Report from our Congregational Forum – from Scott Denning

About 20 people attended a Congregational Informational Forum held by the Board of Trustees on the evening of February 22.

Member Jody Anderson presented an update on the Governance Task Force (GTF), which has been very busy drafting comprehensive new policies to help us organize ourselves to better serve our large and vibrant congregation. The GTF drew from the book Governance and Ministry by Dan Hotchkiss and from dozens of large UU churches to draft policies that have been reviewed by the Board. These policies will be discussed in various settings with the Congregation at large this spring, intending to begin a trial period when the new church year starts on July 1. We look forward to a smaller, nimbler, and more vision-focused Board that delegates more operational responsibility to staff, with much clearer written guidance. There will be lots of opportunity to learn and participate in this important process during congregational discussions in March, small group drop-ins, and a table in the social hall.

Treasurer Scott Denning provided a financial update. A bit past the halfway point of the church year, we’re in very good financial shape. Expenses are right on track with the budget and with our spending last year, but our income is substantially ahead of previous years at this point.  We thank those of you who pay their pledges monthly rather than in a lump sum in December. We’ve finally begun to rebuild our reserves, which were nearly wiped out during the Great Recession in 2008-2010. We are tracking down pledges from the wave of new members who have recently joined, and currently project a small surplus at the end of the year on June 30.

Assistant Minister Sean Neil-Barron updated us on membership and staffing. We’ve experienced a surge in membership and visitors over the past year and now have about 600 official members (and about 300 other regular adult participants). Attendance at Sunday services has been at nearly 100% of our physical capacity. Our Third Service Experiment has allowed us some breathing room and has already seen an increase in total attendance.

We’re committed to maintaining a vital music ministry, drawing on the talents in our community and beginning a national search for a Music Director. We’re delighted to announce that as was shared in an email to the congregation, Chris Reed has agreed to serve as our Interim Music Director and will start on March 15th. Chris is Assistant Professor of Music at CSU and previously served as Music Director at Trinity Lutheran in Fort Collins.

From Covenant to Healing: How We Care, and Belong

I remember hearing a story about a young couple that showed up at a church for the first time. They had recently moved to the area and were church shopping. Walking into the church they quickly noticed that nobody, and I mean nobody, was even close to their age. If you took their parents’ age and added it to their age, you would get in the ballpark of the average age of the congregation. But…five years later they were still there. Why?

After they visited the congregation for the first time, one of them was diagnosed with cancer.  Even though they had only been to the congregation that one time, a church member followed up with them.

The afternoon after the first chemo treatment, the couple responded to a knock at the door and they were met with the sight of a casserole sitting on their front door, steaming, and the back of a church member hurrying away. And the casseroles kept coming. For months. Why did they stay? Because the congregation cared about them deeply, and they knew they belonged.

I have only been getting to know Foothills for a short time, but in that time I have witnessed a spirit of love rippling outward. People at Foothills actually want to hear the truth when we ask them “How are you doing?” What a healing balm that is, and how critical it is to that hope we all have to feel like we belong.  

Within our congregation, we have dedicated teams that actively partner in our shared ministry of care and belonging:

  • Our Parish Visitors care and visit with dozens of people within our community each month who need a listening ear.
  • Our Meals Team jumps into action to provide meals during times of stress and need.
  • Our Cards Crew helps us reach out and share our concern 
  • Our Caring Team connects people to rides to church and supports hospitality during memorial services
  • Our small groups – each led by a trained and supported facilitator –  offer a sense of intimacy, connection, and shared spiritual growth

Our professional ministry team, Rev. Haley and myself, extend this care by offering pastoral care and counseling, end of life support, rites of passage, and alleviate financial burdens for members through the Ministerial Discretionary Fund.

If you would like to join one or more of these teams – if you think you may have, as we spoke about this Sunday, a calling to this important ministry, please contact Sean (sean@foothillsuu.org). 

In a church our size, it can sometimes be hard to figure out how to access this care, and you can often wonder if they are meant for you. They are. Dropping by or calling the church office, sending an email to caring@foothillsuu.org or connecting directly with Sean (sean@foothillsuu.org) are the easiest ways to start the conversation. If you think you know a member who might need some support, please let us know in these ways, as well.

This month, our theme moves from covenant to healing.  It is our ministry of care where these two themes come together.  May our walk together be one where we deeply care for each other, healing ourselves, and our world.

Our New Sunday Morning Hospitality Plan: Connecting Our Many Groups

It’s no secret that we have been trying all kinds of ideas to help our community be a part of the ways we greet, usher, and provide social hour hospitality on Sunday – I am beginning my fourth year with Foothills, and I think we’ve tried at least 5 different big ideas since I started to try to find just the right fit.

With over 800 adults and 300 kids and youth who consider themselves in one way or another a part of our community, it is somewhat of a funny mystery why we struggle so much to fill our ushers, greeters, visitor table staff, and coffee-maker jobs every Sunday.  It’s not that our community isn’t willing to pitch in – we have in the range of 200 people doing some sort of service for the church or on behalf of the church every week! Yet….nearly every Friday, we keep finding ourselves without sufficient folks to take on these important jobs….

Over the past couple of months, the Membership Team and the staff has been brainstorming and thinking through what’s going on with this dilemma.  Through lots and lots of conversation, we came up with a plan that we are all feeling very good about, and two Sundays ago we launched our new plan.

This plan invites all of our groups – and I do mean all – from the Board to the Choir to ESL tutors to….everyone! – to cover at least one (and if they are big, more than one) Sunday in the church year, filling all of the hospitality roles as a team.  We created a calendar slotting everyone in, and we discovered that when every group participates we are able to cover the whole year of Sundays without any problem!

The group providing these important hospitality roles will in turn be promoted through an insert in the order of service and with special nametags, which will help our wider community to know more about all of the ways to connect in our congregation.   Serving together also allows the group to strengthen their relationship with one another, their sense of teamwork, as well as their connections to the congregation.  We had in mind building on the model the Brotherhood has kept over the years where they serve coffee together regularly – giving back to the community and strengthening their relationship with one another.

If you want to serve on Sunday but you aren’t a part of a group, don’t worry! We have created a group called the Free Rangers where we will invite you to fill in when groups aren’t able to cover all the slots, and a few Sundays in the year are reserved for the Free Rangers entirely.  To sign up for the Free Rangers, contact Kathryn at kathryn@foothillsuu.org.

If you are a part of a group, ask your group leader when YOUR Sunday is, and get it on your calendar now! We hope everyone will show up for their group’s Sunday, help people know about their group and ways to get involved, provide a wonderful welcome for everyone who comes on Sunday, and have fun along the way.

Thank you to all who do so much for our congregation.  I am constantly amazed and grateful to be a part of this generous, joyful and welcoming community.

– Rev. Gretchen Haley, in partnership with the Membership Team and the staff

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.

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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