A Year of Courageous Love | 2016-17 Annual Report

Dear Members of Foothills Unitarian Church,

The church year 2016-17 has been a momentous year for our world, and for our congregation.  We have met the many unforeseen challenges with clarity and conviction and looking back together we truly have risen to answer the call of courageous love. Here are just a few of our highlights from our year together:

We enthusiastically and unanimously claimed Unleashing Courageous Love as our collective mission.

Not only did we install a new senior minister for the first time in 25 years, we also ordained our assistant minister, marking our first ordination in that same period.

Our community has rallied to found the first mobile food bank site in Larimer County ensuring that each month over 100 families have access to the food they need.

The day after the election, we gathered all together to sing, grieve, pray, and just be together. Responding to the pain and division in the wake of the election, we proclaimed our Universalist faith loudly for all to see on Drake.

We’ve ramped up efforts for Climate Justice, convened an Interfaith Coalition for Sanctuary, and given away our space for community organizing that aligns with our values.  

And our work for justice and healing has not gone unnoticed by our national movement. Foothills was announced as the 2017 winner of the Bennett Award for Congregational Social Justice efforts!  Read more about the Bennett Award.

To make space for all are seeking our progressive religious community, we added a 3rd Sunday morning service in February, resulting in more than 30% greater attendance on Sundays during this same period in any prior year since we began tracking in 1984.

We demonstrated a greater generosity than we have ever shown – breezing past our previous top-limit of 400 pledging units to a total of 404 households making a financial commitment to our mission, and giving away over $37,438 to our community partners through our Share the Plate efforts.

We also brought to completion our governance work that has been ongoing for the past 3 years.  The Governance Task Force has met with numerous leaders and groups so that we can make official the many changes that we’ve been experimenting with over the last 5 years, and add to these a greater degree of accountability and alignment.  

We hope you’ll dive into the 2016-2017 Annual Report which offers a fuller picture of our ministries and the governance proposal which summarizes the changes we hope to make official in the coming church year. We hope to see all our members at our Annual Congregational Meeting June 4th at 11:30 AM.  

There have been times in the past year when we might’ve given into despair. Instead, we responded to these challenges with a stronger and clearer sense of mission.

Looking ahead, together we can build on all we’ve learned and become this year as we seek to transform Northern Colorado – and beyond – with the power and promise of Unitarian Universalism.

In partnership,

Rev. Gretchen & Rev. Sean

Governance Update [April 28th, 2017]

[The following email was sent to all members of Foothills Unitarian Church on 4/28/17]

Dear Foothills Members,

As the school year comes to a close, so does the church year. On Sunday, June 4 at 11:00 a.m. we will hold our official annual congregational meeting. Please save the date! All members will be asked to attend to vote on elected offices as well as bylaws changes and the annual budget.
Lay leaders – who are all volunteers/members of the congregation – and Foothills staff have been hard at work preparing for the annual meeting.
To help members prepare, a packet will be sent out around May 18th by email (paper copies available by request) that will contain the important information you need to know before voting.
At our Annual Meeting, in addition to the elections and votes mentioned above, we will be thanking our outgoing officers, hearing about the results of our stewardship campaign, and officially moving forward on our Governance trial year.
Because this is a lot to pack into a single meeting, and because we have over 600 members, we’d love to be in conversation with you before the meeting to hear your feedback and to help you learn about these various facets of our congregational life.  As a result, below you’ll find mini-updates on each of these areas, as well as notices of meetings where you can discuss these topics more fully with their respective leaders.

Update on Governance and our Trial Year, from the Governance Task Force

Since the Governance Task Force formed about 18 months ago, we have received support and encouragement from members and staff throughout the church through congregational meetings, informational discussions, book discussion groups, and electronic communications conducted over the last twelve months.
We are planning to conduct a trial year using our new governance structure, and will need to slightly amend our bylaws to enable that trial.  You can find the information about the key changes we are proposing here.  We are excited to be making these changes!  It is long overdue for a growing church like ours.  We have been doing some of these things for several years, formally and informally.  This process has taken the best of what we learned through practice, research, and deliberation, to outline a foundation for the future.
To see the proposed bylaw changes, supporting concurrent resolution, policy examples, and glossary, visit us in the social hall between services on April 30, May 7, and May 14.  You will also have a final opportunity to dig into the details and ask questions on May 21, between services, during a Governance Review meeting.

Nominations & Elections – from the Nominating Committee 

At our 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 5/18. Read more about what we’re up to and how to become a leader at Foothills here.

Budgeting Update – from the Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair 

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 (be sure to check out our Stewardship Update here).
A presentation to introduce and discuss details of the budget will be held on May 7 at 10:40 am. Highlights of this budget and spending plan can be found here.  Please plan to attend the presentation to inform your vote as the budget presentation at the Annual Meeting will be abridged.
We look forward to talking more about all of these things and more with you, and moving our congregation forward as we continue to unleash courageous love!  So, please, mark your calendars (Budget presentation May 7th; Governance Social Hall Presence April 30th, May 7th and May 14th; Governance Review Meeting May 21st; Congregational Meeting June 4th) and watch your email around May 18th for the packet.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
In partnership,
Erin Hottenstein, Board President

Time Out!

It’s that time of year again right?
Spring awakens new possibilities.
The church and school “year” is coming into new rhythms as the specter of summer is rising.
I hear everyday of all the balancing acts that many of you, beloved Foothills folks, are currently engaged in – like amateur tightrope walkers thrust into the middle of the circus to perform on the high wire- and it astounds, humbles and confuses me.
It’s just that time of year again right?
In Greek (typical thing for a minister to say right?), there are two works for the concept of time. Chronos, is the more familiar one – that sense of time as sequential, chronological, as moving in one direction, always and ever forward.

 

That is the sense of time that compels us to say, “It’s just that time of year again”. I usually fool myself into believing that once “this time of year” passes, as it does in its rigid but not always orderly way, that I am promised something will change.  And yet, if I am to be honest, it always seems like “it’s that time of the year”.

 

Which is where Kairos, the second notion of time holds and saves us. Kairos asks us to uncover what in the time is emerging. What events of significance are pushing their sprouts up to the surface of our souls ready for us to tend to them?

 

What season do you find your ‘self’ in right now? Beyond the soul-compressing demands of chronos, what sprouts of possibility do you dare to recognize that are pushing their way out of the compost of the moment?

 

My challenge to you, and if I am truthful, to myself even more, is to balance our cultural indoctrination in the world of chronos with a love of kairos. A new texture of time that dares us to live with the question posed by social justice warrior Grace Lee Boggs:  “What time is it on the clock of the world?”.  I think, the answer is not simply, April, 26, 2017.

Stewardship Campaign Update April 2017

foothills-heartflame-logo-2-1-17-answering-the-call-o-love-1The Stewardship Team would like to thank you for Answering the Call of Love!  We are wrapping up our Stewardship Campaign, Foothills’ annual fundraising drive.  And once again, you’ve come through for a successful campaign. The most exciting news is that we have surpassed 400 pledge units for the first time in our church’s history!  We have 414 households making financial commitments for the support of our church and our work in the community and beyond.  Thank You!  This includes 49 new pledge units, which is up from last year’s 39.  Thank You, New Folks!  And our total so far … drum roll, please… is $659,874!  This is an increase of 7% – very exciting – and that amount will rise throughout the year.

Your financial commitments range from $20 a year to $20,000 a year!  WOW!  Our average pledge is about $1,600.  Our new pledgers averaged $791.  336 of our pledge units are Members; 78 are Friends.

You should have received a letter in the mail last week confirming what you indicated your financial commitment is.  If you didn’t respond to our initial request, we kept your amount the same as last year, as has been our policy the last several years.  Please take a look at it.

For those of you who are data nerds, we will be crunching the numbers further in the next few months, and more statistical information will be available.  We are encouraged by the trends we’re seeing.  Thank you for your generosity!  I hope you feel, like I do, that being a part of the culture of abundance here at Foothills feels good. Together, we are truly making a difference for our congregation and our community.  Thanks again for Answering the Call of Love.

With Gratitude,
Kay Williams, Chair – and the Stewardship Team:
Andrea Bazoin, Jim Lathrop, Peg MacMorris, Brendan Mahoney, and Lynn Young

Following an Earth Based Path

by Libby, a member of Foothills

I am a wildlife biologist and animist, which means I balance being a scientist with a belief that everything on our planet has a spirit. I also believe in the interconnectedness of these spirits in the web of life – whether at the molecular, physical, or metaphysical level – we are all one connected being.  We are the ferruginous hawk, the cutthroat trout, the bison, the coal and oil extracted from the ground, and the prairie meadow at sunrise. When I see these things, I see the divine. When I look out at your faces, you reflect back to me this same connection to divinity in our natural world.

Nathan has been asking me recently where and when he can see gods, goddesses, and spirits. As an adult with an earth-based spiritual practice, I have gained my own familiarity with how to see these spirits. Now as a parent, I’m challenged with how to share this knowledge with my son in a way that makes sense and won’t get him ostracized at school.  As a parent, I have appreciated the religious education classes here at Foothills that reinforce and expand on what I teach at home.

One of the reasons I became a member of Foothills is one of the core theological principles of Unitarian Universalism is that “All of life is connected and interdependent”.  That the ground we walk on is holy, the air we breathe is holy. That as a community we affirm that all life on this planet has an inherent worth and dignity, not just human life.  Celebrating Earth Day is a reaffirmation for us as Unitarian Universalists to find and care for our holy planet. As science teaches us, each of our actions has a reaction, whether in service projects, prayer, meditation, or in climate justice advocacy work. We light this chalice to honor the earth and all our actions to protect her.

Simple, Serious, and Solvable: The Three S’s of Climate Change

Simple, Serious, and Solvable: The Three S’s of Climate Change

by Dr. Scott Denning. Scott will be leading a four-part series on the Three S’s of Climate Change beginning on May 6. Learn more and sign up online. 

Climate Change is Simple. Heat in minus heat out equals change of heat. When Earth absorbs more heat than it emits, the climate warms. When it emits more than it absorbs, the climate cools. This simple principal explains why day is warmer than night, summer is warmer than winter, and Miami is warmer than Minneapolis. It also explains why adding CO2 to the air causes global warming. The absorption of thermal infrared radiation by CO2 was first measured 150 years ago, has since been confirmed thousands of times by labs all over the world, and is extremely well understood. There is no doubt at all that adding CO2 reduces Earth’s heat emission and therefore causes global warming.

Climate Change is Serious.  Warmer average temperatures are associated with dramatic increases in the frequency of extremely hot weather. Warmer air evaporates more water from soils and vegetation, so even if precipitation doesn’t change the demand for water will increase with warmer temperatures. Adding water vapor to the air also means there is more water available for heavy rains when the right conditions occur: this means that in addition to more drought, a warmer climate will include heavier rainfall during extreme events. Warmer ice sheets release more water the oceans, which also expand as they get warmer. These two influences raise sea levels, threatening coastlines everywhere. Higher seas imply much more frequent coastal flooding, requiring abandonment long before mean sea level reaches coastal infrastructure. Without strong policy, these impacts will become more and more severe almost without bound, growing to become the most serious problems in the world and lasting for many centuries after fossil fuels are abandoned. The consequences of unchecked climate change to the global economy are unacceptable.

Climate Change is Solvable.  Preventing catastrophic climate change will require abundant and affordable energy to be made available to people everywhere without emitting any CO2 to the atmosphere. This will require both the development of energy efficient infrastructure and very rapid deployment of non-fossil fuel energy systems, especially in the developing world.  From an engineering perspective, both objectives are eminently feasible with mature technologies. Economically, the clean energy transition will be expensive, involving roughly 1% of the global economy. This cost is comparable to previous development achievements such as indoor plumbing, rural electrification, the global internet, and mobile telecommunications. Our descendants will better lives by developing and improving their infrastructure just as our ancestors did.

Climate Change is Spiritual. The moral implications of climate change are profound, challenging us at a level even beyond war and poverty to dig deeply to support what’s right against what’s wrong with the world. The potential for harm is nearly as great as the threat we faced from nuclear holocaust, yet the creeping nature of the threat makes it very hard to address. Confronting this challenge threatens to paralyze us into ineffectiveness with despair. Responding to this spiritual crisis calls us to Active Hope,  to prayer, and to Courageous Love!

Reflections on Foot Washing

Reflections on Foot Washing

Behold what you are. Become what you receive. Take up this bread and wine. Embrace the mystery.Last Thursday, a group of about twenty or so, gathered in the evening for a Vespers service on what Christians call Maundy Thursday — or Footwashing Thursday. Church members Lenny Scovel and Karen Robinson reflect below about their experience at the first foot washing at Foothills in recent memory.

From Lenny Scovel:

To sit in darkened silence is one thing; to share a visceral experience is something wholly (and holy) other. I’ve become accustomed to Foothills Vespers services as a quite time, a reflective time. A little singing, a little ritual. And yet, the recent Vespers celebrating Maundy Thursday transcended all others through a simple act: the washing of feet. It is a ritualistic practice, reminding us of how we are called to be in service or minister to each other. The act itself was simple, but the feelings of connection, of care, of touch, were transformative. It is good to be called out of our places of comfort, to be made vulnerable, even for just a moment. Our church home is a safe place, where vulnerability is not seen as weakness, but rather as necessary in the process of transformation.

From Karen Robinson:

On Maundy Thursday about a dozen of us gathered for a service led by Gretchen, Sean, Chris and Kara Shobe.  I found it very moving, especially the foot-washing, which I had never done before.  I have always loved the original story, where the disciples are quarreling about which of them will be the leaders in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus kneels and washes their feet, the task of a servant.  When the disciples object, Jesus says essentially that if he can take the role of a servant, then it’s not beneath them.  The disciples find it awkward, and we did too, but well worth the effort of overcoming the awkwardness.  

We were told that no one had to participate, but most people did. Sean explained that it wasn’t going to be “scrub a dub-dub”, but just a simple pouring of a bit of water and drying with a soft towel. I wimped out a bit and had my husband wash my feet, something he’s done before.  But then I washed someone else’s feet and found it a profound experience.  I’m not very good at serving others, and it felt like it was good for me.

We also had a sweet communion of grapes and fresh-made bread.  I thought the grapes were a nice idea; easy clean-up with no worries about what kind of cups to use, and whether to have wine or juice.  They also made an evocative connection to the earth.

The music was lovely and meditative, a chant-like phrase we could sing from memory, and a longer song which was printed on the back of the small card that served as a program.  Chris played some quiet piano music, and Kara and Gretchen led the singing.

When I was a Christian, as a child and young adult, Holy Week was the high point of the year.  When I left Christianity, I didn’t go away mad.  I still love the Jesus I met in my liberal childhood Methodist church, and it was so nostalgic to remember him in such an intimate way.”