Why does Foothills Unitarian Church exist?

The Board of Trustees’ Mission Task Force has been working toward an answer to this question for more than four months.  You are invited to three dialogue sessions on our work at 10:15-10:45 a.m. May 8, 15 and 22.  The May 8 and May 15 sessions will be in the RE building rooms 22 & 23.  The May 22 session will be in the sanctuary.

Our work began with review of our mission adopted in May 1997 which, at 57 words, was too long for any of us to remember.  We picked up the thread of work paused by the 2013 Board with the announcement of the Rev. Marc Salkin’s retirement.  Those earlier efforts informed the working statement the Board approved in September 2014. During the interim, the Board recognized we needed to recast the statement as an important step forward in the life of our church.  In doing so, the Mission Task Force followed these guidelines:

1.As a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the seven UU Principles we affirm and promote remain foundational to what we do.
2.Our church will continue to use the “great covenant” in services.
3.Our statement needs to be memorable, meaningful and moving (simple, not simplistic).
4.It needs to contain strong verbs/action words.
5.It must be readily understandable outside the UU faith and free of jargon.
6.It must reflect themes we hear from the congregation.
7.It must be a useful leadership tool that can serve as both compass and yardstick.

After reviewing our congregational survey and considering results of the appreciative inquiry process, we listened intently to input at four congregational dialogue sessions attended by more than 70 congregants.  We held many working sessions, exchanged even more emails and drafted  dozens of iterations.  After narrowing down our choice, we sought input from non-members and new visitors.  We received Board support this month for the draft we are pleased to put forward for your consideration:

Foothills Unitarian Church awakens our spirits, heals our divisions and grows our faith, empowering us as partners in the unfolding meaning of life and equipping us to create more love and justice in our lives and in the world.

As you reflect on this statement, you may find a word or phrase you did not expect to see.  Likewise, a word or phrase you expected to see may be missing.  Like our faith, we strove for a statement packed with meaning and inviting to interpretations.  In doing so, we hope you find in this draft one or more elements that speaks to you.  We want to hear about that.  If there are one or more elements you are wrestling with, we want to hear about that as well.  We invite you to share your reflections in person at one or more of the dialogue sessions or online .  You also may contact the Mission Task Force at mission@foothillsuu.org.

As you might expect, the Task Force found this work challenging to say the least.  One member likened it to packing a suitcase.  You might want to put in everything you can think of, but then it will be too heavy to carry.

Our statement will never be carved in stone.  But it does need to carry us forward five to eight years, which means this work should begin again in three to five years.  Imagine where we might be then!  The Task Force believes we packed carefully for our journey.  We hope you do too and look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Harder, Erin Hottenstein, Michelle Venus, Larry Watson, and Rich Young

Financial Update From Erik Martinson, Finance Chair

As we enter the fourth quarter of the church’s fiscal year, the finance committee is busy juggling challenges to ending the current year in balance, achieving a balanced budget for next year, and maintaining our aging facilities.

We currently project a deficit for this year of $17,500 plus or minus $15,000, which amounts to somewhere between 0.5% and 4.75% of our $688,000 budget and does include the alarming possibility of devouring the entirety of our reserve fund. While we have been keeping most of our expenses under budget all year to accommodate some early changes to anticipated income sources, since January we’ve also become increasingly uncertain of our pledge income as payments have fallen behind last year’s pattern. Pledges are our largest source of revenue and fund 84% of the budget, so small deviations in the timing of payments can create substantial anxiety over whether they will all arrive. We typically budget for and achieve a 97% collection rate on received pledges, but last year that fell to 95% and this year we seem to be on pace for 93%. However, we have begun to identify and confirm some large pledges that are late relative to prior year payments, which has relieved some of our anxiety. It would be ideal for our cash flow if everyone paid their pledges by automatic monthly installment, but we realize there may be market and tax planning reasons for doing otherwise. However, if you have not yet paid your 2015-16 pledge and it is later than usual, a note of confirmation that it will be coming before July 1 would be much appreciated.

While collecting payments on the current year pledge is vital to fulfilling our church’s commitments and ministries, equally crucial is the collection of pledge promises for next year ahead of the budget hearing on May 1 and the Congregational vote on June 5. While many did increase their pledge generously during the pledge drive to produce an overall increase to our budgeted pledge of 5% ($26,000), we are really in need of at least 9% ($50,000). Since our church’s necessary expenditures are subject to annual inflationary pressures from multiple sources, everyone’s pledge actually needs to increase every year just to maintain our current level of operations. We are now in the third round of trimming back on our aspirations for next year, which include the following priorities (in alphabetical order):

– Music Program:  Bring the Director to full-time
– Personnel:  Follow compensation guidelines provided by the Unitarian Universalist Association for all positions.
– Reserve Fund:  Maintain and improve its health so that it eventually amounts to 10% of the budget.

If you have not yet turned in your pledge for next year, please do so as soon as possible. If you did not increase your pledge, please reconsider. If you did increase your pledge, please ponder the possibility of making your increase effective immediately rather than waiting until July. Your generous support of our church and its mission is greatly appreciated.

Finally, our facilities require ongoing investment so that they remain an asset rather than turn into a liability. Repairs and improvements to our facilities have long-term consequence but are often cost-prohibitive to accommodate in a single year’s budget. Recognizing this, in 2013 the Congregation approved $50,000 of long-term Notes to be sold to members for use on capital improvements, of which $34,0000 was used in 2014 primarily for parking lot repairs and flooring in the RE building. A number of additional needs have since become apparent, including large cracks in the walkways, additional flooring issues in the RE building, and outdated office infrastructure. The finance committee has thus requested and the board has approved sale of the $16,000 remainder in the capital improvement Note authority to address these needs. The terms of the Notes will conform to the previous issuance, specifically:

Principal value of each new Note: $2,000
Effective date: July 1, 2016
Interest rate: 3% with principle amortized over 20 years
Payment schedule: semi-annual (October and April)
Payoff/refinance: April 1, 2019 (to conform to the cycle of our other debt obligations)

Anyone who would like to purchase one of these new Notes may send an email expressing their interest to carolyn@foothillsuu.org by April 30. Preference will be given to pledging church members who do not currently hold any other long-term Notes from the church. Funds will be due to the church by June 1 to facilitate planning and administration and to accommodate any reconsiderations.

Assistant Minister Search Update

Written by Tim Pearson, on behalf of the Assistant Minister Search Committee

The assistant minister search team hoped we would be able to reveal our choice to the congregation this week. Unfortunately, that is not possible. After carefully vetting several candidates we identified two we thought would be a good fit for our congregation. One of the two candidates accepted a position in another church before her scheduled community visit. The other candidate visited during Easter week.

We felt we had a strong candidate after showing him around Fort Collins and conducting an in-person interview. As his visit drew to a close the committee unanimously agreed to offer him the position. Understandably, he asked for time to think it over. He did think it over, for a week. Ultimately he decided not to accept because he needed more time to sort through some very important personal matters. He liked Fort Collins and he liked our church community, however, after much introspection, he decided he was not yet ready to make the transition to a new community.

We are disappointed and we are ready to move forward in our search process. A second round in the search process begins on April 22. Those churches and candidates who did not find a match during the first round will have another opportunity. The second round will include some new candidates who did not participate in the first round. Our church and our broader community have much to offer. In this regard we have a strong advantage as we seek a good match. It is our hope we will be able to announce a new assistant minister by early June.

In Peace,

Scott Denning, Sara Edwards, Rev. Gretchen Haley, Bonnie Inscho, and Tim Pearson

Board Updates – Leadership Workshop & Pledge Drive

Spring is here and with that a lot of good work is being done at Foothills.

We hope you’ll join us this Sunday at 12:30 for our Congregational Forum where we will be providing an update on the Governance Task Force, the Mission Task Force, and some financial updates.  Bring your questions and your feedback, and as always, we thank you for your partnership and for our walking together in this important work.

This past Saturday, Foothills hosted a gathering of of senior lay leaders from UU congregations all across the area – we had representatives from congregations from Littleton to Casper, with over 40 total participants! It was led by the Rev. Nancy Bowen, Regional Lead for the Pacific Western Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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This gathering focused on the leadership of the Board of Trustees, the Nominating/Leadership Development Committee, and the Committee on Ministry.  We spoke about what partnership and alignment looks like among a these leadership teams, and how being aligned doesn’t mean doing the same work, but that we are working towards the same thing, same mission.

12924412_1067181093338607_5450508639949069289_nSome of my favorite take a-ways from the day were:

  • How a congregation can grow quickly while successfully protecting human connection.
  • How to find and prepare new leadership
  • The tensions that arise in governance/organizational structure shifts – specifically the ways that as these transitions occur, the organization becomes temporarily centralized in order to establish the new systems, and then as these systems take hold, the organization “exhales” into a less centralized structure.  We spoke a lot about these sorts of polarities, and the need to keep a healthy balance.
  • How we need to strive to be like-hearted instead of like-minded – can we be curious rather than judgmental in our differences?
  • The key leadership practices that demonstrate a covenantal partnership
  • We watched the video from Simon Sinek in his TED talk about the Why, How and What….and how this idea translates inside our congregations – how we too need to start with why.  (This was a perfect set up for the meeting right after this workshop when we continued our good work on our mission statement!)

It was a rich five hours where we all contributed to one another deepening our understanding of leadership in our faith. Your Board, Nominating Committee, and soon to be a new Committee of shared ministries are excited to put these ideas into practice as we complete this church year, and prepare for our future years.

Speaking of our future years – thank you to all of you who have participated in our stewardship campaign over this past month, and an extra thanks to the many of you who have increased your pledges. Your generosity is inspiring and much needed for us to fulfill the very good work of this church. Thank you very much.

As members, we are responsible for our church. Our operating budget is funded almost completely from pledges. This coming year we are paying for 12% increase to our staff’s healthcare, 2 full time ministers, hoping to move Ryan to full time, paying our staff fair compensation per the UUA, as well as pay a living wage.

I ask of my fellow members who have yet to pledge this year to please do so as soon as you can. Your pledges allow us to finalize our budget for the coming year, which we will then present to you all at our annual congregational meeting on June 5th.  When we each participate in the most generous and responsible way we can, we are able to continue the good work we are here to do, and fulfill our mission of making a transformative impact on the world around us.