From Covenant to Healing: How We Care, and Belong

I remember hearing a story about a young couple that showed up at a church for the first time. They had recently moved to the area and were church shopping. Walking into the church they quickly noticed that nobody, and I mean nobody, was even close to their age. If you took their parents’ age and added it to their age, you would get in the ballpark of the average age of the congregation. But…five years later they were still there. Why?

After they visited the congregation for the first time, one of them was diagnosed with cancer.  Even though they had only been to the congregation that one time, a church member followed up with them.

The afternoon after the first chemo treatment, the couple responded to a knock at the door and they were met with the sight of a casserole sitting on their front door, steaming, and the back of a church member hurrying away. And the casseroles kept coming. For months. Why did they stay? Because the congregation cared about them deeply, and they knew they belonged.

I have only been getting to know Foothills for a short time, but in that time I have witnessed a spirit of love rippling outward. People at Foothills actually want to hear the truth when we ask them “How are you doing?” What a healing balm that is, and how critical it is to that hope we all have to feel like we belong.  

Within our congregation, we have dedicated teams that actively partner in our shared ministry of care and belonging:

  • Our Parish Visitors care and visit with dozens of people within our community each month who need a listening ear.
  • Our Meals Team jumps into action to provide meals during times of stress and need.
  • Our Cards Crew helps us reach out and share our concern 
  • Our Caring Team connects people to rides to church and supports hospitality during memorial services
  • Our small groups – each led by a trained and supported facilitator –  offer a sense of intimacy, connection, and shared spiritual growth

Our professional ministry team, Rev. Haley and myself, extend this care by offering pastoral care and counseling, end of life support, rites of passage, and alleviate financial burdens for members through the Ministerial Discretionary Fund.

If you would like to join one or more of these teams – if you think you may have, as we spoke about this Sunday, a calling to this important ministry, please contact Sean ( 

In a church our size, it can sometimes be hard to figure out how to access this care, and you can often wonder if they are meant for you. They are. Dropping by or calling the church office, sending an email to or connecting directly with Sean ( are the easiest ways to start the conversation. If you think you know a member who might need some support, please let us know in these ways, as well.

This month, our theme moves from covenant to healing.  It is our ministry of care where these two themes come together.  May our walk together be one where we deeply care for each other, healing ourselves, and our world.


You’re Invited – Upcoming Events You Won’t Want to Miss By Erin Hottenstein

#1 Congregational Forum – Sunday, September 25, 12:15-1:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary

A congregational forum is a time to come find out about the work of the church. The Board of Trustees initiated the forums last year as a way to help keep members and friends updated on various projects and potential changes. It is a peek into the behind-the-scenes work that lay volunteers are doing to make Foothills Unitarian Church an even better place.

At this upcoming meeting, we will hear reports on these topics:

  • Board of Trustees, including our priorities for the year
  • Mission Task Force – a Congregational vote has been scheduled for Sunday, 10/16 at 10:15 a.m. (see more below)
  • Governance Task Force, including a plan for discussing possible changes
  • Finance, including a helpful chart on our cash flow
  • Stewardship, including a multi-year summary on pledging
  • Committee on Shared Ministry – what it is and what it is doing
  • Assistant Minister Transition Team

Anyone who is interested in learning about these topics is welcome to join us in the Sanctuary after the second service. Light snacks, such as cheese sticks and granola bars will be available in the Social Hall. Childcare will be provided in the Religious Exploration building, please rsvp to   We look forward to seeing you there.

#2 Installation of Rev. Gretchen Haley as Senior Minister – Sunday, October 2, 4 p.m., First United Methodist Church, 1005 Stover St., Fort Collins

We’re so excited about this event – take a look here for details.

#3 Congregational Meeting – Sunday, October 16, 10:15 a.m., in the Sanctuary

As mentioned above, we are holding a formal Congregational Meeting to vote on a new mission for the church. The only item on the agenda will be the mission.

The Mission Task Force, under the guidance of the Board of Trustees, has worked for almost a year gathering input from a broad cross-section of congregants, writing, rewriting, gathering more input and revising. The Task Force enthusiastically made this final recommendation for a mission:

Foothills Unitarian Church unleashes courageous love in Northern Colorado and beyond by embracing our diversity, growing our faith, and awakening our spirits to the unfolding meaning of this life.

Anyone who has become a member by signing the membership book by September 18, 2016 is eligible to vote. We encourage all members to attend this special meeting.

Rectifying the Names

Version 4When I first introduced myself to Foothills back in August, I asked for some grace as I attempted to learn the names of the over 800 people involved in the life of the congregation; and grace has been afforded for which I am eternally grateful. Names are important. There is a reason we all have one, and that ancient christians explicitly included the naming of a child as part of the baptismal rite.

In Confucianism there is a story in which Confucius, approached by the leaders of a particular province asked him “If you were to be the governor of the land, what would your first order of business be?”  Confucius answer shocked them all.

“I would rectify the names.”

We cannot, Confucius argued, be successful with anything, if our language is not in concordance with the truth of things. If we call someone a teacher, and yet they do not teach, or if we call a friend a friend but they are not, our language gets away from us. It leads us astray from the truth and our actions fall away.

What I love about Confucius’ answer is that he call us not just to learn the true names but to live up to the names we have been given. In the past month I have been learning what it will mean to be your minister. In a song circle around the campfire at Buckhorn, during staff and worship meetings, and in the countless conversations where I have learned more than just your name but a small slice about your life. There is no way for me to live, grow and deepen as a minister to and with this congregation without this ongoing, and deepening, dialogue. Everyday I am falling more in love with what I find here at Foothills: a music loving, fiercely loyal, motivated, compassionate and eager church. A church, who in Confucius’ vernacular, is striving to live up the meaning of that name: to unleash courageous love.

And this process never ends. We are constantly learning and living into our names (sometimes they even change!), and so I want to extend a special invitation to attend one of the small group gatherings that the transitions team has planned, so we can further getting to know each other.  Information can be found below for the different gatherings.

Region:            Southeast Fort Collins

Host:               Sue Ferguson

Date:               Friday, September 23           Time: 1-3 PM

Address:          1313 Tuckaway Ct, 80525

Region:           Southwest Fort Collins

Host:               Karen Johnese

Date:               Wednesday, September 28  Time: 7-9 PM

Address:          2900 Skimmerhorn St, 80526

Region:            City Park Neighborhood, Fort Collins

Hosts:              Ed and Linda Beers

Date:               Friday, October 7      Time: 7-9 PM

Address:          408 S. Jackson, 80521

Please send an RSVP email to ( and specify which location and how many in your party.

A Faith Home for Families

A Faith Home for Families

ff-for-blog-sept-2016It’s a challenging world for families these days. There are countless things competing for our  time and attention… work, school, after school activities and all that technology!  We are bombarded with news of suffering and division in the wider world and we want to support and guide our children through all of these many challenges. We long for moments of peace and deeper connection amidst all of the craziness. I believe that church can be a respite and a source of sustenance during these challenging times. I have been listening, conferring with colleagues and researching and have prepared a rich variety of offerings for children and families at Foothills this fall.

Our Religious Exploration Programs for children & youth will begin on Sunday, September 11th. We will offer Religious Exploration Classes for Preschool through 6th Grade from 9:00 – 10:00 am and for Preschool through High School from 11:00 am – noon. We offer Nursery care for infants and toddlers during both church services and nursery care and playground supervison during our Social Hours from 10:00 – 11:00 am and 12:00 – 12:30 pm. You can register your children and youth for our Religious Exploration Programs HERE

New this fall – we will offer a Monthly Theme “Playshop” on the first Sunday of each month beginning in October from 9:00 – 10:00 am. Each “Playshop” will explore our monthly theme with fun and interactive activities for families to enjoy together. Our first Playshop on October 2nd on the theme of “Healing” will be co-led by me and Christopher Watkins Lamb, our RE Music & Young Adult Coordinator. Our hope is to provide an hour of “deep fun” and engagement with our monthly theme for children, youth, parents, grandparents and anyone else who wants to join us. Come check it out!

Parent Meetups (formerly Parent Coffee Chats) will resume on Sunday September 25th at 10:10 am in RE Room 13. Our Parent Meetups will happen on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month in between our two church services. They are an opportunity for parents to gather for a brief presentation and conversation about topics that are important to us as Unitarian Universalist parents. On September 25th our topic will be “UU Parenting 101” and will include ideas for supporting our kids in deepening and living out our UU faith. New to Unitarian Universalism? Not to worry! These Parent Meetups are great way to learn more about our liberal faith tradition.

Taking it home – Online Resources for Families. We know that families are busy, and we also know that amidst all of our busyness we still long to bring deeper meaning into our families lives. So we have prepared a variety of resources for you that you can access online at our FOOTHILLS FAMILIES AND FAITH webpage.

Mark your calendar for Foothills Fall Family Events. In addition to Sunday mornings we have several fun family events for your family to enjoy. Bring your extended family, friends and neighbors, all are welcome!

Friday October 7th – Family Pizza & Board Game Night 5:30 pm

Sunday October 30th – Pumpkin Carving Night – 5:30 pm dress up and bring your pre-scooped pumpkin to carve!

Sunday, December 11th – Holiday Craft Workshop for Kids 2:00 pm

Friday December 16th – Chile Supper and Caroling Night 5:30 pm

I am looking forward to the fall and all of the energy and excitement of the season. I hope that you will join us and that your family will find a faith home here at Foothills Unitarian Church.

In faith & service,

Eleanor VanDeusen

Director of Faith Formation