Board Update #2: Space Exploration

We’ve been a busy Board already this year! Because we have so much to share, we are offering it in three parts, this is the second of these (you can find the first here). This one provides an update on our space task force. 

As you have likely experienced and heard, our church has grown quite a bit in the last decade, and especially in the last couple of years – which is why we are looking at our space needs for the future. The Board believes our current campus cannot be adequately expanded to meet our (and Fort Collins’) anticipated growth. We discussed space at our informational forum a few weeks ago, where we had 55 people attending. We got lots of great comments in person and on sticky notes. We have conducted two additional meetings with 16 people participating.

The main question we’re hearing so far is about the process – how and when it’ll all happen. It’s a great question and we have broad answers to it right now. We are in step 1 of probably 50 steps. We wanted to bring the whole congregation into the conversation as early as possible. We wanted to hear your thoughts and concerns, as well as your hopes and dreams.  Our next step is to hire a programming consultant to

  1. Help us understand how much space we need and what kinds of space we need given our programming;
  2. Give us a second opinion about our current campus and if there is a possibility we could adequately expand here; and
  3. Help us figure out what to look for or build in a different place.

The Space Committee has already interviewed and checked references on several professional firms that do this work. The church will be hiring someone shortly. There will be opportunities for you to participate in this step – so we hope that you will keep an eye out for announcements.

All of the steps in this process will be thoughtful and deliberate, and will probably take three to five years, which will look generally like this:

  • Year 1 (Fall 2017 -Summer 2018)….This year we will figure out what we need and develop some more specific plans.
  • Year 2 (Fall 2018 – Summer 2019/20)…..Next year, we will figure out how much it will cost and how to pay for it.  This could take 1-2 years.
  • Year 3/4 (Fall 2019/20 – Summer 2020/21) The third year, we will remodel, renovate or build and take care of the other logistics around moving. This too might take slightly longer, depending on all the decision points along the way.

Do we know exactly how many steps there are actually going to be? Not really, but we wanted to give you the general sketch. We also wanted you to know that the congregation will be involved all along the way. That’s why we brought you in early!

We on the Board are always happy to hear from you. We are all going to figure this out together.

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Board of Trustees News #1: Seeking Congregational Input on Our Vision

We’ve been a busy Board already this year! Because we have so much to share, we are offering it in three parts….first up, an update about our need for congregational input on our vision by way of the “Future-Oriented Questions.”  

Over the years, our Boards have long engaged in visioning and planning for the future. However, they also had significant responsibilities in operations. Under our new governance system, the ministry team is responsible for the day-to-day running of the church, which allows the Board to spend much more time on high-level questions and visioning.

Now, each year, the Board will go through a process of listening and deciding where our mission calls us to go next. To do this, we listen to you, the congregation, and we consider our place in the community.  The dialogue with you happens through our Future-Oriented Questions.  At our annual Board retreat, we decided on these three questions as the basis for our conversation this year:

  1. How might we re-imagine a joyful, spiritual, human-centered and sustainable community and environment?
  2. Who does the mission call you to be in relationship with, and what does it mean to be transformed/changed by this work?
  3. What would it take for people to know you and for you to know yourself deeply? How does that manifest in the congregation?

We’ve already started to explore these questions in worship over the past few Sundays, and will continue that in the next few weeks.  We hope that you will take a little time each week to reflect and then to fill out the survey either online (here’s the link) or on paper.  Extra paper forms are in the office.  Our shared dialogue becomes our future, and so we are grateful for your willingness to share your stories and feedback as we discern together where and how we will unleash courageous love in the coming years.

One year later

15036731_10210339868347595_5652769351943201453_nA year ago right now, we were preparing for election day.  I woke up and put on a white shirt, and helped my daughter find a white shirt, we took a selfie together – we were planning for an historical outcome in the national election.  It wasn’t that I thought it was a foregone conclusion – I knew the race was tight.  But there was something in my white middle class progressive Unitarian DNA that refused to truly believe that the United States would follow up its election of the first African American president with the election of a president who bragged about sexual assault, or who portrayed Mexican immigrants as rapists, or who denied climate change, or…..

Many of us woke up on November 9th, 2016 stunned by a reality that probably shouldn’t have been such a surprise – but it was.  It was painful, and even traumatic for many to have to face, and the fear of what it would mean hung over all of us with an aching dread.

A year later, I wish I could say that these fears were all unfounded, that the communal grief that sent nearly 430 of you into the Sunday service the Sunday after the election was overblown…..but it has been predictably, a really hard year.  The fights for health care, and GLBT rights, and against the Refugee Ban, and the campaign-promise-fulfilling willingness to deport all those who are undocumented, regardless on the impact on families or on the individual worthiness as a contributing part of our community…the twitter fueds and the re-initiated global panic on the potential of nuclear war….these all take a toll, on all of us.

The ripple effects of anxiety and overwhelm, dread, and even despair have therapists working overtime, and still each Sunday, so many come for the first time, seeking some way to making meaning and to find hope in the midst of this difficult and upside down world.

A year later, however, I am not without good news.  I’ve watched – in countless meetings and in small conversations – a new desire to engage, to make a difference, to orient our lives towards meaningful contributions, and to learn the skills needed to listen more deeply, connect more authentically, and to be a part of much needed healing and restoration for our world.

I’ve seen a deeper commitment to spiritual growth, to attending worship, to giving of yourself in time and with money – this great generosity of spirit in service of a larger vision.  And I’ve seen bright faces of joy, and hope, each Sunday – a huge desire to learn, and grow, and be a part of the change we wish to see.

I’ve also seen new grassroots organizations formed, and new partnerships started – some of these have been especially important for our congregation and our learning in addressing homelessness, economic justice, and interfaith relationships.  And, a new boldness and courage has taken shape in all sorts of ways, not the least of which in our community has been visible in our sanctuary vote and efforts.

In the past ten months, I’ve taken so many people to their first protest march, it’s incredible.  And, I’ve seen a willingness to take risks on behalf of deeper values in ways that I truly don’t think would’ve happened even a couple years ago.

What’s especially meaningful to me through all of this, however, is that I know that not everyone agrees about all the things, or in all the same way – and yet we have found a way to remain in conversation and dialogue.  We have been working hard at learning how to have meaningful conversations about real things – and yet to be able to disagree, even while staying connected. It’s a practice that’ll likely take us our whole lives, and so we will continuously rely on grace, and spiritual practices of renewal, and a respect of a regular Sabbath, however that looks like to each of us.

As we cross this year mark, I am especially aware of the potential for burnout – in all of us.  That we will simply be too overwhelmed or too tired to keep engaging, that church and community and participating could feel like just one more item on an already too-full to-do list.  That the initial burst of resistance will transform into old complacency or cynicism.

This is all on my mind and heart as I look ahead to our plans for the next few months and beyond – at church, and in my own life.  We have many days ahead, and there’s no guarantee things are going to get easier.  We must be vigilant in all the things that allow us to keep going, to remain at the table so that we can do the hard work, to keep tending to that bright thread of hope.  And we must keep leaning in to care for each other, sing for and with each other, make meals for and with one another, keep taking time for gratitude, and joy; silence and story; community and care – committing ourselves once again to the power and potential of real, authentic community of trust and accountability, calling us to show up each day, and offer ourselves to that greater vision.

 

Reflections on the 4th UU Principle

By Karen Marcus

” A free and responsible search for truth and meaning…”

This November, Foothills Unitarian Church is exploring the theme, “In Process,” which implies that our work toward becoming — or contributing to — our best selves, our best congregation, our best community, and our best world is never really done. The fourth Unitarian Universalist principle, “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” also reflects this theme, in particular with that little word right in the middle: “search.” As someone new to Foothills, and to UU, I appreciate that this faith community encourages us to always be seeking, questioning, and communicating our discoveries to each other. In that spirit, I asked several people within our congregation to share their thoughts on the fourth principle and how it plays out in their lives.

Michelle Venus, who has been a part of the Foothills community since 2002, shared an especially relevant story: “My kids grew up within the UU church, but now, as young adults, identify as Christians. While I’m disappointed that we’re no longer sharing a spiritual experience, the fourth principle guides me to support their path.” She added, “As challenging as it may be to see them go in a different direction, I wouldn’t be living my own faith if I didn’t encourage them to follow their hearts and find what’s meaningful to them.” Michelle is grateful that her children were exposed to UU and hopes they can bring that spirit of openness and acceptance to their new congregations.

Gale Whitman discovered the importance of the fourth principle even before she started attending Foothills in 1994. She explained, “Following my high school graduation I spent a year in Turkey as an exchange student. I lived with a Muslim family, in a country that was 99 percent Muslim. I was a steadfast Christian and resisted my host family’s efforts to convert me to Islam, even though they believed that was what I needed to do to go to heaven. That year, I learned a lot about Christianity and Islam, and grew to love many of the people I met. The conclusion I drew by the end of my time there was, ‘There’s no way all the Christians are right and all the Muslims are wrong, or vice versa.’ Ever since then, I’ve felt that each person’s spirituality must be an independent journey, not coerced by others.” Gale continues to strive for open-mindedness about wisdom from many sources and about others’ choices.

Like Gale, Terri Thorburn, who has been involved with Foothills since 1995, contrasted the fourth principle with what she’s learned about other faiths. She said, “I had a niece graduate from Colorado Christian College, and I saw a brochure with their mission statement on it. One of the points was a commitment to ‘no longer revisit questions from the past.’ It surprised me to learn there are groups that say, ‘you don’t need to think about that.’ I would think the god they believe in would want them to use their brains. When we don’t do so, the implication is that we can do whatever we please because we’re not accountable; we can do anything because we’ll ultimately be saved.” Terri added, “I enjoy being curious. Life would be boring if I thought I had all the answers.”

For Dick Cullor, who has been attending Foothills since 1997, the fourth principle is what drew him to the UU faith. He noted that, while it’s so important, it’s also something many people don’t understand about UU. He said, “The absence of a dogma is key to what we’re all about. Often people expect singular truth from a church, but they won’t get that at Foothills or any other UU church.” He noted that the fourth principle encourages him to explore diverse points of view, faith traditions, and perspectives. For the wider world, he said, “My fear is that when people rush to adopt a belief system, it becomes cemented into their identity and exploration ceases. Or, folks accept whatever tradition they grew up with, but have an incomplete understanding of their faith tradition. Our sign on Drake states that ours is a faith for our times, which I strongly agree with.”

Lynn Young, who has been on a UU journey since 1960, believes the fourth principle should be thought of within the context of all seven principles. She explained, “I cannot appreciate my experiences for ‘a free and responsible search for truth’ without also considering being responsible to others, respecting the worth and dignity of others, and remembering how interwoven we all are with our thoughts and actions.” As for the fourth principle itself, Lynn remarked, “For me, the fourth principle reflects my own rewarding, challenging, and life-sustaining experience with UU. As my life experiences unfold, I’m challenged to ask, ‘Is that really true?’ and, ‘What did that experience mean for me?’” Lynn appreciates that her continuous search is happening within a supportive community of individuals on a similar path.

 

What fascinating food for thought on the fourth principle! Thanks to all contributors for sharing your valuable insights.

When the Special Appeal became extra special

For many years, the special appeal at the annual auction has allowed the congregation to fund something that – although not funded in the regular budget – would make a real difference in congregational experience.  The special appeal has funded the benches on the patio, the lightweight tables in the social hall, the screens in the foyer and RE building, and the initial set up of the projector and screen in the sanctuary – and much more.  This has all been incredible, but a few years ago we had the idea that we should do something even more “special” with the special appeal.  We should share it.

It was the year we’d started sharing the plate with a community partner, and we knew how powerful it could be to be able to do something big and generous for one of our partners in Fort Collins – so that we wouldn’t just be keeping the money to grow the blessings in our community, but we’d be passing it on – which felt like living our values.  And so we tried it out, and the results were incredible.  Suddenly instead of raising $3,000 or $4,000 in the special appeal, we started raising $7,000, and then $9,000, and then….last year was the most amazing thing when we raised over $18,000.  You can read about all the worship improvements that these funds enabled in this blog post from Chris Reed.

But maybe even more importantly, nearly $9,000 of this money went to our partners at Faith Family Hospitality to support the building of a patio and playground for children at their new transitional housing unit – a house that FFH leases from the city as a temporary home for up to seven families working towards self-sufficiency.  This home is currently under renovation, and over $300,000 must be raised to complete this project.  Which is why for this year’s Special Appeal, we’re going to keep supporting FFH and this important work!

This year we hope to raise $10,000 for FFH to replace dilapidated kitchen cabinets in the transitional home, known as Sherwood House. There are three communal kitchens in this old home, and all need new cabinets.  And in turn, we’re planning to use the money we raise for Foothills to do a complete overhaul of our Foothills’ website – which as you may have noticed, very much needs it!

A few years ago we might have thought that this goal number was far out of our reach – but this congregation has shown us again and again that this is not the case.  The generosity of this community has been incredibly inspiring, and ensures that we are in so many ways living up to our mission of truly unleashing courageous love both within and beyond our congregation.

Thank you for being a part of this important and extra-special effort, and hope to see you at the auction on November 11th! Get your tickets here.

Worship Improvements Made Possible By 2016 Auction Funds by Chris Reed

Our goal was to improve the worship experience for everyone, especially to enhance the experience for those in the social hall given our frequent over-flow seating. Here’s a list of all the ways we’ve been able to do this as a result of your generosity:

  • We purchased more hymnals, so we are now able to provide good hymnal coverage for our very largest services.
  • Over the summer, we added live streaming of our services on the Foothills Facebook page. We have been thrilled with the reception that this has received online. Now, if you are traveling, are ill, or simply can’t be in the service for any reason, you can now join with all of us online.  You can find the live streams on our Facebook page approximately 5 minutes before each service begins.
  • We reworked the stage lighting to make the stage more visually accessible.
  • We purchased and installed a new projector in the sanctuary, as well as a large video screen in the social hall.
  • We added a new computer and powerful software to allow us to seamlessly integrate a visual component to our services.

These last two changes mean that you can now expect to see the words to all of the songs we sing on the screen, as well as other readings or pertinent information. The possibilities go far beyond just those items, and we look forward to exploring how this potential can enrich our shared worship experience.  We hope that this makes each element of our services more engaging, and more accessible to every individual joining with us.

The financial resources to create all of these improvements were made possible by your generosity in last year’s auction. Additionally, we were able to stretch those funds so effectively due to the immense generosity of some of our members who spent many hours assisting with this equipment installation.  Wayne Brown, Mike McCarthy, Bruce Wagner, and Rich Roberts were invaluable in making this project happen.

Thank you all so much for helping us to reach more people through our worship services as we continue to unleash courageous love together. I can’t wait to see what becomes possible through your generosity in this year’s auction!

Summary of Congregational Forum

From the Board Engagement Committee – Ed Beers and Sara Edwards

We had a great Congregational Forum last Sunday, October 15th. We had over 50 people attend as the Board gave an update of their activities and plans. This included reports from the newly established Board Committees – Personnel, Finance, Governance, Board Engagement and Space.  This began with an overview on our new Governance structure, which can be found here.

The Space Committee had the greatest interest from the attendees and many positive comments and ideas were mentioned.  The presentation and handout included data supporting the Board’s belief that, in order to live up to our mission, we need to start planning for a move to a new location.

The presentation was the beginning of a dialogue and engagement effort with the Congregation on dealing with the space issue. Follow-up dialogue sessions are planned for Monday, October 23 at 7 PM in the Triple RE room and Thursday, November 2 at 7 PM in the Triple RE room. Sign up here to attend one or both of these meetings.

Brief updates from the Board Personnel Committee, Finance Committee, Governance Committee and the Board Engagement Committee were also provided.  As you can see from Governance presentation, the management and operations of Personnel and Finance have been delegated to the Ministry with the Board Committee functioning in an oversight role.  One major recent development of the Personnel Ministry Team (as instructed by the Board Care for Staff policies) is the creation of a fully updated Employee Handbook, which can be found here.  The Board Governance Committee will monitor the Board Policy Book and will be the resource for adding or changing policy.

The Board Engagement Committee is charged with ensuring more and improved Board engagement and communication with the Congregation. Three Big Questions (Future Oriented Questions) have been developed by the Board to facilitate discussions and input. The input gained from these conversations will enable the Board to develop a Vision of Shared Ministry – a list of goals for the coming year and beyond.  Look for more information on this coming to your (snail) mail box soon!

This Vision will be the result of a process of gathering and distilling ideas from a wide range of individuals and constituencies within the congregation – and it will be an iterative process that will likely roll easily from one year into the next. In all cases, it will get to the heart of who we are and where we are going. There will be numerous opportunities for you to participate and provide your input.

Keep in touch with our Leadership Blog and we will be providing more detail on these initiatives and all the work of the Board over the next several months.  Also if you ever want or need to access any of the documents related to Board work, you can follow this link for our archive.