Pausing the Holiday Rush

This week marks the beginning of advent, which in the Christian tradition is a season of anticipation, paying attention, and waiting.   It is a time that invites our intentional pause, and slowing down so that we might more fully notice all that is about to be born.

In other words, advent embodies precisely the opposite of what many of us are feeling this holiday time of year.  So often we spend our Decembers in a rush, filled up not with anticipation but with anxiety, overwhelm, and sometimes even dread.

This year, we could all use the practice of advent.  To listen more intentionally, that we might hear beyond the restlessness, to pause more fully that we might see beyond the rush, to breathe more deeply that we might know ourselves still becoming, to see all that is growing and beginning in joy.

During this holiday season, we invite you to join us for a time of greater intention, attention, awareness, anticipation, and joy.

  • Join us on Sundays for explorations of memory (12/3) and hope (12/10), as well as our special all-music Sunday on the 17th with a theme of JOY.
  • Also on the 17th, join our Earth Based Path group for a traditional casting of the circle in honor of Yule – set up at 5, ritual at 6.
  • On the 21st we’ll gather to welcome the return of the light for our special holiday vespers at 6:15.
  • On Christmas Eve (a Sunday this year!) we’ll have 4 services – 10 am (a “Kitschy Christmas” celebration), 5 & 7 pm (family Christmas services) and 9 pm (Lessons & Carols).
  • And on New Year’s Eve Sunday, we’ll celebrate Fire Communion at 8:30 & 10, and at 11:30 we’ll share in waffle church with an abridged Fire Communion service.

Beyond worship, join us on the 17th for our annual Holiday Craft Fair – a sure bet for any gifts you haven’t yet been able to find.  Also, look for news from Chris Reed on our new-this-year family holiday pick-up choir.

Over the Christmas week, we’ll also be hosting families experiencing homelessness with Faith Family Hospitality, and we invite you to sign up to bring and share in a meal, or stay over night.

Whether in worship, in community, in service together, or simply in the breaths that fill all the space in between all of these, and that flow through and connect us all – in these days, my hope is that we can all find that pause of advent in our holiday rush, and remember there what it feels like to anticipate with joy, to notice with wonder, to let laughter overcome us, to be filled with hope.  This is my hope, and it is also an invitation, to keep coming back to this pause – we can practice, and become, together.

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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.

Connecting at Buckhorn Retreat and Beyond – Guest post from church member Dee Wanger

Wanger, Mark and DeeTwenty years ago, our family experienced a “spiritual perspective-changing health crisis” that nudged us to look for a spiritual community that would take us from our current awakening to a more spiritual future. With Mark raised in the Jewish tradition, and myself raised in the Presbyterian tradition, we weren’t sure what we were looking for, but began our search by attending a service at Foothills.

The sermon that day had been written especially for me, or at least it seemed. I was able to deeply listen and apply the ideas to my current crisis. It was magical.  We and our daughters saw friends we knew from other walks in our lives.

It was as though we had walked through a think vine overgrowth into a secret garden. Yet, we soon learned that there was no secret here!

A very public Medieval Festival was offered to the community, there were several active human rights advocacy groups, and church representatives were involved with interdenominational organizations in the community. We wanted to be part of the fun and sharing!

We continued to hear that Buckhorn was one of the best ways to meet people and have a meaningful spiritual experience together. We signed up and did, indeed, have a bonding experience with conversation over meals, shared laughter and singing during evening programs, thoughtful discussion about books and articles, playing board, card and outside games, a nature walk led by a knowledgeable church member, and star gazing with powerful telescopes. There was something so organic about being in nature, playing, and talking that helped us appreciate the breadth and depth of the people in the Foothills community.

What we witnessed at Buckhorn, and have appreciated in our continued involvement with Foothills, is the talent, wisdom, humor, and commitment of the people. Just as programming at Buckhorn was organized and presented by congregants, so is much of the leadership and programming present and successful because of the contribution of congregants.

We found that we had much to gain, as well as much to offer. We have grown through our “receiving” activities with groups for women, men, mothers, crafting, reading, hiking, discussion, parenting, travel, and films, but also in our “giving” activities as ushers, coffee-makers, religious education teachers, youth group advisers, sound booth tech, OWL teacher, choir member, carpet cleaner, landscape crew, rummage sale helper (and shopper!), service auction event hosts, Madrigal Dinner servers, Faith Family Hospitality supporters, summer Sunday service coordinator, chalice lighters, and more.

Though we look back in wonder at the serendipity of that first visit, we’ve never looked back at our decision to join. In fact, it is what kept us going then. The messaging at Sunday services is inspiring, grounding and thought provoking, but it’s the connection to the people that keeps us coming now.

Through my work on the nominating committee, I’ve come to realize that there’s a lot of untapped wisdom, inspiration and talent that hasn’t found its place on the leadership path at Foothills.  If you are one who hasn’t yet found your place to give and receive, I want to encourage you to try Buckhorn this year – perhaps like it was for us, it may just be the beginning of a lifelong journey of connection and community.