We’re Staying!

By Sara Steen, Board Member and Space Committee Member

The Board of Trustees and the Space Committee are delighted to announce that, after 8 months of intense study, we have determined that staying on our current site will be the best way for us to continue to accommodate growth and live into our mission.  

At the Annual Meeting on June 3, the Space Committee presented an overview of the work it has done since October to reach this conclusion.  The full presentation, along with the Programming Report produced for us by inFusion Architects, can be found on the church website.  In this post, I’ll provide you with a summary of the year’s work leading up to our recommendation to the Board that we remain on site.

As many of you may recall, when the Board came to the Congregation in October, we had come to the conclusion that we would likely need to find a new site in order to accommodate the growth we have seen over the past several years.  We provided several opportunities for people to share their reactions to that news, many of which were deeply sad and concerned about what moving would mean for us as a community.  Based on your input, the Board asked the Space Committee to do a very careful assessment of our current site to see if there was any possibility that we could stay. The Space Committee hired a programming consultant, inFusion Architects, to help us with this task.

From January through April of this year, inFusion conducted a series of meetings with staff and congregation to identify what exactly our space requirements were and to do the detailed assessment of our current property.  Alongside the work inFusion was doing, the Space Committee did work to identify transportation options for remaining on site (parking is a major hurdle; there is simply no way to double the parking on our current site, so we needed to expand our thinking to come up with other alternatives); met with City Planners to identify city regulations that we needed to consider on our current site; and launched our first subcommittee, Communications and Engagement, to facilitate communication between the committee and the congregation.  

The final report produced by inFusion identified the following as our key priorities in the expansion process:

      • 400 seat sanctuary (more than double current worship space)
      • Double size of RE, social hall, kitchen, office suite
      • Minimize environmental impact, continually seek to embed green considerations
      • Maintain connection to outdoors
      • Create flexible spaces that can be easily adapted to different uses

In May, the committee worked diligently to develop decision criteria that would help us to determine whether remaining on our current site or moving to a new (larger) site would better enable us to live into our bold vision as a congregation.  Using the report produced by inFusion alongside the work the committee conducted over the year, we identified 13 criteria to consider in making a location recommendation to the board. These included things like cost, our ability to remain inside city limits, our ability to live up to our climate justice and social justice missions, future expansion ability, and transportation options.  We assigned a numerical weight to each criterion to acknowledge that some criteria should weigh more heavily in the decision, then we scored each location (current and new/larger) according to how it met the criterion. By multiplying the scores by the weights (full scoring can be found on the website), we concluded that there was a strong advantage to remaining on our current site.  We took this recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who approved it on May 24, 2018.  

Our immediate next step is to hire an architect to develop architectural plans for us.  This summer, we will be identifying architectural firms of interest, writing and distributing a request for proposals (RFP), developing and executing an interview process, deciding on decision criteria for choosing an architect, and finally conducting interviews and making a selection.  Once we have retained an architect, we will work with them to continue our conversation with the City of Fort Collins, and with Gary Schroeder of the Integrated Design Assistance Program which assists organizations invested in minimizing the environmental impact of building projects.

Our hope is that we will be able to come to the congregation in the Fall with an architectural plan approved by the Board for the congregation to vote on.  We will be hiring a financial feasibility consultant to help determine how much money we can expect to raise prior to beginning our capital campaign. Our fabulous communications and engagement subcommittee will be keeping you posted at every step along the way.  

This is a huge undertaking, and a massive milestone in the history of our church.  We want to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard. There are several ways to get involved.  First, we anticipate needing volunteers in a wide range of areas, including: finance/capital campaign, transition planning, exterior design (landscaping), interior design, and sustainability/green design.  If you have interests/talents/skills in any of these areas, please email me directly at professor.steen@gmail.com and I will add you to our ever-expanding volunteer list.  Second, we will be holding a series of forums in the coming months to provide opportunities to hear from you on a number of specific questions–stay tuned.  Third, you can always find updates on what we are doing on our social hall bulletin board or the update section of our church website; there are tools for you to provide input in both locations.  Finally, the space committee meets weekly on Tuesdays from 12:30-2:30 in the RE building (typically room 22); our meetings are open to anyone interested in knowing what we’re up to.  

We are so grateful to be part of such a dynamic congregation that is up for this challenge, and are looking forward with great excitement to continuing this journey with all of you. 

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Board of Trustees Spring Update

Date:​ Sunday, April 15, 2018

Governance Update

A smaller Board is currently focusing on visioning, delegation to staff, monitoring and oversight for Foothills. The Board committees (Finance, Personnel, Governance, Nominating, and Space) advise and support Board work. Additionally, the Leadership Development Team has worked with nominating committee to develop exceptional slate of candidates to bring to the congregation at the Annual Meeting on June 4.

Nominating Committee Update

The Nominating Committee has developed a new process for seeking out potential candidates. Through conversations with the Board, the committee acquires job descriptions and skills needed for each position. Then, the Leadership Development Team provides a list of qualified and willing candidates to the nominating committee along with a smaller list of elected positions. To date, all positions have been identified for the slate and will be announced in the packet before the annual meeting.

Board Visioning and Engagement Update

The Board has compiled responses from the Future-Oriented Questions and established priorities for the coming year. The Visioning Committee is also working with a consultant to set plans in motion for long-term visioning.

The Engagement Committee held three sessions for listening and discussion sessions for general questions and one additional session focused on Marc’s decision regarding non-participation at Foothills. The majority of concerns brought to the Board included:

○ What are we going to do about space? How can we improve conditions at RE building?

○ How are we working to be inclusive of those with different viewpoints?

○ Is there potential to hire a third minister?

○ What is the status of hiring for music director and church administrator?

Space Committee Update

The hired programming consultant has completed six meetings with staff and congregants to gather input regarding existing space and future space needs. The Space Committee has been in contact with other Colorado churches involved in renovation process (Denver, Jefferson, Lafayette). A group of staff and congregants visited First Universalist in Denver for inspiration and ideas. Updates from the Space Committee can be found on the bulletin board in the Social Hall. The committee is moving into more volunteer-intensive phase of operations: start thinking about how you want to be involved!

Coming soon from the Space Committee:

  • Presentation of programming report conclusions at Annual Meeting
  • Fun challenges for brave souls interested in exploring alternative transportation options for Sunday services
  • Opportunities to get involved

○ Communications and engagement subcommittee

Ministry Updates

Our Top Ten Sunday Worship Attendance Dates have all totaled over 400 participants across the three services. On February 4, 600 people gathered at CSU for the All-Church Celebration. On lower attendance Sundays, online participation spikes. For example, in the last snowstorm, 20% of our attendance was online.

As of March, we have had 602 unique participants in non-Sunday worship activities. This would include volunteers and class check-ins. It does not include ministry teams or small groups. We currently have 140 people involved in Gather Groups (our major small group ministry initiative). When you add in the participants in other sorts of small groups, 21% of our church is currently active in small groups.

Total donations to community partners through Share the Plate through February 2018 were $32,310 and another $8,000 was donated to Faith Family Hospitality at the Auction and another $3,500 to Homeless Gear through the Rummage Sale.

Regarding staffing, we are still in the midst of our music visioning process. The Administrator transition is also still underway. Our Financial / Operations Consultant – Patrick Murphy is re-designing administration staffing and processes, Kathryn has been promoted to Office Manager, and we are transitioning to a payroll contractor. Looking ahead to coming church year, we are looking into part-time ministry staffing focused on pastoral care and older adult support and programming.

Stewardship Campaign

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For more information on the church budget, please attend the Budget Presentation on May 3, 2018 from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Following Up on #MeToo

It’s been a little over 3 weeks since our #MeToo worship service, and the conversation is just beginning.  A few of our Senior Sisterhood groups have been taking up brave and tender conversations around #MeToo – sharing their own experiences and reflections with one another.  The small group conversations for women to reflect on problematic sexual experiences started tonight, with another on Saturday.  And, the conversations for Men and #MeToo are set to begin next Wednesday.  This last one has drawn the attention of NPR’s All Things Considered, who is doing a story on men and the #MeToo movement – they reached out to hear about our intent for these conversations, and how men are responding.

Another part of this continued conversation is also just beginning to take shape – the Restoring Wholeness Task Force announced by the Board as a part of the #MeToo service.  Over the past few weeks, the Board has been drafting the charter for this Task Force, and thinking carefully about the desired ends.

The Board has been clear that we are called to be a church that deals directly with sexual misconduct and harassment, and that we want to be a part of shifting the culture towards one of greater respect, equality, understanding, and mutual liberation.  To do this, we know we need to start by taking a good look at our past – for, as the Rev. Jan Christian says, “going back can change the way we go forward.”

Part of the work of the Task Force will be in collecting stories about our congregation’s past – including relationships between congregants and religious professionals, and the ways our congregation’s culture, as a system, may have contributed to a lack of clarity or other factors that may have allowed misconduct or harassment to occur.  The goal is to learn, to change, to grow, and to do better.

If you are someone who is wanting to share about an experience that you are thinking through from the past that may connect to this conversation, please email metoo@foothillsuu.org, which for now (until our Task Force is fully up to speed) will be responded to by me, or by Rev. Sean directly.  You can trust that your confidentiality will be protected, as together we continue to understand and learn from our own past – so that we can create an even stronger future.

This is brave, and sometimes challenging work.  I am proud to serve a congregation whose leadership has been willing to do the difficult and yet faithful thing at each step, with a commitment towards being that church that we know we are called to be.  And, I am grateful that we can create spaces and opportunities for this brave learning to happen together, so that we can all grow, and learn, and change, for the better.

Board Update #3: Board Leadership Transition

We’ve been a busy Board already this year! Because we have so much to share, we are offering it in three parts, this is the third (you can find the first here and the second here). This one provides news about a recent transition on the Board.  

Last in our news roundup is a change in leadership. Due to work stresses, Sara Edwards has resigned from the Board. Sara contributed a lot in the last 16 months as she served as Secretary-Elect and Secretary. The Board is very grateful for all that she did.

Per our By-Laws, the Board is required to appoint someone to fill any vacancies when it occurs mid-term.  As a result, at our meeting last week, the Board appointed Cheryl Hazlitt to the Board. She will serve the remainder of Sara’s term, and is considering the possibility of being nominated for one of the vacant positions beyond that.  More information on this around February or March when the Nominating Committee begins its work of determining a slate for our elections in May.

Cheryl has been a great asset on the Personnel Team and we’re sure she will be a big help on the Board as well. Please give both Sara and Cheryl your thanks the next time you see them.

Board Update #2: Space Exploration

We’ve been a busy Board already this year! Because we have so much to share, we are offering it in three parts, this is the second of these (you can find the first here). This one provides an update on our space task force. 

As you have likely experienced and heard, our church has grown quite a bit in the last decade, and especially in the last couple of years – which is why we are looking at our space needs for the future. The Board believes our current campus cannot be adequately expanded to meet our (and Fort Collins’) anticipated growth. We discussed space at our informational forum a few weeks ago, where we had 55 people attending. We got lots of great comments in person and on sticky notes. We have conducted two additional meetings with 16 people participating.

The main question we’re hearing so far is about the process – how and when it’ll all happen. It’s a great question and we have broad answers to it right now. We are in step 1 of probably 50 steps. We wanted to bring the whole congregation into the conversation as early as possible. We wanted to hear your thoughts and concerns, as well as your hopes and dreams.  Our next step is to hire a programming consultant to

  1. Help us understand how much space we need and what kinds of space we need given our programming;
  2. Give us a second opinion about our current campus and if there is a possibility we could adequately expand here; and
  3. Help us figure out what to look for or build in a different place.

The Space Committee has already interviewed and checked references on several professional firms that do this work. The church will be hiring someone shortly. There will be opportunities for you to participate in this step – so we hope that you will keep an eye out for announcements.

All of the steps in this process will be thoughtful and deliberate, and will probably take three to five years, which will look generally like this:

  • Year 1 (Fall 2017 -Summer 2018)….This year we will figure out what we need and develop some more specific plans.
  • Year 2 (Fall 2018 – Summer 2019/20)…..Next year, we will figure out how much it will cost and how to pay for it.  This could take 1-2 years.
  • Year 3/4 (Fall 2019/20 – Summer 2020/21) The third year, we will remodel, renovate or build and take care of the other logistics around moving. This too might take slightly longer, depending on all the decision points along the way.

Do we know exactly how many steps there are actually going to be? Not really, but we wanted to give you the general sketch. We also wanted you to know that the congregation will be involved all along the way. That’s why we brought you in early!

We on the Board are always happy to hear from you. We are all going to figure this out together.

Board of Trustees News #1: Seeking Congregational Input on Our Vision

We’ve been a busy Board already this year! Because we have so much to share, we are offering it in three parts….first up, an update about our need for congregational input on our vision by way of the “Future-Oriented Questions.”  

Over the years, our Boards have long engaged in visioning and planning for the future. However, they also had significant responsibilities in operations. Under our new governance system, the ministry team is responsible for the day-to-day running of the church, which allows the Board to spend much more time on high-level questions and visioning.

Now, each year, the Board will go through a process of listening and deciding where our mission calls us to go next. To do this, we listen to you, the congregation, and we consider our place in the community.  The dialogue with you happens through our Future-Oriented Questions.  At our annual Board retreat, we decided on these three questions as the basis for our conversation this year:

  1. How might we re-imagine a joyful, spiritual, human-centered and sustainable community and environment?
  2. Who does the mission call you to be in relationship with, and what does it mean to be transformed/changed by this work?
  3. What would it take for people to know you and for you to know yourself deeply? How does that manifest in the congregation?

We’ve already started to explore these questions in worship over the past few Sundays, and will continue that in the next few weeks.  We hope that you will take a little time each week to reflect and then to fill out the survey either online (here’s the link) or on paper.  Extra paper forms are in the office.  Our shared dialogue becomes our future, and so we are grateful for your willingness to share your stories and feedback as we discern together where and how we will unleash courageous love in the coming years.

One year later

15036731_10210339868347595_5652769351943201453_nA year ago right now, we were preparing for election day.  I woke up and put on a white shirt, and helped my daughter find a white shirt, we took a selfie together – we were planning for an historical outcome in the national election.  It wasn’t that I thought it was a foregone conclusion – I knew the race was tight.  But there was something in my white middle class progressive Unitarian DNA that refused to truly believe that the United States would follow up its election of the first African American president with the election of a president who bragged about sexual assault, or who portrayed Mexican immigrants as rapists, or who denied climate change, or…..

Many of us woke up on November 9th, 2016 stunned by a reality that probably shouldn’t have been such a surprise – but it was.  It was painful, and even traumatic for many to have to face, and the fear of what it would mean hung over all of us with an aching dread.

A year later, I wish I could say that these fears were all unfounded, that the communal grief that sent nearly 430 of you into the Sunday service the Sunday after the election was overblown…..but it has been predictably, a really hard year.  The fights for health care, and GLBT rights, and against the Refugee Ban, and the campaign-promise-fulfilling willingness to deport all those who are undocumented, regardless on the impact on families or on the individual worthiness as a contributing part of our community…the twitter fueds and the re-initiated global panic on the potential of nuclear war….these all take a toll, on all of us.

The ripple effects of anxiety and overwhelm, dread, and even despair have therapists working overtime, and still each Sunday, so many come for the first time, seeking some way to making meaning and to find hope in the midst of this difficult and upside down world.

A year later, however, I am not without good news.  I’ve watched – in countless meetings and in small conversations – a new desire to engage, to make a difference, to orient our lives towards meaningful contributions, and to learn the skills needed to listen more deeply, connect more authentically, and to be a part of much needed healing and restoration for our world.

I’ve seen a deeper commitment to spiritual growth, to attending worship, to giving of yourself in time and with money – this great generosity of spirit in service of a larger vision.  And I’ve seen bright faces of joy, and hope, each Sunday – a huge desire to learn, and grow, and be a part of the change we wish to see.

I’ve also seen new grassroots organizations formed, and new partnerships started – some of these have been especially important for our congregation and our learning in addressing homelessness, economic justice, and interfaith relationships.  And, a new boldness and courage has taken shape in all sorts of ways, not the least of which in our community has been visible in our sanctuary vote and efforts.

In the past ten months, I’ve taken so many people to their first protest march, it’s incredible.  And, I’ve seen a willingness to take risks on behalf of deeper values in ways that I truly don’t think would’ve happened even a couple years ago.

What’s especially meaningful to me through all of this, however, is that I know that not everyone agrees about all the things, or in all the same way – and yet we have found a way to remain in conversation and dialogue.  We have been working hard at learning how to have meaningful conversations about real things – and yet to be able to disagree, even while staying connected. It’s a practice that’ll likely take us our whole lives, and so we will continuously rely on grace, and spiritual practices of renewal, and a respect of a regular Sabbath, however that looks like to each of us.

As we cross this year mark, I am especially aware of the potential for burnout – in all of us.  That we will simply be too overwhelmed or too tired to keep engaging, that church and community and participating could feel like just one more item on an already too-full to-do list.  That the initial burst of resistance will transform into old complacency or cynicism.

This is all on my mind and heart as I look ahead to our plans for the next few months and beyond – at church, and in my own life.  We have many days ahead, and there’s no guarantee things are going to get easier.  We must be vigilant in all the things that allow us to keep going, to remain at the table so that we can do the hard work, to keep tending to that bright thread of hope.  And we must keep leaning in to care for each other, sing for and with each other, make meals for and with one another, keep taking time for gratitude, and joy; silence and story; community and care – committing ourselves once again to the power and potential of real, authentic community of trust and accountability, calling us to show up each day, and offer ourselves to that greater vision.