Following Up on #MeToo

It’s been a little over 3 weeks since our #MeToo worship service, and the conversation is just beginning.  A few of our Senior Sisterhood groups have been taking up brave and tender conversations around #MeToo – sharing their own experiences and reflections with one another.  The small group conversations for women to reflect on problematic sexual experiences started tonight, with another on Saturday.  And, the conversations for Men and #MeToo are set to begin next Wednesday.  This last one has drawn the attention of NPR’s All Things Considered, who is doing a story on men and the #MeToo movement – they reached out to hear about our intent for these conversations, and how men are responding.

Another part of this continued conversation is also just beginning to take shape – the Restoring Wholeness Task Force announced by the Board as a part of the #MeToo service.  Over the past few weeks, the Board has been drafting the charter for this Task Force, and thinking carefully about the desired ends.

The Board has been clear that we are called to be a church that deals directly with sexual misconduct and harassment, and that we want to be a part of shifting the culture towards one of greater respect, equality, understanding, and mutual liberation.  To do this, we know we need to start by taking a good look at our past – for, as the Rev. Jan Christian says, “going back can change the way we go forward.”

Part of the work of the Task Force will be in collecting stories about our congregation’s past – including relationships between congregants and religious professionals, and the ways our congregation’s culture, as a system, may have contributed to a lack of clarity or other factors that may have allowed misconduct or harassment to occur.  The goal is to learn, to change, to grow, and to do better.

If you are someone who is wanting to share about an experience that you are thinking through from the past that may connect to this conversation, please email metoo@foothillsuu.org, which for now (until our Task Force is fully up to speed) will be responded to by me, or by Rev. Sean directly.  You can trust that your confidentiality will be protected, as together we continue to understand and learn from our own past – so that we can create an even stronger future.

This is brave, and sometimes challenging work.  I am proud to serve a congregation whose leadership has been willing to do the difficult and yet faithful thing at each step, with a commitment towards being that church that we know we are called to be.  And, I am grateful that we can create spaces and opportunities for this brave learning to happen together, so that we can all grow, and learn, and change, for the better.

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Meet Cartoonist Ward Sutton, Recently Honored Foothills Member

Interviewed by Jane Everham

(Supplemental information from The Herb Block Foundation)

WardSuttonSMWard Sutton has been named the winner of the 2018 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning. The Herblock Prize is awarded annually by The Herb Block Foundation for “distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous independent standard set by Herblock.” Ward Sutton will receive the Prize on May 9th in a ceremony held at the Library of Congress. Scott Simon, Peabody Award-winning correspondent and host of Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR, will deliver the annual Herblock Lecture at the awards ceremony.

 

 

The judges said:ward cartoon

“We were greatly impressed by the quality and breadth of submissions, with so much outstanding work being done in all types of political cartooning. But we felt that Ward Sutton’s combination of strong artwork and sharp satirical writing stood out. Ward’s art style has an appealing comic book look that includes a mastery of caricature within that context. He juxtaposes these attractive drawings with strong, urgent writing, setting up creative premises and wringing out of them cutting humor and provocative commentary that rise to the historical importance of today’s issues.”

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ward Sutton about his career path and what brought him to Fort Collins and Foothills Unitarian Church.

Ward, where is your home of origin?

I grew up mainly in Edina, Minnesota – a suburb of Minneapolis. I also stayed in Minnesota to attend St. Olaf College, which is where my wife and I first met. 

Sutton got his start cartooning for the Edina Sun community newspaper when he was in middle school. He continued at Edina High School’s Zephyrus and St. Olaf College  Manitou Messenger before launching his first professional political strip, “Ward’s Cleaver,” in the Minneapolis alt-weekly, The Twin Cities Reader. Since then, he has lived in Seattle, New York City, and Costa Rica before finding his current home with his family in Fort Collins, Colorado.

What brought you to Fort Collins?

My wife Sue and I had been living in New York City for nearly 20 years when we decided we needed a change. So, we found an amazing bilingual school and moved our family to Costa Rica for 2 years. After that we were ready to move back to the US but did not want to return to NYC. By chance we met a lot of people from Colorado in Costa Rica, and that inspired us to visit the front range. After what my wife calls “speed dating” the different towns in the area we all agreed that Fort Collins was our favorite.

We have a daughter named Yineth (15, attends Rocky Mountain High School) and a son Tavio (11, attends Lesher Middle School).

Sue’s parents recently bought a small house in town and are using it as a second home. They spend a good amount of time in FoCo and have been enjoying Foothills as well.

We also have two dogs, Bisbee and Lobo, whom we rescued in Costa Rica and brought to FoCo. They are definitely part of the family, too!

How did you find Foothills UU Church?

We had been part of a UCC church in NYC, and when we arrived in Fort Collins we really wanted to find a progressive church community. We’ve always been interested in learning more about UU; Sue and I both took part in some of the “beginner” programs that were offered during our first year in town and we were sold: we became members of Foothills after about 3 and a half months.

How did you become an editorial cartoonist?

I won an art contest in 1st grade and never looked back. I had my first cartoons published in a community paper when I was in grade school and Junior High, then I worked for my school papers in high school and college. I began my professional career working for “Alt Weeklies” – the weekly urban newspapers that were so common in the 1990s. I began in Minneapolis, then moved to Seattle, then finally arrived in NYC in 1995. In 1998, The Village Voice picked up my weekly strip. In 2008, I began creating cartoons for the Boston Globe.

Ward Sutton has been creating biting editorial cartoons for The Boston Globe since 2008. He experiments with size and format, often producing multi-panel cartoons that can read like a graphic novel. In 2010, his full-page “Tea Party Comics” won a gold medal from the Society of Publication Designers.

Alarmed by the incoming Trump administration, Sutton drew a “RESIST” poster image and distributed it for free online in 2017. It was downloaded, printed, carried in marches all over the world, and later chosen by American Illustration in its annual competition.

Stephen Colbert has said: “Ward Sutton’s satire doesn’t just bite, it maims. He’s the perfect cartoonist for our discordant times.’’

Are you still creating cartoons? For whom?

My main client for editorial cartooning is the Boston Globe, and the Herblock Award I recently won is for my Globe cartoons from 2017. But I am a freelancer and create cartoons for other places such as The New Yorker, The Nation, The Nib (website) and In These Times magazine. I also work as an illustrator, creating drawings that accompany articles in publications such as GQ, Entertainment Weekly and MAD Magazine.

In addition to cartooning, Sutton has created posters for Broadway, the Sundance Film Festival, and musicians such as Beck, Radiohead, Phish, and Pearl Jam. He has designed, directed and/or produced animation for HBO, Noggin and Comedy Central. His work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, The Society of Publication Designers, The Society for News Design, The Minnesota Page One Awards and The Art Directors Club.

What else keeps you out of trouble?

I have a semi-secret alter-ego: In 2006, I created Stan Kelly, the (fake) editorial cartoonist for the (fake) newspaper, The Onion. That project is an ongoing parody of editorial cartoons, and in 2016 a book of Kelly’s cartoons was published. I’ll add some links about Kelly below:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/sarah-larson/brilliantly-terrible-the-political-cartoons-of-the-onions-stan-kelly

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2017/08/10/why-the-onions-kelly-is-the-best-bad-cartoonist-in-america/?utm_term=.15ddc1209920

What kind of involvement if any do you hope to have at Foothills?

I served on the Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM) for a while but different events going on in my life made it necessary for me to limit my commitments and step down from the Committee. My wife Sue has been leading the 5th grade RE class on Sundays, and I’m happy just to be getting to know Foothills and the community better for the time being.

Finally, I asked Ward: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A cartoonist.

Ward, it is an honored to have you among us. Congratulations on this award! So grateful that you continue to unleash your imagination!

Contact information for Ward Sutton: wardsuttonimpact@gmail.com  www.suttonimpactstudio.com @wardsutton on Instagram

http://www.facebook.com/wardsutton http://twitter.com/WardSutton

 

 

Why I’m Grateful We Won’t Be Sponsoring a Black Lives Matter Event This Weekend

It started the way that so many Unitarian Universalist actions start: with a question.

One of our members asked on a progressive social media site, why there had not been any response in Fort Collins to the most recent shooting death of a Black man by police officers – in this case, Stephon Clark in Sacramento.

Just a few days later, the event seemed to be well on its way.  Conversations were happening across various communities, speakers were being booked, permits were being pulled, objectives were being outlined.  Some of the organizing was messy – most of us didn’t know each other.  But we were figuring it out.  The Facebook event went live. It was happening.

To be honest, I have been waiting for this moment.  I knew it would come, hoped it would come. This moment when the right someone would ask the right question, at the right time, and movement would begin.  We could show up, as allies, and supporters with our presence as a predominantly white faith community to support the voices and leadership of people of color.

When it comes to race and racism – we are not well practiced at these conversations in Fort Collins, at least, not in the white community.  But in other spaces, amongst people of color, and sometimes across trusted friendships, it’s generations-long.   Before I lived in Fort Collins, I first heard about it from one of my favorite artists, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, who wrote a piece about a stay here in 2008.  He described the city as “one of the most racist places” he’d been in the U.S., and went on to describe a series of harassing anti-Mexican racist interactions he and his friend had while in town.

It’s long past time for all of us to be having this conversation, and to do the work to make change.

As the team started to discern its plans, it reached out to a core group of leaders of color in the city, hoping to invite their participation and engagement.  Instead of positive reception, however, this group expressed serious concerns and resistance.  First, at the focus on Stephon Clark and national issues.  They felt it perpetuated a myth that racism happens somewhere else, not here.  And second, that a single rally or event might help white people feel they were doing something, but wouldn’t necessarily make actual change for people of color in the community.  They asked the group to put the event on hold so that greater conversation, relationship building, and strategizing could occur.

I already said that the early stages of this process were messy.  But this was something else.  This was – painful. Confusing.  There was a plan in place, a lot of publicity.  Already a group of volunteers being recruited. No one disagreed with the need to address race and racism – and yet it matters how, and with whom.  As the Black Lives Matter organizers have said it, we need to move at the speed of trust. And these relationships, this partnership, it didn’t have the trust yet.  We realized, we needed to start there.

So the lead organizers put the event on hold.  There have been hurt feelings as a result, and some angry words – especially coming from white activists invested in the event.  It’s been even messier than those first conversations.

And yet ultimately, I’m grateful that we aren’t moving forward with the event.  Because an event is not the end we’re after.  The event was just a means towards the bigger end, which is racial justice – and a Fort Collins where all people, including people of color feel welcome, and included, seen, and heard, and valued – for who they are.  That end is going to take a lot of messy conversations and a broad coalition of partners.  And it’s going to take a willingness to put things on hold when key leaders of color in the community ask for a pause, to slow down to build that trust.  It’s going to mean listening, and re-assessing, and learning together, and privileging relationship over publicity, or facebook events – even when they have gotten many likes, and many people indicating their desire to attend.

With the event on hold this weekend, we are re-assessing our plans, and stepping back into that critical relationship-building work, and strategizing together in the way the group of leaders asked for.  We’re engaging some help from community leaders who have walked this path before, and we’re taking a breath.  We’re committed to the long-haul work, and to doing our part to build the Beloved Community.  Most of all, I am grateful to get to be a part, to listen and learn, and to be on this journey, together.

 

From #MeToo to Easter – Making Space for a New Story

To call last Sunday’s #MeToo service “powerful” feels too small, too overused a word.  It was holy, it was terrifying, it was the beginning of something that we don’t yet totally understand.  (If you were not able to join us in person, check out the podcast here, or watch the full service here, and check out the text of the sermon here.)

Holding space with you as we traveled the path of our stories of pain, and shame, violence, and also resilience and resistance broke my heart, and also bolstered my spirit.  It was brave space that we made together, and also, it was just the beginning.

As I prepared for the service, I was struck repeatedly at the ways that the #MeToo movement connects so readily to the #NeverAgain marches that happened across the country on Saturday, and also the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the work for Immigration Justice and also environmental justice, and….because all of these movements are trying to address the dominant paradigm that says some lives matter more than others, that some voices and stories matter more – that we are not ultimately all in this life together.

It can be easy, when we start delving deeply into this work in the ways that we did on Sunday, to get caught up in the pain, or the shame, or to feel that these old stories we are fighting to change are in fact intractable, or to be overwhelmed at just how deep the dysfunction goes, including in ourselves.

Which is why, I’m so glad that the Sunday immediately following #MeToo is our Easter Sunday.  Because Easter reminds us that it’s never too late for forgiveness, for healing, for reconciliation, for redemption.  It’s never too late to imagine a new story, even one that feels at times impossible.

So, come on Sunday, and let’s celebrate together, and remind each other – that we are still in the middle of a story that we are writing together, and that so much remains unknown, and out of our individual control – and, despite what we might think sometimes, that’s such good news.  Because then in the midst of some of the darkest days, there emerges Emma Gonzales, and Naomi Wadler, and the movement for Black Lives, and the intersectional work of the Women’s March.

Our task, as we gather, is to make space in our hearts, and in our lives, for all that is trying to be born, and to keep doing our own work that we can be shepherds of a new day, and a changed story.  And to give thanks, for this good and worthy work that we can do together.

Foothills Students Add Their Voices to National Outcry for Stricter Gun Control

by Karen Marcus, Foothills Blogger

“Children are dying who could have been future leaders, scientists, or doctors.”

—Cameron Montague, Sophomore at Poudre High School

Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands or people participated across the U.S. and internationally in “March for Our Lives” protests to demand stricter gun laws in America. These events were spurred by actions taken by students in the wake of the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

On Wednesday, March 14 — one month after the Parkland shooting — students across the U.S. walked out of their classrooms to honor the 17 victims killed in that event, and to push lawmakers to enact new gun restrictions. Students from elementary, middle, and high schools — as well as some colleges — participated by marching, holding signs, and speaking about their experiences.

Fort Collins students had heard about plans for the national walkout, but the date fell during their spring break; so they scheduled their own walkout and rally in Old Town Square on Tuesday, February 27. The student-led demonstration attracted about 1,500 students and supporters, who carried signs, chanted, and engaged in a moment of silence for the Parkland victims.  

Many Reasons to Participate

Among the attendees were several young people from the Foothills Unitarian Church community. At a discussion about the event with Reverend Sean Neil-Barron on Sunday, March 4, the students said their reasons for attending the walkout included wanting safer schools and stricter gun laws. One asked, “Why should I have to learn to run for my life?” As part of the first generation that regularly participates in “lockdown drills,” they noted that lawmakers haven’t been listening to adults about this issue, so maybe they’ll listen to kids.

Cameron Montague, a sophomore at Poudre High School, said she never hesitated about participating in the walkout. “Social justice and activism have been a big part of my life,” she commented. She started the walk from Poudre to Old Town with friends, who had similar reasons for participating. “We all share strong beliefs about change, having our voices heard, and doing our part,” Montague said.

Piper Levinson, an 8th-grader at Lesher Middle School, participated in the walkout because it was specifically for kids. In addition, she said, it was conveniently close to home, and she was able to easily learn the details about how to participate. Levinson supports guns for sport, and may even try them when she’s older, but noted, “It’s ridiculous that there aren’t more restrictions — ridiculous that people can get an assault rifle with no mental health check.” She pointed out that, by at least one count, just this year, there have already been 18 gun-related incidents, and she finds herself wondering, “Am I next?”

Poudre High School junior Ted Davies had similar reasons for participating. He said, “The shooting in Florida just repeated the trend of school shootings using AR-15 assault weapons. I don’t believe the general population should be able to purchase them. They’re designed to kill people, and ordinary citizens don’t need them.” He would like to know why Congress hasn’t done anything yet, and would like to tell Senator Cory Gardner, “You need to take a progressive stance on gun control because the people you represent take that stance, and your job is to represent their views, not yours.” He hoped his presence at the event would contribute to getting these messages across.

Another big reason for participation in the event was a sense of fear that underlies students’ every-day lives at school. Both Montague and Davies said it’s become mostly a back-of-mind issue for them throughout their school days, but they do think about it at certain times, such as if they see someone unfamiliar at school. They ask themselves if that person could have a concealed gun. Recently, said Montague, a lockdown occurred at her school because of a disturbance in a nearby neighborhood. When teachers were asked over the school’s intercom system to check their email and close the blinds, but no explanation was given, she became genuinely afraid and thought, “This could be it.”

Drills for kids used to involve only instructions to “hide and be quiet,” but now they’re also instructed to “fight” if necessary. Davies said, “That possibility used to scare me, but now I’ve heard it so often that it doesn’t really register.”

A New Paradigm

The purpose of the walkout was to make student voices heard, as the people who would be most directly affected by a school shooting, and as soon-to-be voters. Students at the group discussion said their ideal scenario would be a world where everyone feels safe, where students don’t fear being hurt at school, and where people truly listen to each other. They noted that their intention isn’t to take guns away completely, but to impose limitations on who has access to guns, and to eliminate access to military-style weapons.

Montague said she understands why people want guns, but, “The current situation is not working. Children are dying who could have been future leaders, scientists, or doctors. Our generation is the future, and we’re being killed in the places where we’re supposed to be learning how to be the best we can be. What does that say about us as a society and as part of the human race?”

Levinson thinks gun control should mimic the types of restrictions we place on other dangerous items, such as cars and drugs. She explained, “With cars, their purpose is to drive, but they do kill many people every year; with prescription drugs, their purpose is to help people become healthier, but they also kill sometimes. With both of these things we have a lot of restrictions in place to prevent those negative outcomes. Why shouldn’t it be the same with guns, since their sole purpose is to kill?” Davies agreed: “Assault style weapons designed to kill people shouldn’t be covered by the second amendment because they’re a danger to society when in the wrong hands.”

The Foothills students spoke about the influence of the NRA in the gun restriction debate. They want to send a message to the NRA and the politicians supported by it that kids’ lives are worth more than the money they’re getting in exchange for not acting on citizens’ desire for tighter gun restrictions. Levinson noted she’s pleased that some corporations are cutting ties with the gun-rights group. “I think it’s really effective,” she said. “It shows they put their values above money, that they’re serious about this issue.”

Hope for the Future

Students at the group discussion described their experience with the walkout and rally as “overwhelming” (in a good way), “powerful,” and “feeling like a part of something bigger.” They noted a sense of unity as they started walking from their schools to Old Town with their own classmates and peers, and as they were joined along the way by students and supporters they didn’t know, and encouraged by observers who cheered, honked horns, and held “you make us proud” signs.

Levinson said, “The most inspirational part for me was how passionate people were. They took it really seriously. It was very moving, because usually kids don’t get a say in these things, and the event was centered around kids, not adults.”

Davies commented, “I thought, wow, a lot of people that go to other schools in this town really do care about this issue. Seeing that all these people care, it’s a surprise that nothing happens in D.C.”

The event created a sense of hope that these students would like to see continue. Being in dialog with friends, fellow students, and caring adults at Foothills, as well as becoming more informed and active are ways they’re perpetuating that hope. Davies said he’ll try to speak out more when he sees things like this happen, and make his voice heard at future events. He added, “Our generation can do a lot. In the next few years we’ll have the right to vote, as some of my friends do now. Elections will be influenced by us and how vocal we are about topics that are important to us. And eventually some of us will get into office and put our views into action there.”

Montague said, “The event showed me there are so many other people who support and believe what I believe. Now I know there are hundreds of teens that want gun reform; it’s refreshing how many there are, and how many voices are speaking out for peace, change, and action.”

Foothills Announces Support of #MeToo movement

For Immediate Public Release – Full Text

Foothills Unitarian Church is proud to announce our upcoming plans to explore and support of the #MeToo movement, which seeks to end the silence around sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct that people of all genders, and especially women, have experienced, and to draw attention to the magnitude of the problem.    

On Sunday March 25th at 8:30, 10:00, and 11:30 am, Foothills Unitarian Church will launch our public exploration of #MeToo, in a service that will feature story telling, testimonies, ritual, powerful music and theological reflection.

In addition to this service, we will also be changing our signs on Drake – well established in Fort Collins since November 2016 as a much-needed acknowledgment of love for all people, especially those on the margins – to align with our equal support for the #MeToo movement.  Look for these new signs no later than March 25th.

Concurrent to the second and third services (at 9:45 and 11:15), Foothills community member Hudson Wilkins, a counselor who specializes in sexual assault recovery, will be leading conversations on how to be an ally for those who have experienced assault or harassment.  

Additionally, we will be holding a series of conversations aimed at men, hosted by two of our members who are trained facilitators in our lifespan sexuality education program (OWL).  We believe that it is important that as we lift up women’s voices and experiences, we also engage in the re-constructive education to address long standing misunderstandings and harmful cultural norms that have caught men in a culture of toxic masculinity and left them unsure about how to be good allies and companions to women in this cultural moment.  These dates are being finalized.

We consider all of these actions to be the beginning of an enduring commitment to enable a culture change in our lives, in our congregation, and across Northern Colorado and beyond.  

In these days where too often churches are a part of silencing women’s voices, or devaluing sexuality as a part of a healthy and whole life, Foothills Unitarian Church is proud to support the #MeToo movement.  We are proud to be a church that believes women, believes in telling the truth, and believes in working together to create a future of real healing, wholeness, and reconciliation for us all.

For more information about Foothills and the #MeToo movement, contact Rev. Gretchen Haley at gretchen@foothillsuu.org.  For pastoral support related to sexual assault, harassment, or misconduct contact Rev. Sean Neil-Barron at sean@foothillsuu.org.

An Update on Music Visioning and Music Director Search

From our Music Visioning Task Force Sue Sullivan, Gretchen O’Dell and Herb Orrell

After a busy autumn conducting interviews with notable music ministers across the country, holding feedback circles with choir members and other groups inside the church, and gathering feedback from the congregation at large via an online survey that was completed by 88 members, we have a great deal of information to sift through to craft a vision for music ministry at Foothills.

But with the departure of administrator Carolyn Myers in December, we felt that trying to hire a new church administrator and a new music director was a tall order.

In order to do the best job of both, we opted to ask Chris Reed if he would be willing to extend his interim director position. He has agreed to continue serving as interim music minister through December, after which he will be returning to graduate school to finish his PhD and pursue his academic passions full-time. Chris has become beloved by choir and the congregation of Foothills, but his first home is academia. We are deeply grateful for the calm, comforting, and affirming hand he has brought to our music ministry in this time of revisioning.

With our musical direction needs covered through the end of the year, the music visioning task force now expects to finalize the Music Ministry Vision next month and share it with the congregation for your feedback.

This vision will describe the purpose of music in our church, the ways music shows up in our congregational life, and what impact our music ministry should have within the congregation and in the larger community. It will also include qualities that we desire in our music minister.

By September, Foothills will assemble a separate search team to create a position packet for applicants that would be disseminated in a nationwide search. Interviews could begin by the end of the year and final candidates could be invited out to meet us by April of next year, with the expectation of hiring a new music director by July of 2019.

After Chris leaves us in December, we plan over the next four to five months to hold a series of music residencies. The initial residencies will be filled by well-known consulting music ministers who will come for several weeks at a time and work with our congregation, both to provide for our musical worship needs in the interim period and to help us prepare to welcome a new music director. By spring, our finalists for the position can be the music directors in residence, so that we can get to know each other before making a final decision.

We do know that we should have a full-time music minister position, both for the needs of our congregation and to draw the best possible candidates. We estimate we will need to raise another $25,000 a year in pledges to cover this cost,  but we are confident that we can make this happen!

Look for the draft music ministry vision in the coming weeks. We are very excited by the possibilities that this new vision for music in the life of our congregation holds for us!