Governance Update from Jody Anderson

This update is a part of a Governance Update being sent by email to all Foothills members.

The Board of Trustees hopes all members are prepared to vote on governance changes at our upcoming annual meeting.  Since the Governance Task Force formed about 18 months ago, we have received support and encouragement from members and staff throughout the church through congregational meetings, informational discussions, book discussion groups, and electronic communications conducted over the last twelve months.  We hope you have had a chance to participate, provide feedback, and learn about this important work to help align our governance structure with our church size and mission.

We are planning to conduct a trial year using our new governance structure, and will need to slightly amend our bylaws to enable that trial.  The key changes we are proposing include:

  • Role of the Board – The Board will shed its administrative role and instead concentrate on discerning mission, setting goals, dialogue with the congregation, and oversight.  This is something that the Board has been already in many ways practicing over the last 5 years as we have grown in size.  This will formalize this role and add clarity, as well as enhanced methods of monitoring and accountability.  
  • Board Size – The Board will reduce to seven, a more appropriate size for its new role (currently there are 11). The congregation would elect 2-3 Board members annually.
  • Delegate Operations – The senior minister, in partnership with the congregation and Board, would manage “operations” as head of staff.  This role would hold responsibility for all administration, programming, and shared ministry as well as Sunday services and pastoral care through delegation to paid staff and members/friends of the congregation, aka volunteers. Again this is already in many ways the case; this would formalize and add additional structures for accountability, alignment and monitoring of this work.  
  • Policy-Based Guidance – The Board will use written policies both to guide and hold accountable all those who help carry out the mission, including the ministers, staff, and volunteers.  Overseeing and keeping effective these policies will be a part of the Board’s new role.
  • Committee Structure – The Board will have three appointed committees:  Finance, Personnel, and Governance. It would have one elected committee, Nominating.
  • Nominating Committee – The Nominating Committee will reduce to three elected members (from the current five).  Its members will interact with the congregation, ministers, board, and Leadership Development team to identify the coming needs, develop job descriptions, and clarify role requirements, and ultimately nominate a slate of nominees for all elected positions that comply with established policies.
  • Leadership Development Team –   This team will be a newly formed ministry team charged with building and developing our future leaders through training, coaching, and open and inclusive engagement with the congregation.
We are excited to be making these changes!  It is long overdue for a growing church like ours.  We have been doing some of these things for several years, formally and informally.  This process has taken the best of what we learned through practice, research, and deliberation, to outline a foundation for the future.
To see the proposed bylaw changes, supporting concurrent resolution, policy examples, and glossary, visit us in the social hall between services on April 30, May 7, and May 14.  You will also have a final opportunity to dig into the details and ask questions on May 21, between services, during a Governance Review meeting.
If you have any questions about our work, please feel free to contact our chair Jody Anderson, jodeenanderson@gmail.com.
Thank you!
Governance Task Force – Jody Anderson, Brian Woodruff, Elizabeth Stanley, Tom Inscho, Ed Beers, and Rev. Gretchen Haley (ex-officio)

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.

The Future of Our Rummage Sale

The Foothills Rummage Sale has been a cornerstone of both our community-building and fundraising efforts over the past three decades.  The amount of time and care that so many have given on behalf of the Rummage Sale is truly mind-boggling.  This time and care has in turn resulted in up to $25,000 (at its peak so far) in funds to support our mission and vision in a given year.  Along the way, the Rummage Sale has been a great way for people to get to know each other and to build friendships that last far beyond the few weeks of the sale.  It’s also been a great way to serve our community, offering low-cost good-quality goods right as the school year returns and many are searching out bargains.

Over these same years, however, many changes have been happening both in the church and in Fort Collins.  In both, the population has grown exponentially.  Within Fort Collins, this population increase has meant that there are now multiple second-hand stores that are open throughout the year, so that our offering isn’t quite as value-added as it used to be. This is a relatively minor consideration, however, as we look at some of the other changes that have occurred….

Within our own community, our growth has meant that space is almost always tight – and as we have moved to a year-round schedule, while the summer is slightly less crowded, it is still often full throughout the week with programs and meetings.  Each year, as our community has grown, so have the donations (thank you!), and so the need for space and volunteers have also grown.  While we ask everyone to pre-sort their goods, we ultimately have more stuff than we have usable space, and this is frustrating for everyone.

Speaking of that usable space, as religious education classes for children and youth are active and well-attended throughout the whole year, the space available in the Classroom Building is less than it has been previously, and even when it is available, it is able to sustain a much lower impact as it needs to be reset to accommodate children and/or youth every Sunday – so clean up is very stressful.  (To help with this, we have experimented with moving the dates earlier in the summer, but this has resulted in fewer volunteers available due to vacations…we’ve wondered if moving to June would be better…?)

Also, over these years our leadership has prioritized holding worship every Sunday as central to our mission. This was especially made possible by the addition of a second minister in 2012.  Although we attempted to hold these services outdoors, our growing population and value to ensure the space is accessible to all made this not a viable alternative, and so this resulted in the sanctuary no longer being a place for the rummage sale to be held on Sundays.

The various space constraints are also made more challenging by a dwindling volunteer population resulting from two main factors.  First, our longtime volunteers are – much to their chagrin – aging.  They no longer can or want to volunteer in the same physically demanding ways that they have in the past.  Many have stepped down entirely while others have simply scaled back.  The vacancies left by these changes, however, have not been sufficiently filled by a new volunteer base – particularly in terms of taking management and leadership level responsibility.

Younger people today are often overly busy with two-career households and caring for both children and aging parents.  Free time is down – nationwide.  What free time people do have, they prioritize more direct-service, high-impact, and often short-term volunteer roles – for example, we have no problem filling our 25 twice-a-month Food Bank @ Foothills roles – we actually have more interest than we have volunteer slots – and these are all direct-service, high-impact and short-term roles.

This volunteer shortage means that the community and friendship building aspects of the sale just aren’t as great as they were in the past – because it’s more stressful to do so much work without enough people to do that work.  Also with the space constraints, the sale is spread out across more of our campus, meaning volunteers often work on their own – which may be good for some seeking solitude!  – but isn’t conducive to the laughter and fun times that many of us remember.

All of this – the population growth, the space constraints, and the changes in volunteering – lead us to wondering if and how we can continue our Rummage Sale in the next year – and beyond.  We need new leaders to emerge if we are going to be able to continue – leaders who will look at these challenges and find new and creative solutions, and leaders who are willing to take on a management level role.  We believe we will need at least four such leaders to step forward by February 15th if we are going to hold a Rummage Sale this year.

We hope all those who care about the Rummage Sale and who are willing to consider being one of these new leaders will come to a Rummage Sale meeting on Sunday January 22nd at 10:10 in the Sanctuary.  If you have questions before then, please be in touch with Pam Stevens (970-225-1223, pamelahope@aol.com) or Ben Manvel (970-484-3249, bmanvel@gmail.com), longtime dedicated leaders for the Rummage Sale.  So much good has happened as a result of this incredible effort, and now’s the time for us to work out the next good steps, whatever those will be.

An Update on Our Governance Change Process from Jody Anderson

Hello Foothills Family –

As I sat down to write this blog in mid-November, I wondered if an update on our governance progress was the right thing to post right now, when hearts and minds are brimming with holidays and an uncertain future.  Our community continues to come together with hands held and tears shared in Sunday services.  In November we stood and clapped to display our solidarity in being right here, in the United States, at this time, as a community that is already practicing with each other the accepting message we could share with the country.  And I think – we have big work to do.  Let’s get this organizing stuff done to smooth the path for what’s ahead.  To that end, the Governance Task Force is striving to support our mission and channel our energy in our governance work.

Recent Progress

  • Last April, the Board confirmed our Vision of Governance, a statement that is guiding the detailed tasks of writing our future policies.  Participants in the summer book group thought it was a great statement, and encouraged us to share it more widely.  Here is a link.
  • Over the summer, we conducted a book discussion group on Ministry and Governance by Dan Hotchkiss.  We continue to follow the guidance of the book, other congregations of our size, and the advice of leaders in our church and beyond.
  • In September, we affirmed that we are indeed pursuing a policy based governance approach, though not the Carver model.  
  • In September and October, the Governance Task Force has been working with the Board.  We have presented several open questions for discussion around the topics of board role, size, officers, and member election.  While we discuss, we are keeping in mind the potential that bylaw changes may be required.
  • In October, Gretchen joined our team, adding her knowledge of the workings of our church, and experience in administration, to our deliberation.
  • November continued iterative discussions with the Board on topics of committees, delegation, and work products.

Coming Up

  • During December, we will continue to ask the Board questions that guide our writing process. Topics coming up include Oversight and Guidance.
  • Also during December, we will be connecting with the leaders of several of our current teams and committees, to understand where they are in reviewing their charter and procedures, and to ensure we are blending our expectations. Teams we plan to get in touch with include Nominating Committee, Personnel Committee and Staff, and Finance.
  • In January, we plan to hold a Congregational Discussion session on the items that have been affirmed by the Board.  This will be an ideal place for those interested in the details of governance to see policies so far and ask questions.
  • Also in January, we plan to drop in on small groups in the church with quick info to keep everyone updated.
  • All of our work through the spring will target having major decisions made and ready for a trial period during our 2017-2018 church year.  We will present that plan at our congregational meeting in May.

A reward from this work so far is to see the convergence of ideas.  Careful study and thoughtful decisions are aligning with current good practices.  Thankfully, some things can be easy and make sense.  🙂

May you all enjoy having some things fall into place as well, and enjoy a safe and blessed holiday season.

In Community,

Jody Anderson

Chair, Governance Task Force

Third Service Experiment, from Board of Trustees Member, Gale Whitman

“Welcome to Foothills; sorry we don’t have any seats left!”

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A very cozy congregation

Have you noticed how full the church is on Sunday mornings? While it’s wonderful that so many people are coming to church, the members of the Board of Trustees are wondering how many folks we are unwittingly turning away, with the message that there’s no room for anyone new here.

Our parking lots are full; the sanctuary – even if there are a few seats available here and there – looks full; there is often a scramble to put out enough chairs in the Social Hall at the start of services for the overflow from the sanctuary. It’s easy to see how a newcomer may feel discouraged from coming back and finding their spiritual home with us.

Aligning with our congregation’s new mission statement to “unleash courageous love in Northern Colorado and beyond,” The Board of Trustees has enthusiastically asked the ministers and staff to explore adding a third service to Sunday mornings at Foothills Unitarian Church. For now we mainly want to make more space to serve the people already coming and to keep them coming.

Beginning in February 2017, and continuing for 12 Sundays through April, the “Third Service Experiment” will be conducted. The times of the three services will be 8:00am, 9:30am and 11:30am. There will be a short social hour from 9:00-9:30 and a longer one from 10:30-11:30. The nursery will be open and pre-K through 2nd grade religious education (single classroom) will be offered at 8:00; the other two services will continue with the current arrangements for the 9 and 11 services.

More details will be coming from the staff team, and the Board will be hosting an informational forum on January 18. Throughout the experiment, we want to hear from YOU about how it is working… there will be regular opportunities to give us your input and dialogue with church leaders.

We look forward to learning from this experiment and using your feedback to prepare for a longer term third service effort. Together we are Unleashing Courageous Love!

Welcoming Our New Minister

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Sean Neil-Barron

We finally find ourselves in mid-August, and after much anticipation, I am thrilled this weekend will mark the official beginning of Sean’s ministry with us.  He will be arriving to town this Friday, and will be in worship this Sunday.  Please come and introduce yourselves (I’ve told him we save the name test for at least a week) and help him feel welcome in our community.

We have convened a Transition Team for Sean – Anne Hall, Hannah Mahoney, Tim Pearson and Erin Price – who will be helping him get oriented and setting up times for him to meet with as many of you as possible in the next couple of months.  We should have an initial schedule of these opportunities in next week’s Extra.

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Sean and the Assistant Minister Search Committee in May after he had accepted our invitation to join our team

Sean will be spending the next few weeks listening, getting to know people, and learning about our congregation – our values, our stories, our challenges and our hopes.  In the next few months he will begin to take the lead on our membership ministry, our pastoral care, and our small groups.  You’ll see him in Worship on Sundays, he’ll be leading classes, and he’ll be piloting a new program called Wellspring. And more important than any specific thing he may do, I am most grateful to know he will be a caring, wise, faithful partner to all of us as we travel life’s journey together.

Finally, I have to end this otherwise happy announcement with something less so. Because Sean is a Canadian citizen, we have had to apply for a Visa.  Unfortunately, this application process has become more complicated in the past few years, so that a site inspection to verify we are a church is required.  This site inspection has a 6 month waiting list. As a result, we are now anticipating a likely approval of December.  During this waiting period, Sean is able to continue to live in the United States, and I am grateful to report that he has generously agreed to volunteer his time with us.  Rest assured we have been working with legal counsel throughout this process to ensure we and Sean are in complete compliance with the law, and our attorney is confident he will receive his Visa after the inspection concludes.

I hope you’ll all join me this Sunday in welcoming Sean -and in these coming months ensuring that we have a great beginning to a wonderful new shared ministry.

In partnership,

Gretchen 

 

Announcing Our New Assistant Minister!

We are thrilled to announce that the Assistant Minister Search Committee and the Rev. Gretchen Haley have enthusiastically selected Sean Neil-Barron to be our new Assistant Minister.

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Our Process
In January, the Assistant Minister Search Committee (in its earliest form) held two congregational forums to consider together what we sought in a new Assistant Minister. Important attributes included a calling to pastoral care, interest in small group ministry, enthusiasm for the use of technology in UU ministry, and complementarity with Gretchen’s ministry. We agreed that we would hire (not call) an Assistant Minister for a period of one year, renewable for a second year. After that we can review and decide what we want to do for following years.

There’s a Denomination-wide process for recruiting and hiring ministers which has a seasonal cycle tied to the credentialing process for UU Ministers through the UUA. We advertised through the UUA process and began receiving applications almost immediately.

At our January meeting, the Board authorized a Search Committee for the Assistant Minister. It included Bonnie Inscho, Tim Pearson, Sara Edwards, and Scott Denning. We began meeting in late January and eventually considered sixteen applicants from all over the US and Canada.

From these candidates, we unanimously chose to invite one to Fort Collins – Sean Neil-Barron – in May. We met with him over three days and offered him the job on May 22. We were overjoyed when he accepted our offer!

Sean’s Background and Ministry 
Sean recently completed his ministerial internship with the New England Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. His responsibilities included working with more than 20 congregations in times of transition and conflict with a particular emphasis on congregational relevance in the 21st century. He also served as the project manager for FAITHIFY, the UU crowdfunding site – overseeing over a quarter of a million dollars being pledged to UU initiatives.

Sean is the Convener of Wellspring Boston, an entrepreneurial UU spiritual deepening initiative in the Boston Area and currently sits on the Board of Directors of UU Wellspring. He preaches regularly in Greater Boston and his writing has appeared in the UU World Magazine and on the UUA’s Worship Web. Sean’s most recent project is a podcast created in collaboration with UU Historian Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie called “The Pamphlet,” aimed at uncovering UUs hidden histories.

Sean received his Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School and also holds a degree in Conflict Studies and Theology from Saint Paul University in Ottawa. Growing up on Treaty 7 land in Calgary, Alberta, Canada—a place not unlike Foothills in its geography and beauty—Sean found Unitarian Universalism as a queer youth and quickly fell in love with a community that explored together questions that matter. Having felt a call from a young age, it wasn’t until he found our faith that he realized that ministry was the call he had always felt. He remains connected to his colleagues and friends in the Canadian Unitarian movement. Sean has served as an OWL Facilitator, been on staff at the UU Goldmine Youth Leadership School, and has presented workshops on conflict resolution, contemporary church, and sexuality throughout the lifespan.

Sean’s ministry seeks to build communities of spiritual depth by harnessing the transformative power of our congregations to be places of formation, wonder, and service; addressing the deep spiritual wounds of our time: division, shame, and alienation.

Sean and his partner Charles will be joining us later in the summer with their dog Dollie. They enjoy the outdoors, biking, cooking, and tasting their way through new cities.

About Sean and his ministry fit at Foothills, by the Assistant Minister Search Committee 
High on the list of qualities we sought in an assistant minister was the ability to effectively provide pastoral care. Sean has experience with pastoral care and considers it one of his strengths. He impressed us with his thoughtful responses on this topic and with a moving story about one of his pastoral care experiences. Sean has some great ideas about how pastoral care can be effective in larger congregations and he has a keen understanding of the differing pastoral needs that are present in church settings.

Sean is genuinely kind, considerate and caring. We all picked up on this in our multiple interactions with him. From the beginning Bonnie said, “I feel really comfortable with him,” and we all feel that way. He just gives off a comforting, kind energy.

He exhibits an ability to listen to what is being said, reframe and restate in a way that is particularly helpful. He is a deep listener, but that he also has a frame of reference and point-of-view. This will serve him well as he works to facilitate individuals and groups in a variety of settings.

Another thing we were looking for in an Asst. Minister was someone who could take on the role of further developing small group opportunities. Sean feels a call to build communities of spiritual depth, has a deep passion for developing adult spirituality, and has experience leading UU Wellspring and other groups. He clearly understands the importance of relationship building within spiritual groups and the congregation at large, with its potential for faith formation and life transformation.

Sean has been a proven leader is in congregational life and in his understanding of church governance. In his year at First Parish, Brookline, MA , he was charged with facilitating the updating of their policies and bylaws, which had not been updated to match the growth and changes in ministry over the past decade.Whether Sean is charged to help in that role at Foothills or not, his understanding of church governance and dynamics especially in times of transition, will no doubt be valuable to us.

Sean said he was drawn to our congregation because we are aspirational. He too is aspirational. You will soon see that he has a strong sense of vision. Part of his vision is to link the future with the past by building bridges between where we have been and where we will go. In this way he aspires to help UUs find relevance in the 21st century.

And speaking of bridges, Sean believes in bridging across age boundaries. When our team asked him how he would engage young adults and older congregants he told us that his goal would be to help create opportunities that would appeal to members across generations.

Sean’s work at Faithify has revolved around crowdfunding online. He will work on a viral social media campaign to collect UU stories. His hobbies include video games, “technology and gadgets,” and design theory. He even uses an AI personal assistant named “Amy.”

His groundedness in UU theology is evident. In our face-to-face conversations, we noted him bring UU beliefs and theology to the forefront in a number of different conversations. We appreciate his commitment to the UU beliefs and his ability to bring this point-of-view to bear in discussions related to being human and building community in the UU faith. He will add a great deal to our development as UU’s in the now and in the future.

 

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Sean with the Search Committee after we’d made the invitation and he said yes.

We were struck, and we hope you will be struck, by the wisdom Sean exhibits — wisdom beyond his years. He has thought deeply about what it means to be a minister of a UU church. His theological insights and his genuine desire to lead our congregation on a spiritual journey convinced us that Sean is the right choice to be our assistant minister.

We read impressive testimonials from seven of Sean’s colleagues and as we prepared for our Skype and then in-person interviews, we were hopeful that we would see the qualities described: “commitment to our faith,” “instincts for congregations” “a natural minister,” and someone with “a maturity, self-awareness, and … understanding of the UU tradition that sets him apart.”

Rev. Sue Phillips, New England Region Lead for the UUA, wrote a very powerful and enthusiastic recommendation in support of Sean’s application. She wrote:

“Sean’s experience, wisdom, and commitment to Unitarian Universalism distinguish him not only from other young ministers just out of school, but from most ministers with many years of congregational experience … His instincts for congregations, how they work, and what they are capable of are outstanding for a person of any age. He is exactly the kind of ministerial candidate I would choose, combining as he does generationally astute vision with broad congregational experience that few older ministers can match. I have worked with hundreds of congregations and countless lay and ministerial leaders, and I can testify that Sean is among the most talented I’ve encountered.”

We saw these qualities and more. We felt in Sean’s presence that he is someone with innate and genuine inner wisdom – a “wise soul”. As the Rev. Sue Phillips described it, “What Sean has cannot be taught.” We think you will sense this too as you meet and work with him.

As Sean says in his video, there will be many opportunities in August and September to meet him and begin to get to know him. Look for info in the “Extra” and help us welcome our new minister as we begin this next new phase of our walk together at Foothills.

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Getting silly with the Search Committee, Sean, Sean’s partner Charles, and Gretchen’s kids Gracie & Josef