Making a Reverend – from Sue Sullivan and the Committee on Shared Ministry

You might have noticed that Sean doesn’t wear a stole on Sundays, or call himself Reverend. That is because, while he has completed every other necessary step along the path to becoming a minister, including graduating from Harvard Divinity School and completing his post-graduate studies and internship, he has not yet asked a congregation to ordain him — the ultimate symbolic, practical and spiritual step in the process of becoming a UU minister.

Sean could have requested ordination from any of the churches he has been affiliated with (the church he grew up in, the church where he first answered his call to become a minister, or the church that he did his field work in, for example) but he knew that he wanted to be ordained by the first church he served…and that’s us!

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The Committee on Shared Ministry shares about Sean’s ordination at the December 18th service

We are excited to share that we have been asked to enact this fundamental ceremony of our Unitarian Universalist faith, one that we have not performed for more than 25 years – the ordination of a minister to serve in our religious tradition (our last ordination was in 1991 when we ordained our then intern, the Rev. Thomas Perchlick). And not just any minister, but our own Sean Neil-Barron.

Many of us have heard Sean’s thought-provoking sermons since he joined us as assistant minister in August. Some of us might have received pastoral care from him, or attended a Foundations class, a Vespers service or one of the other small group experiences Sean has helped facilitate with energy, warmth and a passion for deepening our connections with each other and our larger community.

Sean is asking us, as a Universalist Unitarian congregation, to affirm that we find in him a strong and capable minister for our faith. We are honored to affirm his ministry not just generally, but in the many ways we have felt the power and care of his ministry personally.

Unitarian Universalism, unlike other religions, reserves the right to ordain ministers for congregations alone, and not a centralized church leadership. We the people do the ordaining.  In doing so we are not making an offer or a call to the minister, but simply and solemnly declaring that we see in him or her a minister fit to serve the Unitarian Universalist movement. We are fulfilling our role and responsibility as a congregation to select the ministers that serve our religious movement, and affirming and authorizing the minister into their service and leadership in Unitarian Universalism.  It is a solemn responsibility, as ordination is for life.

At the request of the Committee on Shared Ministry, the Board of Trustees voted last week to hold a special congregational meeting on January 29th with one action item – whether we agree as a congregation to ordain Sean Neil-Barron into the Unitarian Universalist ministry.

All those who have been members for 30 days prior are eligible to vote. If the vote passes, we’ll hold an ordination ceremony in April. The Committee on Shared Ministry will hold a forum between the Sunday services on January 8th to answer any questions about the ordination process.

The Committee on Shared Ministry includes Glenn Pearson, Sally Harris, Anne Hall, Margie Wagner, Sue Sullivan, Rev. Gretchen Haley and Sean Neil-Barron. To a member, we are thrilled that Sean has asked us to perform one of our tradition’s most fundamental religious ceremonies and we look forward to answering any questions you might have about it at the January 8th forum.

In partnership and passion for a brighter world,

Sue Sullivan

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Board Updates – Leadership Workshop & Pledge Drive

Spring is here and with that a lot of good work is being done at Foothills.

We hope you’ll join us this Sunday at 12:30 for our Congregational Forum where we will be providing an update on the Governance Task Force, the Mission Task Force, and some financial updates.  Bring your questions and your feedback, and as always, we thank you for your partnership and for our walking together in this important work.

This past Saturday, Foothills hosted a gathering of of senior lay leaders from UU congregations all across the area – we had representatives from congregations from Littleton to Casper, with over 40 total participants! It was led by the Rev. Nancy Bowen, Regional Lead for the Pacific Western Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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This gathering focused on the leadership of the Board of Trustees, the Nominating/Leadership Development Committee, and the Committee on Ministry.  We spoke about what partnership and alignment looks like among a these leadership teams, and how being aligned doesn’t mean doing the same work, but that we are working towards the same thing, same mission.

12924412_1067181093338607_5450508639949069289_nSome of my favorite take a-ways from the day were:

  • How a congregation can grow quickly while successfully protecting human connection.
  • How to find and prepare new leadership
  • The tensions that arise in governance/organizational structure shifts – specifically the ways that as these transitions occur, the organization becomes temporarily centralized in order to establish the new systems, and then as these systems take hold, the organization “exhales” into a less centralized structure.  We spoke a lot about these sorts of polarities, and the need to keep a healthy balance.
  • How we need to strive to be like-hearted instead of like-minded – can we be curious rather than judgmental in our differences?
  • The key leadership practices that demonstrate a covenantal partnership
  • We watched the video from Simon Sinek in his TED talk about the Why, How and What….and how this idea translates inside our congregations – how we too need to start with why.  (This was a perfect set up for the meeting right after this workshop when we continued our good work on our mission statement!)

It was a rich five hours where we all contributed to one another deepening our understanding of leadership in our faith. Your Board, Nominating Committee, and soon to be a new Committee of shared ministries are excited to put these ideas into practice as we complete this church year, and prepare for our future years.

Speaking of our future years – thank you to all of you who have participated in our stewardship campaign over this past month, and an extra thanks to the many of you who have increased your pledges. Your generosity is inspiring and much needed for us to fulfill the very good work of this church. Thank you very much.

As members, we are responsible for our church. Our operating budget is funded almost completely from pledges. This coming year we are paying for 12% increase to our staff’s healthcare, 2 full time ministers, hoping to move Ryan to full time, paying our staff fair compensation per the UUA, as well as pay a living wage.

I ask of my fellow members who have yet to pledge this year to please do so as soon as you can. Your pledges allow us to finalize our budget for the coming year, which we will then present to you all at our annual congregational meeting on June 5th.  When we each participate in the most generous and responsible way we can, we are able to continue the good work we are here to do, and fulfill our mission of making a transformative impact on the world around us.

 

Plans for the Ministerial Transition

Over the past few weeks, I have been working and planning with many of you, with the staff team, and with Howell. I have sought counsel from colleagues, and I have talked with UUA staff that I trust, most especially the Rev. Nancy Bowen.  Through these conversations, Howell and I have started to formulate plans and priorities that will move us through the next six months – the remaining time of the official interim.

During this time, Howell will remain as the Interim Lead Minister, and we will work in a close partnership to ensure a smooth transition before the end of his contract in June and my official beginning as Senior Minister in July.  Generally speaking, Howell will be leading and working on those efforts that relate to the intended work of the interim, and I will be leading and working on those things that establish the foundation for the future.  More specifically, here is a breakdown of our priorities and plans for the next six months. As always, we welcome your input, questions, ideas and partnership.  And, we’ll be sure to bring you regular updates here and in upcoming forums on Sundays (next forum: 1/10/16).

  1. Worship Leadership and Planning – Howell and I will work closely in worship over the next six months, hopefully offering a number of Sundays with both of us present!  We have created a calendar that has Howell and I each in the pulpit on average, twice a month, and Diana McLean, our Ministerial Resident will be returning once a month once she’s fully recovered from her injury.
  2. Pastoral Care and Support – I will continue to act as lead for pastoral care, including supporting our Parish Visitors and Caring Team.
  3. Mission Task Force – Mission is the reason we are here, why we exist, as a congregation, and helps us move forward with confidence together. This is why the Board has created a sub-committee to engage the congregation around our mission in the coming months.  It will build on and reinforce the work done a couple of years ago on our mission statement, as well as our Appreciative Inquiry and Ministerial Search Discovery Sessions and Survey.  Look for notice about conversation opportunities in upcoming Extras.   Howell and I will both be support for this important Board work.  
  4. Governance Task Force – As was discussed in the October Congregational Forum, the Board is appointing a Task Force that will oversee and coordinate our governance transitional process.  Generally, we will follow the timeline and concept outlined in Dan Hotchkiss’ book, Governance and Ministry that many of you read and discussed over the summer.  (Still available for check out in the office!).  Ministerial Lead: Rev. Howell Lind
  5. Personnel / Human Resources Task Force – We value our employees and being a just and good employer.  Which means, we need to be thoughtful and intentional in creating an effective structure that includes both professional and volunteer partnership in order to effectively and legally address all the many areas of personnel – from policies to organizational structure to compensation to benefit management and liability to work environment and professional development.  As a result, the Board will be appointing a task force to work with me to review current and potential new policies, to recommend an appropriate structure to address personnel issues (in collaboration with the Governance Task Force) and to address fair compensation for our employees.  This will result in an updated job description for our Personnel Committee, which we will re-institute at the conclusion of this Task Force’s work.  Ministerial Lead: Rev. Gretchen Haley 
  6. Committee on Shared Ministries – Previously known as the Committee on Ministry, this important team was put into recess during the transition, but as we move out of this transitional time, Howell and I look forward to its full re-instatement.  Howell will work with the Board to clarify its purpose, share that with the congregation, and gather up both past Committee on Ministry members as well as new appointees as we begin again with this group whose mission remains to ensure the health and vitality of our shared congregational ministries and the right relations of our community.  Ministerial Lead: Rev. Howell Lind 
  7. Stewardship and Finance – Critical to an effective transition is successful management of our financial resources, including a successful pledge drive.  I will start attending Finance meetings this month, and be a part of the Stewardship campaign and budgeting process that will begin in February.  As I said throughout Candidating Week, I am very much looking forward to this part of the senior minister role, as I find that when we speak openly and non-judgmentally about money and its role in our lives, it can be as healing as any other ministry we might engage.  I also find it so inspiring to experience people’s generosity in service of our shared vision – and this congregation is so generous, this is simply really fun work.   Ministerial Lead: Rev. Howell Lind 
  8. Search for the new Assistant Minister – I had a great conversation with the UUA Transitions Office last week, and as a result, we have now listed our opening for an Assistant Minister to begin next July or August with the UUA.  This is just a simple notice of a job opening. In the coming months, the Board and I will convene a few forums to hear about your ideas and questions about this position and your hopes for who might fill it. The Board will also be appointing a selection committee who will work with me to identify the right fit.  It will be a hired and contract position, for 2 years.  This will allow us the time and space necessary to think through what we want in the long run and to make sure we have the right person for the position.  Lots more information to come on this! Ministerial Lead: Rev. Gretchen Haley 
  9. Nominating and Leadership Development Process – Given all the ways our congregation has changed and the changing needs for leadership today, we know we need a more robust process to identify, train and continually develop leaders in our congregation.  As a result, Howell will be working with the Nominating Committee to clarify job descriptions and a process for identifying and developing congregational leaders.  Howell brings a wealth of experience in facilitating this process in many other congregations, and so we are lucky to have him with us as we address this very important need in our congregation.  Ministerial Lead: Rev. Howell Lind 
  10. Faith Foundations – I learned a lot over Candidating Week about the learning and reflecting opportunities we need to set a foundation for the coming years together.  I realized we need to be talking more about generational changes, the cultural shifts happening in society, the history of Unitarianism and Universalism – especially three of our sources – Protestant/Heretical Christianity, Transcendentalism, and Humanism – as well as trends in today’s Unitarian Universalism, the ideas and practice of covenant, and emotional/family systems. As a result, we intend to focus most of our offerings in Religious Exploration in the next 5 months in these areas.  We’ll offer opportunities in a variety of ways – classes, small groups, online options, spiritual practices, book groups, and forums – and in a variety of days/times, with a variety of commitment-level options, and targeted to all the life stages and ages present in our congregation.  Our hope and goal is that by the end of May, a good number of you will feel more confident and clear in these important areas of our faith so that we can set a stronger foundation for what we are up to, and why, as a religious community and as individual Unitarian Universalists.  Ministerial Lead: Rev. Gretchen Haley
  11. A few other important things: Howell will be initiating our new Hospitality Learning Community, helping us to enhance our welcome, especially on Sunday mornings.  I will be working with the Climate Justice Team, especially in March and April as we continue to strengthen our congregational engagement with sustainability and care for the earth.  We will also continue and strengthen our partnerships in addressing homelessness, economic justice and immigration and racial justice related issues – especially in the ways all these things are connected.  Our campus ministry is growing, we are offering targeted programming to meet all of life’s stages and ages in our community – from new parents to empty-nesters to elders, and we continue to experiment in partnership with the UU Church of Greeley to bring our values and faith to more of our northern Colorado community.

Phew! That’s a lot! Good thing it all sounds like fun and enlivening work! And good thing it is work done in partnership, with all of you.

Questions? Things I left off you are wondering about? Let me know.  As I said, this is an evolving understanding of what is needed and what will work best to facilitate a healthy and smooth transition in the next few months. I’m so looking forward to all that this second half of this church year will bring, and the foundation it will set for the many years ahead.  Thank you for all you have done, and all you will do to help bring all this goodness into our community and our world.

In partnership,

Gretchen