congregational update – 2nd Sunday in February
  • Second Interviews with Committee – Week of February 15th and February 22nd
  • Narrowed down to 2 Candidates and Inform Candidates – Week of March 7th
  • Check References, Follow Up Interviews – Week of March 14th
  • Reach decisions – Week of March 28th
  • Make Offer – Week of April 7th
  • If no match is found in this round, we will re-post and seek additional applications, knowing that the Ministerial Fellowship Committee sees new candidates in early April, so some will be looking for a job in April, and generally we would follow the same time frame but just in the month of April/May instead of February/March.

Additionally, we shared the following information:

  • Board Representative: Until there is an official Selection Committee Appointed, Scott Denning, Treasurer Elect is serving as the Board Liasion for this process.  You can reach Scott at scott.denning@colostate.edu.
  • Contract Terms:  Full time position, paid at UUA Fair Compensation rates for Geo Index 3, >550 Members, 1 year contract with intent of a two year hire; moving expenses will be offered; contract – hired, not called
  • Reports to: Senior Minister.
  • General portfolio to include: Pastoral Care, Membership, Adult Faith Formation, and Small Groups with critical role in Worship and as a part of the overall team.

Those in attendance had a number of good questions and input into the process, including:

Q: Who will apply, what are their reasons for applying?   A: Some apply for Asst Minister to gain “stepping stone” experience toward a career as a Senior Minister, others see the job as an end in itself.  Some want to stay for the short term, some will hope it renews indefinitely.

Q: How will you evaluate preaching? Will there be a use of a neutral pulpit?  A: As of now that is not clear.  We will see what the applicant pool is and then make decisions about the feasibility of setting up neutral pulpits or other ways of evaluating preaching.  Either way, we will prioritize some level of in-person contact during the process.

Q: What are the budget implications for this search? A: There was no budget set for this search, so we will have to work particularly frugally.

Q: How many applicants might be in the initial pool?  A: Very hard to tell up front.  Across the country, I’d imagine there are as many as 8-10 who would be considering applying.

Q: Will Gretchen take a sabbatical before she begins as Senior Minister as you had originally planned? A: No, just several 1-2 week breaks over the winter and spring.

Q: What are the financial implications of hiring an Assistant Minister? A: We’re in good shape. We currently support a full time Senior and Associate Minister, and we anticipate being able to support a Senior and Assistant Minister while paying the new person at UUA guidelines.

Q: Will all applicants be educated as UU ministers? What is the credentialing process? Will they be ordained? A: We will accept any applicants who have received preliminary fellowship.  (This is the process wherein the UUA Ministerial Fellowship Committee certifies all qualified applicants. UU ministers are ordained by a congregation. So, it may be that our candidate is fellowshipped but not yet ordained, in which case we may be able to do the ordaining.  Exciting opportunity!)

Q: Please compare and contrast this plan with when Gretchen was hired.  A: Gretchen was hired only ¾ time vs new hire will be full-time. Gretchen was hired on a 1-year contract but during the recruiting process there was an understanding that both sides hoped for a longer-term placement. The new contract will be for one year, renewable for a second year.  We may evaluate in the second year to extend the contract beyond that.

Finally, a number of people shared about their hopes for the assistant minister, and specifically what they meant when they talk about a desire for a “complement” to Gretchen.  Here are some of those notes:


  • Complementary as in alignment, not in the sense of opposite (especially not oppositional, which is a recipe for a divided congregation!)
  • Complementary should not denote deficiencies or insufficiency in one of the ministers.  Instead we might think of it as “companionable” or “collaborative”
  • Complementary not in the mathematical sense, but more in the culinary sense!
  • We need somebody who understands and shares Gretchen’s vision and matches her energy
  • We need someone who has a passion for a portfolio that complements Gretchen’s passions, is hard-working, and able to run programs effectively
  • We need someone who shares our values but brings new perspectives
  • We need someone who can be in sync with Gretchen, Eleanor, and Ryan, but also bring something new to the team
  • Perhaps someone with a scientific background to complement Gretchen’s background in arts and business. Perhaps somebody in a second career.
  • Gretchen’s “central call” is behind the pulpit, in stewardship, and executive leadership. We need to complement her with somebody who is truly called to pastoral care.
  • Need somebody with experience in and passion for great communication
  • Somebody who can share Gretchen’s effectiveness with communications technology. We need somebody adept and enthusiastic in this area.
  • Q: How will our ongoing transitions in governance, mission, policies, budget, facilities, etc. affect the new hire? A: As we transition, we need to work with somebody who embraces discovery, the creative process, and entrepreneurial engagement!
  • We need someone who will help us claim the story of who we already are, the impact of our ministries, and build on this success.

I took so much from these conversations, and most of all appreciated the spirit and energy of the conversation – it was filled with optimism, trust, and joy! This is a good sign for this process, and the best gift we can offer any potential applicant!

If you have questions not answered here, or would like to add your thoughts to the process, please send me an email – gretchen@foothillsuu.org.  I’m always happy to talk, and sincerely appreciate your feedback, questions and partnership in this process – and look forward to its next steps.