Over the past three and a half years, I have been listening to the congregation - listening to your dreams both explicit and implicit for their lives and for our future. I have also been paying attention to the wider community, the way it is changing and growing, and listening for how and why Northern Colorado needs our congregation to exist - our particular call in this time and place. Beyond this, for the past sixteen years, I have been listening and growing within the context of Unitarian Universalism more generally in Colorado. I have been formed and called out of the particular ways our faith manifests in the mountain west.
It is out of this deep sense of relationship with and commitment to the people and land of northern Colorado that I offer an outline of my vision for what we can do together if I am called as your next senior minister.
Sunday is our opportunity to connect as a community, belong beyond our choosing, celebrate our highest values, grieve the difficulties in life, and find new tools and make new commitments to live our best lives. It is where most people begin their relationship with our congregation, and for some it is the most consistent and important part of their connection with the church. It is where we embody our mission and where we practice who we are so that we can become who we are meant to be. At the same time, with all that pulls on our attention these days, gathering for worship is simply one of many good options our members may be choosing from on a given Sunday. For all of these reasons, worship needs to be powerful, inspiring, and engaging every time. With our staff team and lay leaders, there is no reason why it shouldn't be. Here are some of the specific ways I imagine worship at Foothills:
Our shared religious sense of purpose compels us to work together
In order for us to truly unleash the power and potential of our community, we need to understand and claim the religious purpose for our church. Although we have some intentional work to do in the near-term around our mission and vision, this is not a one-time process. We need to keep the conversation alive so that it will ground us in all we do, and because mission evolves as we evolve. I imagine the following as critical tools to support this vision:
Model for relationship in diversity
While I see theological diversity identified for both its challenge and blessing in the congregational record, as we move forward, our culture needs us to be a model of what it can mean to have real relationship across difference. This means that rather than "resolving" differences, we are called to build relationship within differences - to be a leading voice in our community for the 100% (as Sister Simone Campbell describes), and for both/and rather than either/or thinking. Because we are so well practiced in an "us/them" mentality, however, this vision is going to take education, practice, stumbling and beginning again to truly take hold.
If I am called as senior minister, I will work with our staff team and lay leaders to develop their skills and understanding in intercultural competency, non-violent communication and the kind of deep listening many have experienced in SOUUL Circles. In turn, I will ask that they bring these practices to everyone they work with. Additionally I imagine us explicitly integrating these values and practices into every Sunday service and across our religious exploration.
Our capacity to live out our relationships across diversity, to turn diversity into true pluralism - is a direct reflection of how well we are delivering on the full promises of Unitarian Universalism. There is perhaps no greater need or imperative for our faith community today.
Tools and support for life as it is today
One of the things that drew me to Unitarian Universalism was its capacity to speak to and engage with real life. Rather than focusing on salvation in another life, we are committed to practices and tools that save our lives today in the here and now. As I imagine our future together, here are some of the key ways I see us remaining engaged with life today:
If our church suddenly disappeared, who beyond our members would notice? This is a question that church consultants often ask congregations as they guide them through a process of mission clarification. While it is important that we care for those already in our church, if we are only inwardly focused, we are not actually fulfilling our religious purpose. Our relationship with the Interfaith Council, FFH, Homeless Gear, and La Familia are all key ways we are engaging with our community and showing up in partnership. If I am called as your senior minister, we will build on and strengthen these relationships, and use them as a foundation for an ongoing dialogue for how we can better serve our wider community - our neighbors, and further the reach of love in Northern Colorado.
One church in many locations
Our congregation values the intimacy and connection of a smaller church, yet knows that if we are living out the best of who we are, growth is inevitable. For some, however, membership is already too large - and certainly that is true in terms of our overly-full facilities. With the growth rate of northern Colorado, we need a strategy that will allow us to invite more and more people into the good news of Unitarian Universalism and leverage this growth for greater social influence towards UU values, while still maintaining a sense of belonging, involvement and connection possible with congregations of a smaller size. Fully embracing a multi-site strategy accomplishes all of these goals. Drawing on my experience in creating a multi-site home care organization, I can imagine a network of 5 or 6 locations across northern Colorado, all operating in ways that are particular to their specific community or neighborhood needs, for example....
Everyone generously shares their
Many of these ideas have been inspired by watching and learning from other Unitarian Universalist congregations and considering how the ideas I see might translate in our own mountain west context. Here are two examples of UU congregations that inspire me - especially in the ways they are so deeply related to their particular communities.