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Plans For Sabbatical: Messages From Revs. Sean & Gretchen

Just in case….our TL/DRs:

From Gretchen: Sabbatical starts Monday. It’s a great chance for growth and learning for us all. I love you and I’ll see you in August! 
From Sean: 
Our staff is prepared for the sabbatical and your partnership will make this important investment in the vitality of our church’s professional ministry a success. Show Up & Move Deeper, Don’t Hesitate: Reach Out, and Lend a Hand.  

Then, our full letters, first from me (Gretchen):

Dear friends,

Every Tuesday morning, our whole staff team gathers to name “wins” we’ve witnessed in the last week. Moments where our mission and mission were on display — and where we saw our community making a big and meaningful impact in people’s lives.

This week’s wins just couldn’t stop coming. 

A lot of what we shared came from Sean’s installation. From the beauty in the connecting to serve gatherings to the multi-generational community participating in the service — and everything in between. Most all, the many ways that people stepped up and leaned in with all their gifts over the last week — as you all so often do.

It was a staff meeting filled with a lot of gratitude.

It’s this shared sense of partnership and generosity that makes my sabbatical — which begins on Monday — possible. It is such an incredible gift to be able to take this time away — to rest and renew and to simply have that space outside of the regular rhythms of church life. And even more of a gift to know just how the congregation will continue on in its mission during this time.  And not just continue — but grow.

That is the real opportunity of a time like this — that the church community, as individuals and as a whole, learn and grow. Because my time away will necessitate some different rhythms, some shifts in how some things are done, and what people are involved in what…for example, I’m so glad for the church and for Sean that he will have this opportunity to lead in a different way — as he’ll be the Acting Senior Minister and Chief of Staff during my sabbatical.

I’ve encouraged Sean — and I encourage you — to not simply “get through” this time, but to really relish it as a time for experimentation and growth. Pay attention to what feels the same, what feels different. Get curious about why, and what value is at work in your noticing. Try showing up and serving in some different ways. Take the chance to deepen — in your spiritual path, in your commitment to the church, in your connection to the people and the mission of Foothills. Check out some of the opportunities for this in Sean’s letter below.

In the same ways, this will be a time for deepening and renewal for me as well.  I’m taking seriously the root of the word sabbatical — which is is, sabbath. My experimentation and learning will be about rest, slowing down — hanging out at home, spending time with my family and my friends, gardening, hiking, and writing every day (but without a Sunday deadline!).  I will be spending a couple of weeks in the northwest to see my extended family.  But mostly I intend to explore and enjoy this incredible place where we all live. I’m aiming for at least one 14er.

My email will be turned off entirely from May 6th through August 11th. If you email me, it will be deleted — and won’t be retrievable. I’ll be logging out of Facebook, and my regular cell will also be turned off. Sean will be able to contact me — and he has a list of things that I need to be contacted for.

This set-aside time of sabbatical is an incredible blessing, and something that will mean so much to our shared ministry in the coming years — and even more, to our long term partnership. I will miss you all so much! And, I know August will come quickly — and I am so excited for that returning conversation. When we will each share how we have grown, and changed over this time — and what long-list of “wins” we’ll be naming by then.

I hope you’ll come this Sunday as there will be a little send off party from 10 to 11 on the patio. 

With gratitude, and in partnership,

Rev. Gretchen  


And now from Sean…

Dear Foothills Community,

Many of you have been asking me if I am ready to step into Gretchen’s role during her sabbatical. 

My response? I’m as ready as we are. And we — as a church — are ready.

Almost to a person, everyone I have been talking to about the sabbatical, shares a deep sense of gratitude that we are a church that invests in the renewal of its ministers. Because we know it’s essential for us to continue to be a healthy and growing church.

And, I heard from each person all the reasons they are confident in us as a church: We know Foothills is more than any single minister. We have a dedicated and skilled staff team. We are a church is filled with people committed to living our values, co-creating our future, and showing up for each other, every day.

Anytime a senior minister steps away, there are significant areas that will need leadership and attention. Your Foothills staff has spent considerable time preparing and working with lay leaders to make Gretchen’s sabbatical a success  Considering how we can partner with you to not simply get through this time, but to grow through it.

Here is how we are planning to ensure coverage of Gretchen’s duties…

  • As Gretchen mentioned, I (Sean) will be serving as the Acting Senior Minister and Chief of Staff.  This encompasses working closely with our Board of Trustees, and leading our growing and dynamic staff team. Additionally I will be holding primary responsibility for worship, leadership, and administrative/financial oversight, with many lay and staff partners.
  • Kristen Psaki — who I’m so glad to share has agreed to continue as a minister on our team next year — will be stepping up to lead our pastoral care ministries, as well as our community outreach, justice and public witness teams. While she will continue to lead our service teams and our newcomer ministries, some of this work will be paused. (While we’re talking about Kristen, some have asked if she will be ordained.  The answer is — up to you! On June 2nd at the annual meeting, you’ll vote on the question of ordaining her. If you vote yes, we’re hoping for an ordination in September.)
  • Kathryn Boyle will be taking over as hospitality lead during this time to help relieve Kristen. Part of this shift will necessitate her stepping away from acting as receptionist and general question answered on Sunday mornings.
  • Melissa Monforti will continue in her role as Music Lead through the end of July. And, we’re so excited that Christopher Watkins Lamb — who many of you know from his prior work at Foothills — will be joining our team on July 1st for a few weeks of training/overlap with Melissa before starting in the role of Music Lead August 1. This will help provide a little extra support during the sabbatical.
  • Speaking of Sunday, we’re also looking to hire a sound engineer to oversee our audio/visual team on Sundays. This will allow our wonderful Communications Coordinator Anna Broskie to focus on Communications during the week, rather than occupy a good amount of her weekly hours on Sunday.
  • Along with these staffing changes, we’re also re-aligning our family ministry staffing to meet the highest area of attendance and engagement — which is in families with elementary age children.  We’ll be hiring a Family Ministry Coordinator to support Eleanor VanDeusen, and Emily Conger will not continue as our Youth Minister after May. Instead, we will be entering a very important time of foundation-setting and vision-casting to completely re-think how we’re doing ministry for and with teens and their families. For more info on this contact Eleanor VanDeusen at eleanor@foothillsuu.org
  • Even with all these shifts, we realized we could use a boost of additional assistance to make it all work. Which is why we’re so grateful that Foothills’ member Karen Harder has agreed to serve as a lay minister for pastoral care during this time. This volunteer position connects well with Karen’s personal path — as she nears the end of her first year in seminary where she is pursuing a master’s degree in spiritual care. Karen will be the point person for all incoming pastoral care needs — and will make sure that every person gets the support they need.  You can help with this by using caring@foothillsuu.org for any caring concerns — joys or sorrows or a mix of it all.

Don’t let the above list make you think that it’s just the staff and a few key leaders that have it all handled. We don’t. Because we need you — your presence, your leadership, your joy, your commitment to unleashing that courageous love thing we talk a lot about.


1. Show Up & Move In Deeper 

Gretchen is going on Sabbatical, not the church. The most impactful thing any of us can do is to keep showing up. Show up on Sundays. In groups.  On serving teams.  In community gatherings.  Your presence matters to the energy, vitality and welcome of Foothills. And, I invite you to think about how this summer you might move in more fully than you might have thought you would.


2. Don’t Hesitate: Reach Out 

Let’s be honest: things don’t always go smoothly.  There will be questions, misunderstandings, challenges and opportunities that arise, just like any other time of the year. Our invitation is that when these moments arise, don’t hesitate to reach out. If you need clarification, others probably do too. At the bottom of this email is a handy list of who to talk to for what.

Finally, we have an amazing Sabbatical Team that is holding this time of learning for the congregation.  If you have questions, or are noticing something about this time that you’d like to lift up – feel free to reach out to the Team, chaired by Bruce Wagner, and including Andrea Bazoin, Doug Powell, and Susan MacQuiddy. Send them an email at sabbatical@foothillsuu.org.


3. Lend a Hand 

Just as our staff is shifting roles, so are our volunteers, which means there is room for more people to lend a hand. We have identified a few specific areas that might need some extra attention….

To start, we’d love to have those of you who are already on the hospitality team to sign up for a regular shift this summer. It will reduce the time it takes for recruiting, and it will make sure that our Sunday experience continues to offer the sort of welcome at the heart of who we are – a wide, generous, warm welcome. 

If you aren’t on the hospitality team yet, but would be willing to take a few ushering, greeting, or coffee shifts this summer – contact Kathryn at Kathryn@foothillsuu.org and she’ll connect you. 

To help make it possible for Kathryn to support hospitality on Sundays, we’re also starting a new Sunday Receptionist role. This would be someone to staff the office between services. Perfect for an introvert! Extroverts welcome too! We’ll provide all the training and support you’d need to be the one to greet those looking for info in the office from 10-11. Contact Kathryn to express interest on this team too.

In deep gratitude and partnership, Rev. Sean

Handy List of Who to Contact for Common Questions at Foothills

  1. Pastoral Support / Caring Team: fill this out or email caring@foothillsuu.org, or call the office at 970-493-5906.
  2. New idea for a program or initiative? Go here.
  3. Need space or want to see what’s happening in our space? Go here on our website
  4. To promote or coordinate an already-approved program / event – Go here.
  5. Find your place to serve at this link
  6. Give (or adjust your giving) to support our mission and vision on this page.
  7. For questions about your giving, call or stop by the church office M-Th from 9 am – 5pm – you can speak to Jeffrey (Administrator, jeffrey@foothillsuu.org), or Vanessa (Bookkeeper, vanessa@foothillsuu.org) 970-493-4906. 
  8. Catch up on past sermons or series here

At-a-Glance…which staff member leads what area during sabbatical