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

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.

Discerning Desires (including an update on personnel committee and assistant minister planning)

From Rev. Gretchen Haley
January always seems a challenging month. All those things we said we would do “in the new year” suddenly need to be done, and there is a little less daylight and a little more cold, making motivation and time harder to come by.  Also, pastoral concerns are often their toughest in January.  The rumors about people “waiting” through the holiday season are true it turns out.  It is tough on the heart, and the schedule.
I was able to take some time away in January, all part of an intentional plan to set the foundations for my beginning as senior minister in July.  It’s not exactly “vacation,” but rather intentionally set-aside time to prepare, study, and reflect.  I’ll be taking a week or two every month between now and July (except this month) for this sort of study leave.
In January, my time was devoted to three things:
First, getting some much needed rest and re-setting after the pace of the past year and a half.  I had a great time catching up on streaming television, books I’d been meaning to read (especially Ta-Nehisi Coates’Between the World and Me), and cleaning the house (for some reason it doesn’t stayclean…).
Secondly, I began setting some important foundations around personnel practices.  I reached out to other UU congregations of a similar size about their practices as an employer, and I spoke with a UUA consultant who specializes in supporting Directors of Music and Religious Education.  I convened a mini-summit of past, present and potential future Personnel Committee members to clarify lessons and questions for us in meeting our ethical, legal and programmatic requirements as an employer. From these initial steps I will be forming an HR Task Force that will (in collaboration with the Governance Task Force) advise the Board and me regarding how we can address these vital questions.  More information on this in the coming weeks.
Third, and perhaps most exciting of all, I spent a good deal of time on the early stages of our search for an Assistant Minister.  I’ll be providing a full update (along with our newly appointed Search Committee – Scott Denning, Bonnie Inscho, Sara Edwards and Tim Pearson) on February 14th after both services.  For now, let me just summarize by sharing that we had a very strong applicant pool from all across the country. By the 3rd week of February we will have that group narrowed down to 2 candidates, and by the end of March, we will likely have a candidate ready to start in August! I am inspired and humbled by the enthusiasm and skills of my colleagues who are applying to serve this congregation and join our team.  We have the great problem of needing to choose the best fit among many strong candidates.  Join us on the 14th at either 10:10 or 12:30 for more information!
With all of these great “away” projects, it remains also a busy and exciting time at the church.  Between the new Foundations series, Sunday services, Vespers, preparations for the pledge drive, and all the usual stuff of church life, I have been feeling a little extra packed.  If you’re with me on that and you too had a busier than usual January, here’s to a return to equilibrium in February – remembering that even when we “desire” to do it all, sometimes the most important part of desire is discerning what we will not be able to do, and how to maintain a sustainable pace.  That’s my hope for all of us – in February, and in our continued shared ministry together.
In partnership,
Gretchen

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

Moving Forward Together

12247140_10153987859389156_6166450952576757111_nOver the past few weeks, there have been a lot of pictures of me up and around.  It’s been a little uncomfortable, I confess.  The process as a whole has been an interesting and important one, for all of us – sometimes uncomfortable sure, but also sometimes funny, sometimes exhilarating – and often filled with love and grace.
Still, I think the more accurate picture, the more helpful picture for us to lift up at this point is the one I see when I am looking out on Sunday: the whole wonderfully crowded sanctuary and social hall, filled with all of you in all the places you are in your lives, the stories I am aware of, the many I am not, the ways you are connected to each other, the ways you care for each other, your commitment to this church and our liberal religious faith, the questions we all have, the struggles and the triumphs, together. Our church and a successful ministry isn’t about any one of us, and definitely it isn’t me – it’s about us – all of us, together.  We are all in this together, all of us.
In these first few days since my call, I have begun to think about the work ahead, and what we will need to do, and when and how we’ll need to do it.  Over and over I come back to the message I offered the first Sunday of candidating week:

Imagine, it is our task to create an environment and the appropriate forums for it to be safe for any of us to speak honestly, about those things which matter most – about our fears, our hopes, and struggles…..Imagine it is our core task to make space for all the different metaphors, and language, and meaning-making any of us might engage along life’s journey….And imagine that in our Big Tent, rather than believing it is possible to hold this much diversity and maintain a perpetual sense of ease, imagine that it is our practice to be that ‘safe place where we can be uncomfortable.’ …..Imagine that central to anything we do is our Big Tent where we make space for all who welcome all.

As your new senior minister, this is my central commitment to you and to this congregation, that we continue to cultivate an environment where all are truly welcome – all those who are willing to practice with us this idea of welcoming all who welcome all.

To begin, I know that there were a number of you who hoped for a different outcome to my call. I’d like to hear from you.  I want to listen to your concerns and your fears, as well as your hopes and your dreams.  I’d invite you to write me a letter, or make an appointment – after Thanksgiving, perhaps.  I promise I will not take your vote personally or hold it against you – I will respect you – in this, and in all things, to come to your own conclusions.  That is what a free church must ultimately continue to affirm – a trust and a faith in the people to freely choose – and to respectfully disagree.  There is no coercion in covenant – choice is perpetual, and choice is powerful.

And just as importantly, for those who are excited about the outcome, I’d love to hear from you as well.  What inspires you, and how do you see yourself fitting in the journey ahead? And, what questions do you have? What ideas, hopes, needs?

Far beyond this moment, over time, any of us may disagree around small or big things.  If we are to do anything of vision or purpose, we are going to disagree.  That is ok! We can disagree and stay in relationship – that is the big and crazy idea behind “we need not think alike to love alike.”  Paraphrasing the Rev. Kirk Loadman-Copeland, we are not going to be like-minded.  Let us strive instead to be like-hearted.  Our hearts affirm that behind our differences, something more important connects us.  And so at any given time throughout our shared ministry that you find yourself disagreeing – let’s talk about it.  Let’s trust each other enough to assume good intent; and trust that we are all committed to what we understand as the good for this congregation.

In her Facebook post on Monday after the vote, Board member Gale Whitman reflected on the past 48 hours, and shared this hope: “Let’s work together to build a better tomorrow; the world needs us!” I couldn’t have said it better.  There are so many places in our world today where life is at risk, and all around us the earth itself is at risk – our world – and we – need us to work together in service of our shared affirmation that all are worthy of love and belonging, and we are all in this together.  We need all of us.  Let’s keep moving forward, together.

With love, and HUGE gratitude,
Gretchen

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SearchLight: the new Ministerial Search Committee Blog

Did you know the Ministerial Search Committee has its own blog? Be sure to check it out for regular updates about the process of searching for our next settled Senior Minister.

The address is: https://foothillssearch.wordpress.com/ Just like with this blog, you can subscribe to receive regular updates.

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):