Skin in the Game

In the service last Sunday, I said our theology of social justice requires that we ask ourselves: what are we willing to risk, and what’s our skin in the game? In the coming weeks, our congregation has the chance to really wrestle with these questions.
It’s been four months since our Sanctuary Team lit the chalice and invited us to start considering the question of becoming a  Sanctuary Congregation. Since then they’ve held forums and informational sessions, reached out to the interfaith and immigrant community, and met extensively with First Unitarian in Denver where they’ve hosted two people in sanctuary.
From this work, and with my full support and appreciation, they brought forward the invitation to the Board to set a special congregational meeting for us to vote on becoming a Sanctuary Congregation.  After two in-depth conversations with the Board, they whole-heartedly agreed.
Which means, it’s finally time to get serious in our conversations with our whole community.  We want to help us all consider what sanctuary means, and if and how we are called to be a Sanctuary Congregation. We want to review what we’ve learned about the risks and the ways to mitigate these risks, even as we recognize that part of what we are called to do – as I said before – is to take risks on behalf of justice, and on behalf of our faith.
With all that in mind, I invite you all to the following opportunities to learn more, to share and discuss together, and for us to decide together, where and how we are called as a congregation in this important path of caring, justice, and courageous love.
  • Sunday, August 13th 8:30 and 10:00 service, “Just Home,” led by the Rev. Mike Morran, First Unitarian Society of Denver, leaders in the Sanctuary movement in the Denver metro area
  • Sunday, August 13th at 11:30 am, following the second service, Informational Workshop on Sanctuary, led by the Sanctuary Team and Foothills staff team – answering all the questions anyone can come up with, talking practical details, sharing in group discernment.  Register to attend this workshop here.
  • Wednesday, August 23rd at 6:30 pm, a 2nd opportunity for the same information provided at the 8/13 Informational Workshop for those who weren’t able to attend, or who want additional info
  • Sunday, August 27th, Special Congregational Meeting at 11:30 am, following the second service, called for the sole purpose of voting on the question “Will Foothills Unitarian Church be designated as a Sanctuary Congregation?” All those who have been members for 30 days or more by 8/27 are welcome to vote.
If you were there on Sunday, you heard the story of Juan, a father of five in the Greeley area who was recently and suddenly deported. While we don’t know for sure, Juan is someone who seems like would’ve been a great candidate for sanctuary – but we weren’t ready.  The need is increasingly urgent to take up this question, and I am grateful for your willingness and partnership as we consider it together.
*This post was originally sent out as a part of the 8/2 Weekly Extra

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.
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.”

 

9GT? Reflections from Alumni

9th Grade Trip Alumni Hannah Mahoney and Grace Hanley Wright reflect on how the experience impacted them years later.  
“The UU faith teaches us that we are global citizens. We are the keepers of this world, responsible for protecting our environment and advocating for justice for our fellow citizens. Those deeply held convictions are developed over time in the UU youth.
One of the moments in my life that helped deepen those convictions and broaden my world-view was the ninth grade trip, which our 9th graders are preparing to go on. The 9th grade trip takes our young people to the Hopi and Navajo reservations, and is a transformative experience. The first time I cried at the awe-inspiring beauty of nature was at Canyon de Chelle, sitting alongside my UU friends. The first time I understood staggering inequality in the United States was at the reservations—-an experience that I never would have had if not for this trip.
As I have grown to travel the world and use my career for social and environmental progress, I am thankful to all of the people who supported me on one of the first steps in my journey. Today, I encourage you to support these youth at the cake auction or through your donations, and I light this chalice in honor of all of the first steps we are continually taking to transform ourselves and the world.”
-Grace Hanley Wright
Ip1070304_32960406236_o.jpg‘ll ask you to think back on 9th grade, junior high school, that time around 14.  You’re not a kid anymore, but you’re not recognized as an adult. You’re to0 young to drive, vote, make real money- and the adults in your life want to protect you, shape you, or control you.  They’re often confused by you, maybe even a little scared of you.  This loving, courageous community is not scared of teenagers! You saw me, and you demonstrated your faith by pulling me out of school and sending me on the 9th grade trip: 10 days away from home & family, on a bus with 40 of my peers, on an epic journey through Navajo and Hopi lands, growing and learning and working together, finding spirituality and creating loving community.  It was incredibly affirming to be lifted up, at that time in my life, by our greater UU community.  To be recognized as a whole person and honored with the responsibility of belonging.  When I came home from the 9th grade trip, I knew my life had begun.
-Hannah Mahoney
For those of you who do not yet know, the Ninth Grade Trip is a 10-day interactive, educational, and spiritual experience through the Navajo and Hopi nations. It takes place after a series of classes that go into depth on each culture. As you may have guessed, this journey is for Ninth Graders.
Like so much in life, I never really saw the importance of the 9th grade trip until I was in the middle of it all. Until I, the standard quiet-kid-in-class type of kid, lost the ability to speak because I was talking more than I ever had before. Until I was watching a sunset in complete silence, and thinking “No wonder they call this feeling Spirit-ual”. Until everyone was saying goodbye, singing a song that will forever feel emotional to me now. I didn’t get it, until I did.
32156812964_b419a5c80f_zBefore that, it was something my brothers had done, that now I had to do. It was this thing that gave me MORE homework, took some of my precious weekends, and emptied my parents’ pockets a bit. The only highlight was snagging cookies from the cake auction.
But in times like these, I firmly believe that having homework for understanding and respecting other cultures is more important than my current homework. That spending time getting to know those in this community while applying the values of this community is the best way to feel connected to it.
So to those of you who are new, and trying to figure out whether this whole 9GT thing is really a thing, I promise it is. Please support it. And to those of you who already know and are going and just waiting to eat cake, I have some parting advice; If you actually wake yourself up for the sunrise walks, you might get to hear Mitch sing one of his favorite songs. And if you are the person who brings a card deck on the bus, you will become very popular very fast.
-Kerigan Flynn
My name is Zia, I am a sophomore in high school and I went on the 9th grade trip last year. The 9th grade trip, changed the way I live, how I interact with people, and my experience with the UU church. During the 9th grade trip I made so many new friends that I am still connected with today even though the trip was almost a year ago. On the trip, there were about 53 other people on a bus traveling to the Hopi and Navajo lands. Imagine traveling thousands of miles to a place that is completely new to us, for 10 days. I guess you can say we got pretty close. During those ten days, I learned that the UU community is my family and that they are worth everything to me. Because of the ninth-grade trip I have become closer than ever to the UU church and community. My 9th grade trip was the 52nd annual trip, and this tradition is an experience I think everyone should be aware of because it will change your teens life like it did mine.
– Zia

We still don’t do shame, and there’s still no them

This past Sunday, we had 180% more of you than usual, and it was what writer Glennon Doyle Melton calls “brutiful,” a combination of beautiful, and brutal. Beautiful to gather, beautiful to sing, to breathe, to laugh and cry and simply come together after a week where, as I said on Sunday, we experienced a “global plot twist.”  I could feel the force of love among us.  But also brutal, because what inspired so many to show up on Sunday was pain, grief, anger, fear, even despair.  It was one of the most powerful Sundays I’ve ever experienced, and I’d give nearly anything for it not to have been necessary.

As we move forward, I want to clarify and underscore two commitments of our faith and our congregation that I hope you’ll help me uphold.

First, we still don’t do shame in our church.  We don’t shame each other for who we voted for – no matter who that is, or for coming to different conclusions than we have about big and complex topics, or about how we will move through these complicated times (aka, life).

The emerging future is going to require a lot of learning.  And learning requires imperfection, humility, laughter, and grace.  We’re going to screw up a lot, and we’re going to state strong opinions that later we realize we were wrong about.  A few months ago I preached on what it feels like to be wrong, exploring some of the ideas in the TED Talk by Kathryn Schulz  What she says is that being wrong feels exactly the same as being right – only once we realize we are wrong does it feel differently.

We have to give each other and ourselves the space to be wrong, without shame.  In place of shame, let us ask more generous questions (the topic of our Wednesday night Civil Conversations gathering by the way!).  Instead of shame, try to listen for what’s hurting, what’s being wrestled with, what value is being expressed.

Growth and change require a level of safety – which is not the same as comfort.  We need to create safe spaces where we can be uncomfortable together.  This is the sweet spot of deep learning – real transformation, and courageous love.

Which brings me to the second commitment: there’s still no “them;”only us. Our world seeks to divide us, to harden the categories of who is worthy, who is good, who suffers the most, who is to blame, who is the enemy, and who is our kin.  Our religious lens asks us to not let the categories, or our hearts be hardened to any other, but to keep up the practices that grow more supple hearts, hearts of compassion that can hold ever more complexity and willingness to see ourselves in the other.  (This is the work of our upcoming Healing the Heart of Democracy series.)

This second commitment does not mean that we don’t have strong convictions. We are called to a practice of compassion with boundaries, covenant by way of self-differentiation.   As my message on Sunday proclaimed, our faith compels us in this moment to a greater justice, a braver and bolder living out of our principles, our living Unitarian Universalist tradition, and our mission.  Wherever hatred has been unleashed, we are called to unleash courageous love.  The great discipline before us is to discern what that love looks like, and what it asks of us.  And for that, we need each other and our religious community, more than ever.

Thank you for being present in the struggle, learning together, and unleashing courageous love for one another, and for our greater world.  I have never been more grateful for this community, and our promise and commitment that we are all in this together.

 

 

 

A Faith Home for Families

A Faith Home for Families

ff-for-blog-sept-2016It’s a challenging world for families these days. There are countless things competing for our  time and attention… work, school, after school activities and all that technology!  We are bombarded with news of suffering and division in the wider world and we want to support and guide our children through all of these many challenges. We long for moments of peace and deeper connection amidst all of the craziness. I believe that church can be a respite and a source of sustenance during these challenging times. I have been listening, conferring with colleagues and researching and have prepared a rich variety of offerings for children and families at Foothills this fall.

Our Religious Exploration Programs for children & youth will begin on Sunday, September 11th. We will offer Religious Exploration Classes for Preschool through 6th Grade from 9:00 – 10:00 am and for Preschool through High School from 11:00 am – noon. We offer Nursery care for infants and toddlers during both church services and nursery care and playground supervison during our Social Hours from 10:00 – 11:00 am and 12:00 – 12:30 pm. You can register your children and youth for our Religious Exploration Programs HERE

New this fall – we will offer a Monthly Theme “Playshop” on the first Sunday of each month beginning in October from 9:00 – 10:00 am. Each “Playshop” will explore our monthly theme with fun and interactive activities for families to enjoy together. Our first Playshop on October 2nd on the theme of “Healing” will be co-led by me and Christopher Watkins Lamb, our RE Music & Young Adult Coordinator. Our hope is to provide an hour of “deep fun” and engagement with our monthly theme for children, youth, parents, grandparents and anyone else who wants to join us. Come check it out!

Parent Meetups (formerly Parent Coffee Chats) will resume on Sunday September 25th at 10:10 am in RE Room 13. Our Parent Meetups will happen on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month in between our two church services. They are an opportunity for parents to gather for a brief presentation and conversation about topics that are important to us as Unitarian Universalist parents. On September 25th our topic will be “UU Parenting 101” and will include ideas for supporting our kids in deepening and living out our UU faith. New to Unitarian Universalism? Not to worry! These Parent Meetups are great way to learn more about our liberal faith tradition.

Taking it home – Online Resources for Families. We know that families are busy, and we also know that amidst all of our busyness we still long to bring deeper meaning into our families lives. So we have prepared a variety of resources for you that you can access online at our FOOTHILLS FAMILIES AND FAITH webpage.

Mark your calendar for Foothills Fall Family Events. In addition to Sunday mornings we have several fun family events for your family to enjoy. Bring your extended family, friends and neighbors, all are welcome!

Friday October 7th – Family Pizza & Board Game Night 5:30 pm

Sunday October 30th – Pumpkin Carving Night – 5:30 pm dress up and bring your pre-scooped pumpkin to carve!

Sunday, December 11th – Holiday Craft Workshop for Kids 2:00 pm

Friday December 16th – Chile Supper and Caroling Night 5:30 pm

I am looking forward to the fall and all of the energy and excitement of the season. I hope that you will join us and that your family will find a faith home here at Foothills Unitarian Church.

In faith & service,

Eleanor VanDeusen

Director of Faith Formation

 

Eagerly Enthusiastic, Passionately Provoked

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About 50 of us from Foothills toured the new Mormon Temple last Tuesday.  Here’s Eleanor Van Deusen, Sean Neil-Barron and Gretchen Haley in the photo op they offer at the end of the tour.  

I’ve come to the realization that I’ve officially over-used the word, “excited.”

How do I  feel to finally be starting my new senior ministry? Excited.  How am I feeling about Sean’s new ministry? Excited. How am I feeling about the church – all that’s going on, and all we’ve got planned? I’m so excited.

Time to consult the minister’s BFF, thesaurus.com.  And now, I am happy to share with you that….

I am delighted with the great summer we have had.  Our worship attendance has been regularly record-breaking for summer – if you were at Water Communion, you got a taste of what I mean – many summer Sundays had more than 250 adults and children for a single service, and we have welcomed at least 80 newcomers over the course of the past 3 months.  Wow!  (To all of you who may be reading this: Welcome!)

What’s more, I’m passionate about the services we’ve been able to offer each Sunday this summer, especially with the steady partnership from Lehne Leverette who coordinated music for five Sundays while our music director, Ryan Marvel was away.  And because of our increased hours for Ryan in this year’s budget, I was thrilled to have him return from his time away four Sundays earlier than usual.

I’ve also been extremely animated about the Faith Cafe and Community Office Hours, as it’s allowed me and other staff members to meet and connect with you in smaller groups, and go deeper more quickly.  We’ll definitely be continuing these (with some tweaks) as we head into the fall.

Speaking of the fall, I’m fired up at all we’ll be offering to grow in spirit, connect in community and serve in partnership this fall.  Check out our “Next Big Thing” section for more details, but let me summarize by saying – we have been thinking carefully about what our community needs – across all our ages and stages – in light of the November election, considering the particular challenges of the various stages of life, and in service to our Unitarian Universalist good news and commitment to lifelong learning.  We have created a robust offering of small groups, classes, spiritual practices and other ways to- as our new mission statement puts it – embrace diversity, grow our faith, and awaken our spirits to the unfolding meaning of this life.

I hope it piques your interest to learn that our theme for the whole year will be “Learning to Lovingly Disagree.” This is in addition to the monthly themes we’ll continue as a part of the Soul Matters Sharing Circle.  This fall we’ll be delving into covenant, healing, story, and presence in worship, and across all of our lifespan religious education.  Sean, Ryan, Eleanor and I are weaving together a series of Sundays to address the breadth and depth of human experiences, and that will continue to strengthen our sense of belonging and connection with something greater than we are.  Don’t forget the return of the vespers services on September 22nd at 6 pm!

I am especially enthusiastic about the many ways to serve our greater community – we’ll continue our partnership with Faith Family Hospitality, start a few new villages for One Village One Family, and we’ll partner with the Food Bank on a pilot program for mobile food distribution 2 Sundays a month starting in October (did you see the article in the Coloradoan this Sunday? see if you can find our mention tucked in there).  This last one I am particularly on fire about because it is an opportunity for families to serve together – we’ll welcome kids 10 and up (willing to actively help)!

And, I am charged up at the energy I am feeling from many of you who are seeking to serve within our congregation in new ways, and hopeful that I can work with Sean and the Nominating Committee to create better and fuller pathways to help more of you more easily find your place where service becomes joy.

Through all of this programming, I can’t forget to mention the event I am most eagerly anticipating – my installation service as senior minister, on October 2nd at 4 pm.  I am beside myself thinking about the choral piece we have commissioned Ryan to compose for the occasion, the charge we might hear from Rev. Justin Schroeder for this congregation where he grew up, the story featuring choreography from Eleanor Van Deusen, and the powerful experience it will be to all be together in a single service (as we’ll be holding it at First UMC on Elizabeth and Stover).  Look for your invites to arrive this week!

I hope you’ll join me in eager enthusiasm, passionate provocation, and all around fired-up-ness.  There’s so much good going on, and most of all, it all becomes good because you are there.  You are what makes it good.  I am so grateful.

In partnership,

Gretchen