One year later

15036731_10210339868347595_5652769351943201453_nA year ago right now, we were preparing for election day.  I woke up and put on a white shirt, and helped my daughter find a white shirt, we took a selfie together – we were planning for an historical outcome in the national election.  It wasn’t that I thought it was a foregone conclusion – I knew the race was tight.  But there was something in my white middle class progressive Unitarian DNA that refused to truly believe that the United States would follow up its election of the first African American president with the election of a president who bragged about sexual assault, or who portrayed Mexican immigrants as rapists, or who denied climate change, or…..

Many of us woke up on November 9th, 2016 stunned by a reality that probably shouldn’t have been such a surprise – but it was.  It was painful, and even traumatic for many to have to face, and the fear of what it would mean hung over all of us with an aching dread.

A year later, I wish I could say that these fears were all unfounded, that the communal grief that sent nearly 430 of you into the Sunday service the Sunday after the election was overblown…..but it has been predictably, a really hard year.  The fights for health care, and GLBT rights, and against the Refugee Ban, and the campaign-promise-fulfilling willingness to deport all those who are undocumented, regardless on the impact on families or on the individual worthiness as a contributing part of our community…the twitter fueds and the re-initiated global panic on the potential of nuclear war….these all take a toll, on all of us.

The ripple effects of anxiety and overwhelm, dread, and even despair have therapists working overtime, and still each Sunday, so many come for the first time, seeking some way to making meaning and to find hope in the midst of this difficult and upside down world.

A year later, however, I am not without good news.  I’ve watched – in countless meetings and in small conversations – a new desire to engage, to make a difference, to orient our lives towards meaningful contributions, and to learn the skills needed to listen more deeply, connect more authentically, and to be a part of much needed healing and restoration for our world.

I’ve seen a deeper commitment to spiritual growth, to attending worship, to giving of yourself in time and with money – this great generosity of spirit in service of a larger vision.  And I’ve seen bright faces of joy, and hope, each Sunday – a huge desire to learn, and grow, and be a part of the change we wish to see.

I’ve also seen new grassroots organizations formed, and new partnerships started – some of these have been especially important for our congregation and our learning in addressing homelessness, economic justice, and interfaith relationships.  And, a new boldness and courage has taken shape in all sorts of ways, not the least of which in our community has been visible in our sanctuary vote and efforts.

In the past ten months, I’ve taken so many people to their first protest march, it’s incredible.  And, I’ve seen a willingness to take risks on behalf of deeper values in ways that I truly don’t think would’ve happened even a couple years ago.

What’s especially meaningful to me through all of this, however, is that I know that not everyone agrees about all the things, or in all the same way – and yet we have found a way to remain in conversation and dialogue.  We have been working hard at learning how to have meaningful conversations about real things – and yet to be able to disagree, even while staying connected. It’s a practice that’ll likely take us our whole lives, and so we will continuously rely on grace, and spiritual practices of renewal, and a respect of a regular Sabbath, however that looks like to each of us.

As we cross this year mark, I am especially aware of the potential for burnout – in all of us.  That we will simply be too overwhelmed or too tired to keep engaging, that church and community and participating could feel like just one more item on an already too-full to-do list.  That the initial burst of resistance will transform into old complacency or cynicism.

This is all on my mind and heart as I look ahead to our plans for the next few months and beyond – at church, and in my own life.  We have many days ahead, and there’s no guarantee things are going to get easier.  We must be vigilant in all the things that allow us to keep going, to remain at the table so that we can do the hard work, to keep tending to that bright thread of hope.  And we must keep leaning in to care for each other, sing for and with each other, make meals for and with one another, keep taking time for gratitude, and joy; silence and story; community and care – committing ourselves once again to the power and potential of real, authentic community of trust and accountability, calling us to show up each day, and offer ourselves to that greater vision.

 

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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.

Seeking Partners in a Shared Creation

It’s the time of year where we are actively looking ahead to the new year and seeking out new partners to be a part of this great shared ministry that allows us to serve our mission and bring greater life and love to both those within our congregation, as westewardshipll as far beyond.

If you are seeking to serve and offer your gifts in the congregation, take a look at this list and see if there’s something here that may be a fit for you – that place where service and joy overlap.  If you’re interested in learning more, and finding your place in the partnership of our congregation, please let Rev. Haley know at gretchen@foothillsuu.org.

  • Hospitality Learning Community – We are looking for those who care about making this a welcoming congregation for all who arrive or who have been here for a long time.  The “Learning Community” aspect means that rather than a set agenda, this group tries to ask questions and learn ways to better practice hospitality as a congregation, and brings these experiments and ideas back to our wider congregation. Time Commitment: Monthly gatherings for learning and building connections with others, and then additional time based on the experiments and learnings the group discovers.  We ask for at least a one year commitment.
  • Auction Team – Now seeking partners in putting on our annual goods and services auction.  This is a great way to have a big impact on the congregation and our mission, and throw a big party along the way! We’re looking for people who are good at organizing others and a fun event, those who enjoy reaching out to the congregation as well as the wider community for donations, and then we also need help with data entry and details. There are a few different jobs, and we’ll work with you to make it work.   Time Commitment: Varies based on the role, but is concluded by November 2016 when the auction occurs.
  • Grocery Cards – Our longtime volunteer overseeing our Grocery card sales is retiring.  We need someone who is detail oriented and who loves to make a major impact behind the scenes to step in and manage this important fundraiser for the church. Time commitment: Weekly in-office and some outreach to wider community.
  • Religious Exploration Teachers – We are beginning to think about RE Teachers for children and youth for the fall.  No experience necessary. This is a great way for you to go deeper into your faith journey and Unitarian Universalism – by teaching our kids! Eleanor makes this easy and meaningful for all who teach.  Time Commitment: Twice a month, along with an orientation session at the beginning of each church year.
  • Small Group Leaders – We are hoping to launch a number of new groups in the fall, and we have a good number of leaders who are wanting to step back.  Maybe you’d be interested in facilitating a group as they grow in self-awareness, understanding, connection with others, and courage in living the life they hope to live….? This is an incredibly meaningful way to serve and give.  There is training and ongoing support if you are interested – as well as many different options for day and time.  Time Commitment: Varies – after an initial 3 hour training, groups can run for 4-10 sessions if they are “closed” once the initial registration is set, or indefinitely if they regularly find ways to integrate new people.
  • Office help – We are always in need of a little extra help in the office – filing, printing, sorting, organizing, data entry, answering phones……everything! Time Commitment: Can be one-time or ongoing, very flexible!
  • Finance Team – If you love numbers and budgets, this is the place for you! We meet monthly and review the current cash flow and budget, as well as other financial reports.  We try to catch financial challenges the church may be facing early, and brainstorm ways to address it.  We work directly with the Administrator and the Senior Minister, and have a strong ongoing dialogue with the Board.  Time Commitment: Monthly meetings.
  • Caring Cards – We are always looking for a few more folks willing to help at our Caring Cards Table. These cards are a great way for our congregation to send our love and support to someone through a difficult – or joyous – time in their lives.  Those who staff it also end up hearing about other joys and sorrows in people’s lives, and os it is important that this person be a good listener and someone people feel comfortable talking to and with.  Time Commitment: Sign up for as few or as many Sunday services as you would like!
  • Ushers and Visitor’s Table Greeters on Sundays: Although it is going pretty well with our groups filling Sunday roles, there are often still gaps.  We could use about 10 new people to sign up as “Free Rangers,” which means, we’ll call you if the group can’t find enough people for their service.  Ushering and greeting are among the best way to meet new people – and you’ll be going a long ways towards making this a more hospitable congregation.  Time Commitment: Could be one Sunday, or multiple.  Can be both services, or just one.
  • Meals Team: It can mean so much when one in our community is sick or has experienced a loss, or whose spouse or other family member is injured or ill, for another in our community to bring a hot meal.  We are always looking for people willing to be on the list to bring a meal when it is needed.  Once you’re on the list, you get an email when meals are needed, and then you can sign up for a slot that works for you.  Time Commitment: Bring one meal, or many – based on your schedule and capacity.

Again, if there’s something here that strikes you as a fit for your gifts and skills, let Rev. Haley know.  If there’s nothing here that quite fits, but you still are trying to find a deeper connection and ownership in the church, please let Kathryn our office assistant – kathryn@foothillsuu.org or 493-4906 – know so that she can track your interest on our gifts and service database.

Our Coordinated Caring Team

When someone connected to our congregation has a concern, life transition, or something going on in their life, our hope is that we can connect with them in the spirit of our covenant, bringing a sense of a larger presence to those moments in life when it is so important not to feel alone.  Sometimes that “presence” is simply a phone call or a visit, sometimes it is a card from your friends at church; other times it is a ride to church, or a whole series of home cooked meals during a difficult time; and sometimes it is a combination of all of these things.

Over the past few years, our caring team has been expanding and developing to meet all the various needs for presence in our congregations, responding to the growing and changing size and needs of our community.   Here are some of the frequently asked questions and answers about our caring team.  Please let us know if you have a question about something not listed here!

In partnership, Jacqui Wallace, Kay Hood, Bonnie Inscho, Cam Elvheim, and Rev. Gretchen Haley – lead team members for Caring at Foothills 

How do you tell us about a concern, life transition, illness, injury, or something else going on, including a joy? 

  • We ask you to either call the church office at 493-5906 or email caring@foothillsuu.org, or complete the online form here: foothillsuu.org/joys-and-concerns/.
  • You might also go ahead and share about it in the Sunday Joys and Sorrows book, now placed for your privacy in the sanctuary by the sound booth window.
  • All of these will get routed to the On-Call Caring Team Member.

Who should tell us about someone’s concern? 

  • If you know about something going on in someone’s life and have a general sense that it is something the person would be fine with their church’s caring team knowing about, you are welcome to send a note or call us on their behalf, especially when they are not able.
  • Of course, we always welcome and encourage you to share about yourself, for yourself, as well!

Who receives the information when I share it with the church?

  • The information is always routed to our On-Call Caring Team Member who will reach out directly to the person experiencing the concern, expressing our congregation’s caring presence, as well as assessing other needs.
  • It is also always shared with Rev. Haley, and recorded onto our Caring Log so we can be sure to follow up and check in with you.

Who fills the On-Call Team Member role? How does that work? 

  • Our Parish Visitors team rotate in filling the On-Call role – every two weeks.  When it is their turn, they receive the notices of caring concerns, and reach out to the individual directly.  They also see if the individual could use meals, or rides, or a contact from a minister, and generally offer the caring presence on behalf of our congregation.
  • If the individual does need rides, meals, or other support, the On-Call person makes a referral to the lead for the particular area.

What is a Parish Visitor? 

  • A Parish Visitor is a church member who – after applying, interviewing, receiving a background check and proper training – visits with a church member who is either unable to get to church due to injury or illness, or who appreciates a little extra conversation and listening during a time of need from a fellow church member.
  • These Visitors work directly with Rev. Haley, meeting with her at least every-other-month for check-ins and direction.  They also keep Rev. Haley apprised of all of their visits, and work with her directly whenever particular issues may arise.
  • The Parish Visitor program started about 2 years ago, near the end of Rev. Salkin’s time with the congregation, and is a way to ensure that we are better able to reach out and walk with more of our large community.  It is also one of the best ways we express our covenant and our commitment to a shared ministry.
  • Our ministerial team is still always available for appointments for pastoral support.  Reach out to them directly to make an appointment to meet.

Who are the leads for the caring roles?

  • Kay Hood fills the lead role for our Parish Visitors, so when a new Visitor assignment is needed, she works with Rev. Haley to make that assignment.
  • Currently we are in need of a new lead for our meals team, although Jacqui Wallace has been filling in until we are able to fill this role.  This is an important yet not-too-time-consuming role of reaching out to a person in need, to their primary circle of community in the church, and to our regular volunteers who bring meals to those who need a meal, and sets up a meal coordination website for all of these folks to bring meals in a way that meets the needs of the individuals.
  • Currently we rely on an informal network to support our rides, as we recognize that we aren’t able to offer too many rides too often.  We do our best when we are able, and otherwise we help an individual to connect with other supports.
  • Kay Hood and Jacqui Wallace both help ensure that there is support for receptions for Memorial Services.

Is this the same as the “Caring Committee?” How is it different? 

  • While all the elements of the Caring Committee still exist, we have decided not to meet as a whole Committee on a regular basis – because we found that with the Parish Visitor program and our On-Call system, it was redundant.  Instead, people can just jump in and provide the support – no meeting required!
  • So if you know someone needs meals, instead of contacting a “committee,” just use our caring@foothillsuu.org email, or contact the office, and we will coordinate directly with the Meal team.

How can I sign up to help with meals when they are needed? 

How can I sign up to be a lead for either rides or meals? 

How can I sign up or learn more about the Parish Visitor role? 

What if I have other questions about the Caring Team or other elements of Foothills Pastoral Care support? 

Our Holiday Greeting to All of You – From the Caring and Parish Visitors Teams

Submitted by Bonnie Inscho (Parish Visitor Team)

Sometimes the most meaningful gift we can give is the gift our presence, rather than presents. This is what we, on the Caring and Parish Visitor Teams, hope to do all year at Foothills Unitarian Church. The holiday season seems a good time to remind you of our presence and what our role is here at Foothills.

The Caring Team responds to the Joys and Concerns shared on Sunday, as well as other requests made throughout the week, by checking in by phone, sending cards of concern, coordinating rides to church, and arranging for meals to be taken to homes. Additionally, they coordinate the receptions for church members’ memorial services.  They also provide the Christmas Stars for one of Foothills’ holiday traditions.

Christmas Stars are now available in the social hall on the Caring Team table. Look for them on Sunday mornings before Christmas and decorate our sanctuary tree in honor and remembrance of your loved ones.  We will be hanging Stars as a part of our vespers service on December 21st at 6 pm, and also you are welcome to hang your star at any time throughout the month of December.  

The Parish Visitor Team works in collaboration with and under the guidance of the Ministerial Team. Their hope is to create a more caring community while making personal connections with members and friends of Foothills, many of whom find it difficult to attend church regularly. They provide a listening ear, a caring heart, and extend the reach of our congregation into our community.  The Parish Visitors are not a replacement for our professional ministers – Reverends Howell Lind and Gretchen Haley, and Ministerial Resident Diana McLean – who provide many pastoral visits to our congregants during times of illness, loss, and transition – but rather a supplement to help us care for and with one another across our whole congregation.

We are seeking more volunteers for both the Caring and Parish Visitor Teams. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us.

Caring Team: Jacqui Wallace jacquiwallace2@gmail.com 215-8952

Parish Visitor Program: Kay Hood hoodkay@aol.com 988-8757

Ministerial Lead: Rev. Gretchen Haley, gretchen@foothillsuu.org 493-5906

If you or someone you know may benefit from our services, please contact caring@foothhillsuu.org or call the office 970-493-5906.