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.

 

Sincerely,

Your Board of Trustees

 

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

We won the Bennett Award – the annual UUA Congregational Award for Justice!

If you were at the annual meeting, you already heard this great news that this year, our congregation was selected as the 2017 recipient for the UUA Bennett Award for Congregational Action on Human Justice and Social Action.  This award recognizes congregations that has done exemplary social justice ministry.

In the letter from the Bennett Award Panel, they wrote:

“From your congregational vision to ‘Unleash Courageous Love’ to your approach of accompaniment of the most vulnerable in your community, positioning ‘real life, on-the-ground presence’ and service as part of systemic social change, your justice ministry truly deserves this recognition.  It’s inspiring to learn about how your work for justice is driving by your mission and faith, and sustained by spiritual practices from breaking bread and vigiling to storytelling and companioning.”

Read the whole letter here.

This award recognizes the work of all of the many people who make our Faith Family Hospitality, One Village One Family, Food Bank, Immigration Coalition, and Climate Justice ministries happen – and have such a huge and consistent impact on our community.  Thank you to all those who have stepped up in big and small ways, over and over – I hope you take this award as a recognition of just how much these efforts mean.

A special thank you to Kay Williams, Anne Fisher and Sue Ferguson who compiled the application and the ministry leads who each helped tell the story of their areas of our total ministry for justice.

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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!

Foodbank @ Foothills Serving Deep Need

From Rebecca Parish

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Apparently, the news is getting around — Foodbank @ Foothills serves 100 households! Volunteers Needed!
It was a somewhat chilly, cloudy, rainy sort of Mobile Pantry that Foothills hosted on Sunday, March 26, but we had record attendance anyway. We had at least a dozen new households register with the Food Bank for Larimer County and served A NEW RECORD OF 100 HOUSEHOLDS!!
It takes many hands to make this great work happen, friends. And lately, we haven’t had quite enough hands (we had about 20 volunteers for that 100 households served). We are counting on this community to step up with the volunteers to make food insecurity less of a reality for our neighbors. MAKE NEW FRIENDS WHILE MAKING A DIFFERENCE! You can get more information & SIGN UP TODAY at foothillsuu.org/foodbank.

My name is Patricia Miller and I am an immigrant.

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Patricia Miller speaking at Foothills on Jan. 22nd

My name is Patricia Miller and I am an immigrant. I was born in El Salvador and immigrated to Colorado during my country’s civil war. As a middle class family, we owned a house, had a bank account, and had a good job that we could present as evidence that we were worthy of a US immigration visa. 11 million other immigrants who came here in search of a better life did not have the same financial advantages. But the violence, poverty and hopelessness of their situations forced them to immigrate too. In the words of Warsan Shire, “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

When Trump opened his presidential campaign by accusing Mexicans of being rapists and criminals, he tapped into a widely shared sentiment in our society. After he was elected president, I felt such frustration that I was compelled to do two things: attend a like-minded place of worship, and become an activist for good.
While the church I attended was ignoring politics altogether, Foothills Unitarian Church posted those beautiful signs out front; among them, “We love our Immigrant Neighbors.” Here I found people who were grieving the presidential election and all its divisiveness just as fiercely as I was. I became determined to pass that love forward.
At that same time, a local grassroots organization named Fuerza Latina, or Latin Taskforce, organized an Immigrant Support Community meeting. I felt called to this group for many reasons; the main one being that when people don’t have rights, they are easily and frequently exploited and they struggle to pull themselves out of poverty.
Undocumented immigrants are a net positive for public budgets – they contribute more to the system than they take out. But the value of immigration cannot be reduced to a spreadsheet. Immigrants do not simply make America better off. We make America better – through our entrepreneurial spirit, our low incarceration rates, our culture, and our strong family values we enrich our communities.
Through fact-based sharing of information, Fuerza Latina aims to build support for undocumented immigrants in our community. We want to destroy the myths and prejudices that have been burned into our collective consciousness.
Thank you so much for supporting the work of Fuerza Latina so we can build a more resilient and inclusive community. And thank you for opening your arms and your church to this immigrant. I light our chalice in gratitude and in the hope that we can continue to work together to welcome everyone and to seek for justice for all.


Want to get involved?

The Fort Collins’ Immigrant Advocacy Group Fuerza Latina has been organizing powerfully in the past few weeks, creating what they are calling This is Our Home, a network of grassroots committees working on everything from addressing hate speech and bullying in our community to working with the police and the city.  Join one of these committees and help our community be the place we want it to be. Contact Cheryl Distaso. Within our congregation, we are working to hold a workshop with the Interfaith Community about what it means to be Sanctuary Congregations, and to work together on providing safety for immigrants in our community as many other congregations have done over time.  If you’d like to be involved in this effort, contact Anne Hall.