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
Thank you for saying yes to being part of the team that will help us move this forward. The team is going to be essential in facilitating our community being able to sit with these questions in a deliberate and generative way.
Phase 1: Framing the Challenge
The design team will help articulate the opportunity/challenge/problem, frame the questions, understand the scope and the constraints.
Phase 2: Gathering Insights
The team will facilitate the gathering of insights from stakeholders within our community to inform the vision.
Phase 3: Prototyping A Vision
From these insights, the team will assemble a prototype (engaging with key stakeholders for their feedback)
Phase 4: Communicating Vision and Rolling Out Design
From that prototype the team will work to communicate about the process & vision, and implement an action plan for adoption.