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!

The space for courageous love

Check out the video above for the video version of this blog – or if you prefer, read the text below…or both! 

You may have noticed that we are often at our capacity on Sunday – these past few weeks, even more so.

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Look at how full that sanctuary is! 

Recently, we reviewed our worship attendance data for the last 8 years, and we realized, that we’ve been at capacity pretty much that whole time.  We’ve flirted consistently with 80% of capacity, to be specific – sometimes above, sometimes below – but never really staying above for too long.  This is important, because studies show that once you hit 80% of capacity, your attendance flatlines because people get a subconscious message that there isn’t enough room for them.  And that’s exactly what our data shows.

Even before the election, we were pondering what to do about this.  But with the results of the election and the many big questions before us, it is even more urgent that we ensure that we are making space for all who may be needing a religious community grounded in the practices of courageous love.  The data shows, capacity is the driver – and so our question is: how do we increase capacity?

With all this in mind, the Board has asked the staff team to explore a “3rd Service Experiment” beginning around February and continuing through April – during which we could figure out what it would take to maintain 3 services over the longer run, if it’s possible, and what will work best.

We know that this will require some discomfort on all of our parts – but as I said in a prior blog post – unleashing courageous love does not mean being comfortable, but only the safe place in which we can manage discomfort, together. So our hope is that we can learn together, grow together, stumble together, offer each other grace – all of which will allow us to truly unleash the big huge love that exists within us and among us.  We need this, the world needs it – now more than ever.

I’ll keep you updated as our staff and lay teams for worship and religious exploration start to figure out the details.  For now, I am so grateful for your partnership at this time, grateful to be learning with you, wrestling with these big questions together, and unleashing courageous love, together.

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This photo is from our gathering at the Islamic center last year….A year later, there are even more souls who are hungry to gather in light and love – how will we make space for all who seek to join together on this journey – the space for the greatest impact for courageous love to be unleashed?

Connecting at Buckhorn Retreat and Beyond – Guest post from church member Dee Wanger

Wanger, Mark and DeeTwenty years ago, our family experienced a “spiritual perspective-changing health crisis” that nudged us to look for a spiritual community that would take us from our current awakening to a more spiritual future. With Mark raised in the Jewish tradition, and myself raised in the Presbyterian tradition, we weren’t sure what we were looking for, but began our search by attending a service at Foothills.

The sermon that day had been written especially for me, or at least it seemed. I was able to deeply listen and apply the ideas to my current crisis. It was magical.  We and our daughters saw friends we knew from other walks in our lives.

It was as though we had walked through a think vine overgrowth into a secret garden. Yet, we soon learned that there was no secret here!

A very public Medieval Festival was offered to the community, there were several active human rights advocacy groups, and church representatives were involved with interdenominational organizations in the community. We wanted to be part of the fun and sharing!

We continued to hear that Buckhorn was one of the best ways to meet people and have a meaningful spiritual experience together. We signed up and did, indeed, have a bonding experience with conversation over meals, shared laughter and singing during evening programs, thoughtful discussion about books and articles, playing board, card and outside games, a nature walk led by a knowledgeable church member, and star gazing with powerful telescopes. There was something so organic about being in nature, playing, and talking that helped us appreciate the breadth and depth of the people in the Foothills community.

What we witnessed at Buckhorn, and have appreciated in our continued involvement with Foothills, is the talent, wisdom, humor, and commitment of the people. Just as programming at Buckhorn was organized and presented by congregants, so is much of the leadership and programming present and successful because of the contribution of congregants.

We found that we had much to gain, as well as much to offer. We have grown through our “receiving” activities with groups for women, men, mothers, crafting, reading, hiking, discussion, parenting, travel, and films, but also in our “giving” activities as ushers, coffee-makers, religious education teachers, youth group advisers, sound booth tech, OWL teacher, choir member, carpet cleaner, landscape crew, rummage sale helper (and shopper!), service auction event hosts, Madrigal Dinner servers, Faith Family Hospitality supporters, summer Sunday service coordinator, chalice lighters, and more.

Though we look back in wonder at the serendipity of that first visit, we’ve never looked back at our decision to join. In fact, it is what kept us going then. The messaging at Sunday services is inspiring, grounding and thought provoking, but it’s the connection to the people that keeps us coming now.

Through my work on the nominating committee, I’ve come to realize that there’s a lot of untapped wisdom, inspiration and talent that hasn’t found its place on the leadership path at Foothills.  If you are one who hasn’t yet found your place to give and receive, I want to encourage you to try Buckhorn this year – perhaps like it was for us, it may just be the beginning of a lifelong journey of connection and community.