Getting Into Focus

When the board met on February 22, we discussed all the good work being done within our congregation. We all feel spring is in the air. We discussed what we are working on, and what we want to accomplish before our time on the board this year is complete. Here are the areas we are currently focused on, and will be focused on right up to July 1st.

Hopefully all of you know about our Mission Task Force made up of five current board members who met with many of you between services in January to review what we have used in the past for our Mission, as well as discuss what a mission is for, and why we are looking at creating a new one to better reflect who Foothills is today, as well as what inspires us as well as our visitors. We collected many helpful ideas, visions, and words to apply to our new mission. The task force will be presenting a draft version of our new mission to see how it sits with all of us, then they will do some more work on it before they will present it at our annual Congregational meeting for a vote on June 5th.

Our Governance Task Force, which is made up of 2 board members, 3 congregation-at-large members, and Rev. Howell Lind, has now met a number of times. They are well on their way doing the good long work of discovering, creating, sharing, and trying on the best suited governance for Foothills. As we have shared before, this work will take about two years of their time. They are working closely with the model in Governance and Ministry by Dan Hotchkiss.

The Task Force looks forward to gathering information from all of you between services this coming Sunday March 6th, March 13th, 20th and April 3rd in the sanctuary at 10:10am – 10:45am.  They will use your feedback in these sessions to evaluate and updating our governance structure. These first sessions are primarily to collect concerns and questions from the congregation. They will share some of what they have been doing and what they expect to happen as we move through this process but mostly right now they just want to hear from you. Please join us for at least one of these important discussions.

The Board has been working with Rev. Gretchen Haley and a board appointed advisory team made up of one board member and 3 congregation-at-large members to interview and submit a candidate to the board for our new assistant minister position. The Board is happy to share that Foothills UU has received a number of excellent applicants, making this an exciting process, and we will hire this one-year, renewable contract position soon. The new assistant minister will start their position August 1st, just a month after Rev. Haley begins officially as senior minister.

I am happy to share that our Stewardship campaign that started two weeks ago is going very well! Thank you to all of you who have pledged thus far! Thank you for your generosity and commitment to the good work being done by this amazing community. I am very excited for what is ahead! For those who haven’t pledged yet, I ask that you please turn in your pledge cards as soon as you can. I must thank Kay Williams and her dedicated team who kicked off the campaign in church these past two Sundays with great success and some chaotic fun!

The other big areas the board will be focused on the remainder of this church year will be continuing our communication efforts with you all, as well as focusing on strengthening our leadership development for new leaders here at Foothills. Our next Informational Forum given by the Board and Howell will be held on April 10th after the 11am service. This will be the last time we are having this type of informational meeting before our annual congregational meeting on June 5th. At the informational forum we will continue to share the work the board is up to, how we are doing after the stewardship campaign, and it will be another opportunity for us to listen to you.

As we continue to grow, so does the skills and needs of our church leaders. This has been recognized for a while by many church leaders, and this church year we have made a great effort at better preparing these generous volunteers. This year we have begun delivering quality leadership development workshops to those who have shown an interest in becoming a leader, are currently leading, and are on our nominating committee. We will be having our next leadership development opportunities on Wednesday, March 30th and Wednesday April 6th from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. If you are interested in attending please speak to one of our ministers.

I want to end this blog by simply saying I have the honor to serve you in the company of an incredible Board of Trustees. This is a team of wonderfully dedicated volunteers who are generous, thoughtful, funny, and visionary. We are committed to representing all of you. We look forward to helping prepare next year’s “dream team” Board…and we thank each of you who make Foothills UU the special congregation it is.

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Why I’m A Unitarian Universalist by Rich Young

One might expect me to use this last newsletter of my Board presidency to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished and where the church is heading. But the violence last week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, has me thinking of bigger questions. The attack has brought into focus for me why it is that I am a UU.

Certainly, I’m proud that we Unitarians are a clear voice in the national discourse about racial injustice. Our first principle, which proclaims the inherent worth and dignity of all people, calls us to continue working to heal this divided world. And of course I’m proud that we are not newcomers to this struggle. I’m proud of our presence alongside the civil rights activists of the 1960’s, working to bring about Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision. More generally, I’m proud of our heritage as early adopters on the fringes of justice. I’m proud of our abolitionists and our feminists. I’m proud that my gay friends can get married now, and that our denomination played such a big part in making that simple decency possible. I’m proud of all that we stand for. But I am not a UU because of that pride.

When last week’s racially motivated attack hit the news, I felt myself slipping into the too-familiar pattern of anger and hopelessness and isolation. I felt my heart begin to harden, to focus on all of the ways that this was not happening to me – to protectively separate myself from the tragedy. It’s something I’m not proud of. But it’s how I’ve always responded when the world reminds us just how broken it is, and the shock and pain and outrage and hopelessness set in.

What’s different, now, is that the roots I’ve put down in this faith have given me options other than turning away or despairing. In this community, we mourn together, we seek understanding together, and we work to find ways to address the underlying issues. I’m under no illusion that the enduring injustices in our society will magically recede before us. I know that it is beyond our power to heal the world unilaterally, or else it would long since have been healed. But I also know that whenever progress is made, whenever love wins a small, incremental victory, our people will be part of the reason. And I know that working in service to that effort beats the heck out of giving up.

I’ve chosen to be a UU, in other words, because I’m a better person when I’m rooted in this community, and it’s the best chance I have of helping this broken world bloom.

President Obama was asked in an interview this week whether he felt despair that such an act of racially motivated terrorism could still happen, after all this time. “Do not say that nothing’s changed when it comes to race in America unless you lived through being a black man in the 1950s, or ’60s, or ’70s,” he replied. “But what is also true is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives: that casts a long shadow.” 

Listening to the president’s response, I felt the magnitude of this wound in the fabric of our society. I was reminded of hiking out of the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Starting at the banks of the Colorado River before dawn, we struggled upward as the sun climbed the sky and the heat intensified. The hike seemed endless; the canyon was so vast that the rim didn’t seem to be getting any closer. But every so often, we would round a bend and see the river impossibly far below, and the scale of both our efforts and our goal would snap into perspective. We have come so far, I would think. And yet we have a long way yet to go. 

Which brings me in a roundabout way to the things I perhaps should be addressing in this final newsletter article of my term as your president. Ministerial transition is a difficult process, and ours has been perhaps more so than we might have expected. But the abundant capability, resilience and good will that make this congregation so special will see us through. As I pass the torch to Jennifer Powell, I’m at ease that we are in good hands and headed in the right direction. I’m comfortably certain that our church and the larger denomination will continue to thrive.

Which is a wonderful thing, because this world needs us. It needs our voice in the chorus of justice; it needs our diversity to find a way forward in these changing times. It needs our strength and stability supporting smaller partners in neighboring communities, so that the values we share have a champion everywhere they are needed. And it needs our walls to shelter us when we might despair, so that we can pause, take comfort, and go back out into the world strong and loving again.

Thank you all for an amazing year. I’ll see you Sunday,

–Rich Young