Looking Back - The Bare Bones Beginning
Respectfully submitted by Becky Lynch
To say the least, as I have aged, my memory is at times sketchy and certainly filled with my own perspective, experiential knowledge, visual auditory and tactile memories. In accepting the request that I begin to document and share with others, Good Shepherd’s historic beginnings, I would like anyone reading this to know that I will be consulting other members of our Good Shepherd congregation and those who have been early members of our Good Shepherd membership. I will ask that they share a memory (or two or three). These recollections will build upon broaden and deepen my perspective about the birthing and the establishment of Good Shepherd UMC.
In the early 1960’s, as in the history and practice of the United Methodist Church across the country, the Rocky Mountain United Methodist Church Conference bought property in a northern rural part of Thornton, Colorado. This rural piece of property was purchased with the intention of encouraging the establishment and the building of a United Methodist Church in the area.
In June of 1973, after buying a new home in the slowly developing north rural area of Thornton, and then 2 years later, as a married mother of a toddler, I started seeking a Methodist church nearer to our new home in Thornton. I was referred, by my childhood Methodist Church pastor in Broomfield, Colorado, to a small bible study/prayer group that had started to meet in the new Thornton area north of 104th Avenue and west of the rural 2 lane Colorado Boulevard. I found a spiritual home with these 3 couples that met weekly in Bill and Doris Beary’s home. This small group of 7 rose up together with spiritual purpose filled intentionality and a common vision, to establish a new United Methodist Church. We were unaware of the abundance that God had in store for us.
Being the youngest in this group of spiritually rich, well-established, politically active Methodist couples was definitely eye opening for this 24 year old. It was like running through a maturing gauntlet as we began the spiritual, political, social, financial and physical experience of establishing a brand new church.
This small 7 person bible study/prayer group kept meeting in the rural slowly developing north area of Thornton. As we got to know one another, the conversation would always turn and flow to, “We need to have a Methodist Church out here!” God’s spirit was among us, moving each of us forward beyond our own relationship with Christ to an understanding of the spiritual growth and joy that occurs, when one is in a “community of faith”. Instead of complaining and wishing that something would be done, this small group with God’s urging, decided to “make it happen”.
I ran across an interesting quote by Vincent Harding, who was a writer for Martin Luther King. It seems to fit quite well here:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and then, go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive!”
It was through Christ, that we 7 had “come alive” and we all decided together, that the world and community around us needed to “come alive with Christ.”
I do not remember who came up with the idea that we needed to canvas our local area to discover what the spiritual needs of our community were, but I suspect it was with the guidance of Reverend Jackson, our United Methodist Church Metropolitan District Superintendent. So, that is exactly what we each did. I went house to house with our small groups well designed questionnaire and my small daughter, Wendy. Many a door opened, with Wendy and I meeting some wonderful individuals and families that were interested in beginning or strengthening and continuing their own faith journey. They were also seeking a church located closer to their homes. Many also shared with Wendy and I, that they felt a deep desire to bring their children into an awareness of God and into a personal relationship with Christ.
After canvasing our neighborhoods, this small group of 7 met again in Bill and Doris Beary’s home with our piles of informational questionnaires stacked everywhere! A wonderful time was had by all as we prayed, read scripture, laughed and drank ice tea and coffee while sharing a pot luck meal! I do believe that where you find a pot luck, there you will find a bunch of Methodist’s. The survey of our neighborhoods uncovered that there were plenty of individuals and families seeking Christ and the word of God, through congregational worship experiences.
Within weeks after that survey, we became a group of 13 families strong and began our first United Methodist “congregational services” at the YMCA, on the southeast corner of 112th and Colorado Boulevard.
Little did we know what plans God had for us and what lie ahead for these 13 families!
Next Article: Looking Back - Oh boy, did God have plans….Soon, there were 50!
History of Good Shepherd UMC
Looking Back - Oh boy, did God have plans….
Soon, there were to be 50! Respectfully submitted: Becky Lynch
How does one capture the essence of the journey or the amazing story about Good Shepherd’s “bare bones beginning" as a small 7 person bible study group that transforms into what then becomes, a larger group of 13 families that gather to worship and pray together every Sunday? In the beginning, as I started formulating how I was to address and answer that question and in attempting to write this article, I was a bit overwhelmed but as the memories were allowed to awaken, I was tearful and joy filled in the remembering of those days past and those people that I knew as friends and family.
I discovered a wonderful thought shared by Maya Angelou: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Well, these devoted and visionary 13 families were finding their home and safe haven together, having now rented the YMCA gymnasium for worshiping together every Sunday! The YMCA was located on the south east corner of 115th and Colorado Boulevard in Thornton, Colorado. One of the many gentleman in our newly formed congregation of 13 families, was an extremely talented carpenter that designed and built an “altar on wheels”. This “altar on wheels” also housed our candle holders and candles, the first beautiful donated altar cross, the seasonal altar cloths donated by Thornton UMC, 2 brass plates for offertory giving, a large bible donated by the Beary family, hymnals donated to us from Broomfield UMC, a vase for flowers and other small items that were used to set up our altar in the YMCA gymnasium.
The YMCA gymnasium was transformed into our “sanctuary" as borrowed YMCA chairs were set up by each family, as they arrived for the service. While the men, in our newly formed congregation, rolled out our large heavy mobile altar and set out all of it’s donated and gifted contents. One family would bring fresh flowers each week. Our music was sung acapella as Reverend Jackson led the singing with such great enthusiasm and spirit that no-one could be heard singing off key. Reverend Jackson, our Metropolitan District Superintendent, was a powerful God filled preacher. His weekly sermons kept this small congregational group growing in the word of God and growing in member numbers, as the message throughout our Thornton community was spread that there was “a new Methodist church in town”. The mobile altar would then be packed and put away in a large janitorial closet, at the YMCA, waiting for the next Sunday to assist in transforming a gymnasium into a sanctuary, a home, where the spirit of God was moving among all His people.
We all met at the YMCA for a year, maybe more. My memory is rather sketchy on the number of months or whether it was two years that we gathered at the YMCA. I do remember that those original 13 families, one Sunday in 1976, made a verbal financial commitment to God and to one another in financially supporting this newly developing Methodist church. The commitment was that each family would agree to give $1,000 a year, in even monetary increments every month for the establishment of a budget and the monies needed for the developing congregational needs. Three committees were formed, to begin the organizational structure of this new church body. Every family was to be represented on one committee or another.
During the time we met at the YMCA, the “support” that other local Methodist congregations gave us, along with the “support” that the Metropolitan District and the Rocky Mountain Methodist Conference gave us, was instrumental in the continuing growth of our newly forming congregation. This “support” continued beyond the time we gathered at the YMCA and followed us through the years we met at Tarver Elementary School. That “support” also continued on as we broke ground to build our new church on 128th and Colorado Blvd. The connectional system, as expressed in the Methodist Church organizational structure, is one that “supports” through commitments: spiritually, financially, physically and socially. Our 13 family congregational group was wrapped in prayer, given money, provided with items that we needed for worship, given Sunday school materials, and provided with ministerial support through alternating pastors that would lead us through scripture and inspired us weekly. To add to that wonderful list, we also were visited by other Methodist congregational members on a regular basis! Our committee’s were encouraged and guided by other well established Methodist church lay leaders along with several ministers. There was never a time when we felt alone or lost because God was sending those who were as beacons of light shining before us and holding out a hand to assist us on our journey.
As our congregational numbers rose financial commitments became larger and the YMCA gym became less able to accommodate us. We were starting to desire a piano and a choir, a place to store our supplies and growing resources along with an environment that would support varied activities. We began to seek another venue for our worship services and gatherings.
The 13 families had become 50 families strong. There were children of every age, singles, young adults, middle-aged folks and those who were over 60. We represented many different cultures, we came from varied faith backgrounds, we had many gifts and talents, we had a variety of interests and abilities and we were happy to share our spiritual journey with one another. We all had found a home, that safe place where we could go as we are and not be questioned.
Next article: Now what are we going to do, Lord? There are 50 of us!