Foothills Announces Support of #MeToo movement

For Immediate Public Release – Full Text

Foothills Unitarian Church is proud to announce our upcoming plans to explore and support of the #MeToo movement, which seeks to end the silence around sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct that people of all genders, and especially women, have experienced, and to draw attention to the magnitude of the problem.    

On Sunday March 25th at 8:30, 10:00, and 11:30 am, Foothills Unitarian Church will launch our public exploration of #MeToo, in a service that will feature story telling, testimonies, ritual, powerful music and theological reflection.

In addition to this service, we will also be changing our signs on Drake – well established in Fort Collins since November 2016 as a much-needed acknowledgment of love for all people, especially those on the margins – to align with our equal support for the #MeToo movement.  Look for these new signs no later than March 25th.

Concurrent to the second and third services (at 9:45 and 11:15), Foothills community member Hudson Wilkins, a counselor who specializes in sexual assault recovery, will be leading conversations on how to be an ally for those who have experienced assault or harassment.  

Additionally, we will be holding a series of conversations aimed at men, hosted by two of our members who are trained facilitators in our lifespan sexuality education program (OWL).  We believe that it is important that as we lift up women’s voices and experiences, we also engage in the re-constructive education to address long standing misunderstandings and harmful cultural norms that have caught men in a culture of toxic masculinity and left them unsure about how to be good allies and companions to women in this cultural moment.  These dates are being finalized.

We consider all of these actions to be the beginning of an enduring commitment to enable a culture change in our lives, in our congregation, and across Northern Colorado and beyond.  

In these days where too often churches are a part of silencing women’s voices, or devaluing sexuality as a part of a healthy and whole life, Foothills Unitarian Church is proud to support the #MeToo movement.  We are proud to be a church that believes women, believes in telling the truth, and believes in working together to create a future of real healing, wholeness, and reconciliation for us all.

For more information about Foothills and the #MeToo movement, contact Rev. Gretchen Haley at  For pastoral support related to sexual assault, harassment, or misconduct contact Rev. Sean Neil-Barron at

No Room at the Inn?

No Room at the Inn?



Jose Y Maria by Artist Averett Patterson

Images of Mary and Joseph haunt me. Not the ones you find in most churches mind you, those ones that get commissioned to be placed in stained glass that feature the immaculately white and pure Mary looking all European and very definitely not pregnant or Palestinian.  No, the images that haunt me this time of year are the more raw, modern depictions like Everett Patterson’s Jose Y Maria, which depicts the couple, struggling, in the rain, calling for help, in a bleaker by sadly relatable setting. The No Vacancy sign flickers and calls the question: would you let this couple in?


This is a high bar for most of us to say YES to without reservations. It is one of the reasons I love being part of Foothills, because through all of our shared work, with One Village One Family and our partnerships with Homeless Gear, our commitment to Faith Family Hospitality, and our Sanctuary Church work, we get to answer this question with a collective yes.

But even then the question and the images still haunt me.

Meg Barnhouse in her article Bethlehem’s Hospitality grants me a much needed reframe. Helping me find a personal yes of course in the Christmas story.

When reading the Nativity story through the eyes of Arab-Palestinian culture, one comes to a stunning revelation: There was no Inn.

If you have ever traveled to the Middle East, which I have had the lucky fortune of doing so, you learn quickly highest among all the values is that of hospitality. Even being distant relatives Joseph was returning to his ancestral city, and thus would have been welcomed in by some distant relative.

The room that Jesus came into the world in was not the stable at the back of some Hotel, but Joseph’s distant relatives family room, which according to biblical scholar Kenneth Bailey in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes “had an area usually about four feet lower, for the family donkey, the family cow, and two or three sheep.”

As Meg Barnhouse writes “There wasn’t room in the guest room, so the baby was laid in one of the mangers dug into the stone floor of the family room or made of wood and stood up on the family room floor, surrounded by animals, aunties, uncles, and cousins”

It is the story of the divine being born in the moments when we find our people and together try our best to accommodate all that life throws our way. Even if it is crowded and noisy, even if it all didn’t go the way we planned. Something beautiful, maybe even divine, can happen when we embrace what is, in all its absurdness miraculousness, and just do the best we can.

We Are A Sanctuary Congregation

Dear Foothills friends and members,

The sanctuary was filled with an incredible energy on Sunday as 165 members and another 30 or so friends came together to discuss and ultimately vote on the question of becoming a sanctuary congregation.  A few wondered if this was the best way to improve our broken immigration system, and others were concerned about the risks involved.

Ultimately, however, these concerns did not overcome the 92% who voted to affirm that becoming a sanctuary congregation was a core part of our religious practice, deeply connected to our affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person and our understanding that we are all in this life, together.  With this overwhelming majority, we are now officially a sanctuary congregation. 

Which of course means, the real work begins! Today many of us were working on logistics, which basically fall into the following areas:

a) Our Guest – The Guest Relations Team (previously the Applicant Team) has been solidified to include Jessica Davis, Jeff Dean and Johanna Ulloa, and myself.  We have finalized the applicant process and are moving through the steps.  My sense is that we should know by the end of this week or early next week who will be the first guest to take sanctuary with us, and when.

b) Funding – We have established a fund to support building enhancements, legal counsel, furniture, living items for our guest, staff support dedicated to supporting the sanctuary initiative, and other incidental costs required to ensure we and our guest are able to make this work.  Donate to this fund here (and feel free to pass this on):

c) Communications – There’s going to be a lot happening, and quickly, especially in the next few weeks.  We are creating systems to ensure that those of you who want all the information can get it – and those who want just the highlights can get that too – and everything in between.  Look for more information on this in the next few days.  Meanwhile, we’ve already been connected with the local press – check out the article in the Coloradoan.  An article with the North Forty News will be coming, and there will be more extensive press release once we have someone in sanctuary.

d) Volunteer coordination – Sue Ferguson is working with Rev. Sean to establish an easy and integrated way to schedule our volunteers into the needs.  We’ll soon have more information on this.  Meanwhile, you can express your desire to be a part of the core volunteer list by joining this group here.

e) Building, Safety and other details – We already have a new and improved plan for where our guest will be staying during the time before we can remodel the basement. We also moved forward with the insurance policy application.  And we formulated the organizational structure for this work moving forward – more information on this in the coming days.

On Sunday I spoke about leaning into uncertainty as our friend – this process definitely gives us some good practice in this – as there’s a lot we’re trying to work out, and quickly.  So it’s a good thing we all have a good sense of humor, and that we know we are all just doing the best we can to try to do that next right thing.

Thank you all for your partnership,

Rev. Gretchen

Becoming a Sanctuary Congregation – Vote on August 27th

Dear Foothills friends and members,

While the blatant hatred and racism displayed in Charlottesville on Saturday left me feeling helpless and despairing, our time together yesterday morning engaging the questions of becoming a sanctuary congregation brought me to gratitude, and resolve.  It is a privilege to serve a community that is engaging in such important and compassionate work.  

If you missed the service yesterday, you can catch the sermon from the Rev. Mike Morran on this video.  It was a powerful exploration and charge for us to get real and serious about this very real opportunity before us.  As I shared on Sunday, our partners at the American Friends Service Committee have already approached us about a potential guest for our congregation, a woman seeking sanctuary with us.

She has six children, age 3 to 17, all US citizens, and she also cares for her niece. She has been in the US for over 20 years after immigrating from Guatemala, and other than minor traffic violation in 2005 that brought her into deportation hearings, she has never committed a crime.  Without sanctuary from a faith community, her deportation will occur within the next month.

This process reminds me so much of my process of adopting my children – who were adopted through foster care.  As with then, there’s the timeline you have in mind, and then there’s the reality of receiving a call.  We did not anticipate having this possibility looming as we were reaching these two weeks of discernment, but also, this is how it sometimes works when you begin to be in relationship with those doing the on-the-ground-work of immigration justice.  

Our work now is to decide if a) we feel it is our congregation’s mission to be a sanctuary congregation and accept someone into sanctuary; and if yes b) to get the space, people, systems and finances ready to go to be able to do this.  

A lot of the initial groundwork was laid in yesterday’s service and workshop after the service.  If you missed the workshop, please plan to attend the workshop on August 23rd at 6:00.  You can sign up here.  If you can’t make that but want more information, or if you want to start reading up on our process and plans, check out this Q&A, this summary of our application process, and this resource describing our partners in this work.  

Most of all, we hope you will join us on the 27th for the vote at 11:30.  Please see this letter from the Board describing the details of our vote, the percentage required for a “yes,” and other information on the meeting.

Thank you for taking up this important conversation, and for continuing to travel this path of justice and compassion together.


In partnership,

Rev. Gretchen

Congregational Meeting on Becoming a Sanctuary Church

August 14, 2017

Dear Members and Friends,

There will be an important Congregational Meeting on Sunday August 27 at 11:30 AM to consider a resolution to designate Foothills Unitarian Church as a Sanctuary Congregation. The meeting will include a lot of very valuable information about what this means, how it works, and the conditions and limitations we’ve proposed.

According to our Bylaws, those who have been members for 30 days or more can vote, meaning you would need to have “signed the book” by July 29, 2017. A three-fourths majority of those present is required for us to proceed.

The text of the resolution on which we’ll vote is as follows:

With our policies and procedures in place, as well as the established Guidelines and Limitations set by the Board of Trustees, the Foothills Unitarian Church affirms the following statement:

As people of faith and conscience, we pledge to resist any policies that target and/or deport millions of undocumented immigrants and discriminate against marginalized communities. We will open up our congregation and community as a sanctuary space and accompany our immigrant neighbors in their journey for justice and safety.  We will work alongside our friends, families, and neighbors to ensure the dignity and human rights of all people.  We hereby designate ourselves as a Sanctuary Congregation, aligning ourselves with the traditions and practices of the New Sanctuary Movement and affirming our willingness to receive a guest seeking sanctuary into our congregation and to provide hospitality support for them during their stay.

Before the vote, there will be a series of presentations and opportunities for discussion and questions, as well as some very informative handouts.

Please come to this important meeting and urge your friends and family to attend as well.



Your Board of Trustees


New Database Part Two: Groups

Last week I wrote about the ways our new database Planning Center Online (PCO) will impact the ways we do Giving at Foothills. This week my focus is on Groups!

TL/DR: New online group directory for all church groups. Information on group activities now can be found on their individual group pages.


At last count, Foothills has over 60 official groups, ministries, and teams. Before now, keeping track of them all, let alone making it easy to learn about and connect with them, was a challenge. One of the key features of our new database is an online infrastructure to support our church’s groups. Here is what I am most excited about:

  • Our new online group directory showcases all the groups in one place. It also allows you all to request to be added to groups that are open to new members.
  • Group pages contain essential information including: descriptions, meeting times and dates, and contact information.
  • Group leaders can now easily see who is in their group, communicate with them all by email, and create events for all group members to see.
  • Private Groups allow only group members to see the information about group activities and members.
  • Public groups allow the whole church to get excited and involved in your events.

Many of you are involved in many different groups – by logging into your account via the group directory, you can see and access all the groups you are part of, include some private groups that only members of those groups can access.

As the year rolls on we will no doubt be learning more about our new system and be sharing with you more information. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. For questions regarding Giving please contact Carolyn Myers, our church administrator (; questions about Groups can be directed to me, Sean Neil-Barron (

Accessing Your Planning Center Account

We are now rolling out our new church database, or more truly our new Church Management System (ChMS), called Planning Center

To access a few of the features of our new system (accessing your giving statement, accessing certain church group)  you have to log in. But fear not, you won’t ever need to remember a password.

Planning Center uses a passwordless login. When logging in, the system will instantly send you an email that contains a link. Open your email, click the link and you will be instantly logged in. It will then remember you for 30 days, so if you use the same computer, so no need to log in again. Snazzy, eh?