Skin in the Game

In the service last Sunday, I said our theology of social justice requires that we ask ourselves: what are we willing to risk, and what’s our skin in the game? In the coming weeks, our congregation has the chance to really wrestle with these questions.
It’s been four months since our Sanctuary Team lit the chalice and invited us to start considering the question of becoming a  Sanctuary Congregation. Since then they’ve held forums and informational sessions, reached out to the interfaith and immigrant community, and met extensively with First Unitarian in Denver where they’ve hosted two people in sanctuary.
From this work, and with my full support and appreciation, they brought forward the invitation to the Board to set a special congregational meeting for us to vote on becoming a Sanctuary Congregation.  After two in-depth conversations with the Board, they whole-heartedly agreed.
Which means, it’s finally time to get serious in our conversations with our whole community.  We want to help us all consider what sanctuary means, and if and how we are called to be a Sanctuary Congregation. We want to review what we’ve learned about the risks and the ways to mitigate these risks, even as we recognize that part of what we are called to do – as I said before – is to take risks on behalf of justice, and on behalf of our faith.
With all that in mind, I invite you all to the following opportunities to learn more, to share and discuss together, and for us to decide together, where and how we are called as a congregation in this important path of caring, justice, and courageous love.
  • Sunday, August 13th 8:30 and 10:00 service, “Just Home,” led by the Rev. Mike Morran, First Unitarian Society of Denver, leaders in the Sanctuary movement in the Denver metro area
  • Sunday, August 13th at 11:30 am, following the second service, Informational Workshop on Sanctuary, led by the Sanctuary Team and Foothills staff team – answering all the questions anyone can come up with, talking practical details, sharing in group discernment.  Register to attend this workshop here.
  • Wednesday, August 23rd at 6:30 pm, a 2nd opportunity for the same information provided at the 8/13 Informational Workshop for those who weren’t able to attend, or who want additional info
  • Sunday, August 27th, Special Congregational Meeting at 11:30 am, following the second service, called for the sole purpose of voting on the question “Will Foothills Unitarian Church be designated as a Sanctuary Congregation?” All those who have been members for 30 days or more by 8/27 are welcome to vote.
If you were there on Sunday, you heard the story of Juan, a father of five in the Greeley area who was recently and suddenly deported. While we don’t know for sure, Juan is someone who seems like would’ve been a great candidate for sanctuary – but we weren’t ready.  The need is increasingly urgent to take up this question, and I am grateful for your willingness and partnership as we consider it together.
*This post was originally sent out as a part of the 8/2 Weekly Extra

The power of presence

brene-brown-courage-show-up.jpgWhat can I do? When things feel off track in our lives or in our world, most of us ask ourselves this question.  We want to help, to act – do something! Yet so often, there isn’t anything really obvious to do, which makes us feel helpless, confused, and even more distraught.

One thing that is often overlooked is also one of the most powerful ways to have a big impact – which is to simply show up.  Show up for your friends with a phone call, email, or text asking simply, “how are you?” Show up for your children or grandchildren with your full attention sans phone or other distraction.  Show up for your friends or for others in the church with coffee, or a meal.  Show up on Sunday with a friendly smile and a “welcome!” Show up for your neighbors by cleaning off their walk as well as yours.  Show up for your own life, fully present.

The power of our presence is also instructive when it comes to our response in our greater community.  For example, the immigration-advocacy group, Fuerza Latina has launched 9 different committees to begin work in various ways to tend to the safety, protection and care of immigrants in our community.  At the meeting of the Sanctuary City group on Monday, I was struck by the power of two dozen of us in the room together, all self-selected citizens just wanting to “do something,” and struggling to figure out once again, what to do.

There were CSU leaders, dairy farmers, teachers, social workers, and scientists – and everything in between.  Together we stumbled through the questions and task before us, the question of organizing ourselves and coordinating, and attempting to articulate what it was we hoped to accomplish.  I’m not sure what will come of it, yet the showing up together remains important.  We need to be together, learn together, question and struggle together.

Throughout the meeting it struck me how many other meetings just like this are happening not just in our city, but across the country.  Democracy and human relationships are clumsy and slow and yet also beautiful and kind and so well-intentioned. Sometimes the lessons of showing up aren’t just about what you get done, but about cultivating the patience and the perspective to remain steadfast through all the messiness of the real work.

Fuerza Latina is just now getting clear about how best to leverage the great desire to “do something” that exists in our community.  I’ll let you know as these and other more action-based opportunities become more clear.

Until then, showing up for one another and for our immediate circle remains vital, and foundational.  We have a long road ahead, and our presence for one another and in our own lives is what will make all the difference as to whether or not we can keep showing up for our neighbors – and whether we can, as I said on Sunday, keep doing so with joy, laughter, love – and dancing!

Thank you for your partnership, and for your continued presence.


An Update on Our Immigration Ministry – Guest Post by Anne Hall with Rev. Gretchen Haley

photo(1)A few years ago, Foothills responded to the UUA’s call to learn about immigration justice in preparation for our Phoenix General Assembly.  We worked with Plymouth Congregational Church to offer workshops around immigration, and reached out to local partners to better understand the needs of immigrants in our community.  From this work together, a number of new initiatives for greater partnership and companioning of our immigrant neighbors have emerged….

  1. ESL Tutoring Program at La Familia – First, we heard the need for ESL Tutoring to be offered in conjunction with child care so that working parents especially could access the tools of increased fluency in English.  Over the past two years, over 80 Foothills and Plymouth members and friends have provided tutoring at La Familia – the Family Center – a childcare center in north Fort Collins.  Check out some photos of our ESL Tutors at work.
  2. DACA Workshops – We have been a part of a couple different efforts to reach out and support applicants for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an administrative effort to defer deportation for people who arrived here as a child from another country without legal status.
  3. Larimer County Immigration Advisory Council for Jared Polis’ Office – Foothills sends at least 1 or 2 representatives to quarterly small group meetings with Jared Polis to advise about what we see in our community in terms of the immigrant experience and ways of enhancing justice, and to hear about happenings in congress towards immigration justice.
  4. Float this Family – Members of our congregation have taken the lead on companioning an immigrant family impacted by the floods of last fall, supporting them in rebuilding their life after losing so much, particularly without being able to access federal support due to their documentation status.
  5. Companioning Immigrant Family in Greeley – In partnership with the UU Church of Greeley, we are companioning a single mother who spent many months in a detention center and finally received asylum, but not without suffering the cost of losing her home and her job.  Our support has allowed her to better access legal services and begin to rebuild her life after such significant losses.
  6. Immigration Play – Co-sponsored with Plymouth Congregational Church, “Do You Know Who I Am?” at Bas Bleu theatre, a play about the experience of immigrants who arrived in the United States as a child as they graduate from high school and find their opportunities lacking.

photo(2)Many of these efforts were enhanced through Foothills’ generous Share the Plate offerings in September, raising approximately $1500 towards immigration ministry.

As we look ahead, we are thinking about ways to expand our outreach even further.  We are building relationships with Together Colorado, a faith based organizing group, to help reach out across faith communities in the area.  And we are starting to think about creating a Northern Colorado Immigrants Relief Fund that could be used to support more people facing legal fees, scholarship needs, the impact of detention, and beyond.  We are also imagining another workshop to assist applicants for a deferred action program for the family members of those who have already received DACA that many anticipate (hoping!) President Obama will enact in the coming months.  We are listening to our interfaith community partners about the ways we can make a difference for all of our good.  We continue to look for ways of walking with our neighbors – to be companions of this shared journey of life – as we further the reach of love in our own lives, in Northern Colorado, and beyond. photo

If you have questions or want to get more involved with our Immigration Ministry, contact Anne Hall at