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

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.

The Business of the Church – from Board President, Erin Hottenstein

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, in other blog posts 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.
We look forward to talking more about all of these things with you and moving our congregation forward as we continue to unleash courageous love!  So, please,
mark your calendars and watch your email around the 18th. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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

Governance Update from Jody Anderson

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

The Board of Trustees hopes all members are prepared to vote on governance changes at our upcoming annual meeting.  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 hope you have had a chance to participate, provide feedback, and learn about this important work to help align our governance structure with our church size and mission.

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.  The key changes we are proposing include:

  • Role of the Board – The Board will shed its administrative role and instead concentrate on discerning mission, setting goals, dialogue with the congregation, and oversight.  This is something that the Board has been already in many ways practicing over the last 5 years as we have grown in size.  This will formalize this role and add clarity, as well as enhanced methods of monitoring and accountability.  
  • Board Size – The Board will reduce to seven, a more appropriate size for its new role (currently there are 11). The congregation would elect 2-3 Board members annually.
  • Delegate Operations – The senior minister, in partnership with the congregation and Board, would manage “operations” as head of staff.  This role would hold responsibility for all administration, programming, and shared ministry as well as Sunday services and pastoral care through delegation to paid staff and members/friends of the congregation, aka volunteers. Again this is already in many ways the case; this would formalize and add additional structures for accountability, alignment and monitoring of this work.  
  • Policy-Based Guidance – The Board will use written policies both to guide and hold accountable all those who help carry out the mission, including the ministers, staff, and volunteers.  Overseeing and keeping effective these policies will be a part of the Board’s new role.
  • Committee Structure – The Board will have three appointed committees:  Finance, Personnel, and Governance. It would have one elected committee, Nominating.
  • Nominating Committee – The Nominating Committee will reduce to three elected members (from the current five).  Its members will interact with the congregation, ministers, board, and Leadership Development team to identify the coming needs, develop job descriptions, and clarify role requirements, and ultimately nominate a slate of nominees for all elected positions that comply with established policies.
  • Leadership Development Team –   This team will be a newly formed ministry team charged with building and developing our future leaders through training, coaching, and open and inclusive engagement with the congregation.
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.
If you have any questions about our work, please feel free to contact our chair Jody Anderson, jodeenanderson@gmail.com.
Thank you!
Governance Task Force – Jody Anderson, Brian Woodruff, Elizabeth Stanley, Tom Inscho, Ed Beers, and Rev. Gretchen Haley (ex-officio)

Report from our Congregational Forum – from Scott Denning

About 20 people attended a Congregational Informational Forum held by the Board of Trustees on the evening of February 22.

Member Jody Anderson presented an update on the Governance Task Force (GTF), which has been very busy drafting comprehensive new policies to help us organize ourselves to better serve our large and vibrant congregation. The GTF drew from the book Governance and Ministry by Dan Hotchkiss and from dozens of large UU churches to draft policies that have been reviewed by the Board. These policies will be discussed in various settings with the Congregation at large this spring, intending to begin a trial period when the new church year starts on July 1. We look forward to a smaller, nimbler, and more vision-focused Board that delegates more operational responsibility to staff, with much clearer written guidance. There will be lots of opportunity to learn and participate in this important process during congregational discussions in March, small group drop-ins, and a table in the social hall.

Treasurer Scott Denning provided a financial update. A bit past the halfway point of the church year, we’re in very good financial shape. Expenses are right on track with the budget and with our spending last year, but our income is substantially ahead of previous years at this point.  We thank those of you who pay their pledges monthly rather than in a lump sum in December. We’ve finally begun to rebuild our reserves, which were nearly wiped out during the Great Recession in 2008-2010. We are tracking down pledges from the wave of new members who have recently joined, and currently project a small surplus at the end of the year on June 30.

Assistant Minister Sean Neil-Barron updated us on membership and staffing. We’ve experienced a surge in membership and visitors over the past year and now have about 600 official members (and about 300 other regular adult participants). Attendance at Sunday services has been at nearly 100% of our physical capacity. Our Third Service Experiment has allowed us some breathing room and has already seen an increase in total attendance.

We’re committed to maintaining a vital music ministry, drawing on the talents in our community and beginning a national search for a Music Director. We’re delighted to announce that as was shared in an email to the congregation, Chris Reed has agreed to serve as our Interim Music Director and will start on March 15th. Chris is Assistant Professor of Music at CSU and previously served as Music Director at Trinity Lutheran in Fort Collins.