Letters from our Spiritual Leader
September 18, 2020
Dear Beloved Community,
The great philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant is change.” And while we know that God never changes, the relative realm of the earth plane is indeed, always changing. This is a wonderful thing! For while change is often not easy, it can usher in tremendous growth in consciousness. And consciousness… is what it’s all about!
We stand on the cusp of yet another change for our beloved Unity in the Foothills. As many of you know, the board and its advisors have been looking into the question of whether or not our community should continue paying rent on a building we are not using. During Tuesday night’s board meeting, we were faced with a financial report that was sobering and clarifying at the same time. The bottom line is, we are not bringing in enough money to be able to keep paying $1300.00 in rent to UCC.
Before COVID hit, the amount brought in from donations and fundraisers enabled us to pay our rent, salaries, and miscellaneous expenses. But after COVID hit, the money received from donations and fundraisers went down considerably. We did get some temporary help from the Payroll Protection Plan offered by the government and later, with the Loaves and Fishes Grant, offered by Unity Worldwide Ministries. We also received some extremely generous one-time donations that helped us to make ends meet. We are deeply grateful for the help we received. However, those resources are not ongoing.
And so, with clear heads and open hearts, the board voted for Unity in the Foothills to move out of the building.
I immediately let Rev. Rhonda know of the board’s decision, and she and I began to talk about the possibility of UITF continuing to rent just our office space and nothing more. UCC is holding a special Council Meeting next Wednesday (9/23/20) to determine if a new lease could be written up for us, and what they would charge us to rent only one office. If the rent is low enough, it might work for us to sign such a lease. But we will still need to get the rest of our possessions out of the building. Towards that end, the board has begun the task of looking into an affordable storage unit which can house our essentials. Whatever is not deemed essential can either be sold as a fundraiser or be given to Goodwill.
There is much to consider, isn’t there?
Because the board needs all of you to weigh in on this decision, we are scheduling a Special Community meeting on September 27th, which will follow our Sunday service. During this meeting, we will lay out all of the known factors that have weighed into the board’s decision, as well as answer any questions that will undoubtedly arise. We will then ask for your thoughts, and following an amount of time during which everyone will have a chance to be heard, we will ask for a vote from our community. Clearly stated, we will ask you to vote on whether or not we should continue paying full rent to UCC for use of the entire building. Zoom allows for anonymous voting, so the boundaries of confidentiality will be honored.
I am embedding into this email a clear comparison summary of pre- and post-COVID figures. More detailed reports will be available at the meeting. Please take some time to look at the numbers, which do not lie. If you have any questions about this report or this email, please do not hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My friends, I know this a lot to think about. I also know that some of you may have strong feelings about letting go of the brick and mortar where we have spent so many joyous hours. But I remind you gently: We have already proven our ability to breathe as One outside the framework of a building. This is one more step into the great beyond, which is, as always, filled with Infinite Possibility.
August 8, 2020 Letter from Rev. Carolyn
Dear Beloved Community,
Who knew that a little storm named Isaias would cause so much change in our already changing lives? Many of you are still without power or Internet, and it may be a while before the lights come back on. Please know that we are holding all of you in our hearts, boldly affirming your perfect health and safety. If you are able to read this email, then you have your Internet and power back, and that is a mercy.
Every storm has an Eye (and an I!) in the middle of it, and even though many changes swirl around the periphery, there is always a vision of unchanging wholeness that can be gained from that inner I - our I AM, the Source of our Being.
So, knowing that we are always still in the center of our Being, the following are some peripheral changes we would like you to know about. The first change is that Unity in the Foothills will no longer be using my private Zoom account for services. Thanks to the ongoing generosity of our community, UITF now has its own Zoom account. Starting this Sunday, August 16th, there will be a new link to use for our 11 am service. If you are on our email list, it will be emailed to you. If you do not receive it, please email us at email@example.com for the zoom link.
I am going to be away on an “unplugged” vacation for the first two weeks in September. Should you require prayer assistance during that time, our prayer chaplains Heather Blauvelt, Susan Brown, Carolyn Kurtich, April Marshall, Beth Nyerick and Barbara Schafer, LUT, will be at the ready to spiritually partner with you.
Another change comes in the months of October and November, which is when I will be away on Sabbatical. We will be richly blessed by having Rev. Alicia Leslie take over the helm during that time. Rev. Alicia will be bringing in a lesson series based on a book entitled “The Spiritual Warrior” which will dovetail nicely with our FIA book, “The Divine Design”, by Carole Lunde. Rev. Alicia wants us all to know that we don’t have to read “The Spiritual Warrior” if we don’t have enough time to do so.
There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes in terms of researching the necessary venues that can help us to establish our presence as an online church, and, at some point, a hybrid church. When we have something concrete to share with you, we will let you know. In the meantime, let’s keep celebrating the God We Are by meeting together on Zoom, as well as in the Always Sanctuary of our Hearts.
Minister Report for July 19, 2020 Quarterly Meeting
We have every right to be proud of our community. We have every right to be proud of the way we keep in touch with each other during these difficult times. We have every right to be proud of our deepening connection to Spirit. And we have every right to be proud of the way we are beginning to address the racial issues that threaten to tear our dear nation apart. Those of us who are taking the class Spiritual Exploration of Privilege, Racism and Allyship, which is being provided by the Unity Eastern Region, are doing a great service. Those of us who have made a ministry out of calling folks from our community every day are doing a great service. And those of us who use this time to deepen the awareness of the Love we are, are also doing a great service. We are Unity in the Foothills and we are strong in the knowing that we truly are One.
For those of you who are interested in becoming educated about the issue of race, we have put together the beginning of a booklist entitled “Racism Today - Read and Awaken”. If you will click on our Black Lives Matter icon (the multi-colored dove) on our website and in our newsletter, you will be brought to our book list. If you know of a book that should be included on our list, please let us know. Unless indicated otherwise, every book on the list can be purchased on Amazon Smile. (Don’t have an Amazon Smile account? Just go to smile.amazon.com, and you will be directed to pick a charity. Write in “Unity in the Foothills”, and Amazon will donate .5 percent of the price of your eligible purchase to our beloved community.)
We are experiencing the joy of having new folks with us on Sundays! If any of our newer visitors are interested in becoming voting members of our community, please let me know. Normally, we ask all those who want to become voting members to take two classes in the fall - “Unity Basics” and “New Member Orientation”. However, we recognize that there are some folks who have already been voting members of other Unity churches, and for those folks, we are omitting the need to take “Unity Basics” and would only ask that you take “New Member Orientation”. Again, please let me know if you would like to become a voting member so that we can plan accordingly.
We have finished our I of the Storm class, and even though not everyone who started with us finished with us, I think the class made a real difference in helping us to navigate our way through the tensions around Covid and Racism. I don’t have any plans to teach a class again this year. I will be focusing on getting my last SEE requirements finished so that I can begin my ministerial classes while I am away on Sabbatical for the months of October and November.
While I will also be away for the first two weeks in September, that time is for the purposes of vacation only. The Sabbatical is for the purposes of study. While I am away on Sabbatical, Rev. Alicia Leslie will be serving our community as our Unity minister. Rev. Alicia is looking forward to spending two months with us, and I am sure our community will be richly blessed by her magnetic presence and teachings.
During the time that I am away, Heather Blauvelt has graciously agreed to take on the role of platform and song leader. Heather, Cathy, Holly, Rev. Alicia and I are having a Zoom meeting on August 3rd so that everyone will feel comfortable moving forward. We will probably have at least one other meeting with each other in September so that the transition is smooth and easy.
We have been using my personal Zoom link for services, board meetings, and I of the Storm. When Covid hit, we had to act quickly, and as I already had a Zoom account for my business, I decided to use it for our purposes. We are now looking into the least expensive way for Unity in the Foothills to have its own Zoom account. Once we get it set up, we will need to change the link for our services on Zoom. When that happens, we will make sure you all have access to that new link. I am hoping to get our new account set up in the next few weeks.
Our Faith in Action Book Study will begin on September 28th and end on November 16th. This year, we will be reading The Divine Design, by Carole M. Lunde. Here is the link to AmazonSmile where The Divine Design can be purchased: https://smile.amazon.com/Divine-Design-SpirituallyInterpretYour/dp/0595439748/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=The+Divine+Design&qid=1594932317&s=books&sr=1-8. As I will be absent for most of Faith in Action, I am putting together an outline for discussion on this book which will be ready by the middle of September. We won’t be able to gather physically in people’s homes, but we will be able to gather together on Zoom. I am working to create a Zoom platform that will enable us to gather in small groups. This will probably be done by assigning “break out” rooms in advance, with at least 2 rooms hosted by two different members of our community.
For those of you who have signed up to be Daily Word readers, thank you! Cathy and I will be putting together a schedule soon, and we look forward to seeing your shining faces on our Facebook page, AND our new Instagram page! Many thanks to Karen Mangine for setting that up and managing it. It’s high time we shared you with the world!
So many of you have been donating generously to keep Unity in the Foothills alive and thriving, and we continue to be astonished and gratified by your support. For those of you who are paying online via PayPal, we have a favor to ask. Instead of using the donation form on our website, log into your PayPal account and click “send”. Type in firstname.lastname@example.org, the amount you wish to donate, then, most importantly, choose “sending to a friend”. You will be given the option to either send the payment to a friend, or to use it to pay for an item or a service. If you click on “Sending to a friend”, then Unity in the Foothills will be given the full amount of your donation. If you click on “Paying for an item or service” or use the donation form on our website, then PayPal takes 2.9% out of your donation. Over time, this small percentage adds up. So far, PayPal has withheld about $150.00 from donations we have received.
It would be nice to have an extra $150.00, especially as we are in the beginning stages of creating a new bank account where funds can be donated to help out those in our community who are having a hard time paying their bills. We will be calling this new account “Helping Hands”, and once it is established, members from our community who are in need of assistance will be able to contact me privately and in total confidence for whatever support the fund is able to give. The money from this fund will never go to an individual directly, but it will be sent to the company that is asking for payment, such as the electric company. We will also use the money in this fund to purchase Gift cards from grocery stores. We will let you know when our “Helping Hands” bank account is ready to receive your generous donations.
Lately, we have had a part of our financial burden lightened by the fact that both Cathy Mathiason and myself received PPP loans to help pay our individual salaries. However, those loans were for a finite amount - 8 weeks of salary, to be exact. Cathy’s loan has run out, and mine has $1,000 left – enough to pay my salary for approximately 3 more Sundays with a little bit left over. Once Unity in the Foothills starts paying Cathy and me again, our financial picture is going to change.
Finally, beloveds, I would like for all of you to consider how you would like the money you so generously give to our community to be spent. Right now, we pay $1,300 a month in rent to United Congregational Church. This is a fortunate arrangement; however, it is money that is being spent to hold our place in a building which we are not using and may not be using for quite some time. I love our UCC family dearly and I know many of you do as well. As painful as it is, it is time to begin a conversation about how you want us to spend your money. The board and I want to know how each of you feel about paying rent on a space we are not using, when there are other ways we could be using our funds, such as paying for a professional “tech team” so that we could grow our ministry online. Additionally, we could use our funds to help out our congregants and those in the greater community who are in need.
Of course, such a conversation, which we will have at our Quarterly Meeting on Sunday, July 19th after our church service, will open us up to a lot of questions that we will not have the answers to right away. We will want to know where we can return to once the pandemic is over, and we will also want to know that our UCC family will be able to make it without our financial assistance. There won’t be any immediate, concrete answers to those questions. This is a conversation to engage in slowly and deliberately, with no final decisions being made without support from the whole congregation.
By way of helping us navigate our way through this conversation, the board and I are looking into what it would cost to have a professional tech team. We are also beginning to scout around to see what rentals of other spaces would cost. We have also let our dear UCC folks know that we are having this conversation, and we have made it clear to them that we have not come to any conclusions yet.
Dear Ones, in times such as these, it is our Unity Principles that we must cling to. It is neither a memory of the past, nor a fantasy about the future that creates our reality. It is a knowing that our Principles are the brick and mortar of our consciousness, the substance of our faith- this is what creates our reality. If we will hold fast to what we know to be True, the house we build will be on rock, not sand. All is well, all shall be well, and no matter what, we will continue to grow and thrive.
Speaker Schedule as of July 19th, 2020
July 19th- Rev. Carolyn Speaks
July 26th- Deacon Weechie Baker speaks
August 2nd – Rev. Carolyn Speaks
August 9th – Rev. Carolyn Speaks
August 16th – Rev. Carolyn Speaks
August 23rd- Rev. Carolyn Speaks
August 30th- Deacon Samantha Dennison speaks
September 6th – Deacon Samantha Dennison speaks
September 13th- Rev. Carolyn Speaks
September 20th- Rev. Carolyn Speaks
September 27th-Rev. Carolyn Speaks
October 4th – November 29th – Rev. Alicia speaks every Sunday
December 6th through December 27th- Rev. Carolyn Speaks
January 3rd- Rev. Carolyn Speaks
January 10th – Rev. Carolyn Speaks
January 17th – Charlie Thweat returns, speaking and singing
January 24th- Rev. Carolyn Speaks
January 31st- Rev. Carolyn Speaks
June 30, 2020 Letter regarding COVID 19 and returning to service in our building
Dear Beloved Community,
I am so grateful to all of you who responded to the survey we sent out. The fact that you each took the time to think through your answers speaks to your bond of commitment to Unity in the Foothills, a commitment which we all share. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As I read through the results of the survey, which I have done now at least four times, I am struck by what appears to be intersecting lines of caution and optimism. Some of the answers indicate a need for caution around a return to the building. Some of the answers indicate a feeling of optimism that we can return to the building sooner, rather than later.
Reading through all of the results, I hear a longing for what we had “before” as well as a need to stay safe. I will be very interested to listen to what the rest of you notice when you read through the results, which we will post on our website for you. Click here for results.
And now, I’d like to share with you where I stand. My heartfelt decision is that I cannot return to the building until I am completely satisfied that every one of us will be safe. And that includes me. I have a moral obligation to think not only of the health and wellbeing of Unity in the Foothills, but of my own health and wellbeing. I am 65; my husband is 70. We both have subtle underlying issues that put us in high-risk categories. I cannot do anything that would willfully jeopardize both our community’s health or Andy’s and mine. I will happily return to the building when a vaccine has been tested and distributed, but not before then.
I know many of you are longing for the comfort of being in physical proximity with one another, and I assure you, I long for that as well. I know many of you yearn to have the experience of singing together, and I assure you, I yearn for that also. I ache to be near you all physically, and I am anxious for that time when we can once again hug each other with all of our hearts.
We don’t know how long it will take for the vaccine to become available. Will it be months, or will it be years? We simply don’t know. And while it may be tempting to assume that Covid has run its course in Connecticut, we have only to look at the states where Covid is spiking dangerously to see that it is our very restrictions on social distancing that is helping to keep us healthy and alive here.
If Unity in the Foothills were to return to the building before the vaccine is available, what would that look like? As each person would enter the building, their temperature would be taken, and if they had a fever, they would be turned away. Each person that enters the building would have their name documented for the CDC for the sake of contact tracing in case illness broke out among us. Everyone would be required to wear a mask and bring hand sanitizer. Those without masks would be offered one from our own supply, which we would need to purchase. Those without hand sanitizer would be invited to use a “sanitizing station” where hands can be sanitized. (We would need to purchase hand sanitizer as well.) Those who refuse to wear a mask would not be allowed to enter the building. If this is beginning to sound draconian, it’s because churches are notorious for being breeding grounds for the virus. We are seeing the spread of Covid, sometimes fatally, in those churches which have refused to comply with masks and social distancing.
If we returned to the building, family units would be allowed to sit together, but everyone else would have to sit 6 feet apart. There would be no hugging or handshakes allowed. Only one person at a time would be allowed to use the bathroom, and a volunteer would be needed to stand by the door to make sure the bathrooms are cleaned and sanitized in between each person’s visit.
If we returned to the building before the vaccine is available, we would not be allowed to sing – not even with our masks on. There are many studies which prove decisively that singing, even with a mask on, is one of the easiest ways for the virus to spread. We could get around that by humming instead of singing, as one of us has suggested. But we would need to watch ourselves carefully, as a hum can easily turn into a full-throated song.
If we returned before the vaccine, we would be required to sit six feet apart at the tables during our fellowship hour, and the children would not be allowed to have physical contact with adults or children outside of their family unit. We would also have to bring our own food and beverages.
All surfaces would need to be wiped down after service and all doorknobs would need to be wiped down after each use. We would need to find a way to create a loving, healthy boundary between UITF and UCC so that there is no physical contact between the two Sunday services. Basically, we would not be able to cross paths with them, as the church will need to be sanitized thoroughly in between services.
I realize that these measures might sound overly harsh and prohibitive. Perhaps it might help to know that these measures do not come from me personally, but from both the State of Connecticut and Unity Worldwide Ministries.
I say all of this not to discourage you, but to give you my promise that, while I am awake to your loneliness, I am also alert to your safety, and will continue to stay both awake and alert to the intersecting needs of our beautiful, beloved community.
On the earth plane, the only constant is change. On the spiritual plane, the only constant is God. May God, our constant Light, continue to guide us as we walk through all of these many changes together.