Dear Foothills Community,
When Governor Polis declared a state of emergency earlier this week, there were a lot of us still trying to decide – is this an emergency?
These declarations are often about releasing funds and enabling coordination – but because there haven’t been sufficient tests available, and the illness is not immediately impacting those nearest us, it can be hard to decide the right response.
We have wanted to respond in a way that acknowledges how important connection is during times of increased anxiety and social unrest. Which is true about the times we have been living in even before the outbreak of a global pandemic! We know how important Foothills is to so many – and to us. We need each other now more than ever.
And, we want to follow the prudent advice to prevent community transmission through social distancing – especially given how over-represented the most at-risk population is in our congregation. This is not about theoretical risk. These are our friends, and family, our trusted and beloved community.
What is the call of courageous love in these times?
A few shifts in the past few days have been clarifying.
First, we received guidance late yesterday evening from our UUA President, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, that congregations refrain from gatherings with more than 25 people as a way of slowing down the spread of the virus and protecting our communities.
And second, last night Governor Polis indicated that Colorado is already experiencing “community spread,” meaning the virus is moving freely among the public without a clear source of infection. Given how slowly tests have been made available, we have to act as if the one confirmed case in Larimer County is actually one of many.
As a result, we have decided that starting this Sunday, we will be moving all of our gatherings online at least through the month of March (including Sunday worship), acknowledging that we really don’t know what’s going to happen next and we need to be responsive to shifting realities.
Each Sunday 10% of our congregation connects into worship digitally, this Sunday it will be 100%. That is a huge change. For many the idea of virtual church doesn’t quite make sense. For others, the struggle to learn and adapt to new technologies is daunting. This switch is not an easy one to make and it will require adaptation on all sides. But we encourage you to lean in. As Rev. Sunshine Wolfe wrote, this particular moment calls us to “stay away and stay connected.” Because real and meaningful connection can happen online.
While we are grieving that we will not be together in our sanctuary for a while, we are also so grateful that we can continue to be together in community in other ways, and to take this as an opportunity to strengthen our connections and care for one another and to live out our mission. The how of our mission may be shifting, but the mission itself, the call of courageous love, remains as urgent as ever.
Starting this Sunday, Foothills Worship Plan:
- At 9:00 am, we will offer a zoom-based experience. Zoom is a simple one-click video conferencing application that will allow us to connect personally, including with some small group breakout sessions. If zoom is new to you, we will be sending out tutorials and slots to sign up for assistance on Saturday. We’d love to have your advance RSVP so we can know generally how many to anticipate.
- At 11:00 am, we will offer a Facebook Live, Roku, Apple TV, & FireTV and Foothills website livestream broadcast of an edited version of the 9:00 zoom service. Facebook Live doesn’t allow for face to face interaction, but our staff and ministry team will be hanging out in the Facebook chat throughout the live broadcast, connecting with you as we worship together.
- By Monday, we will provide the whole service in an email, broken down so you can more easily interact with each element. We hope this will be accessible even for the least-tech-oriented among us.
- The service itself will be a Foothills service you know, with the Foothills community. With a few things re-tooled for this different medium. We’ll light a chalice and say our covenant, and there will be music and a time for meditation and offering up prayers for our community and for the world. And, we will have the chance to reflect more deeply on what courageous love means in this time – including by connecting with one another. We encourage you to find a chalice (or maybe just a candle!) and have it with you during the service; while it is simple, it can be a meaningful living reminder of our living faith, and the light of hope that continues to shine.
- These services are for all ages – especially those over age 10. For kids younger than 10, or their parents, our Family Ministry time is planning some special and supplemental ways to gather and connect, and there will also be a special zoom gathering for our youth. Look for more information tomorrow about specifics.
Programming, Staff and Building Use
- Starting Friday March 13th, all Foothills groups and gatherings will either move online or be canceled at least through the month of March. All means all – from meditation to choir to book groups. The staff directly responsible for each of these programs will be coordinating with the event/group leader to make decisions and to ensure they have the tools they need.
This includes our Spring Break Camp. Registered families: look for communication from our Family Ministry team tomorrow about refunds and alternative strategies to support children and provide childcare relief during spring break.
- All of Foothills staff members and ministers will begin working from home after March 13th. We will ensure the phones forward so that we can still be responsive to any callers, but the office itself will close. We have told the few staff members who are not usually eligible for PTO that we will provide them with this support so that they do not need to come to work sick. For those employees whose jobs will not be possible during this time (i.e. choir directing), we will continue to provide a weekly minimum pay so that they don’t lose an inordinate amount of income. This is an important opportunity to be the sort of employer we believe all employees deserve!
Community Care and Connection
- In the next week, we are planning to establish geographically-based Community Circles of 15-20 households. Each Circle will have a lead member who will coordinate with the other members, ensuring that everyone has friendship, food, medicines, and spiritual resources that they need during this time. These circles will be demographically diverse to ensure that those who are most vulnerable in this time are paired with those who are less at risk.
- Beyond Community Circles, we also want to be responsive to all who may be needing a little extra support. There’s so much about this experience that can produce anxiety, grief, confusion. It may cause serious financial hardship. It can bring up past traumatic experiences and crises. This is in addition to whatever challenge, grief, or anxiety you may be facing in your life already. We are here for you. Please let us know what’s going on in your world, and how we can best journey with you in this time. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, even if you aren’t yet sure what might be helpful.
- If you are tech savvy and looking for an opportunity to support our community connections in this time, please let us know. We are looking for volunteers to help make these shifts as smooth as possible.
We have also been reaching out to our community partners as well as the interfaith community to see how we can partner with them to serve the most vulnerable during this time. We are identifying how the services our congregation provides in partnership with them can be adjusted or amplified. For example, considering how to safely offer our FFH hosting starting on April 5th, or our regular Food Bank.
We are also reaching out to the City to advocate for further support for the most vulnerable, and for a more definitive direction to businesses and community organizations. This is a time when it is especially clear how we are all in this together.
- We have also been reaching out to our community partners as well as the interfaith community to see how we can partner with them to serve the most vulnerable during this time. We are identifying how the services our congregation provides in partnership with them can be adjusted or amplified. For example, considering how to safely offer our FFH hosting starting on April 5th, or our regular Food Bank.
- We are also reaching out to the City to advocate for further support for the most vulnerable, and for a more definitive direction to businesses and community organizations. This is a time when it is especially clear how we are all in this together.
- While it is tempting and understandable to respond to this situation by stockpiling our resources, hoarding what we have, or otherwise taking a pause in our generosity – this is a time when we can do so much good by intentionally sharing our resources. We invite us to consider how this time may call us each back to that ancient practice of giving away a small percentage of our resources – money, time, energy, goods – in a very intentional way, so that we all can more fully live.
- With this in mind, if you are able, please consider donating to the ministerial discretionary fund. You can do this by going here and selecting Ministerial Discretionary Fund from the drop down. We will use this to fund to support church members whose employers do not offer sustained PTO (so that they can choose to stay home when they are sick) or who are vulnerable financially for other reasons in this time, including needing groceries or other critical supplies. Every gift will add up and make it more possible to provide care for each other in this time.
This is really hard, and there’s so much that remains unknown. We are going to want more certainty and more control than is possible. We may not always be our best selves, and we may not always get it “right.”
But through all of this, we also have an opportunity to respond in the ways that only a church can, in the way that only this church can. We can be a community that is listening to the call of courageous love, and trying with all integrity to follow that path, together. We can learn together, and we can actually grow practices that deepen our relationships and sustain our community long after this time. And there will be an “after.”
For now, it’s helpful to remember and ground ourselves in Foothills’ core values of joyful resilience, collective courage, deepening belonging, and transcendent wonder. You will see all of these values at work in our time together on Sunday, and in all that we do and discover together in the days ahead.
We are so grateful to be in this community with you. You are each in our thoughts and prayers in this time.
Your ministers: Rev. Gretchen, Rev. Sean and Rev. Kristen on behalf of the whole staff team
Your Board of Trustees: President Sara Steen, Vice President Sue Sullivan, Secretary Debbie Gentry, Treasurer Brendan Mahoney, and Trustees Cheryl Hazlitt, Glenn Pearson, and Joan Woodbury