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

 

New Database Part Two: Groups

Last week I wrote about the ways our new database Planning Center Online (PCO) will impact the ways we do Giving at Foothills. This week my focus is on Groups!

TL/DR: New online group directory for all church groups. Information on group activities now can be found on their individual group pages.

Groups

At last count, Foothills has over 60 official groups, ministries, and teams. Before now, keeping track of them all, let alone making it easy to learn about and connect with them, was a challenge. One of the key features of our new database is an online infrastructure to support our church’s groups. Here is what I am most excited about:

  • Our new online group directory showcases all the groups in one place. It also allows you all to request to be added to groups that are open to new members.
  • Group pages contain essential information including: descriptions, meeting times and dates, and contact information.
  • Group leaders can now easily see who is in their group, communicate with them all by email, and create events for all group members to see.
  • Private Groups allow only group members to see the information about group activities and members.
  • Public groups allow the whole church to get excited and involved in your events.

Many of you are involved in many different groups – by logging into your account via the group directory, you can see and access all the groups you are part of, include some private groups that only members of those groups can access.

As the year rolls on we will no doubt be learning more about our new system and be sharing with you more information. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. For questions regarding Giving please contact Carolyn Myers, our church administrator (carolyn@foothillsuu.org); questions about Groups can be directed to me, Sean Neil-Barron (sean@foothillsuu.org)

Stewardship Campaign Update April 2017

foothills-heartflame-logo-2-1-17-answering-the-call-o-love-1The Stewardship Team would like to thank you for Answering the Call of Love!  We are wrapping up our Stewardship Campaign, Foothills’ annual fundraising drive.  And once again, you’ve come through for a successful campaign. The most exciting news is that we have surpassed 400 pledge units for the first time in our church’s history!  We have 414 households making financial commitments for the support of our church and our work in the community and beyond.  Thank You!  This includes 49 new pledge units, which is up from last year’s 39.  Thank You, New Folks!  And our total so far … drum roll, please… is $659,874!  This is an increase of 7% – very exciting – and that amount will rise throughout the year.

Your financial commitments range from $20 a year to $20,000 a year!  WOW!  Our average pledge is about $1,600.  Our new pledgers averaged $791.  336 of our pledge units are Members; 78 are Friends.

You should have received a letter in the mail last week confirming what you indicated your financial commitment is.  If you didn’t respond to our initial request, we kept your amount the same as last year, as has been our policy the last several years.  Please take a look at it.

For those of you who are data nerds, we will be crunching the numbers further in the next few months, and more statistical information will be available.  We are encouraged by the trends we’re seeing.  Thank you for your generosity!  I hope you feel, like I do, that being a part of the culture of abundance here at Foothills feels good. Together, we are truly making a difference for our congregation and our community.  Thanks again for Answering the Call of Love.

With Gratitude,
Kay Williams, Chair – and the Stewardship Team:
Andrea Bazoin, Jim Lathrop, Peg MacMorris, Brendan Mahoney, and Lynn Young

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!

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.”

 

Big CHANGE IS HAPPENING! Does it matter? Are you on board?

The Governance Task Force has been charged by your Board of Trustees to propose a new governance structure.  The goal is to allow the Board to spend less time on day to day operations and more time on longer-term matters.

So what is wrong with the way we have been operating?  It is not that we have been governing in the wrong way.  The better question might be: Are there other ways we could be governing that would allow us to more effectively and successfully organize our efforts towards our shared mission and vision?
The Governance Task Force, after a couple of years of research, is proposing a number of changes to accomplish these goals.  The proposed changes are based on the concept of policy-based governance that is being used in many large churches.
What is governance?  Governance determines who is authorized and has the responsibility to make decisions, how people make their voice heard and who is accountable for what.

Operations are different from governance in that operations refers to the day-to-day management of the church.  As has been common with many small churches, our Board has been directly involved in both governance and operations.
While our organizational structure served us well for many years, our church is evolving.  We are a dynamic church and growing rapidly in many different areas.  Now it is important to experiment with a different governance system.  We will be proposing a test year to experiment with a new governance model.  However, one thing will not change – that is the Board remains responsible and accountable to the congregation and will continue to be the governing body for our church.
There is much more we want to share with you.  Keep in touch with future issues of the Extra, come to the GTF table in the social hall on Sunday, follow the leadership blog and attend our information sharing meeting in May.  We want your input.  We want your support.  We want your vote for approval at our Congregational meeting on June 4th. Have questions or want to share a thought? Email us at governancetf@foothillsuu.org.
Your GTF, Jody Anderson (chair), Elizabeth Stanley, Brian Woodruff, Tom Inscho, Ed Beers, Gretchen Haley (ex- officio member)