I have been meaning to write this update for some time to bring you all up to speed of where we are in our next steps for our community circles.
I first want want to say thank you for everything you have done. The work. Living in the ambiguities. Everything. We are better for it and we have set the stage for what is to come next.
Second, we are in a moment of discernment and visioning. Of imagining how in the coming year we will organize ourselves as a church to fulfill our mission and vision, but we need your partnership in how to do this.
Our visioning team of circle leaders: Sara Steen, Sue Sullivan, Brian Woodruff, Teri Ashley, Jenn Powell, Mary Klecan, Beth Adams, Diana Hutchinson; has been working hard to help us set the stage for this partnership and are inviting you to a conversation in the coming weeks to help us better imagine how the circles have operated, where there are seeds to water for future impact, how they faltered in being able to embody our church’s mission?
The rest of this email has way more details about where we are and where we are going, please read. But first please let us know when you can attend a feedback session so we can hear directly from you. Do this at:
Remember when we launched our community circles? The whole country and world was beginning to shelter in place, every system in our society was struggling to reinvent how it operates to adjust to a reality that no-one could (or does yet) understand with consequences too great to fumble.
Foothills was caught up alongside every other institution.
We feared that COVID-19 would cripple our daily lives to the extent that the very practical realities of living would be threatened. We worried that those at higher risk in our congregation. We worried about those people without extended networks of family close by. And so, we rapidly design and prototyped a system that became our community circles. A system that placed each of our households in clusters with two leaders, who could coordinate connecting and care & invite community.
The design of the circles cast a wide net. We erred on the side of including people who may not want to be included because we feared what it would mean to leave them out. We tried to design circles that would be big enough for critical mass but not too big so needs would be overwhelming.
Our community was energized with the purpose of caring for each other in this time of need. And, about a month into our newly minted circles and the fog of what this pandemic would mean for us started to clear.
We learned that:
Our perception of a high need for supporting each others practical needs (groceries, errands etc) was out of synch with what has happened so far. Our needs for emotional connect, spiritual support, and community were much higher.
There was (and is) confusion about the nature of circles. Ex. People opted out of circles because they felt the couldn’t offer support to others, even though they needed support themselves.
Families with young children (or any children at home) are stretched to the limit, with no simple solutions of how to connect or support
Our database contained many households that were not very (or at all) active in the life of the church, but we included them just in case, and this created very lopsided engagement. Some circles have a great critical mass. Others, not so much.
The role many of our circle leaders signed up for, was not the role they actually took on.
Our community is a very diverse place:
Zoom is comfortable for many, impossible for others,
Some of us are on facebook, while many others are not.
Some people use email others barely check it.
In summary, we learned that we didn’t know, what we couldn’t have known before arriving at this point. So here we are. Basking in the summer sun. Fatigued from running a sprint to only learn we were actually running a marathon. Some of us, disheartened and wondering if what we did was useful or needed.
A quick aside: What would it have meant, that if we were to have faced this reality and come up with the ‘right’ response on the first try? The one size fits all response that anticipated the unanticipatable. It would have meant that we, would not have been wrestling with the right problem.
We have arrived at an inflection moment.
We know more about what is true right now. We can see a little more into the future:
COVID will impact our daily lives for at least the next year
Our society will continue to live with ambiguity and flux as we respond to changing realities and advances in medicine
Worship and church gatherings will continue online till May of 2021
Our human adaptability is kicking in
Summer rhythms are beginning but are not-normal.
And there is still so much we don’t know.
Inviting What’s Next
“The history of your church is more a story of the determination of love to break forth than it is about gathering together in person
to worship, sing, potluck or have coffee.
The history of the church is the history of human creativity,
evolving in its sights and sounds,
yet still always revolving always around its core. Unleashing a transformative and courageous love, within, between and beyond us.
And the beauty is, that each day your church is born, and born a new. “
While everything may seem new, it may be of comfort that the question before us, as we dream about the future of our circles, is the same question that is always before us as a church community. The question of living our values, mission and vision.
Values: How are we embedding our deepest values of Joyful Resilience, Collective Courage, Deepening Belonging & Transcendent Wonder throughout this time?
Mission: How are we called to be faithful to our mission of unleashing courageous love, in this moment, and in this place?
Vision: How are we striving to realize the bold visions of our congregation?
Statement 1: Foothills is a vital part of the lives of its people, providing abundant opportunities for relationships across differences that provide joy, care, and belonging for all.
Statement 2: We are actively engaged in a process of lifelong spiritual deepening that allows us to live lives of meaning and purpose in a world that needs our Unitarian Universalism.
Statement 5: We recognize and dismantle prejudice and oppression in all their forms, including within ourselves, allowing us to be more effective and trusted partners to marginalized communities in Northern Colorado and beyond.
Statement 7: We do the work to make Unitarian Universalism accessible to all in Northern Colorado.
A Team and A Process
Our visioning team of circle leaders: Sara Steen, Sue Sullivan, Brian Woodruff, Teri Ashley, Jenn Powell, Mary Klecan, Beth Adams, Diana Hutchinson; has been working hard to move us through a design process:
INSPIRATION: In this phase, you’ll learn how to better understand people. You’ll observe their lives, hear their hopes and desires, and get smart on your challenge.
IDEATION: Here you’ll make sense of everything that you’ve heard, generate tons of ideas, identify opportunities for design, and test and refine your solutions.
IMPLEMENTATION: Now is your chance to bring your solution to life. You’ll figure out how to get your idea to market and how to maximize its impact in the world.
Where are we? We have drafted a few design questions:
How can community circles become the core way Foothills unleashes courageous love?
How does our mission of unleashing courageous love become real in our community circles?
During this time of disruption, how can our community creatively and sustainably response to unleash deepening belonging, spiritual grounding and resilience, and deploying our people to be agents with courageous love?
We have curated a set of impacts we are hoping to have (which lined up nicely with the church’s vision statements):
Cultivate Spiritual Grounding and Resilience
Deepening Belonging between our community members of all ages and stages
Integration of newcomers
Unleash us as Agents of Courageous Love (in our neighborhoods, in NOCO & Beyond)
And how can we do this in a way that is Leaderful & Sustainable, Creative & responsive, Aligned & Nimble, Scaleable & Multiplying.
Our next step is to engage circle leadership in helping us better understand where we are and what seeds they can see as being planted now.