Skin in the Game

In the service last Sunday, I said our theology of social justice requires that we ask ourselves: what are we willing to risk, and what’s our skin in the game? In the coming weeks, our congregation has the chance to really wrestle with these questions.
It’s been four months since our Sanctuary Team lit the chalice and invited us to start considering the question of becoming a  Sanctuary Congregation. Since then they’ve held forums and informational sessions, reached out to the interfaith and immigrant community, and met extensively with First Unitarian in Denver where they’ve hosted two people in sanctuary.
From this work, and with my full support and appreciation, they brought forward the invitation to the Board to set a special congregational meeting for us to vote on becoming a Sanctuary Congregation.  After two in-depth conversations with the Board, they whole-heartedly agreed.
Which means, it’s finally time to get serious in our conversations with our whole community.  We want to help us all consider what sanctuary means, and if and how we are called to be a Sanctuary Congregation. We want to review what we’ve learned about the risks and the ways to mitigate these risks, even as we recognize that part of what we are called to do – as I said before – is to take risks on behalf of justice, and on behalf of our faith.
With all that in mind, I invite you all to the following opportunities to learn more, to share and discuss together, and for us to decide together, where and how we are called as a congregation in this important path of caring, justice, and courageous love.
  • Sunday, August 13th 8:30 and 10:00 service, “Just Home,” led by the Rev. Mike Morran, First Unitarian Society of Denver, leaders in the Sanctuary movement in the Denver metro area
  • Sunday, August 13th at 11:30 am, following the second service, Informational Workshop on Sanctuary, led by the Sanctuary Team and Foothills staff team – answering all the questions anyone can come up with, talking practical details, sharing in group discernment.  Register to attend this workshop here.
  • Wednesday, August 23rd at 6:30 pm, a 2nd opportunity for the same information provided at the 8/13 Informational Workshop for those who weren’t able to attend, or who want additional info
  • Sunday, August 27th, Special Congregational Meeting at 11:30 am, following the second service, called for the sole purpose of voting on the question “Will Foothills Unitarian Church be designated as a Sanctuary Congregation?” All those who have been members for 30 days or more by 8/27 are welcome to vote.
If you were there on Sunday, you heard the story of Juan, a father of five in the Greeley area who was recently and suddenly deported. While we don’t know for sure, Juan is someone who seems like would’ve been a great candidate for sanctuary – but we weren’t ready.  The need is increasingly urgent to take up this question, and I am grateful for your willingness and partnership as we consider it together.
*This post was originally sent out as a part of the 8/2 Weekly Extra
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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)

Accessing Your Planning Center Account

We are now rolling out our new church database, or more truly our new Church Management System (ChMS), called Planning Center

To access a few of the features of our new system (accessing your giving statement, accessing certain church group)  you have to log in. But fear not, you won’t ever need to remember a password.

Planning Center uses a passwordless login. When logging in, the system will instantly send you an email that contains a link. Open your email, click the link and you will be instantly logged in. It will then remember you for 30 days, so if you use the same computer, so no need to log in again. Snazzy, eh?

Introducing Our New Church Database! Wait…….Don’t Stop Reading!

The new financial year at Foothills is bringing some big changes! We have a new congregational database, which may not sound like a big deal, but it is. Before I dive deeper I want to thank Michael Latta, AJ Johnson, and Margaret Cottam, who formed the ad hoc committee that worked with me to evaluate the various options –  their work was foundational to getting us to this moment. Thanks!

First, why the change? A few reasons:

  • First, it’s the 21st century and we needed a 21st-century database.
  • Second, we wanted a system that would do more than store information, but become a tool to unleash the ministry of our lay leaders.
  • Third, we wanted to give you all access to your own information without having to call the office.
  • Fourth, we wanted to remove the information barriers between you and our church’s groups and gatherings.

For all of these reasons, we decided to go with Planning Center Online, or PCO for short. This may be the first time you have really thought about the church having a database so you might be wondering: What does this mean for me?

There are two major areas that you will start to notice a difference: Giving and Groups. This post will cover the former, and our next post will cover the latter.

Too Long/Didn’t Read (or TL/DR)

In the online world, TL/DR is used to give you the quick summary of a document, to help us all gain the essentials without becoming overwhelmed by the details.

TL/DR: Online donation is now easier. Access your donation history online at any time. Giving Statements will be created by individual rather than by household.

Giving

Planning Center makes it super easy to donate and manage your financial giving to the congregation, online. It’s easy to set up or modify recurring pledge payments (directly from your bank account) from a secure online portal. This reduces the amount of your financial information the church has on file, making it more secure.

Another change you will love around tax season is that you will be able to access your donation history and giving statements online at all times!

Moving to a new system always entails some changes to the way we operate. The biggest change is we will no longer generate annual and quarterly giving statements by household. Following non-profit best practices, and the way the IRS records donations, we will send you individual donation statements.

If you pledge and give as a household, your donations will not be combined into one statement but rather will be separated based on who made the donation. If you are donating by check from a joint bank account, indicate who the donation should be credited to for tax purposes in the memo line.

We acknowledge that your financial commitment is from your entire household. 

Where can you access your account you may ask? Head over to foothillsuu.org/give and follow the links! Wondered how logging in will work? Read the post on that!

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 Group can be directed to me, Sean Neil-Barron (sean@foothillsuu.org)

Donation Days Are Here!

Donation Days are here! The Foothills Rummage Sale is less than two 2 weeks away and donations can be dropped at the church beginning tomorrow July 26th.
Donations accepted:
  • WednesdayThursdayFriday and Monday from 9 a.m.- 8 p.m.
  • Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Sunday 12:30 p.m. -5 p.m.

Please do not drop off donations after hours or during Sunday services. (After the 11 a.m. service a Team member will be available at the RE Building if you want to bring items to church with you on 7/30.)

This year we are accepting:

Art
Baby Items
Baskets
Bikes & Sports   (NO skis)
Books
Boutique
Children’s
Clothes
Children’s Toys
Entertainment-
Decor & Holiday

Furniture
Garden & Pets
Health & Beauty
Jewelry
Kitchen/Housewares   appliances/vacuums,
Linnens & Luggage
Office & Lamps
Rugs
Sewing Crafts
Storage & Organization
Tools & Construction

We aren’t accepting adult clothes (but shoes and accessories are okay) or electronics (like DVD players, computer stuff) this year.

 

Foothills Members & Friends (of the church) sale is Wednesday, Aug. 2:
4:30 p.m. Sale volunteers with 15 or more hours logged shop
5 p.m. Wine and Cheese Reception begins. Sale volunteers (6 or more hours worked) or church members/friends who pay $10 shop
6 p.m. – 8 p.m. FREE for all Foothills members and friends
The public sale is Thursday, Aug. 3 – Saturday, Aug. 5 from 8 – 6 daily. Saturday is 50 percent off everything that is left.
This sale is hugely popular in our community, helping those with lower incomes and students furnish homes and clothe their families. We are coordinating with the nonprofit Homeless Gear in 2017, and half of all net proceeds will go to support their essential programs – homelessgear.org. The other half will support our church’s work.
Many volunteers have stepped up, but there are still several open slots to fill. Childcare is available for volunteers on Saturday, July 29 and Friday, Aug. 4. Please contact jestlick@gmail.com if you need babysitting. Please go to the sign-up sheets at foothillsuu.org/rummagesale and see where you can lend a hand. We’ve shortened the sale and want to see this tradition survive.

Upcoming Worship Improvements

This past fall, so many of you exhibited your generosity and love for the church by donating funds to be used to improve the worship experience here at Foothills. As a congregation that is growing rapidly, and already straining the limits of our facilities, we’ve spent a lot of time examining what our best options are moving forward. We have already purchased additional hymnals to ensure that we always have enough for everyone in attendance, and upgraded the mics used in our services to ensure that everyone can hear and understand the services more easily.

In the coming months we will be finalizing our improvements by replacing the window blinds between the kitchen and the social hall. Our goal in this is to ensure there is less noise crossover between the two spaces so that activities in the kitchen don’t interfere with the worship experience of those in the social hall. We will also be reworking our lighting to ensure we have a more effective use of light on our stage.

Perhaps the largest change will involve upgrades to our audio and visual systems in the sanctuary. While our sanctuary is beautiful and we are lucky to have so much natural light, the flood of natural light (300+ days a year thanks to the beautiful state in which we live!) does create issues with our current projector. To that end, we will be upgrading the projector which will allow us to easily see the images in all lighting conditions. This will allow us to consistently utilize video projections in our services. This means that we will be able to show announcements before and after services, have large print song lyrics on the screens, reinforce readings by having them visually available as they are being read, and other uses of video within services as appropriate. To ensure that the social hall has the best possible experience, it will also have a dedicated screen which will mirror what is being shown on the screen on stage.

Finally, we will be streamlining our podcasting so that episodes will be available more quickly and are integrated more directly within our website. In our efforts to give our community more options to experience what Foothills offers, we are also going to begin offer live streaming of our services. We plan to begin integration of all of these new technologies when we move back to our 3 service schedule on September 10th.

While this new level of visual integration in our worship experiences is exciting, it will also be a challenge, one which will require your help. I am assembling a new team of volunteers who are interested in helping to create and to run the weekly visual elements to our services. The software we will be using can be a bit challenging at first, but with training, it quickly becomes easy to navigate and I believe this will be a rewarding volunteer opportunity for many of you. If you are interested in learning more, or to offer yourself as a volunteer, please email me directly at chris@foothillsuu.org.

In partnership,
Chris Reed

Going Slow to Go Fast, Going Together to Go Far

Those of us who hang around churches a lot talk about the idea of “church-time,” by which we usually mean SLOW time.  It’s often talked about with a chuckle, and sometimes a sigh of frustration, especially for leaders inclined towards moving the church forward in a way that makes “perfect sense,” at least to them.

This was the story about Foothills’ when it came to governance change – at least whenever I’d heard it up until this past week.  We’d been trying for over 15 years to make an effective change in governance structure that would bring our underlying system into alignment with our church size and today’s best practices.  This sense that it had been going on for a long, long time inspired the Board in the first year of the interim after Rev. Marc Salkin retired (2014-15) to move quickly on a new direction.  What that Board – and all of us – quickly realized, however, is that even though it felt slow to some, not everyone was caught up, and after the retirement of a long-tenured minister, it felt like too much change, too fast.

The Board learned from that experience, re-grouped, and began a slower and more cooperative and consulting process beginning in the church year 2015-16.  As a result of many, many conversations with all sorts of people in all sorts of ways, this past Sunday we saw the flip side of “church-time,” what I call the “all-of-a-sudden-it’s-done” phenomenon: The congregation enthusiastically endorsed the Governance Task Force’s work and authorized the Board to move forward with its trial year.

It was a huge and wonderful accomplishment for this congregation, and it was a beautiful thing to witness – because it was both about a single moment, and about all the faithful, sometimes-frustrating, usually-thoughtful moments that the meeting constituted.  Thousands of hours and years of committees and teams all came together into one meeting where the the foundation had been properly set, the congregation was ready, and the time was right.

Even though people talk about church-time as slow time, that’s not at all how I see it. I see church as the embodiment of the principle that’s true in every case where you’re trying to do something big, and important and long-lasting – which is that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, you must go together.  And going together takes patient, careful time…conversations and care, humility and a great sense of humor. But then suddenly, in one hot June afternoon, you look around and realize, all-of-a-sudden, it’s done.  And then you just feel proud, and grateful, to be there at a time such as this.