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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Preparing for our Annual Meeting this Sunday

Dear members and friends,

We are excited to be nearing our congregational meeting this Sunday.  We hope you all received the following two documents to prepare you for this important gathering:

Because of the complicated nature of this year’s agenda, the Board leadership met earlier this week with a professional Parliamentarian to prepare.

In that meeting, we realized that it would be ideal to establish a few standing rules at the beginning of our gathering to ensure our meeting runs smoothly, respectfully, and within a reasonable time frame.  While these rules will need to be approved by the gathering on Sunday (2/3rd majority), we wanted to give you the heads up about what we’re thinking in advance.  So, here are a few of the sorts of rules we’re considering:

  • An agreed-upon time limit for speakers;
  • An agreement that everyone who wants to speak gets to speak before anyone speaks a second time;
  • An agreement to abide by our covenant of right relations as a part of our business;
  • For any amendments (particularly to the by-law portion) that they be submitted in writing in advance to the Board so that the whole gathering does not need to wait while editing/drafting occurs.

While we believe that our governance proposal has been thoroughly vetted through our many meetings and conversations with the congregation over the course of the last 18 months, our process leaves open the possibility that there remains something needing further consideration.  As a result, please do note this last potential rule if you are considering an amendment proposal, and please submit it in writing as soon as possible (and no later than 11:15 am on Sunday) to the Board of Trustees at theboard@foothillsuu.org.

Thank you all for your partnership and support as we continue to grow our congregation in service of our shared mission, unleashing courageous love across our whole community, and beyond.

In faith,

Erin Hottenstein, Board President

Our 3rd Service Experiment: The results are in…

In February, we began our “3rd Service Experiment,” with an intent of trying out three Sunday morning services for 13 Sundays – through April.  The Board charged the staff team with moving forward with this experiment in December because they realized that 2 services could not accommodate the numbers of people who wanted to worship with us on Sunday morning.
Our goal for the three services was to learn as much as we could about what it would take to sustain 3 Sunday services (how hard would it be?!), how people would react to an earlier (or later) service, and whether or not it would indeed accomplish the goal of serving more people.
In the past few weeks, our Committee on Shared Ministry (Glenn Pearson, Margie Wagner, Sally Harris, Anne Hall, Sue Sullivan and Ward Sutton) have held a few feedback circles with various groups to help gather up some of this information we hoped to learn. These have provided us critical information as we begin to look ahead to the next steps for our worship services this summer and beyond.
If you weren’t able to attend one of these circles, I hope you will fill out this short survey about YOUR experience and lessons from the 3rd Service Experiment (By the end of April, please!).
We have two big pieces of news resulting from our lessons learned and our feedback so far.
First – much to our surprise – is that, instead of asking us to hurry up and be done with the three services – there is a shared desire to extend the three services through May 21st when our regular religious education classes will conclude. Anything sooner would disrupt our classes and our teachers too much.  Also, as a staff team, we have realized that a third service isn’t that hard – we actually like it! We like that it means more space for all who come, and that we can indeed serve more people.
Which brings us to the second insight – which is that for the period of February through this past Sunday, we are consistently serving nearly 40% more people than we did this time in any prior year.  Instead of seeing attendance plateau at our seating capacity, and then drop back down, it’s remaining steady, and growing.  Whereas previously we would see 200-300 adults on a Sunday, we are now routinely seeing between 350 and 450.  There are probably multiple reasons for this, but we can say with confidence that we are accommodating more people on Sunday morning, which was the goal.
Also, for the summer time, based on last year’s numbers we know that we need to have 2 services instead of 1. The summer time seems like an ideal time to offer our 8:00 service.
All of this means that, starting on Memorial Weekend and running through Labor Day, we’ll hold services at 8:00 and 9:30, with an extended fabulous social hour/community fun time at 10:30.
After Labor Day we will return to three services – and the times for these will be sorted out based on your feedback in the survey as well as through other efforts to collect feedback.
Thank you so much for your willingness to try out this experiment, and for making space for all who want to gather with us on Sundays. I know it has sometimes meant stepping out of your comfort zone, missing out on seeing some of your usual friends on Sundays, and changing around your routines.  Thank you for keeping your senses of humor in tact and for learning along with us so that we can keep serving our mission in these times when our church and our values are so needed, by so many.  33682878575_f8987089f2_k.jpg

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.

It’s time to Answer the Call of Love – from Kay Williams

Foothills HeartFlame logo 2.1.17 ANSWERING THE CALL O LOVE (1).jpgIt’s time. Time to help support all of the important work that Foothills is doing to unleash courageous love in Northern Colorado and beyond. It’s time to affirm what Foothills means to you and your family personally.  And, it’s time to thoughtfully consider your financial commitment and the ways that love calls each of us, and all of us together to respond to the challenges and hopes of our world today.

It’s time to answer the call of love.

We ask all friends and members to keep an eye on your snail mailbox during the next few days – you’ll find information on the ways we’ve been growing, and the ways we are all needed to respond to the needs of today – to meet the rising fear and hatred with a bolder, more courageous love.

To dive in now, be sure to check out our website to see where we have been and where we are going as we discover what it will mean to Answer the Call of Love.

Thank you for your generous support of Foothills and for making all that we do together possible – Kay Williams, Stewardship Team Chair

P.S. If you’ve been preparing your taxes, and thinking you would like to save money on them next time, click here to learn how your pledge of financial commitment to Foothills can provide you with tax advantages for next year.

Do we have room at the Inn? The 3rd Service Experiment by April Undy

 

Room at the.pngApril Undy is a member of the Board of Foothills Unitarian Church

This time of year we’re all about the nativity story.  A homeless couple, the young woman laden with child, need a place to rest, to give birth to their child.   A family that represents the joy of new life.   A child, who unbeknownst to those around him, will be the light of the world.

Why didn’t someone make room for them?  There were reasons, logical reasons, good reasons.  The rooms were booked.  The lodgings were over crowded.  They didn’t want to inconvenience their other guests.  The family was poor, they might not be able to pay their way.  There was no way for the inn keepers to know how special this family was, no ability to see how special every family is.

Reasons? No. Excuses.  Always excuses.

There are a people who don’t make excuses; people who see what needs to be done, and do it, even if it’s uncomfortable, even if it’s challenging, even if it’s hard.

We claim those people.  We are those people.

We are people like Martha and Waitstill Sharp*, Ed Cahill**, and locally, Sue Ferguson***.

We are a called people.  We come together not because doctrine says we must, but because we choose to.  We, as individuals, have discerned a need within ourselves, a need in the world, to come together to worship and be of service.  We are a people who answer the call.  We act. We make room.  We are comforted together.  We are powerful together.

We are called again, now.  More people are finding us.  More people see that they need what we offer.  We are being asked to make room at our inn.  We are being asked to be uncomfortable, challenged, perhaps even, inconvenienced.

How do we answer that call?

We make room, even when it seems like there’s no more room to be had.  In the case of crowded Sunday mornings at Foothills Unitarian, we are experimenting with a 3rd service on Sundays to accommodate the larger crowds coming to Sunday morning services.  We know that this is not the end, it’s not the only way, but it’s something we can try, right now, with what we have.

Please, answer this call.  Try a different service, especially if you don’t have children in R.E.  Volunteer to help during service.  Three services means we need 50% more volunteers to help with the Welcome Desk, making coffee, and ushering.  This is an experiment, if nothing else, we will learn something from it.  More importantly, we will be telling each other and the larger community something.

“You are important.  We care.  We want you here.  We are willing to make room for you.”

“ Please come in.”


*Martha and Waitstill Sharp who, supported by their congregation and the American Unitarian Association went to Europe before and during WWII to support persecuted people and with the aid of many others facilitate the immigration of refugees.

** Ed Cahill, the minister whose North Caroline church’s open membership policy was reported in the local paper on the same day in 1954 as the Supreme Court handed down its decision on Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka.

*** Sue Ferguson, Foothills Unitarian Church member, Faith Family Hospitality board member.   Faith Family Hospitality opens our physical space to homeless families during the week so that families may stay together, and facilitating more a more stable situation for those families.