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.”
But in times like these, I firmly believe that having homework for understanding and respecting other cultures is more important than my current homework. That spending time getting to know those in this community while applying the values of this community is the best way to feel connected to it.
After good consultation with the choir, other music leaders, the Board, other UU music professionals, and hearing from many others in the congregation, we have settled in on this 3-phase approach for our next steps in our music ministry at Foothills.
First, the immediate future. For the next 6-8 Sundays we will be working with the great deal of talent and generosity in our congregation to provide song leadership, music coordination and special music. Occasionally, we may have guests from other nearby UU congregations who want to express their support and care for our congregation during this transition. We will also be engaging a variety of accompanists both internal and external. During this time we will be listening for things that work well, and learning from things that don’t. Especially as this will overlap with the launch of our 3rd Service Experiment, we know not everything will go perfectly, but we know that the strength of our congregation and its generosity will sustain us.
We are especially grateful for choir member and retired choir director Bob Molison for stepping in to help lead choir rehearsal for the next few weeks, including preparing the choir to sing this Sunday, and for the upcoming memorial for Nancy Phillips.
Second, the interim next steps. This position is a 3/4 time staff position, and again, we are about to launch three service Sundays – which means that we can’t wait too long before filling the position in a more professional way. As a result, I have asked the choir to nominate people who they would trust to serve on an interim selection committee to help identify someone who can fill in for the next 6 months or so. We already have three applicants for this position, and our target is for this person to start by mid March.
This brings me to the third phase, which is our long term position. Our hope is that our Interim Music Director would help us to develop a vision for where music ministry needs to go next, including to help craft a job description for someone to apply out of a national search. This was a great idea that the choir suggested – that we take this time to look at our strengths and opportunities for growth and craft a vision for our shared future.
Depending on the success of the pledge drive, this would be a position that is anywhere from 3/4 time to full time, and year round. As a large, creative, and energetic congregation in this amazing town, we should be able to attract an exceptional candidate to be a great addition to our staff team, and to our congregation. Our intent would be to have this person start by September, with a brief overlap with our Interim.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I want to thank all of the many who have volunteered to help with our music ministry, and for your partnership as we imagine the next steps for our future.
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.
April 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.