An Update On All The Things

An Update On All The Things

When Sean sent me the note about writing this week’s Extra lead article, he said that my topic should be “an update on all the things.” To help me narrow it down, he gave me a parenthetical list of examples of what that “all” might include: 1) the final decision on our worship times; and 2) the renewal of his contract. They may not be all the things – but they are pretty big things.
1.  Worship Times
The 3rd service experiment was a great success.  Our attendance over the last few months was exponentially greater than it has been in over 30 years, and is not slowing down.  In the past few weeks, we have taken our analysis of the data, in combination with the feedback we’ve received in small groups, in our survey, and through individual emails and conversations (thank you!), and come to a decision about our worship times for the coming year.
From May 28th (Memorial Day weekend) through September 3rd (Labor Day weekend), we will run two services: 8:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
This is a change from what was previously announced – because we became clear that the best times for worship starting September 10th and running through May 20, 2018 need to be: 
8:30 am, 10:00 am and 11:30 am
This new pattern has its upsides and downsides – as does every possible option.  The primary upside is we believe that it will assure the maximum “spread” of attendance, especially with some adjustments to when classes are offered for children.  The primary downside is the lack of social “hour,” and reduced capacity for between-services programming. We are already brainstorming ways to address the underlying needs for these and other things that will need to adjust. More info on both of these coming soon.
I am excited about this new worship schedule, and our commitment to ensuring that there is plenty of space for all who come seeking our community and who share our mission.  Although our “experiment” is technically concluded – let’s remember that everything we do is an “experiment,” so we can learn how this feels all next year, and if it isn’t working, we can adjust, and try something new once again.
2.  Sean’s Contract
As most of you know (and many have expressed some worry about), Sean is on a one year contract with us, which expires in July.  Over the past few months I have spoken with the Board, the staff team, and the Committee on Shared Ministry, and we all whole-heartedly agree that our hope is that Sean continues in his ministry with us for a long, long time.  Luckily, I also spoke with Sean, and he shares this hope.
From this conversation and reflection, we have offered and Sean has agreed to a renewed contract for the maximum possible length of his visa renewal – 49 months – which extends his contract through August 2021!  I hope you’ll join me in a happy dance / sigh of relief / prayer of THANKS and WOW!
I’m so happy for all of us – first that we found this great match with Sean, and second that we all get to continue to do ministry in partnership with him for at least the next 4 years.  Look for more information on what’s next for our shared ministry with Sean in an upcoming blog post and/or Extra.
An Update on All the Things
If you’re still hoping for the latest news on ALL the things…while I can’t quite offer that, I can at least tell you what I think is perpetually the good news about all the things:
Whatever it is, whatever is going on in your life, or in this world, however, you’re feeling about it – it’s not the end of the story. There’s more truth to be revealed, more truth to unfold, more change to come.  We get to be a part of this unfolding, and a part of the telling, a part of the creating – even as it remains mostly all a mystery to all of us.  So we keep showing up, keep doing what we can, and continuing to offer ourselves, in love, in hope, in faith.
See you in church – for a few more weeks at 8/9:30/11:30, but then starting on May 28th, at 8:30 & 10.
In partnership,
Gretchen
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.”

 

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

9GT? Reflections from Alumni

9th Grade Trip Alumni Hannah Mahoney and Grace Hanley Wright reflect on how the experience impacted them years later.  
“The UU faith teaches us that we are global citizens. We are the keepers of this world, responsible for protecting our environment and advocating for justice for our fellow citizens. Those deeply held convictions are developed over time in the UU youth.
One of the moments in my life that helped deepen those convictions and broaden my world-view was the ninth grade trip, which our 9th graders are preparing to go on. The 9th grade trip takes our young people to the Hopi and Navajo reservations, and is a transformative experience. The first time I cried at the awe-inspiring beauty of nature was at Canyon de Chelle, sitting alongside my UU friends. The first time I understood staggering inequality in the United States was at the reservations—-an experience that I never would have had if not for this trip.
As I have grown to travel the world and use my career for social and environmental progress, I am thankful to all of the people who supported me on one of the first steps in my journey. Today, I encourage you to support these youth at the cake auction or through your donations, and I light this chalice in honor of all of the first steps we are continually taking to transform ourselves and the world.”
-Grace Hanley Wright
Ip1070304_32960406236_o.jpg‘ll ask you to think back on 9th grade, junior high school, that time around 14.  You’re not a kid anymore, but you’re not recognized as an adult. You’re to0 young to drive, vote, make real money- and the adults in your life want to protect you, shape you, or control you.  They’re often confused by you, maybe even a little scared of you.  This loving, courageous community is not scared of teenagers! You saw me, and you demonstrated your faith by pulling me out of school and sending me on the 9th grade trip: 10 days away from home & family, on a bus with 40 of my peers, on an epic journey through Navajo and Hopi lands, growing and learning and working together, finding spirituality and creating loving community.  It was incredibly affirming to be lifted up, at that time in my life, by our greater UU community.  To be recognized as a whole person and honored with the responsibility of belonging.  When I came home from the 9th grade trip, I knew my life had begun.
-Hannah Mahoney
For those of you who do not yet know, the Ninth Grade Trip is a 10-day interactive, educational, and spiritual experience through the Navajo and Hopi nations. It takes place after a series of classes that go into depth on each culture. As you may have guessed, this journey is for Ninth Graders.
Like so much in life, I never really saw the importance of the 9th grade trip until I was in the middle of it all. Until I, the standard quiet-kid-in-class type of kid, lost the ability to speak because I was talking more than I ever had before. Until I was watching a sunset in complete silence, and thinking “No wonder they call this feeling Spirit-ual”. Until everyone was saying goodbye, singing a song that will forever feel emotional to me now. I didn’t get it, until I did.
32156812964_b419a5c80f_zBefore that, it was something my brothers had done, that now I had to do. It was this thing that gave me MORE homework, took some of my precious weekends, and emptied my parents’ pockets a bit. The only highlight was snagging cookies from the cake auction.
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.
So to those of you who are new, and trying to figure out whether this whole 9GT thing is really a thing, I promise it is. Please support it. And to those of you who already know and are going and just waiting to eat cake, I have some parting advice; If you actually wake yourself up for the sunrise walks, you might get to hear Mitch sing one of his favorite songs. And if you are the person who brings a card deck on the bus, you will become very popular very fast.
-Kerigan Flynn
My name is Zia, I am a sophomore in high school and I went on the 9th grade trip last year. The 9th grade trip, changed the way I live, how I interact with people, and my experience with the UU church. During the 9th grade trip I made so many new friends that I am still connected with today even though the trip was almost a year ago. On the trip, there were about 53 other people on a bus traveling to the Hopi and Navajo lands. Imagine traveling thousands of miles to a place that is completely new to us, for 10 days. I guess you can say we got pretty close. During those ten days, I learned that the UU community is my family and that they are worth everything to me. Because of the ninth-grade trip I have become closer than ever to the UU church and community. My 9th grade trip was the 52nd annual trip, and this tradition is an experience I think everyone should be aware of because it will change your teens life like it did mine.
– Zia

Next Steps for our Music Ministry

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.

31624513464_bbfff1bb8e_z

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.

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.