From Covenant to Healing: How We Care, and Belong

I remember hearing a story about a young couple that showed up at a church for the first time. They had recently moved to the area and were church shopping. Walking into the church they quickly noticed that nobody, and I mean nobody, was even close to their age. If you took their parents’ age and added it to their age, you would get in the ballpark of the average age of the congregation. But…five years later they were still there. Why?

After they visited the congregation for the first time, one of them was diagnosed with cancer.  Even though they had only been to the congregation that one time, a church member followed up with them.

The afternoon after the first chemo treatment, the couple responded to a knock at the door and they were met with the sight of a casserole sitting on their front door, steaming, and the back of a church member hurrying away. And the casseroles kept coming. For months. Why did they stay? Because the congregation cared about them deeply, and they knew they belonged.

I have only been getting to know Foothills for a short time, but in that time I have witnessed a spirit of love rippling outward. People at Foothills actually want to hear the truth when we ask them “How are you doing?” What a healing balm that is, and how critical it is to that hope we all have to feel like we belong.  

Within our congregation, we have dedicated teams that actively partner in our shared ministry of care and belonging:

  • Our Parish Visitors care and visit with dozens of people within our community each month who need a listening ear.
  • Our Meals Team jumps into action to provide meals during times of stress and need.
  • Our Cards Crew helps us reach out and share our concern 
  • Our Caring Team connects people to rides to church and supports hospitality during memorial services
  • Our small groups – each led by a trained and supported facilitator –  offer a sense of intimacy, connection, and shared spiritual growth

Our professional ministry team, Rev. Haley and myself, extend this care by offering pastoral care and counseling, end of life support, rites of passage, and alleviate financial burdens for members through the Ministerial Discretionary Fund.

If you would like to join one or more of these teams – if you think you may have, as we spoke about this Sunday, a calling to this important ministry, please contact Sean (sean@foothillsuu.org). 

In a church our size, it can sometimes be hard to figure out how to access this care, and you can often wonder if they are meant for you. They are. Dropping by or calling the church office, sending an email to caring@foothillsuu.org or connecting directly with Sean (sean@foothillsuu.org) are the easiest ways to start the conversation. If you think you know a member who might need some support, please let us know in these ways, as well.

This month, our theme moves from covenant to healing.  It is our ministry of care where these two themes come together.  May our walk together be one where we deeply care for each other, healing ourselves, and our world.

Seeking Partners in a Shared Creation

It’s the time of year where we are actively looking ahead to the new year and seeking out new partners to be a part of this great shared ministry that allows us to serve our mission and bring greater life and love to both those within our congregation, as westewardshipll as far beyond.

If you are seeking to serve and offer your gifts in the congregation, take a look at this list and see if there’s something here that may be a fit for you – that place where service and joy overlap.  If you’re interested in learning more, and finding your place in the partnership of our congregation, please let Rev. Haley know at gretchen@foothillsuu.org.

  • Hospitality Learning Community – We are looking for those who care about making this a welcoming congregation for all who arrive or who have been here for a long time.  The “Learning Community” aspect means that rather than a set agenda, this group tries to ask questions and learn ways to better practice hospitality as a congregation, and brings these experiments and ideas back to our wider congregation. Time Commitment: Monthly gatherings for learning and building connections with others, and then additional time based on the experiments and learnings the group discovers.  We ask for at least a one year commitment.
  • Auction Team – Now seeking partners in putting on our annual goods and services auction.  This is a great way to have a big impact on the congregation and our mission, and throw a big party along the way! We’re looking for people who are good at organizing others and a fun event, those who enjoy reaching out to the congregation as well as the wider community for donations, and then we also need help with data entry and details. There are a few different jobs, and we’ll work with you to make it work.   Time Commitment: Varies based on the role, but is concluded by November 2016 when the auction occurs.
  • Grocery Cards – Our longtime volunteer overseeing our Grocery card sales is retiring.  We need someone who is detail oriented and who loves to make a major impact behind the scenes to step in and manage this important fundraiser for the church. Time commitment: Weekly in-office and some outreach to wider community.
  • Religious Exploration Teachers – We are beginning to think about RE Teachers for children and youth for the fall.  No experience necessary. This is a great way for you to go deeper into your faith journey and Unitarian Universalism – by teaching our kids! Eleanor makes this easy and meaningful for all who teach.  Time Commitment: Twice a month, along with an orientation session at the beginning of each church year.
  • Small Group Leaders – We are hoping to launch a number of new groups in the fall, and we have a good number of leaders who are wanting to step back.  Maybe you’d be interested in facilitating a group as they grow in self-awareness, understanding, connection with others, and courage in living the life they hope to live….? This is an incredibly meaningful way to serve and give.  There is training and ongoing support if you are interested – as well as many different options for day and time.  Time Commitment: Varies – after an initial 3 hour training, groups can run for 4-10 sessions if they are “closed” once the initial registration is set, or indefinitely if they regularly find ways to integrate new people.
  • Office help – We are always in need of a little extra help in the office – filing, printing, sorting, organizing, data entry, answering phones……everything! Time Commitment: Can be one-time or ongoing, very flexible!
  • Finance Team – If you love numbers and budgets, this is the place for you! We meet monthly and review the current cash flow and budget, as well as other financial reports.  We try to catch financial challenges the church may be facing early, and brainstorm ways to address it.  We work directly with the Administrator and the Senior Minister, and have a strong ongoing dialogue with the Board.  Time Commitment: Monthly meetings.
  • Caring Cards – We are always looking for a few more folks willing to help at our Caring Cards Table. These cards are a great way for our congregation to send our love and support to someone through a difficult – or joyous – time in their lives.  Those who staff it also end up hearing about other joys and sorrows in people’s lives, and os it is important that this person be a good listener and someone people feel comfortable talking to and with.  Time Commitment: Sign up for as few or as many Sunday services as you would like!
  • Ushers and Visitor’s Table Greeters on Sundays: Although it is going pretty well with our groups filling Sunday roles, there are often still gaps.  We could use about 10 new people to sign up as “Free Rangers,” which means, we’ll call you if the group can’t find enough people for their service.  Ushering and greeting are among the best way to meet new people – and you’ll be going a long ways towards making this a more hospitable congregation.  Time Commitment: Could be one Sunday, or multiple.  Can be both services, or just one.
  • Meals Team: It can mean so much when one in our community is sick or has experienced a loss, or whose spouse or other family member is injured or ill, for another in our community to bring a hot meal.  We are always looking for people willing to be on the list to bring a meal when it is needed.  Once you’re on the list, you get an email when meals are needed, and then you can sign up for a slot that works for you.  Time Commitment: Bring one meal, or many – based on your schedule and capacity.

Again, if there’s something here that strikes you as a fit for your gifts and skills, let Rev. Haley know.  If there’s nothing here that quite fits, but you still are trying to find a deeper connection and ownership in the church, please let Kathryn our office assistant – kathryn@foothillsuu.org or 493-4906 – know so that she can track your interest on our gifts and service database.

Our Holiday Greeting to All of You – From the Caring and Parish Visitors Teams

Submitted by Bonnie Inscho (Parish Visitor Team)

Sometimes the most meaningful gift we can give is the gift our presence, rather than presents. This is what we, on the Caring and Parish Visitor Teams, hope to do all year at Foothills Unitarian Church. The holiday season seems a good time to remind you of our presence and what our role is here at Foothills.

The Caring Team responds to the Joys and Concerns shared on Sunday, as well as other requests made throughout the week, by checking in by phone, sending cards of concern, coordinating rides to church, and arranging for meals to be taken to homes. Additionally, they coordinate the receptions for church members’ memorial services.  They also provide the Christmas Stars for one of Foothills’ holiday traditions.

Christmas Stars are now available in the social hall on the Caring Team table. Look for them on Sunday mornings before Christmas and decorate our sanctuary tree in honor and remembrance of your loved ones.  We will be hanging Stars as a part of our vespers service on December 21st at 6 pm, and also you are welcome to hang your star at any time throughout the month of December.  

The Parish Visitor Team works in collaboration with and under the guidance of the Ministerial Team. Their hope is to create a more caring community while making personal connections with members and friends of Foothills, many of whom find it difficult to attend church regularly. They provide a listening ear, a caring heart, and extend the reach of our congregation into our community.  The Parish Visitors are not a replacement for our professional ministers – Reverends Howell Lind and Gretchen Haley, and Ministerial Resident Diana McLean – who provide many pastoral visits to our congregants during times of illness, loss, and transition – but rather a supplement to help us care for and with one another across our whole congregation.

We are seeking more volunteers for both the Caring and Parish Visitor Teams. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us.

Caring Team: Jacqui Wallace jacquiwallace2@gmail.com 215-8952

Parish Visitor Program: Kay Hood hoodkay@aol.com 988-8757

Ministerial Lead: Rev. Gretchen Haley, gretchen@foothillsuu.org 493-5906

If you or someone you know may benefit from our services, please contact caring@foothhillsuu.org or call the office 970-493-5906.