Assistant Minister Search Update

The search for an assistant minister to start in August is well underway! Here are the highlights of what we shared in our update on Sunday, as well as a list of the questions we got (along with their answers).  If you are wondering about anything not answered here, or have any feedback about this position or the process, we welcome your dialogue!

Assistant Minister Selection Committee: Rev. Gretchen Haley (gretchen@foothillsuu.org), Scott Denning (Scott.denning@colostate.edu), Bonnie Inscho (bonnieinscho@aol.com), Tim Pearson (Timp1600@comcast.net) and Sara Edwards (sara.edwards.rocks@gmail.com).

Summary of our process so far…..

  • January 3rd – Congregational Input Gathered and Conversation on the Process (Completed) – Here is the summary of those meetings. 
  • Week of January 4th – Job Description Finalized (based on feedback from congregation, lay leader input, staff conversation and input from the Board of Trustees) and Posted to our website and to the UUA transitions website  (Completed – click here to see it) 
  • January 18th – Selection Committee (3-4 People) Appointed by the Board (Completed) – Scott Denning, Tim Pearson, Bonnie Inscho, and Sara Edwards will serve as the Assistant Minister Search Committee
  • January 31st – Application Deadline  – we received a total of 9 applicants from across the country, with equal representation of both men and women, all early career ministers, all strong applicants that we were enthusiastic to receive applications from
  •  Throughout January – Get-to-know-you conversations with Gretchen (Completed)  all 9 applicants had an early conversation with Gretchen after their initial expression of interest
  •  Week of January  25th – Selection Committee and Gretchen review applications in first meeting (Completed)  – through this process, narrowed down to 7 candidates
  • Week of January 30th –  First Interviews Conducted (with Gretchen) (Completed) – these notes were shared with the search committee and from these interviews, we narrowed the field to 5 candidates
  • Week of February 7th – Meeting with Search Committee to determine who they will interview and questions they will use (Completed) – The Committee decided to proceed with 2 Interviews, based on the strength of the top 2 candidates.  All other candidates have been notified.
  • February 14th – Congregational update (Completed after both services – questions from these services are below.) 
  • Week of February 15th – Second Interviews with Committee (Scheduled) 
  • February 22nd – Determine plan for in-person interviews and potential for pre-candidating
  • Throughout March – Check References and UUA Files and Complete On-Site Interviews
  • No later than April 1st – Reach final decision on candidate
  • No later than April 7th  Make Offer
  • April 10th – If we have an accepted offer, announce our new assistant minister to congregation
  • Please note: If no match is found in this round, we will re-post and seek additional applications, knowing that the Ministerial Fellowship Committee sees new candidates in early April, so some will be looking for a job in April, and generally we would follow the same process as above, just completed in the months of April and May.  

 

Questions from the February 14th Congregational Update: 

Question:  Why is it all happening so fast?

Answer:  Each year, UU ministers who are thinking about a new ministry, apply for positions in January of each year.  If we didn’t get on track with this application process/timeline, we miss that potential applicant pool.  This year, about 90 ministers were all looking for their new ministry as of January 1 (to start in church year 16-17).

Question: What interview questions are being asked of the candidates?

Answer:

  • Here are the questions Gretchen asked each of the candidates:
    • What is the best team you have worked with and why it was the best? What did you accomplish together? What was your role on that team?
    • What do you hope for in a supervisor?  How do you see our relationship working?
    • What is your process for getting to know a congregation?  How do you keep track of people’s stories, especially in the bigger system? What experience from your past had you keeping track of multiple people’s stories and helping them feel known?
    • Tell me about 2 or 3 lay leaders that you identified and developed.  What was the circumstance, the outcome, and how is it going now? What kind of ongoing training have you offered? Tell me about a recruit that didn’t go the way you expected – that was disappointing or frustrating.  How do you know someone might be a good fit for a role in the church, and that they are ready – and how do you cultivate their skills and capacity?
    • How would you describe what we are up to when say we are doing “pastoral care”? What does it entail? How is it different than therapy or simply listening? Tell me about a meaningful experience you have had with pastoral care.  How do you fit pastoral care within your other priorities? How do you decide how to prioritize your time related to pastoral care? Finally, tell me about how you have navigated boundaries as it relates to pastoral care.
    • Tell me about your experience with small groups.  What models have you encountered.  How have you trained facilitators.  What qualities do you look for? How do you keep them fresh? What role should small groups play in congregational life.  How have you seen them work in your experience?
    • Who is the theologian or writer who you have to stop yourself from referencing every sermon.  What is it about their work that you respond to?
  • Here are the questions that the Selection Committee plans on asking the applicants:
    • Scenario question related to pastoral care
    • Scenario question related to small groups
    • Our church has rapidly grown from small family oriented congregation to 800 adults/300 kids….there is now a mix of those who have been here a long time – great sense of tradition with smaller church….but also those who are brand new and excited about all the new and change – After 20 years of 1 minister, you will be the second new minister in 2 years – how will you work with this mix of continuity and novelty?
    • How will you relate with different theological views – how do you engage with those who identify as humanists/atheists and who might struggle with “religion”?
    • How would you bring your passion for multi-culturalism into our congregation?
    • Given that you’re relatively new to ministry, how do you go about gaining a sense of pastoral authority as you work with congregants? How do you connect with and serve people who are in different ages and stages than you are? Have you encountered prejudice in terms of your age or experience? How have you dealt with that?
    • How do you minister to the growing senior population AND the growing millenial population?
    • Where do you see yourself in your ministry in 5 years, 10 years….?
    • What would you say is your biggest challenge in ministry?
    • How do you see yourself working with the staff?
    • What systems or tools or structures would you use to manage and track your work – pastoral care, small groups, membership, etc.?
    • What do you see as the way you complement Gretchen? What do you see as your challenges?

Question: How flexible will the role of the new A.M. be as far as being able to follow his/her own call and passion?

Answer: It is hoped that the new A.M. will bring in new ideas and creativity to help build our future, while also fitting with our mission and vision. There are 3 key areas where we will want the new A.M. to take a strong role: Pastoral Care, Small Groups, and Faith Formation (early connections, membership integration, and UU identity, as well as leadership development).  Beyond that, we hope that we can encourage a full ministry partner who can collaboratively participating in determining where we will go next, and building the systems to get there.  A lot will be determined by the amount of time that these three focus areas will take – they are the priority.

Question: Is the search committee looking for someone who will have “regional” (geographic) comfort?

Answer: Yes. There have been applicants from across the country, with the exceptions of the SE and NW. The applicants’ fit with our regional culture has been a big part of the search committee’s discussion and discernment.

Question: Can the new A.M. help with long range planning?

Answer: Yes, we are looking for a team member who will contribute new ideas, perspectives, and suggestions for the future development of Foothills.

Question: Tell us more about the role of the A.M. with small groups and pastoral care.

Answer: We are seeking someone with experience in these areas, but who also expresses a passion for these important aspects of church life. Gretchen will continue doing pastoral care as well. Most of the applicants are strong in both these areas and will bring innovation.

Question: Could the position of the A.M., which is short term, be continued beyond 2-3 years?

Answer: This new position is by hire, not call. Per the Bylaws, Foothills will contract for one year, which hopefully will be renewed for a second year, if it is a good fit. No promises are made beyond that, but it is possible that the A.M. could stay longer. However, we will wait until into the second year before even beginning such discussion, because we are still in flux after having just called our Senior Minister. We first need to all see how Gretchen’s ministry unfolds and see how it feels to have two ministers.

Question: What is the process for making the decision of to whom to make the offer?

Answer: Because of the relative short term of this position, and that it is a position that reports to Gretchen, the ultimate decision is Gretchen’s, but with strong input and consultation with the A.M. Search Committee. It is not by vote of the committee or the congregation.

Question: What are some of the general characteristics of the candidates?

Answer: The 7 candidates come from across the country, almost equally balanced by gender. Ages range from mid 20s to early 50s and all are at relatively early stages (new to 7 years of ministry) in their ministerial careers.

Question: What qualities are you looking for in the candidates?

Answer:

  • A good team member/collaborator who can get the work done
  • Experience and passion for pastoral care and small group leadership
  • Having a shared vision with Gretchen and the congregation
  • Someone who works well in relationship with trust
  • Good preaching and writing skills
  • Works well with lay leaders
  • Has theological and personal depth
  • Comfortable with technology
  • Great communicator (listener and sharer of info)
  • Has good self-care and time management skills, and good boundaries

Question: Will there be 3 services after the new A.M. starts?

Answer: This has been talked about for awhile and next year we will first survey the congregation about the need for this and what it should look like. We will hope that we can expand our mid-week worship (currently the 10 times per year vespers services) to at least twice a month starting in the fall. Some of this depends on expanding our lay leader capacity, and we are working on that now.

Question: What is the evaluation process for deciding whether or not to renew the A.M. contract?

Answer: In our covenantal faith, the best way to provide feedback is on an ongoing basis -that’s true for this position, and for all of us.  So our hope is that we begin to know about fit relatively early on, and then through ongoing dialogue we are able to discern throughout the year if the contract can be renewed.  With that said, we are currently working to re-convene the Committee on Ministry (COM).  This team will partner with Gretchen to gather and provide feedback to the assistant minister in February of 2017, in a similar to fashion to the feedback and evaluation process that we provided Gretchen at the end of her first year with us.  In consultation and collaboration with the COM and the Board, Gretchen will determine the contract’s renewal.  Beyond this process for our hired minister, we are also working with the Committee on Ministry to establish best practices for feedback about all of our shared ministries and their impact in our congregation and beyond, including a regular evaluation and feedback process for our called ministers.  More on this in the coming months.

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Linking Inspiration and Generosity by Nate Donovan, Foothills Treasurer

Nate DonovanHello Foothills friends: As we begin another church year, continuing this journey, I reflect on where we’ve been as a community and the bright future we can help shape – together. Our stories can often highlight the inspiration that motivates us to give generously. Below is one from the Donovans, yet first, a few words from your Finance Committee:

Foothills Unitarian closed its books on the 2014-2015 year in good shape due to the generosity of members and friends and careful attention to expenses by staff, ministers and lay leadership. We ended the fiscal year June 30 with a slight deficit of $2733 on income of 669,204 and expenses of 671,937. We will cover this shortfall from reserves, which will then total about 32,000. Pledge income of 571,359 exceeded our budgeted pledge number by about 14,000. Thank you!

When our young family came to Foothills in 2001, our five and eight-year-old sons absolutely loved the RE program, and they got us parents out of bed many a Sunday morning, wanting us all to attend church. We grew to deeply love the people and culture we found and helped shape at Foothills, and we wanted to give back – by serving as RE teachers, on the Board and committees, and giving money and pledges that reflected the inspiration that we received on a daily and weekly basis.

We saw how that money was used inside the church and given to help individuals and groups in the larger community, and we were inspired to give more generously. We’ve made a practice of regular volunteering with Faith Family Hospitality, and over the years Nate has bought way too many good books at the Rummage Sale. I continue to be amazed at the generosity of the people at Foothills, as we grow together and expand our ability to serve each other and more people and causes in fulfilling our Mission. It has all been very meaningful to us, and lots of fun.

These are the stories that inspire me to give part of our personal income, consider gifts of capital and through our wills and estates, and serve as one of your Board members and current Treasurer. As one of the people authorized to sign checks, I see on a regular basis how the church responsibly uses your donations. Through the years serving on the Board in 2005-2006 and later from 2008-2011 as Pres-Elect, President and Past President, I have seen our church operation grow in complexity and size of budget, as more families discover our Sense of Place.

And though we delegate raising and spending of money, and many decisions, to our dedicated volunteers, paid staff and ministers, every dollar and every hour of volunteer time generously given, and gratefully received, still counts as much as it did yesterday, or in 2001, or 1976, or 1960. We are still inspired to work together to translate our values into impacts on lives at Foothills and in the wider community.

We look forward to a bright future filled with many meaningful adventures. Thank you for your generosity, and see you at the Start-Up Festival “Dunk Tank” and around church as we gather together finding “the strength to stand face forward, courage to walk into the dawning day.”

The Ones Who Show Up

BlackLivesMatter“Imagine if….We are a visionary church, leading our greater community and forming interfaith partnerships in our unquenchable thirst for social, economic, and environmental justice.”
 
Last Wednesday evening, I caught a glimpse of this courageous dream written by our provocative proposals team becoming reality.  It was late in the prayer meeting held by the Abysinnian Christian Church.  By then, we had all shed tears, sat in silence, shaken our heads and sung out loud, all to honor the Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, the churches that have been burned in the south, as well as the rage and grief we feel at the continued presence of racism and white supremacy.
I had just offered my prayer, and in the program it said we should next be singing Amazing Grace.  But before that, Pastor David said, we needed to do something else.  It might make us uncomfortable, but, he said, the Abysinnian Church, and more generally the black church, is a hugging church. Unfortunately, in that prayer meeting in Charleston, they never got around to ending their time with a hug.  But on that night, we weren’t going to leave that out.  We were going to end in a hug.  We were going to look to one another, many of us strangers, and say before we embraced: You are my sister.  You are my brother.  And then, embrace.
About 20 of us were there from Foothills.  There were other white folks in the gathering, but mostly the rest were African American.  Pastor David was right – it was a little uncomfortable at first.  But the joy, and the willingness was palpable, and it didn’t take long to get over the discomfort and move instead into a great relief, and hopefulness for us all, and for our world.

The Rev. David Williams, had called me a couple days before the gathering to invite Foothills and me to join the meeting.  I had first talked to him right after the Charleston shooting; I reached out to him as a pastor of a primarily African American church in Fort Collins, expressing my grief, fear, and solidarity in response to such a terrible act.  We talked about our roles as pastors and preachers – him in a primarily black church, me in a primarily white church – in a time like this, and how to be a voice of both comfort and challenge as we address and seek to transform the continued presence of racism and white supremacy.

I was humbled, and honored, that a few weeks later Pastor David reached back out to me to invite us to share in the Prayer meeting.  And I was humbled and honored to offer a prayer.  But it was that moment of embrace that gave me a better understanding and a clearer vision for how we as a Unitarian Universalist congregation are called to live into this vision of courageous love in our own community.

Which is to say – the provocative proposals team wrote this statement about our leadership, but in that moment, I realized our leadership simply took the form of showing up, being present, and following the lead of others.  It meant stepping outside our comfort zone, praying in a way we don’t usually pray, singing songs we don’t usually sing – but doing so with love, and willingness, and good will.  It was powerful, and as I said before, it gave me a glimpse of our potential powerful future.

One of my colleagues, the Rev. Sean Dennison, recently challenged a gathering of UU ministers to consider what it would _MG_1989mean if Unitarian Universalists were known most of all as the “ones who show up.”  The ones who show up with open hearts, and open minds, with willing hands and generous spirits.  The ones who show up gratefully, humbly.  I took a note at Sean’s question – not because this was a new idea – but because I recognized that this is something we already do pretty well that we could build on, and become known for pretty easily.  Coincidentally, when I had first talked to Pastor David I had told him, if you ever need someone to show up for you, call me – call Foothills.  We’ll be there. We’ll follow your lead.  

If you were one of those who helped make my promise come true last Wednesday, thank you.  And if you couldn’t make it – don’t worry, there will be lots more chances for us to show up and lead through partnership, humility and generosity – for us to further the reach of love all throughout our community, and in our own lives.   Isn’t it a beautiful vision? 

Our New Shared Ministry Position with the UU Church of Greeley

In case you missed our Chalice Lighting on Sunday, we are excited to share that the Selection Committee appointed by the Boards of the UU Church of Greeley and the Foothills Unitarian Church has selected our candidate for our new shared ministry position.  (Here is the email/post with all the background regarding our shared position.)

It was a wonderful announcement offered both at Foothills and at Greeley’s worship services with representatives from both of our congregations sharing simultaneously to both congregations.

Here’s a summary of their announcement….

Hollis Berendt and Bill Gotchey from Greeley and Karen Harder and Rev. Gretchen Haley from Foothills were each appointed to the Selection Committee and had a wonderful experience interviewing 3 strong candidates for our shared position.  After a thorough review, the team selected Diana McLean, who has been most recently serving as the Intern at the UU Church of Boulder.  Diana brings a wealth of congregational experience, and a passion for our faith as a lifelong Unitarian Universalist.  She has a particular call to leading worship, to pastoral care and the partnership across congregations.  And she brings the extra bonus of having just worked with Foothills’ incoming Interim Senior Minister Howell Lind as his intern.  Check out the video and introductory letter from Diana below.

IMG_0448

Diana McLean with incoming Interim Senior Minister, Rev. Howell Lind

Diana will start on August 1st as a 3/4 time Assistant Minister for both of our congregations. Initially, her time will be focused on getting up to speed with Greeley, but Foothills can expect to see her around as well over these next few months, as she begins to work with Gretchen and our Membership team to better connect all who come, filling the role that many of us have long thought of as “membership and volunteer coordinator.”  Over the course of the year, we look forward to seeing how all three of our ministers and our two congregations can work together to further the reach of love all across Northern Colorado.   If you are interested in being a part of the team that grows our partnership between Greeley and Foothills, please let Rev. Gretchen Haley know.

Please find below a video from Diana introducing herself to the two congregations, as well as a letter from her with a little more information.

– Rich Young and Jennifer Powell, Board of Trustees for Foothills Unitarian Church

– Karen Harder, Board of Trustees for Foothills and Selection Committee member

– Marcia Free, Board of Trustees for UU Church of Greeley

– Hollis Berendt and Bill Gotchey, Board of Trustees for Greeley and Selection Committee members 

– Rev. Gretchen Haley, Associate Minister and Selection Committee member

Video from Diana McLean

Letter from Diana McLean

Dear members and friends at the UU Church of Greeley and Foothills Unitarian,

I am delighted to be joining the ministerial team that will serve the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley and the Foothills Unitarian Church. It’s an exciting time to be serving these two congregations, as we all partner to extend the impact of Unitarian Universalism in Northern Colorado.

Diana with her son Aidan

I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist since childhood, and am passionate about ourfaith and what we have to offer to the wider world. My call to ministry began about 15 years ago, and I answered first by deepening my involvement as a layperson in Unitarian Universalist churches as I moved to various parts of the country. I eventually served as a monthly guest speaker at the North Idaho Unitarian Universalists (a church similar in size to the Greeley church) for a number of years before the move to Colorado. Although I had envisioned ordained ministry as something that would wait until my son was grown, I made the leap and began theology school in 2011. I’ll be finishing up over the next year, and also going before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the UUA this fall.

I have been serving as the Ministerial Intern at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder since August 2014, and have been active in the Boulder-Denver Cluster of Congregations in a variety of ways since moving to Colorado in April 2011. In addition to the natural beauty around us here, I believe we are also surrounded by opportunities to share our faith with others hungry for our messages of love and justice.

Diana Benediction in California April 2015Our faith is covenantal, and for me the power of religious experience is found within our communities, in the human connections we make with each other, which also allow us to deepen our individual spirituality in ways we wouldn’t alone. I look forward to making those connections with you, and to sharing a journey of exploration and depth with you.

In gratitude and anticipation,

Diana

In Gratitude: Plans for the Coming Year

(This post was sent the week of June 2nd as an email to all Foothills’ active friends and members, so just posting here so that it is easily accessible for all who may have missed the email, or if we want to reference it later…)

Dear friends,

You might remember, a few months ago, our Stewardship team sent out a great letter talking about our goals for moving our church forward in the coming year and inviting your partnership to make these goals a reality.

They identified 3 specific goals for “moving forward” this year:

  1. More fully support our homelessness ministry;
  2. Increase campus ministry programming and staff support; and
  3. Hire a staff position to support the areas of membership integration and volunteer coordination (“congregational life” – you may remember us talking about how we gain 100 members a year, and lose 100 members, and we can’t even tell you why….).

I am so happy to report that as a result of your generosity we are able to move forward in all three of these areas!! We are building on our successful Faith Family Hospitality ministry by launching the exciting new One Village One Family ministry with over 30 members walking along side homeless families as they move into housing.  And we are adding additional hours and budget to support the full launch of campus ministry in the fall – even as we seek to strengthen our partnership with the Gellar Center and Foothills’ member Elizabeth Sink’s new interfaith community.

But perhaps most exciting of all is the opportunity we have been presented to move forward with the congregational life staff.  Though the pledge drive didn’t yield the kind of results necessary to fund a full time position, over the past few months, the UU Church of Greeley has approached us to see if we would be interested in sharing a staff position primarily funded with their budget dollars.

Because they are in need of a minister (half time), the opportunity is not just to have a staff position, but to add a religious professional who is trained and passionate about how we welcome, integrate and invite into service all those who seek a liberal religious home in Fort Collins.

Sharing staff across UU congregations is a leading experiment going on across the country to serve more people within limited resources.  For a congregation like Greeley that has struggled to grow beyond its small (40 members) size in recent history, this is a great opportunity to strengthen their system and capacity to offer stability to their minister.  For us, it is a wonderful opportunity to help strengthen Unitarian Universalism across Northern Colorado and to enhance our support for members and to better track and employ all of our members’ gifts.

You’ll find a link below to a statement describing in detail the background and plan for this opportunity.  I encourage you to read this for all of the details.

Greeley’s minister (Rev. Kelly Dignan) was called to Boulder in April, so we have had to move fast.  The Board appointed Board member Karen Harder and me to a shared search committee with two of Greeley’s Board members.  We interviewed three strong candidates last week, and we are in the final stages of being able to announce our candidate.

Over the course of the next few months Foothills will be focusing on our transition in our Interim Senior Minister position.  But as that transition takes hold, because of your generosity, we will also be able to keep moving forward with our positive vision for the future, living our values of being a welcoming place for everyone and strengthening Unitarian Universalism all across our area.

We don’t know exactly how this shared ministry position will work, or even if it will work.  Our plan is to try it for a year, and see how it goes.  If it goes well, we keep going.  If it isn’t working out, we identify what we learned and we try something else instead.

Thank you so much for moving our church forward through this transition time, and helping our community focus on a positive vision for what we can do together.  Read the linked document, and please let me know your questions and ideas for what this inspires in you.  And look for information about our shared hire with Greeley to be announced in the next few weeks!

In partnership, and with gratitude,

Gretchen

Full Background Information Document link

Appreciative Inquiry Results – from the Transition Team

We began our Appreciative Inquiry Process in January with a series of workshops and conversations where members could share their stories about the church and their sense of our core values and their dreams for our future.  A summary of that process can be found here.

Since those conversations concluded in mid-February, the interview summary sheets were typed into a spreadsheet, and then that spreadsheet was given to a Analysis Team headed by Tim Pearson and including Carolyn Mita, Peg MacMorris, and Ruth Rice.  The Analysis Team produced a report summarizing the trends and information in the sheets.

Additionally, in the workshops themselves, groups of 6 participants came together and summarized their self-understanding of their own trends and most important points.  This information has been captured on a 2-sided single sheet called “Our Appreciative Trends from the Summary of Six Conversations.”

Next, our Provocative Proposals team of Lenny Scovel, Anne Haro-Sipes, Clay Carter and Brendan Mahoney used these two ways of summarizing the interview data to create vision statements.  These statements were to be: stated in the affirmative, linked to a dream acknowledged in the data, and based in a strength already existing in the congregation.   The team came up with a total of 20 Provocative Proposals that can now be used as the starting point for the Board and the Search Committee and for any other leadership body to use as a jumping off point for a strategic plan as well as other plans for our future.   Throughout the next few months, we will engage these Proposals through an interactive display, and in August and September, there will be a series of Chalice Lighting reflections around each of these Proposals.

Thanks to the many people who participated in this process, and to the Analysis and Provocative Proposals Teams for your time and attention and care to summarize and distill and discern the core messages and possibilities within these conversations.  This is a great beginning for our ongoing process of looking ahead and creating the church of the future.

– Transition Team: Anne Hall, Chris Frey, Lenny Scovel, Bob Bacon and Jen Iole

Appreciative Inquiry Documents (paper copies are available in the office): 

Looking Back on the Church Year 2014-15

For most of the world, it’s decidedly mid-year.  But for schools and churches, we are coming towards year-end.  Although our congregation- like most UU congregations today – does not shut down over the summer, but we do move into a different rhythm.

With just a single worship service (starting June 14), we will have a more intimate feel, and also a little more casual/experimental air.  Our religious exploration program will offer programs targeted to the many first-time visitors we see over the summer and most of our ministry teams will be in “planning season,” studying and reflecting as they gear up for next year.  Which makes it a great time to get involved – we are currently looking for new partners in membership, stewardship, worship arts, welcoming, and our parish visitors.  Email me if you’re interested!

Even as we look ahead, we also look back.  Rev. Keyes, will offer his “State of the Church” address this Sunday, and given his time with us is nearing its end, I am grateful his reflection will offer a certain objectivity about our church.

As for me, I claim no such objectivity.  I am deeply invested in our continued and strengthened future and our partnership.  I shared recently about the ways I know this year has been hard for many of you.  But just as importantly, there has been so much good this year!! I am proud of what we have done together, and I don’t want this to be overlooked or understated.

With this in mind, I offer this summary overview.  It’s a lot of information, and yet for every word I write, I have left out hundreds of others.  It’s really incredible how much good we do together, freely, in service of bringing more love and hope to more of the world.  Thank you for your partnership and investment in all this goodness.  Let’s keep moving forward.

Summary of Ministry Partnerships 2014-2015 

This year, we have seen a huge increase in participation and engagement of our community in the shared ministry and programs of our congregation.  Here are a few of those stories…..

Pastoral Care and Caring Team 
After being trained and launching officially last spring, our group Parish Visitors have been regularly visiting about 20 of our congregants, growing the reach of our care and ensuring a steady presence of our church in the life of our members.
Meanwhile, these Visitors have been working in coordination with our Caring Team – they rotate as an on-call intake for any caring needs we hear about, ensuring that our people get the support they may need.  Our Caring Team provides meals, rides and cards to many congregants over the year, supporting people through surgery, grief, illness and other life transitions, in addition to providing meaningful support for memorials for our beloved members.  And, our Caring Team has been working to coordinate more fully with our small groups such as our Senior Sages, our group for older adults, to ensure better communication and use of the informal networks of support.
Lifespan Religious Exploration 
Eleanor Van Deusen and I took over the direction of the adult religious exploration program this year, and launched the three-fold program of spritual practices, classes, and small groups.  We saw regular attendance at our Spiritual Practices in opportunities like yoga, meditation, ZenTangle, Artist’s Way, chanting and drum circle. Over the course of the year we have seen an explosion in participation in small groups, with nearly 400 members participating in small groups exploring everything from social justice to Unitarian Universalist history to personal grief to your own spiritual journey and faith development.  Along the way you have strengthened your connections with one another, your own sense of spiritual depth, and your connection to something greater than us all.
The Adult RE classes have been hugely successful this year, with tracks focusing on Unitarian Universalism, Social Change and Tools for the Spiritual Journey.  Our Intro Sundays have regularly seen 20-30 in attendance, and classes on Transcendentalism, Unitarian Justice Roots, Islamic and Jewish Influences in Unitarian Universalism, Atheism/Theism Theological Constructs and others have all seen 30-40 in regular attendance.  Our classes on end of life conversations and tools for ending the cycle of poverty saw even greater numbers.  It’s been a wonderful time of growing and deepening our sense of our living tradition and our call to transforming lives – our own, and the wider world.
Finally, our Adult RE program and worship services were integrated this year through a new theme-based ministry initiative.  Exploring topics like faith, gratitude, grief, hope and justice allowed us to delve more deeply into our big questions, and to experience a greater sense of cohesion across our programming and our life stages.
Meanwhile, our program for children, youth and families has never been stronger.  Eleanor built on our themes and used a workshop rotation model for her classes to allow for greater member participation and more experiential learning for our students, while still offering rich content and meaningful children’s worship for our kids  Our high school youth continued to strengthen their relationships with one another and our faith, with highlights including small group ministry, service outreach, collaboration in a Sunday service, and the annual 9th grade trip to the Navajo Reservation.
Worship and Music 
Our Worship Learning Community has grown over this year, adding new members to an already strong group that began not quite 2 years ago.  In addition to providing all of the music and lay support for worship last summer, this group was responsible for leading and crafting our Vespers services – evening mid-week worship that is more contemplative, music-driven and interactive than our Sunday services.  We averaged about 60 people in these services, with special highlights being our Winter Solstice (over 100 in attendance) and Earth Day Vespers service (which was intentionally multi-generational and was led in collaboration with our youth group).  This Worship Community has also been responsible for enhancing our overall professionalism on Sunday morning through their role as Worship Hosts.
Our Music program has continued to grow this year with Ryan’s continued compassionate leadership and exceptional talent, especially as seen in our collaboration with Plymouth UCC where their choir came for one Sunday with us, and another Sunday, we went to their church.  It was also a joy to see our children’s choirs continue to grow this year with performances over the winter holidays and again in the Spring.
As for Sunday services, although we have had a change in our Senior Minister of the past 23 years – which in many churches results in a huge (usually temporary) decrease in Sunday attendance – we have generally seen a steady attendance and participation on Sundays.  We have welcomed many guests to our pulpit, and have continued to be blessed by a strong collaboration across our music, religious exploration and administrative teams to offer a welcome and creative opportunity for gathering around our deepest values throughout the year.
Membership Team 
Our Membership Team clarified its focus and mission over the summer – to welcome people as they came in and to help them find their place of connection in the congregation, particularly in terms of the process from their first visit all the way until they decide to become members.  Over this year, the Team has been working to improve and enhance its 4 Ways to Connect, which includes our Path to Membership classes (offered 4 times), Connections Dinners (offered 3 times), Explorations Small Group Ministry (offered 3 times, all over-full) and Intro Sundays (offered monthly) – all of which have seen regular strong attendance and positive feedback from attendees.  Beginning a year ago, Membership has also been working in collaboration with staff to offer our Hops & Hospitality and Wine & Welcome trainings, beginning to focus additional efforts on being a welcoming congregation and to strengthen our welcome on Sunday mornings.  Out of these efforts, we will be forming a new Radical Welcome Team starting this summer.
Social Justice
Our Justice efforts have built on an already-strong foundation this year, beginning with our continued work with Faith Family Hospitality, where in the range of 100 of our members regularly volunteer to host and support families experiencing homelessness.  After gathering for our training on Cycles of Poverty in January, we discerned that our next step together would be to engage the One Village One Family program that mentors homeless families as they re-stabilize in housing.  We will launch 5 villages (30 participants) this Sunday as they companion 5 families back into stable housing in the next 5-6 months.  They will also act as supports for one another, and will be strengthened by their connection to and support from this faith community.
We have also seen the continued good work of our ESL Tutoring program where about 40 members volunteer weekly, as well as additional development in our work towards immigration justice, beginning with the Do You Know Who I Am? autobiographical play we sponsored with Plymouth UCC in late summer, and leading to our immigration class series in the fall.  We will build on this work next year as our adult education program will offer a series on Intercultural Competency and in partnership again with Plymouth, a curriculum based on the play, all leading towards a possible Borderlinks trip next spring.
We have also seen activity in addressing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, supporting our partner church, and we have been early partners in the newly formed Northern Colorado Pride Coalition to support welcome and advocacy for GLBTQ persons in the area.  I was happy to represent our values as one-half of the first legal marriage ceremony for a same sex couple in Colorado in October, and it was great fun to see the Coloradoan pick up our wedding photos!
Most recently, we have been excited to see the newly revitalized environmental justice team, launching based on the UUA’s Commit2Respond initiative in mid-March.  This group has been meeting regularly and reflecting on our call to act on behalf of the earth and its resources, and we look forward to significant progress on this front in the coming year.
Over this summer, we anticipate pulling together our justice leaders to have a conversation about intersectionality in our justice work – which is a way of seeing justice issues as all interconnected so that we can better collaborate rather than compete with our resources.
Stewardship
Our Stewardship Team has also been extremely active this year, starting in the fall as it worked to analyze our current trends in giving, as well as partnering with our adult ed program to offer classes in financial health and linking money to personal values.  Stewardship was also critical to the successful roll out of our new Share the Plate Program, which is on track to give away over $20,000 to our community partners in homelessness, domestic violence, suicide prevention, immigrant support, international support, and direct food relief by the end of this church year.
The Stewardship Team is also responsible for the reverse-offering program where we gave the church money in a worship service rather than collecting it, resulting in $800 of money being handed out and that money growing to at least $15,000 of impact into the community as you worked together and “passed it on” as a part of the good news of the Foothills Unitarian Church furthering the reach of love.
On top of all of this Stewardship oversaw our highly successful canvass, where we saw a 10% increase in our pledges and about 40 net additional pledging households, with over 25 canvassers personally speaking to about 25% of the congregation.  And although the increased pledges were meaningful, just as important were the personal connections we heard many people made by reaching out one-on-one and talking about what they cared about and why.
Young Adult and Campus Ministry 
We launched full campus ministry this year led by Chris Sharp and lay student leaders Kelly and Rosalinda. We are anticipating regular worship gatherings on campus in the fall and strengthening our partnership with the Gellar Center.  Chris also helped to strengthen our young adult ministry this year, adding targeted support for our parents of younger children as well as a Sunday evening vespers/small group opportunity.
Transition Team
Our Transition Team, formed in the Fall, has led the way in our review of our past, celebration of our present, and our looking ahead to the future.  This began in the fall with our history wall and our chalice-lighting reflections where members shared about their experiences in each of the decades of the church, and continued with workshops and conversations leading to the creation of a covenant of right relations.  The Team then moved into the leadership of our appreciative inquiry process, which resulted in a strengthened positive sense about what we care about in our congregation.  This Team is now turning its attention to meeting with every group, committee and team in the church to check in around how it is doing, how it sees itself as connected to the wider community, and to help it gain the support it needs to move forward.
Partnership with Other Area UU Congregations 
We have grown significantly in our relationship with other UU churches in the area, especially in our connections across our staff teams.  We have started providing administrative support to the UU congregation in Loveland, and bookkeeping support for the church in Greeley.   In the coming year we will share a staff position with Greeley to address our membership and volunteer coordination needs, which will significantly strengthen our relationship across staff and members. Our ministers have met monthly with the ministers of other area congregations, and our staff has met twice with other congregations’ staff teams for shared learning and team building.
Final thoughts
I cannot conclude this report without an acknowledgement of the Board for its hours and hours of good, patient, and thoughful work this year.   So much of their work goes unseen, and it is hard to describe just how much they have done this year – it’s pretty amazing to consider that most of them have full time jobs and all of them have very busy lives – let us say thank you a thousand times!!  And I also want to lift up our staff team, who continue to bring this congregation so many gifts – their passion, energy, commitment, goodwill, and the skills they each bring to their jobs.  We are truly blessed!
It has been a big year with so much going on.  Surely not everything has been perfect, but we need to be proud of all that we have done, and stay focused on this goodness as we look ahead to the future.  I am so grateful for all of you and look forward to our continued partnership.
With gratitude,
Rev. Gretchen Haley