God's Infamous "But" - Malcolm Himschoot
I'm not a promoter. I'm a poet. I'm not an entrepreneur. I'm a pastor!
For the longest time—since I was 12 years old in Colorado, hearing Bible-thumping, gay-bashing messages from the pulpits of the Religious Right—I felt a calling to do something different. This calling in my life would become the vocation to create a ministry alternative to the dominant culture, steeped in the transformative witness of Jesus. I became a member of the United Church of Christ as a young adult, the fruit of intense change in my life, plus the outreach of a compassionate, liberal minister, and some international, cross-cultural, multi-racial encounters deepening my Christian faith. I began seminary in 2000, and, for 10 years, I only daydreamed about a new church start. I disqualified myself—too young, too radical, too broke—but the new church start calling would not go away.
Meanwhile, just three years ago in Parker, Colorado, a band of people broke away from an existing congregation to form a new church that is unabashedly open and affirming, courageously just peace, abundantly whole earth, and expansive in its belief that God Is Still Speaking, the first such church in the entire far-flung, once-rural, now-suburban county. "We welcome everyone who welcomes everyone else!" they declared. They invested in the UCC vitality initiative, producing a website, even commercials. In this growing area, they attracted dozens of others with like minds and hearts, and prepared to call a fulltime pastor who would be organized, missional, competent, and catalytic for their best action.
Gifts and Graces of Spiritual Growth
They found me. And I found them. So I'm reinventing my brand: Poet-promoter. Pastor-entrepreneur. All for Jesus!
In four months, thanks to relational networking and some media coverage, we have grown the body from 40 members to 50, from 40 in worship on Sundays to 55.
Those are the numbers.
The stories—the true ministry—are in the interactions people have with one another at Parker UCC. The gifts and the graces of spiritual growth are most evident in our energetic announcements and our genuine hospitality hour.
A Community of Support
An old guy and a young guy discuss (over fair trade coffee in the gym after worship) whether escalating violence is worth it, and what forgiveness looks like. A teenager endures bullying at school, but finds, for the first time, Christians who affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. A young family with a "special needs" daughter discovers the community wants to fully support them in an adaptive summer vacation Bible school. A retired man, new to the area, with no friends but severe health problems, finds he can breathe easier with our brand of "fresh air." Musicians love to sing; children love to pray; thinkers love to read; everybody loves potlucks. My favorite story: One young couple, currently homeless, biked 30 miles round-trip and camped overnight to be with us at Easter worship!
Finding Their Way
Some people find Parker UCC as they move to Colorado from all over the country, bringing with them strong UCC roots. Others make their way downstream from abusive religious currents. Still others come from no particular religious background, but surprise themselves with their attraction to the compelling gospel preached at Parker UCC, and the quality of relationships in which they can predict their own spiritual growth.
Could God elicit a new church start setting for someone like me?
I believe God has.
- Rev. Malcolm Himschoot, Parker, CO 5/11/2011