A Rich and Productive Summer By Erin Hottenstein, President of the Board of Trustees

Your new group of lay leaders is off to a fantastic start! We’ve been busy over the summer and are ready to jump into the school/regular church year.

The July Leadership Retreat was held at the Primrose Studio at the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area just outside Fort Collins. (L to R) April Undy, Sara Edwards, Sally Harris, Karen Johnese, Brian Woodruff, Margie Wagner, Michelle Venus, Rev. Gretchen Haley, Rev. James Kubal-Komoto, Erin Hottenstein, Anne Hall, Sue Sullivan. Not pictured: Scott Denning, Ed Beers.

The July Leadership Retreat was held at the Primrose Studio at the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area just outside Fort Collins. (L to R) April Undy, Sara Edwards, Sally Harris, Karen Johnese, Brian Woodruff, Margie Wagner, Michelle Venus, Rev. Gretchen Haley, Rev. James Kubal-Komoto, Erin Hottenstein, Anne Hall, Sue Sullivan. Not pictured: Scott Denning, Ed Beers, Jennifer Hawk Powell, Gale Whitman and Glenn Pearson.

In case you missed it, the Mission Task Force has made a final recommendation about our mission. We hope you like it! Check it out here. We’d love to hear from you at the Board of Trustees’ booth at the Start-up Festival or at Buckhorn Retreat.

In July, the Board of Trustees, Committee on Shared Ministry and Rev. Gretchen Haley had a weekend retreat. Our purpose was to create good working relationships for the year and to support the successful launch of Gretchen’s ministry. The Rev. James Kubal-Komoto, the new Regional Lead for the Pacific Western Region, flew in to facilitate and was very engaging.

We chose individual goals for personal spiritual growth for the year. We got to know each other through icebreakers that had us answering questions about how long we had been Unitarian Universalists and how long we had been in leadership at the church. One of the most enlightening exercises was like an anthropological expedition where we unearthed unspoken rules and truths, as well as recognizing the stories and traditions that live in our church community. We reflected on our history through the lens of each past minister. We discussed which group was responsible or accountable for different tasks. Finally, we brainstormed dozens of wishes we have for Foothills. My gratitude goes out to each person who made the retreat so rich and productive!

The Board of Trustees has held two regular monthly meetings since that retreat. Our work on the mission, we believe, is coming to a fruitful conclusion. We are in the thick of our task of creating a revised governance structure that is appropriate to our large-church size. This will continue to be one of our top priorities for 2016-17 and we are actively partnering with the Governance Task Force to see it through. Another priority we are continuing from last year is to improve communication with the congregation in both aspects of sending and receiving. New this year will be a priority on leadership development and a priority on vision setting. More on all these priorities later!

Lastly, about 15 lay leaders attended an all-day Stewardship Summit last Saturday. We were looking at stewardship in the wide sense of how all the teams involved in money – Finance, Endowment, Stewardship and the Board of Trustees – have a role to play in the caretaking of the church now and in the future. Our purpose was to look at our financial history as well as our current situation and gain a greater understanding of where we might go from here. Many thanks to Kay Williams, Walt Jones and the Stewardship Team for organizing the day, and to them and Erik Martinson for the outstanding reports. Thanks also to Rev. Haley for facilitating and to each lay leader for spending the day with us.  Our direction for the year is taking shape nicely due to all the effort our volunteer and staff leaders put in this summer!


Eagerly Enthusiastic, Passionately Provoked


About 50 of us from Foothills toured the new Mormon Temple last Tuesday.  Here’s Eleanor Van Deusen, Sean Neil-Barron and Gretchen Haley in the photo op they offer at the end of the tour.  

I’ve come to the realization that I’ve officially over-used the word, “excited.”

How do I  feel to finally be starting my new senior ministry? Excited.  How am I feeling about Sean’s new ministry? Excited. How am I feeling about the church – all that’s going on, and all we’ve got planned? I’m so excited.

Time to consult the minister’s BFF, thesaurus.com.  And now, I am happy to share with you that….

I am delighted with the great summer we have had.  Our worship attendance has been regularly record-breaking for summer – if you were at Water Communion, you got a taste of what I mean – many summer Sundays had more than 250 adults and children for a single service, and we have welcomed at least 80 newcomers over the course of the past 3 months.  Wow!  (To all of you who may be reading this: Welcome!)

What’s more, I’m passionate about the services we’ve been able to offer each Sunday this summer, especially with the steady partnership from Lehne Leverette who coordinated music for five Sundays while our music director, Ryan Marvel was away.  And because of our increased hours for Ryan in this year’s budget, I was thrilled to have him return from his time away four Sundays earlier than usual.

I’ve also been extremely animated about the Faith Cafe and Community Office Hours, as it’s allowed me and other staff members to meet and connect with you in smaller groups, and go deeper more quickly.  We’ll definitely be continuing these (with some tweaks) as we head into the fall.

Speaking of the fall, I’m fired up at all we’ll be offering to grow in spirit, connect in community and serve in partnership this fall.  Check out our “Next Big Thing” section for more details, but let me summarize by saying – we have been thinking carefully about what our community needs – across all our ages and stages – in light of the November election, considering the particular challenges of the various stages of life, and in service to our Unitarian Universalist good news and commitment to lifelong learning.  We have created a robust offering of small groups, classes, spiritual practices and other ways to- as our new mission statement puts it – embrace diversity, grow our faith, and awaken our spirits to the unfolding meaning of this life.

I hope it piques your interest to learn that our theme for the whole year will be “Learning to Lovingly Disagree.” This is in addition to the monthly themes we’ll continue as a part of the Soul Matters Sharing Circle.  This fall we’ll be delving into covenant, healing, story, and presence in worship, and across all of our lifespan religious education.  Sean, Ryan, Eleanor and I are weaving together a series of Sundays to address the breadth and depth of human experiences, and that will continue to strengthen our sense of belonging and connection with something greater than we are.  Don’t forget the return of the vespers services on September 22nd at 6 pm!

I am especially enthusiastic about the many ways to serve our greater community – we’ll continue our partnership with Faith Family Hospitality, start a few new villages for One Village One Family, and we’ll partner with the Food Bank on a pilot program for mobile food distribution 2 Sundays a month starting in October (did you see the article in the Coloradoan this Sunday? see if you can find our mention tucked in there).  This last one I am particularly on fire about because it is an opportunity for families to serve together – we’ll welcome kids 10 and up (willing to actively help)!

And, I am charged up at the energy I am feeling from many of you who are seeking to serve within our congregation in new ways, and hopeful that I can work with Sean and the Nominating Committee to create better and fuller pathways to help more of you more easily find your place where service becomes joy.

Through all of this programming, I can’t forget to mention the event I am most eagerly anticipating – my installation service as senior minister, on October 2nd at 4 pm.  I am beside myself thinking about the choral piece we have commissioned Ryan to compose for the occasion, the charge we might hear from Rev. Justin Schroeder for this congregation where he grew up, the story featuring choreography from Eleanor Van Deusen, and the powerful experience it will be to all be together in a single service (as we’ll be holding it at First UMC on Elizabeth and Stover).  Look for your invites to arrive this week!

I hope you’ll join me in eager enthusiasm, passionate provocation, and all around fired-up-ness.  There’s so much good going on, and most of all, it all becomes good because you are there.  You are what makes it good.  I am so grateful.

In partnership,


The Rummage Sale Report

Thank You, script lettering

The Rummage Sale has come and gone leaving another successful sale in it’s wake.  Thank you to Pam Stevens and the volunteers who worked many, many hours to make this huge event happen.  If you donated treasures or bought some, we thank you too.

The 2016 Foothills Rummage Sale raised $16,840.00.  The pledge drive is our largest income source followed by the Rummage Sale and the Auction (coming up in November).

Sincere thanks to all for your continued support of
Foothills Unitarian Church.

Welcoming Our New Minister

Version 4

Sean Neil-Barron

We finally find ourselves in mid-August, and after much anticipation, I am thrilled this weekend will mark the official beginning of Sean’s ministry with us.  He will be arriving to town this Friday, and will be in worship this Sunday.  Please come and introduce yourselves (I’ve told him we save the name test for at least a week) and help him feel welcome in our community.

We have convened a Transition Team for Sean – Anne Hall, Hannah Mahoney, Tim Pearson and Erin Price – who will be helping him get oriented and setting up times for him to meet with as many of you as possible in the next couple of months.  We should have an initial schedule of these opportunities in next week’s Extra.


Sean and the Assistant Minister Search Committee in May after he had accepted our invitation to join our team

Sean will be spending the next few weeks listening, getting to know people, and learning about our congregation – our values, our stories, our challenges and our hopes.  In the next few months he will begin to take the lead on our membership ministry, our pastoral care, and our small groups.  You’ll see him in Worship on Sundays, he’ll be leading classes, and he’ll be piloting a new program called Wellspring. And more important than any specific thing he may do, I am most grateful to know he will be a caring, wise, faithful partner to all of us as we travel life’s journey together.

Finally, I have to end this otherwise happy announcement with something less so. Because Sean is a Canadian citizen, we have had to apply for a Visa.  Unfortunately, this application process has become more complicated in the past few years, so that a site inspection to verify we are a church is required.  This site inspection has a 6 month waiting list. As a result, we are now anticipating a likely approval of December.  During this waiting period, Sean is able to continue to live in the United States, and I am grateful to report that he has generously agreed to volunteer his time with us.  Rest assured we have been working with legal counsel throughout this process to ensure we and Sean are in complete compliance with the law, and our attorney is confident he will receive his Visa after the inspection concludes.

I hope you’ll all join me this Sunday in welcoming Sean -and in these coming months ensuring that we have a great beginning to a wonderful new shared ministry.

In partnership,



Foothills Finance 2015/2016 By Eric Martinson, Finance Chair

The 2015-16 fiscal year has now ended and the finance committee is working on closing the books. Some reconciliations and adjustments remain to be completed, but preliminary reports indicate that we will likely end the year in a much better position than had been anticipated at the end of the 3rd Quarter, with a budget surplus in the range of $20,000 rather than a similarly sized deficit.

The turn-around is largely due to extraordinary pledge collections in May and June that were 28% ($26,500) greater than the same period the previous year. Year-end donations also came in substantially higher than expected ($9,000 over budget). It thus appears that total income received will be within 0.5% of our $688,000 operating budget.

However, it is apparent that expenses will be substantially under-budget even though several are not yet booked. Some planned consulting services were deferred to offset revenue withdrawals early in the year. Our senior minister search was less expensive than it might have been and was budgeted to be. Staff were extraordinarily frugal with their travel and professional expenses as concern grew over the slow rate of pledge collections through most of the year. Facility expenses (utilities, property insurance, grounds keeping) also ended the year under budget. Consequently, we expect to close the year with total expenses under-budget by approximately 4% ($25,000).

The budget surplus will be added to the Reserve and bring its total to over $50,000, about 7% of the operating budget for next year. While much healthier than it’s been for many years, it will still be about $20,000 short of our policy objective of 10%. But an additional $10,000 is budgeted to be contributed to the reserve over the course of the coming year, so we should be very close by next July.

Despite our total income nearly meeting expectation, our collection rate on the 2015-16 pledge remains below average at 94% and $17,000 short of the 97% collection rate assumed in our budget. The shortfall was compensated for by early payments on next year’s pledge that were 50% ($13,000) higher than the previous year. By tradition, we will continue to count late payments received through the end of August against the 2015-16 pledge, which should boost our collection rate by another 1% or 2%. Please settle up now if you have any remaining balance due, as It will be important for our collection rate to approach our budgetary assumption of 97% in order to justify it as reasonable and avoid any unnecessary austerity in the budget we craft next Spring.

On a Mission: Finding Focus for 2016-17


Rev. Gretchen Haley and Sean Neil-Barron at General Assembly in Columbus OH in late June, just before they walked in the Service of the Living Tradition to honor receiving (respectively) Ministerial Final Fellowship and Preliminary Fellowship with the UUA.

Last week I wrote on my blog about my search for a personal mission statement for the coming year, something that would ground and focus my ministry with you for the coming year.  There are so many worthy things that might pull on our time and attention – but what are the right things for this year, this time – for who we are now, and what we are called to become in our emerging future?

Inspired by the book, Simple Church, I have discerned a three-point mission statement for myself as I move fully into my senior ministry with you.  Here it is: Lead and call us towards our bigger mission and vision; support, develop, lead and work in partnership with our staff team; and recruit, support, develop, lead, and work in partnership with our lay leaders.  Here are a few notes on what I am thinking about with each of these areas of focus.

  1.  Lead and call us towards our bigger mission and vision. Over the past few years in conversation, worship, learning, and service, we have been discerning both implicitly and explicitly a new mission and vision for our shared ministry.  The explicit part of this work is most obvious in the work of our Mission Task Force, which has articulated a new mission statement – the first update in nearly 20 years! – for our congregation.   And yet, even more than this specific “mission statement” work,  this element of my ministry focus is about calling us towards our individual and collective sense of vocation, our larger purpose in the world as a Unitarian Universalist congregation in this time, and this place – to ask questions, invite conversation, and prioritize opportunities where we can, as an organization – keep discerning and remain connected to this greater purpose.  This focus shows up in the way I lead worship and oversee our worship calendar, as well as in how I partner with other leaders in establishing our ministry and programming calendar.  This area of focus is the foundation for the partnerships I am building with interfaith and non-profit leaders in our community, and it is the driving force for my work and witness for justice in our Northern Colorado community, as well as for my continued collaboration with other Unitarian Universalist congregations in our area, across Colorado, and beyond.
  2. Support, develop, lead and work in partnership with our staff team.  As a large congregation with a growing professional staff, it is increasingly true that successful ministries are led and supported through paid staff. Despite what you might anticipate, this increased role of staff does not take away lay partnership, but rather studies show that the more consistent the presence of a paid staff person, the more consistently you can recruit and retain volunteer partners.  We are incredibly lucky to have an amazing staff team at Foothills.  An incredible staff team deserves professional development, consistent supervision, clear lines of accountability, a supportive work environment, robust communication, and intentional leadership both for the staff members individually and for the staff team as a whole.  Especially as we bring on our new assistant minister, Sean Neil-Barron this month (just one more week!), this element of my ministry is one of the most critical ways that I can reach out to all 1200 adults, children and youth who consider themselves a part of our community.  This ministry priority led our staff team to develop a staff covenant in the past few months, and is the reason I am committed to re-convening a Personnel Committee to advise me and the Board as we establish new Personnel policies, Human Resources practices, and compensation standards.
  3. Recruit, support, develop, lead, and work in partnership with our lay leaders. As we’ve been blessed with incredible staff, we’ve also been amazingly blessed with so many dedicated, passionate, and healthy lay leaders.  It always amazes me how much depth of commitment, capacity and dedication there exists within our congregation.  And yet, I am aware that we are always at risk of turning to the same 30 or 40 people – even in a congregation our size – to do the work of the church.  Rather than leveraging our full power as a large community, this potential practice keeps us limited both in terms of who feels a sense of ownership in our mission and vision, and in terms of our impact in people’s lives and in our larger community.  We need to keep drawing the circle wider.  We need to ask who isn’t yet leading and serving in partnership, and then help them find their place.  But this recruitment is just the beginning, from there we need to support and develop our leaders, ensuring they have the training, skills and ongoing partnership so that they can feel like what they are doing matters and is making a difference – that it is playing a part in that big picture noted in item #1 above. This area of ministry will show up this year in my partnership with the Nominating Committee as we seek a new model that will better and more systematically identify, recruit and train leaders in our congregation.  Our hope is that we can create a path of service and leadership that is intentional, integrated with our faith formation, and forward-thinking.  And most of all this ministry focus will show up in my support of and partnership with the many lay leaders already doing the work of our church: Board members (and their task forces – Governance, Mission, and others), stewardship leaders, committee on shared ministry leaders, finance leaders, personnel committee members, nominating committee members, worship leaders, justice leaders, and through partnership with Sean’s ministry, parish visitors, caring team members, small group leaders, and membership ministry leaders.

Coming to this focus for my ministry for the coming year has been liberating and immensely clarifying.  It is not set in stone as I may discover throughout the year that something needs to be changed somewhat – but I have been sitting with it long enough now that I think it’s pretty close to just right.  It also doesn’t mean that I will only do these things – but rather that these things will take priority, and that in all of my ministry, I will be asking how and if it serves one or more of these three areas of focus.

Maybe you notice what isn’t listed here – things like faith formation, pastoral care, or small groups – that have been a big part of my ministry with you up until this point.  Not to worry, I remain as committed to these things as ever, and until Sean is fully up to speed over these next few months, they will remain in my sight and work.  And yet, my job over these next few months is to begin to hand over these things to Sean – to introduce him to the many of you who help make these ministries so meaningful and important, and then to support you all as you take up a new partnership in this work together.

As I take up this ministry, I wonder if you have your own version of a mission for the coming church year? What would you say is your ministry mission – those things that are just yours to do in your lives, in the world, and in our congregation as a result of your specific gifts, calling, and convictions of faith?  Play with some ideas- three is a good number – sit with them for a while, see how they feel.  Write them down for yourself, and when you’re ready, tell someone else in our congregation what you’re thinking.  Exchange ideas, and commitments. Help each other live up to your mission.  Let’s keep growing, and learning, together.

With love, and in partnership,