Going Slow to Go Fast, Going Together to Go Far

Those of us who hang around churches a lot talk about the idea of “church-time,” by which we usually mean SLOW time.  It’s often talked about with a chuckle, and sometimes a sigh of frustration, especially for leaders inclined towards moving the church forward in a way that makes “perfect sense,” at least to them.

This was the story about Foothills’ when it came to governance change – at least whenever I’d heard it up until this past week.  We’d been trying for over 15 years to make an effective change in governance structure that would bring our underlying system into alignment with our church size and today’s best practices.  This sense that it had been going on for a long, long time inspired the Board in the first year of the interim after Rev. Marc Salkin retired (2014-15) to move quickly on a new direction.  What that Board – and all of us – quickly realized, however, is that even though it felt slow to some, not everyone was caught up, and after the retirement of a long-tenured minister, it felt like too much change, too fast.

The Board learned from that experience, re-grouped, and began a slower and more cooperative and consulting process beginning in the church year 2015-16.  As a result of many, many conversations with all sorts of people in all sorts of ways, this past Sunday we saw the flip side of “church-time,” what I call the “all-of-a-sudden-it’s-done” phenomenon: The congregation enthusiastically endorsed the Governance Task Force’s work and authorized the Board to move forward with its trial year.

It was a huge and wonderful accomplishment for this congregation, and it was a beautiful thing to witness – because it was both about a single moment, and about all the faithful, sometimes-frustrating, usually-thoughtful moments that the meeting constituted.  Thousands of hours and years of committees and teams all came together into one meeting where the the foundation had been properly set, the congregation was ready, and the time was right.

Even though people talk about church-time as slow time, that’s not at all how I see it. I see church as the embodiment of the principle that’s true in every case where you’re trying to do something big, and important and long-lasting – which is that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, you must go together.  And going together takes patient, careful time…conversations and care, humility and a great sense of humor. But then suddenly, in one hot June afternoon, you look around and realize, all-of-a-sudden, it’s done.  And then you just feel proud, and grateful, to be there at a time such as this.

We won the Bennett Award – the annual UUA Congregational Award for Justice!

If you were at the annual meeting, you already heard this great news that this year, our congregation was selected as the 2017 recipient for the UUA Bennett Award for Congregational Action on Human Justice and Social Action.  This award recognizes congregations that has done exemplary social justice ministry.

In the letter from the Bennett Award Panel, they wrote:

“From your congregational vision to ‘Unleash Courageous Love’ to your approach of accompaniment of the most vulnerable in your community, positioning ‘real life, on-the-ground presence’ and service as part of systemic social change, your justice ministry truly deserves this recognition.  It’s inspiring to learn about how your work for justice is driving by your mission and faith, and sustained by spiritual practices from breaking bread and vigiling to storytelling and companioning.”

Read the whole letter here.

This award recognizes the work of all of the many people who make our Faith Family Hospitality, One Village One Family, Food Bank, Immigration Coalition, and Climate Justice ministries happen – and have such a huge and consistent impact on our community.  Thank you to all those who have stepped up in big and small ways, over and over – I hope you take this award as a recognition of just how much these efforts mean.

A special thank you to Kay Williams, Anne Fisher and Sue Ferguson who compiled the application and the ministry leads who each helped tell the story of their areas of our total ministry for justice.

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The Rummage Sale is On! …and needs YOU!

I’m so happy to share that we have found both dates that will work and a Lead Team of three church members who have agreed to lead our Rummage Sale this year.  Which means….the Rummage Sale is on!

The dates for the sale will be August 4th through 6th.  (There may be an opportunity for an August 3rd pre-sale, but that’s something the Leads will be assessing.) 

The Leads Team is: Pam Stevens, Sara Steen and Julie Estlick.  (Thank you!!) 

What we need: They will next be looking to ensure they have Room Managers for all of the rooms, as well as a few other key roles.  If you are willing to be a Room Manager, or are just wanting to learn more about how to help us have a great rummage sale this year, please contact Pam Stevens directly at pamelahope@aol.com.  We will be posting job descriptions and time requirements for these roles in the next few weeks so look for that as well.

We are so grateful to our Rummage Sale Visioning Task Force of Pam Stevens, Sara Steen, Angie Noden, Diane Banta and Eve Enright to helping us find a new vision for how to have success in our Rummage Sale.  From their conversations and plans, we’ve come up with some changes we’ll be trying out this year – from trying out a “Share the Plate” model to scaling back the size of the sale, to having a more intentional leadership structure.   You can find out more in this blog post (from the April 5th Extra).

In the meantime, start saving up your GREAT stuff you no longer need! Though we won’t be taking clothing or electronics this year, we would love to receive those wonderful finds that will make someone really happy! Look for more information on this blog, in the Extra, and in church on all the ways you can help make this year’s sale a great success.

An Update On All The Things

An Update On All The Things

When Sean sent me the note about writing this week’s Extra lead article, he said that my topic should be “an update on all the things.” To help me narrow it down, he gave me a parenthetical list of examples of what that “all” might include: 1) the final decision on our worship times; and 2) the renewal of his contract. They may not be all the things – but they are pretty big things.
1.  Worship Times
The 3rd service experiment was a great success.  Our attendance over the last few months was exponentially greater than it has been in over 30 years, and is not slowing down.  In the past few weeks, we have taken our analysis of the data, in combination with the feedback we’ve received in small groups, in our survey, and through individual emails and conversations (thank you!), and come to a decision about our worship times for the coming year.
From May 28th (Memorial Day weekend) through September 3rd (Labor Day weekend), we will run two services: 8:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
This is a change from what was previously announced – because we became clear that the best times for worship starting September 10th and running through May 20, 2018 need to be: 
8:30 am, 10:00 am and 11:30 am
This new pattern has its upsides and downsides – as does every possible option.  The primary upside is we believe that it will assure the maximum “spread” of attendance, especially with some adjustments to when classes are offered for children.  The primary downside is the lack of social “hour,” and reduced capacity for between-services programming. We are already brainstorming ways to address the underlying needs for these and other things that will need to adjust. More info on both of these coming soon.
I am excited about this new worship schedule, and our commitment to ensuring that there is plenty of space for all who come seeking our community and who share our mission.  Although our “experiment” is technically concluded – let’s remember that everything we do is an “experiment,” so we can learn how this feels all next year, and if it isn’t working, we can adjust, and try something new once again.
2.  Sean’s Contract
As most of you know (and many have expressed some worry about), Sean is on a one year contract with us, which expires in July.  Over the past few months I have spoken with the Board, the staff team, and the Committee on Shared Ministry, and we all whole-heartedly agree that our hope is that Sean continues in his ministry with us for a long, long time.  Luckily, I also spoke with Sean, and he shares this hope.
From this conversation and reflection, we have offered and Sean has agreed to a renewed contract for the maximum possible length of his visa renewal – 49 months – which extends his contract through August 2021!  I hope you’ll join me in a happy dance / sigh of relief / prayer of THANKS and WOW!
I’m so happy for all of us – first that we found this great match with Sean, and second that we all get to continue to do ministry in partnership with him for at least the next 4 years.  Look for more information on what’s next for our shared ministry with Sean in an upcoming blog post and/or Extra.
An Update on All the Things
If you’re still hoping for the latest news on ALL the things…while I can’t quite offer that, I can at least tell you what I think is perpetually the good news about all the things:
Whatever it is, whatever is going on in your life, or in this world, however, you’re feeling about it – it’s not the end of the story. There’s more truth to be revealed, more truth to unfold, more change to come.  We get to be a part of this unfolding, and a part of the telling, a part of the creating – even as it remains mostly all a mystery to all of us.  So we keep showing up, keep doing what we can, and continuing to offer ourselves, in love, in hope, in faith.
See you in church – for a few more weeks at 8/9:30/11:30, but then starting on May 28th, at 8:30 & 10.
In partnership,
Gretchen

Financial Update from Scott Denning, Treasurer

 

Spring is in the air (and snow is on the lilacs!), so it’s time for an update on the financial state of the church from your intrepid treasurer.  Below, I will review the current year’s finances, as well as the outcome of our annual Stewardship campaign and highlights of next year’s proposed budget.

IMPORTANT: we will hold a Budget Hearing on Sunday May 7 from 10:40 to 11:30 AM (between second and third services). Please come to this meeting, where we will present the details of the proposed budget. This is your best opportunity to get your questions answered before we vote on the proposed budget at the annual Congregational Meeting on June 4.

Current Year’s Finances:

We are 10 months into our current church year, and we’re doing very well. Pledge collections continue at a near-record pace. We’ve now collected 80% of our annual budgeted pledge (vs 70% this time last year). Spending is exactly what we’ve budgeted: 76% of this year’s budget, compared to 73% this time last year.  We project that we will end the church year on June 30 with a balance within 0.5% of our annual budget.

One of our budget priorities this year was to augment the church’s reserve account. Think of this as our “savings” account from which we draw when expenses exceed income in a particular month, and which we pay into when expenses are less. Our written policies specify that the reserve account should be 10% of our annual budget. The reserve account was pretty much wiped out in the Great Recession, and we’ve been slowly building it back up. The reserve account will be about $50k at the end of this church year on June 30.  Our target is $76k (based on next year’s proposed budget), so we’re getting there but have a ways to go.

Until we can grow our reserve account back to the 10% level, one of the most important ways you can help the church meet its monthly bills is to pay your pledge regularly. If you haven’t already done so, please consider setting up automatic monthly payments rather than paying in unpredictable lump sums. See Carolyn at the church office for details.

Stewardship Campaign:

Thanks to all of you, and especially to our wonderful Stewardship Team who made this year’s campaign very successful. We have pledges of over $660k for the church year that begins on July 1. This is up more than 7% over last year — a very healthy increase! For the first time ever, more than 400 households pledged this year, including 336 member households as well as 78 nonmember households. This represents a total of about 750 people! You can read more details here.

Next Year’s Proposed Budget:

Considering your generous pledge plus additional revenue from plate collections, contributions, fundraisers, and various other sources, we project total income of about $760k for July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. Therefore we will propose a budget in that amount. Almost 94% of next year’s budget is supported by pledges and donations!

Next year’s proposed budget includes small salary increases for most of our staff as we continue toward our goal of paying everybody at the midpoint of the guidelines of the denomination for our region.

We are very excited to include a request for a part-time Membership Coordinator (a new hire) in the proposed budget!  As our Three Services Experiment has made clear, we are attracting a lot of new members and friends. Most other large UU congregations have found that the expense of hiring a Membership Coordinator literally pays for itself in a few years through growth in pledging. As more people join our community, this new staff person will ensure that all are welcome and well integrated into the Foothills UU family.

Please bring your questions, comments, and concerns about next year’s proposed budget to the Budget Hearing on Sunday May 7 at 10:40 AM. See you there!

Budgeting Update from Scott Denning and Erik Martinson

This update is a part of a Governance Update being sent by email to all Foothills members.

Every year, the church prepares a budget in the spring for the church year starting on July 1, projecting monthly income and spending 15 months in advance. Our budgets are balanced, so we spend only what we earn.

Nearly all of our income is from the pledges of financial commitment made by members and friends of our community.

The budget for next fiscal year has been prepared by the Finance committee, affirmed by the board, and will be voted on for final approval by the members of the congregation at our annual meeting on June 4.

A hearing to introduce and discuss details of the budget will be held on May 7 at 10:40am. Highlights include an overall increase to the budget of nearly $43,000 made possible by a projected pledging increase of over 8%!

Most of the additional income will be invested in our human resources, including a new part-time coordinator position for membership, as well as salary adjustments to reflect current UUA compensation guidelines for our ministers and staff.

Please plan to attend the May 7 hearing to inform your vote as the budget presentation at the Annual Meeting will be abridged.

Nominating Committee Update

This update is a part of a Governance Update being sent by email to all Foothills members.

As part of our upcoming Annual Congregational Meeting, we will be electing two new board members and a president-elect. This will leave us with a seven-member board for the coming year (assuming that our Governance trial year receives congregational support).

The three current members of the Nominating Committee will continue on for the next year as their terms are not yet concluded.  As our Governance trial requires a three person Nominating Committee, we will not need to elect additional members this year.

As required by the bylaws, we will be proposing a slate of nominees to be elected by the congregation at the Annual Meeting. You will receive information about these candidates in the packet sent out to all members on 5/17.

In addition, our Committee, in conjunction with the Board and the Governance Task Force, has been taking a more active role in leadership development this year, with the goal to not only identify those ready and willing to serve, but to give them the training needed to be successful in lay leadership positions within Foothills. If you are interested in becoming part of our leadership development process and/or serving as a leader in our congregation, please contact one of our Nominating Committee members by the first week of May if you’d like to be involved this year, and at any point for future leadership.

Thank you!

Nominating Committee – Steve Undy, Chair (steve@roseundy.net), Linda Kothera, Rich Young and Adam Henk