Eagerly Enthusiastic, Passionately Provoked

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About 50 of us from Foothills toured the new Mormon Temple last Tuesday.  Here’s Eleanor Van Deusen, Sean Neil-Barron and Gretchen Haley in the photo op they offer at the end of the tour.  

I’ve come to the realization that I’ve officially over-used the word, “excited.”

How do I  feel to finally be starting my new senior ministry? Excited.  How am I feeling about Sean’s new ministry? Excited. How am I feeling about the church – all that’s going on, and all we’ve got planned? I’m so excited.

Time to consult the minister’s BFF, thesaurus.com.  And now, I am happy to share with you that….

I am delighted with the great summer we have had.  Our worship attendance has been regularly record-breaking for summer – if you were at Water Communion, you got a taste of what I mean – many summer Sundays had more than 250 adults and children for a single service, and we have welcomed at least 80 newcomers over the course of the past 3 months.  Wow!  (To all of you who may be reading this: Welcome!)

What’s more, I’m passionate about the services we’ve been able to offer each Sunday this summer, especially with the steady partnership from Lehne Leverette who coordinated music for five Sundays while our music director, Ryan Marvel was away.  And because of our increased hours for Ryan in this year’s budget, I was thrilled to have him return from his time away four Sundays earlier than usual.

I’ve also been extremely animated about the Faith Cafe and Community Office Hours, as it’s allowed me and other staff members to meet and connect with you in smaller groups, and go deeper more quickly.  We’ll definitely be continuing these (with some tweaks) as we head into the fall.

Speaking of the fall, I’m fired up at all we’ll be offering to grow in spirit, connect in community and serve in partnership this fall.  Check out our “Next Big Thing” section for more details, but let me summarize by saying – we have been thinking carefully about what our community needs – across all our ages and stages – in light of the November election, considering the particular challenges of the various stages of life, and in service to our Unitarian Universalist good news and commitment to lifelong learning.  We have created a robust offering of small groups, classes, spiritual practices and other ways to- as our new mission statement puts it – embrace diversity, grow our faith, and awaken our spirits to the unfolding meaning of this life.

I hope it piques your interest to learn that our theme for the whole year will be “Learning to Lovingly Disagree.” This is in addition to the monthly themes we’ll continue as a part of the Soul Matters Sharing Circle.  This fall we’ll be delving into covenant, healing, story, and presence in worship, and across all of our lifespan religious education.  Sean, Ryan, Eleanor and I are weaving together a series of Sundays to address the breadth and depth of human experiences, and that will continue to strengthen our sense of belonging and connection with something greater than we are.  Don’t forget the return of the vespers services on September 22nd at 6 pm!

I am especially enthusiastic about the many ways to serve our greater community – we’ll continue our partnership with Faith Family Hospitality, start a few new villages for One Village One Family, and we’ll partner with the Food Bank on a pilot program for mobile food distribution 2 Sundays a month starting in October (did you see the article in the Coloradoan this Sunday? see if you can find our mention tucked in there).  This last one I am particularly on fire about because it is an opportunity for families to serve together – we’ll welcome kids 10 and up (willing to actively help)!

And, I am charged up at the energy I am feeling from many of you who are seeking to serve within our congregation in new ways, and hopeful that I can work with Sean and the Nominating Committee to create better and fuller pathways to help more of you more easily find your place where service becomes joy.

Through all of this programming, I can’t forget to mention the event I am most eagerly anticipating – my installation service as senior minister, on October 2nd at 4 pm.  I am beside myself thinking about the choral piece we have commissioned Ryan to compose for the occasion, the charge we might hear from Rev. Justin Schroeder for this congregation where he grew up, the story featuring choreography from Eleanor Van Deusen, and the powerful experience it will be to all be together in a single service (as we’ll be holding it at First UMC on Elizabeth and Stover).  Look for your invites to arrive this week!

I hope you’ll join me in eager enthusiasm, passionate provocation, and all around fired-up-ness.  There’s so much good going on, and most of all, it all becomes good because you are there.  You are what makes it good.  I am so grateful.

In partnership,

Gretchen

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On a Mission: Finding Focus for 2016-17

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Rev. Gretchen Haley and Sean Neil-Barron at General Assembly in Columbus OH in late June, just before they walked in the Service of the Living Tradition to honor receiving (respectively) Ministerial Final Fellowship and Preliminary Fellowship with the UUA.

Last week I wrote on my blog about my search for a personal mission statement for the coming year, something that would ground and focus my ministry with you for the coming year.  There are so many worthy things that might pull on our time and attention – but what are the right things for this year, this time – for who we are now, and what we are called to become in our emerging future?

Inspired by the book, Simple Church, I have discerned a three-point mission statement for myself as I move fully into my senior ministry with you.  Here it is: Lead and call us towards our bigger mission and vision; support, develop, lead and work in partnership with our staff team; and recruit, support, develop, lead, and work in partnership with our lay leaders.  Here are a few notes on what I am thinking about with each of these areas of focus.

  1.  Lead and call us towards our bigger mission and vision. Over the past few years in conversation, worship, learning, and service, we have been discerning both implicitly and explicitly a new mission and vision for our shared ministry.  The explicit part of this work is most obvious in the work of our Mission Task Force, which has articulated a new mission statement – the first update in nearly 20 years! – for our congregation.   And yet, even more than this specific “mission statement” work,  this element of my ministry focus is about calling us towards our individual and collective sense of vocation, our larger purpose in the world as a Unitarian Universalist congregation in this time, and this place – to ask questions, invite conversation, and prioritize opportunities where we can, as an organization – keep discerning and remain connected to this greater purpose.  This focus shows up in the way I lead worship and oversee our worship calendar, as well as in how I partner with other leaders in establishing our ministry and programming calendar.  This area of focus is the foundation for the partnerships I am building with interfaith and non-profit leaders in our community, and it is the driving force for my work and witness for justice in our Northern Colorado community, as well as for my continued collaboration with other Unitarian Universalist congregations in our area, across Colorado, and beyond.
  2. Support, develop, lead and work in partnership with our staff team.  As a large congregation with a growing professional staff, it is increasingly true that successful ministries are led and supported through paid staff. Despite what you might anticipate, this increased role of staff does not take away lay partnership, but rather studies show that the more consistent the presence of a paid staff person, the more consistently you can recruit and retain volunteer partners.  We are incredibly lucky to have an amazing staff team at Foothills.  An incredible staff team deserves professional development, consistent supervision, clear lines of accountability, a supportive work environment, robust communication, and intentional leadership both for the staff members individually and for the staff team as a whole.  Especially as we bring on our new assistant minister, Sean Neil-Barron this month (just one more week!), this element of my ministry is one of the most critical ways that I can reach out to all 1200 adults, children and youth who consider themselves a part of our community.  This ministry priority led our staff team to develop a staff covenant in the past few months, and is the reason I am committed to re-convening a Personnel Committee to advise me and the Board as we establish new Personnel policies, Human Resources practices, and compensation standards.
  3. Recruit, support, develop, lead, and work in partnership with our lay leaders. As we’ve been blessed with incredible staff, we’ve also been amazingly blessed with so many dedicated, passionate, and healthy lay leaders.  It always amazes me how much depth of commitment, capacity and dedication there exists within our congregation.  And yet, I am aware that we are always at risk of turning to the same 30 or 40 people – even in a congregation our size – to do the work of the church.  Rather than leveraging our full power as a large community, this potential practice keeps us limited both in terms of who feels a sense of ownership in our mission and vision, and in terms of our impact in people’s lives and in our larger community.  We need to keep drawing the circle wider.  We need to ask who isn’t yet leading and serving in partnership, and then help them find their place.  But this recruitment is just the beginning, from there we need to support and develop our leaders, ensuring they have the training, skills and ongoing partnership so that they can feel like what they are doing matters and is making a difference – that it is playing a part in that big picture noted in item #1 above. This area of ministry will show up this year in my partnership with the Nominating Committee as we seek a new model that will better and more systematically identify, recruit and train leaders in our congregation.  Our hope is that we can create a path of service and leadership that is intentional, integrated with our faith formation, and forward-thinking.  And most of all this ministry focus will show up in my support of and partnership with the many lay leaders already doing the work of our church: Board members (and their task forces – Governance, Mission, and others), stewardship leaders, committee on shared ministry leaders, finance leaders, personnel committee members, nominating committee members, worship leaders, justice leaders, and through partnership with Sean’s ministry, parish visitors, caring team members, small group leaders, and membership ministry leaders.

Coming to this focus for my ministry for the coming year has been liberating and immensely clarifying.  It is not set in stone as I may discover throughout the year that something needs to be changed somewhat – but I have been sitting with it long enough now that I think it’s pretty close to just right.  It also doesn’t mean that I will only do these things – but rather that these things will take priority, and that in all of my ministry, I will be asking how and if it serves one or more of these three areas of focus.

Maybe you notice what isn’t listed here – things like faith formation, pastoral care, or small groups – that have been a big part of my ministry with you up until this point.  Not to worry, I remain as committed to these things as ever, and until Sean is fully up to speed over these next few months, they will remain in my sight and work.  And yet, my job over these next few months is to begin to hand over these things to Sean – to introduce him to the many of you who help make these ministries so meaningful and important, and then to support you all as you take up a new partnership in this work together.

As I take up this ministry, I wonder if you have your own version of a mission for the coming church year? What would you say is your ministry mission – those things that are just yours to do in your lives, in the world, and in our congregation as a result of your specific gifts, calling, and convictions of faith?  Play with some ideas- three is a good number – sit with them for a while, see how they feel.  Write them down for yourself, and when you’re ready, tell someone else in our congregation what you’re thinking.  Exchange ideas, and commitments. Help each other live up to your mission.  Let’s keep growing, and learning, together.

With love, and in partnership,
Gretchen 

 

 

Assistant Minister Update

The search for a new Assistant Minister is under way! Here is the timeline for the process as shared in Sunday January 3rd’s forums:

  • Congregational Input / Conversation – Sunday January 3rd
  • Job Description Finalized and Posted – Week of January 4th 
  • Selection Committee (3 People) Appointed by the Board – Week of January 25th at latest
  • Application Deadline January 31st
  • Review Applications and Schedule First Interviews (with Gretchen) – Week of February 1st 
  • Phone Interviews with Gretchen – Week of February 8th 
  • Congregational update – 2nd Sunday in February
  • Second Interviews with Committee – Week of February 15th and February 22nd
  • Narrowed down to 2 Candidates and Inform Candidates – Week of March 7th
  • Check References, Follow Up Interviews – Week of March 14th
  • Reach decisions – Week of March 28th
  • Make Offer – Week of April 7th
  • 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 time frame but just in the month of April/May instead of February/March.

Additionally, we shared the following information:

  • Board Representative: Until there is an official Selection Committee Appointed, Scott Denning, Treasurer Elect is serving as the Board Liasion for this process.  You can reach Scott at scott.denning@colostate.edu.
  • Contract Terms:  Full time position, paid at UUA Fair Compensation rates for Geo Index 3, >550 Members, 1 year contract with intent of a two year hire; moving expenses will be offered; contract – hired, not called
  • Reports to: Senior Minister.
  • General portfolio to include: Pastoral Care, Membership, Adult Faith Formation, and Small Groups with critical role in Worship and as a part of the overall team.

Those in attendance had a number of good questions and input into the process, including:

Q: Who will apply, what are their reasons for applying?   A: Some apply for Asst Minister to gain “stepping stone” experience toward a career as a Senior Minister, others see the job as an end in itself.  Some want to stay for the short term, some will hope it renews indefinitely.

Q: How will you evaluate preaching? Will there be a use of a neutral pulpit?  A: As of now that is not clear.  We will see what the applicant pool is and then make decisions about the feasibility of setting up neutral pulpits or other ways of evaluating preaching.  Either way, we will prioritize some level of in-person contact during the process.

Q: What are the budget implications for this search? A: There was no budget set for this search, so we will have to work particularly frugally.

Q: How many applicants might be in the initial pool?  A: Very hard to tell up front.  Across the country, I’d imagine there are as many as 8-10 who would be considering applying.

Q: Will Gretchen take a sabbatical before she begins as Senior Minister as you had originally planned? A: No, just several 1-2 week breaks over the winter and spring.

Q: What are the financial implications of hiring an Assistant Minister? A: We’re in good shape. We currently support a full time Senior and Associate Minister, and we anticipate being able to support a Senior and Assistant Minister while paying the new person at UUA guidelines.

Q: Will all applicants be educated as UU ministers? What is the credentialing process? Will they be ordained? A: We will accept any applicants who have received preliminary fellowship.  (This is the process wherein the UUA Ministerial Fellowship Committee certifies all qualified applicants. UU ministers are ordained by a congregation. So, it may be that our candidate is fellowshipped but not yet ordained, in which case we may be able to do the ordaining.  Exciting opportunity!)

Q: Please compare and contrast this plan with when Gretchen was hired.  A: Gretchen was hired only ¾ time vs new hire will be full-time. Gretchen was hired on a 1-year contract but during the recruiting process there was an understanding that both sides hoped for a longer-term placement. The new contract will be for one year, renewable for a second year.  We may evaluate in the second year to extend the contract beyond that.

Finally, a number of people shared about their hopes for the assistant minister, and specifically what they meant when they talk about a desire for a “complement” to Gretchen.  Here are some of those notes:

 

  • Complementary as in alignment, not in the sense of opposite (especially not oppositional, which is a recipe for a divided congregation!)
  • Complementary should not denote deficiencies or insufficiency in one of the ministers.  Instead we might think of it as “companionable” or “collaborative”
  • Complementary not in the mathematical sense, but more in the culinary sense!
  • We need somebody who understands and shares Gretchen’s vision and matches her energy
  • We need someone who has a passion for a portfolio that complements Gretchen’s passions, is hard-working, and able to run programs effectively
  • We need someone who shares our values but brings new perspectives
  • We need someone who can be in sync with Gretchen, Eleanor, and Ryan, but also bring something new to the team
  • Perhaps someone with a scientific background to complement Gretchen’s background in arts and business. Perhaps somebody in a second career.
  • Gretchen’s “central call” is behind the pulpit, in stewardship, and executive leadership. We need to complement her with somebody who is truly called to pastoral care.
  • Need somebody with experience in and passion for great communication
  • Somebody who can share Gretchen’s effectiveness with communications technology. We need somebody adept and enthusiastic in this area.
  • Q: How will our ongoing transitions in governance, mission, policies, budget, facilities, etc. affect the new hire? A: As we transition, we need to work with somebody who embraces discovery, the creative process, and entrepreneurial engagement!
  • We need someone who will help us claim the story of who we already are, the impact of our ministries, and build on this success.

I took so much from these conversations, and most of all appreciated the spirit and energy of the conversation – it was filled with optimism, trust, and joy! This is a good sign for this process, and the best gift we can offer any potential applicant!

If you have questions not answered here, or would like to add your thoughts to the process, please send me an email – gretchen@foothillsuu.org.  I’m always happy to talk, and sincerely appreciate your feedback, questions and partnership in this process – and look forward to its next steps.

 

 

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.