Readiness to Call Task Force

Many of you have been asking lay leadership lately, what is Sean’s status with us and how can we make a deeper commitment with him to remain our minister?

In response, the Board of Trustees has convened a Readiness to Call task force, at the request of the Committee on Shared Ministry, to explore the congregation’s collective experience of Sean’s ministry and whether we are ready and in broad agreement to call him as an associate minister.

This work – a series of congregational and small group meetings to talk about our experiences of Sean’s ministry and to understand the profound difference between hiring an assistant minister and calling an associate minister — will begin shortly, but before we can begin, we need to clean up an ambiguity in the church bylaws that was confusing 5 years ago when we discovered that we wished to call Gretchen Haley as our associate minister.

We need to change these bylaws so that it is clear that we do not need to conduct a full, year-long, outside search when there is an inside candidate for an associate minister position.

At the congregational meeting this Sunday, Sept. 30, at 1 pm, we have asked the congregation to vote on this clarification. The proposed change is to add the text in bold to the existing article IX (which is in italics.)

Article IX, Section 3, Item #1: Methods of Selecting Ministers.

  1. Search Committee. In the event of a vacancy in the Senior Minister or an Associate Minister position, a Congregational meeting shall be called to elect a seven-person Search Committee and establish a budget. A Search Committee is not required when an Assistant Minister currently employed by Foothills is considered for calling as Associate Minister.

Please join us at Sunday’s meeting to vote on this change and to hear about and from the architectural firm the church has chosen to design our major expansion and remodel of our campus!

Thank you for being a part of Foothills,

Joan Woodbury
Chair of the Readiness To Call Task Force

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Line of Credit: Congregational Consideration

At the upcoming Congregational Meeting this Sunday (9/30 at 1 pm), we will be asking the congregation to approve a working line of credit of $75,000 for our church. This is at the advice of our Interim Administrator, Patrick Murphy. These funds will only be used as required with the normal fluctuations of pledge (and other donation) receipts versus expenses. Control of these funds will be aligned with the Board policy on spending authority.

Businesses with a balance sheet the size of our church regularly carry a line of credit often much larger than this amount. Our By-Laws require congregational approval for any new debt. Even though there is no intent to carry a regular balance on this line of credit, because there is a potential for a 5.5% interest, we decided it was best to acquire congregational approval up front.

Let the Board know if you have any questions in advance of this vote using theboard@foothillsuu.org. – Brendan Mahoney Board of Trustees, Treasurer

Thoughts on our Third UU Source

from Jane Everham

“Wisdom from the world religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.”

Mark Sappenfield, the editor of the Christian Science Monitor, reported, “Someone once told me that the Monitor’s reputation for unbiased journalism was all wrong, because the Monitor clearly did take sides: for justice, compassion, dignity, or responsibility, just to name a few” (i.e. the Monitor has a bias for progress).

Progress is the root of progressive and as a member of the progressive UU faith at Foothills Unitarian Church, I connected with Sappenfield’s words. As a progressive church, Foothills intends to move forward, evolve, grow.  How many Sundays have we heard the words compassion, “justice,” “dignity,” and “responsibility” from our own pulpit?

I’ve subscribed to The Christian Science Monitor for 21 years because it is a fair and balanced source of news. I am ill-informed of Christian Science as a faith, however, I can say that over the years this periodical has communicated compassion, fairness, and its own brand of courageous love. I’ve never felt animosity toward Christian Science, but I have ignored the religion. Now I see that faith as a partner on the road we UUs travel.

The religion of my childhood was very sketchy Congregationalist and Episcopalian, participating in religion was not a family priority. My three best, childhood friends were Catholics, so I accompanied them to a fair number of Catholic Masses, and over time I developed an animosity for religion. Generally, it all seemed like a finger pointing, holier-than-thou sham, and as a young adult in the late 60s and 70s, I rebelled against any system trying to tell me how to be. I built barriers against religion. Then in the 80s, life events steered me toward a search for a religious community, and  the Unitarian Universalist faith was a natural with its rejection of religious dogma and embrace of “an individual search for truth and meaning.” I shifted from “no religion” to “my faith’s okay, but yours is not so hot” stance which ultimately didn’t feel very UU.

 I began further exploration of Buddhism and Native American spirituality, and our son attended Har Shalom Pre-school which provided a year of learning for our family. More recently, Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being, further acquainted me with Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims – not necessarily clergy, but people of faith who have helped transform my attitude.  Today, my church’s call to unleash courageous love and my experience in Wellspring Sources, our UU, ten-month course in spiritual deepening, have resulted in my breaking down more walls I’d built between faiths. As my religious knowledge and attitudes grow and shift I experience greater curiosity and desire more learning.

For example, the Jesuits and Franciscans priests can be so down-to-earth, imaginative, and witty. I became curious about the Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius, and believe me, being curious about a saint is a major shift for me. Now, I am reading The Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything: a spiritual practice for real life by Reverend James Martin. Not everything I’m reading resonates. Like a UU hymn singer, I change some of the words in my head as I read, yet much of what I read feels familiar and comfortable. I see how my own spiritual practice can be enhanced by some of the everyday spiritual practices that St. Ignatius recommended . . . in 1534. Father Martin doesn’t say in his book, “Our worship time is over; may our service begin,” but the most basic tenets of the Jesuit faith emphasize a call to clergy and followers to serve their communities.

I’m not changing faiths – ever. It just feels good to shed hostile feelings and to broaden my circle of religious inclusion. Being always irritated or “anti” is a physical and spiritual drain. Acknowledging a shared bias with other faiths for compassion, dignity, responsibility and justice is recognizing a bigger blanket of love for this world we inhabit. As I pursue my spiritual path, it is nice to know that there is a diverse caravan traveling with me.

 

Reflections on the Second UU Source

from Jane Everham

“Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.”

While reflecting on this Source, I determined I didn’t want to quote or write about Gandhi or Martin Luther King – who are very, clearly prophetic voices that we recognize, value, and follow but who are already quoted extensively. I wanted to find some “unsung” voices from both past and present, speaking in perhaps more conventional ways.

Joan Baez – Joan Baez was  not in my top ten list of prophetic voices until today when I read the headline: Joan Baez diffuses right wing protest at Idaho concert. Reading beyond the headline, I discovered that four men protested her concert with posters saying: “Joan Baez- Soldiers Don’t Kill Babies, Liberals Do,” and “Joan Baez Gave Comfort to Our Enemy in Vietnam & Encouraged Them to Kill Americans!” When Joan learned of their presence she went out to listen to them. She told them she wanted to hear their stories. She diffused the situation – the tension melted as they lay down their signs, and a conversation ensued, though the minds of the four were not necessarily changed. Afterward, Joan addressed her audience saying, “You know, they just wanted to be heard. Everyone wants to be heard. I feel like I made four new friends tonight.” Sometimes prophetic voices are most powerful when they are silent and just listen.

John Holt was an innovator in education who wrote many books back in the 60s and 70s. He promoted both homeschooling and unschooling – a radical departure from the public education that most of us experienced. Many of his ideas were suitable to homeschooling, small schools, and experimental schools, yet couldn’t be adapted to the extensive and complex structure of public school. However, his attitude of love, honor, advocacy for, and belief in children is something I took to work with me every day during my 34 years in education. This quote from Holt hangs on my wall at home:

“What is lovely about children is that they can make such a production, such a big deal out of everything or nothing . . . I never want to be where I cannot see it. All that energy and foolishness, all that curiosity, all those questions, talk, fierce passions, unconsolable sorrows, immoderate joys, seem to many a nuisance to be endured if not a disease to be cured. To me they are a national asset, a treasure beyond price . . .”

Prophetic voices don’t need to be famous icons, but the ideas they voice need to offer a vision that prods our own thinking.

Maya Angelou came to Fort Collins in 1985 and gave a way-too-poorly attended talk at the then Holiday Inn on Prospect. But the audience made up in enthusiasm what we lacked in numbers. Every attendee sat on the edge of their chair taking in every syllable this deep-voiced women spoke. She talked to us, read from her own books, and read Langston Hughes’ poetry and excepts from James Baldwin. To sit that close to Ms. Angelou and take in her glowing, (seriously, she did glow.) loving, large, “colored” self was mesmerizing. She told a powerful story about asking a white friend, “What color is your African- American neighbor?” The person balked, “Well, she’s black.” The friend didn’t say “duh,” but it was clearly implied. Ms. Angelou just smiled and went on to correct her by reading a poem, I believe by Langston Hughes, called “The Color of Black People.” It was simply a recitation of color words like cafe au lait, apricot, persimmon, licorice, cocoa, fawn, maroon and so many others to describe the color of “black” people. It was such an uncomplicated way to articulate and honor individual difference.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg –  Go see the film about this amazing trail-blazer, icon, and extraordinary woman. Learn of her involvement in women’s rights dating back to the 70s. She is an inspiration and a role-model for all. This is one take-away from the film – “You can’t have the truth without Ruth!” Ginsburg credits her mother’s advice for much of her success as “be a lady (don’t give way to emotions that sap your strength and don’t get you anywhere,) foster a love of reading, and  be independent.” Ginsberg’s writings display her dignity, knowledge, and independence. She is notorious for her independent streak and her thoughtful, wise, pointed yet even-toned spoken commentary is sadly becoming a rarity in our public discourse. Prophetic voices can be unconventional, unpretentious, polite, and profound.

In my mind, a prophetic voice doesn’t predict the future, it envisions the future. Many of us at Foothills have a vision of the world we want to leave our grandchildren. We must remember that sometimes the prophetic voice is our own. We  can speak out. This world needs our visions and our voices.

One Village One Family Fundraiser a Success

Kudos to all who turned out for the Family Fun Night at The Odell Brewing Company in support of our One Village One Family program at Foothills Unitarian Church.

Donations were provided by The Odell Brewing Company, Matador Restaurant, Lamar’s Donuts, King Sooper and with soulful and nostalgic music provided by Bill DeMarco. Almost 200 hundred Unitarians and their families and friends enjoyed burritos, beer/soda, cookies, donuts, pies and great music on a lovely, balmy Fort Collins evening.
One Village One Family now has the seed money it needs for three more villages to each begin the mentoring of a homeless family.

Your financial support of this worthy endeavor is truly and gratefully appreciated. A special thank you goes out to Laurie Cullor who once again was the inspiration and driving force behind this successful event.

To those new to the church, One Village One Family (OVOF) is a program under the umbrella of Homeward Alliance. The mission of OVOF is to help a family experiencing homelessness secure housing and begin a life of independence and self-sufficiency. Each village of 4-6 members commits to six months of companioning a family, meeting monthly to provide guidance, information on community resources and to “lend a caring ear,” maybe the most important service we provide. Foothills joined one Village One Family three years ago and to date we have helped 8 families find and keep housing. New villages will be forming and there will be an informational meeting scheduled in September for interested people where you can learn more about this worthy project and have your questions answered. Watch the Communicator for details.

Thank you all!
The OVOF Leadership Team – Laurie Cullor, Anne Fisher, Jane Everham and Jim Smith

Thoughts On The Six Sources of Unitarian Universalism: A Blog Series

Today marks the beginning of a new series on the Foothills Blog. For the next six weeks, Jane Everham will be sharing reflections on the Six Sources of Unitarian Universalism. Check back on Tuesdays to continue following this series.

from Jane Everham

UU First Source –  Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.

I once heard someone say, “Experiencing spirituality in nature is easy.” The tone was derogatory, as if nature lovers take the easy way out. My response was, “So what? Does spirituality need to be hard?”

Nature needs us now more than ever, and if more people experience the mystery and wonder of nature then all the better for the planet. And its inhabitants.

But what else is meant by transcending mystery and wonder? Is there more to it than enjoying and being renewed by nature? And what about the 1st Source’s call to “openness to the forces which create and uphold life,”  where does that fit? According to Sara Smalley, a U.U. Seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School, our First Source is “the sacred text upon which our faith is built: not a hard-bound book, but the testament of our own lives.”  Huh? Anybody thinking, “What, me? My life is a sacred text?”

Time to ponder.

My pondering takes me back to my 34 years as a school psychologist in the public schools. A large part of my job was evaluating children to help determine why they were struggling to learn in school. I was one-on-one with kids for up to three hours during an evaluation. I was close-up – in their face. And let me tell you there is nothing as beautiful as the face of a child.

All children? Yes.

Close-up, all kids  are perfection in some way – in the shape of a facial feature, an innocent expression, or a  question that is startlingly honest. I loved watching them think, struggle with a question, problem-solving puzzles, or even try to manipulate themselves out of a task. Was my involvement with children the direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder?

I worked with programs serving the severe and profoundly disabled children attending public school. Teaching disabled children is a calling with its own set of rewards, far different from what classroom teachers experience. I watched in wonder at the love, compassion, and tireless care these teachers poured out on their students. When a teacher throws a class party because a ten-year-old finally learned to recognize his name – you know you are in a special realm – the realm of openness to the forces that create and uphold life, maybe?

I believe mystery and wonder and the forces that create and uphold life are all around us, and we just need to have our antenna out to experience them. Our busy lives tend to create too much mental clutter and static. Remember the car wash sign that  says, “Collapse your antenna to avoid damage.” Sometimes we need to “pull in” our spiritual antenna as an act of self-preservation, and sometimes life collapses it, but committing to fully extending your spiritual antenna is the way you will catch mystery and wonder.

The testament of my own life as a sacred text?  That is still hard to fathom, but when I link it to the beloved community and think of it in terms of “our lives” – the basis of our faith is the testament of our lives, my life does begin to resemble wonder and mystery.

Bring Your Water (or Don’t)

To be honest, I’ve come to many Water Communion services empty-handed.  Forgotten what Sunday it was, or too busy to think about “special water” to collect.  Especially when the kids were really little.  It’s why during my internship, back when my kids were 2 and 4 – I decided we should order a bunch of little bottles with the Water Communion date on them and pass them out throughout the summer.  Maybe if there was a visual cue, we’d all have an easier time at the remembering.

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the rare experience of remembering to collect water! now…..to remember to bring it…..

Even with the bottles (that we now offer here at Foothills), it’s often been a struggle.  To bring the vial, to remember to collect the water, to bring the water back, to remember the water on the Sunday.  Instead of a grounding ceremony celebrating our wide welcome – as Water Communion is intended – it has sometimes felt like just one more opportunity to feel unprepared and out-of-sorts.

After a few years of leading Water Communion, however – I’ve started to think differently about these services.  I’ve started to see the ceremony as a lot less about the specific water someone has or has not brought, and a lot more about the communion.

The lines filled with people of all ages, some first timers, some who have been remembering and forgetting their water for decades, all moving together towards the front, sometimes tentatively, sometimes confidently, and finding there a bowl where others have shared, and then pouring in some of their own (we always have a little extra to share if you forget).  Watching how – magically, their added water both changes what is already there, but also simply becomes a part.  Singing together, being together, feeling connected to each other, to these traditions of Unitarian Universalism, to the earth, and to life itself.

We are living in these times where it feels like so much is asked of us that we feel unprepared for, and out-of-sorts.  And yet, this feeling does not lessen the need to act.    In the practice of Water Communion, we remember that in community, when we offer ourselves, just as we are, we already have everything we need.  Everything we need to do the next right thing, to take the next leap forward, to care for ourselves, and for this planet.

Water Communion is a tangible experience of this lesson, but it’s really the practice of our church and our faith all year long.  Showing up together, sharing our gifts (just as they are, today), the willingness to be a part, the creation of something more beautiful, more powerful, together.  Creating together a safe place where we can be “unprepared and out of sorts” in ways that help us grow, and change.  As Rabbi Alan Lew says it, “The time of transformation is always upon us. The world is always cracking through the shell of its egg to be born.” In community we are like midwives for each other, and for this world – cheering each other on, providing support, becoming still more alive, together.

This Sunday we’ll be kicking off the start of Fall at Foothills with one service for our whole community.  10 am.  Poudre High School.  Bring your water, or don’t.  Mostly, just bring yourselves.

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