Our Story of Hope

Our story of hope begins when Mount Calvary Lutheran Church was established at the corner of 36th Avenue and York Street, in Denver, Colorado. From Mount Calvary’s beginning on November 17, 1938, it developed into a thriving ministry that reached into the community through its Christian day school and day care. The day school provided a Christian education for students from 1943 to 1973 with a peak enrollment of 150. The daycare served the church and community from 1946 to 1991 with an enrollment of 60 students at the peak. A well-baby clinic housed in the church’s community center touched the lives of hundreds and connected many to our church and school.

As the demographics of the neighborhood began to change over the years, those changes challenged our congregation. We were no longer able to support the school and day care. Both were closed. Although many members moved out of the neighborhood to new areas, Mount Calvary remained their church home. In many ways, our congregation lost touch with the neighborhood. Today we are no longer predominantly African-American: demographic studies indicate the neighborhood is a mix of African-American, Hispanic, and Caucasian. Changes in pastoral leadership over the years impacted the congregation. Beginning in the 1980s, a downward trend in attendance, giving and involvement brought feelings of despair and hopelessness. During 2009-2010 the average worship attendance was 15 (which included four members of the pastor’s family).

The nagging question: Will we live or will we die?

In December 2010, Mount Calvary called Pastor Roger Schlechte as our Intentional Interim Pastor. After listening to our stories, our hopes and our fears, Pastor Schlechte outlined four options for our consideration:

  • Close immediately
  • Continue as is . . . until there was no more life
  • Ask another congregation to partner with Mount Calvary
  • Rebirth Mount Calvary and restore hope and ministry at this location

As the congregation prepared to make a decision regarding our future, we spent time in Bible study exploring our relationship with God, our relationship to each other, the role of pastor and laity, and the relationship of pastor and laity.

By May 2011, we determined that we wanted to rebirth ourselves. There was a cautious sense of hope and hopefulness! Will it work?

In January 2012 the Denver Northeast Circuit adopted Mount Calvary as its Gospel Gap Mission. Now there was some hope.

We spent the next couple of months brainstorming future ministry possibilities. In June our neighbors were invited to a community meeting where we asked for their input as to the needs in the community. They were pleased to be asked!

After this community meeting, it was becoming clear that the congregation needed help to bring together all of the information that was being gathered from this meeting as well as many smaller meetings which had taken place with organizations and churches in the area. Pastor Schlechte presented his vision to the congregation for Mount Calvary’s future based upon accumulated input — a role not typically done by an intentional interim pastor.

The vision presented was:

Vision for Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Denver

Picture the life cycle of the butterfly. A caterpillar cocoons itself in the pupa stage. For a period of time, there is no evidence of life. It is merely a web of spun matter. Then, a newly created beautiful butterfly emerges from the cocoon.

The butterfly symbolizes the resurrection. Christ, cocooned in the grave on Good Friday, bursts forth with new life on Easter morning.

We, too, were once cocooned in our old sinful nature. Yet, through Christ’s atoning work at Mt. Calvary and his resurrection on Easter morning, we have new life. We are a new creation.

There are people in northeast Denver who remain wrapped in the cocoon of sin. Without the Good News of Jesus Christ they will never be free; they will never emerge with new life now or in eternity with Christ. The community institutions in our neighborhood are also cocooned in sin; created by God to nurture, yet often not understanding and living up to His calling.

Mt. Calvary has been in a cocoon and is striving to shed it. By its 75th anniversary, I see a new renamed congregation – Resurrection in the City Lutheran Church – burst forth with new life. I see people of all ages, genders, socio-economic groups, and ethnicities growing in discipleship, empowered to live by the Spirit, and equipped to be Christ’s people in the city.

I feel energy radiating into the city to bring new life to the people of northeast Denver. In two years, I see disciples of Resurrection in the City mobilized and immersed in the fabric of the neighborhood. I hear a multi-cultural group of disciples speaking with their neighbors, restoring trust and respect between neighbors, businesses, government, and church. I hear the sound of prayer continually ascending to the throne of God for all in the city.

While creation groans, waiting for the new heaven and earth, I see restored and renovated facilities utilized for ministry. I see disciples from Resurrection in the City working with the people of northeast Denver to make a more appealing, united, and safe community.

Within three years I see a new pastor leading Resurrection in the City in loving and serving the people of northeast Denver.

I see people of all ages, genders, socio-economic groups, and ethnicities being brought into the Kingdom of God as we seek to bring about God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

After the first sharing of the vision, the room was very quiet. It was a lot to absorb, think about and reflect upon. In the following weeks, many hours were devoted to that good Lutheran question: “What does this mean?” There was past history to remember, good times to recall and celebrate, sad times to grieve, discussions about ministry opportunities and how to fund whatever we decided to do. God was at work, for in the midst of every conversation, there was hope.

Often we were reminded of the words from Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

OUR NEW VISION:

On October 14, 2012, the congregation officially adopted Pastor Schlechte’s vision for Mount Calvary. It’s no longer Pastor’s vision — now it’s our vision and we eagerly became Resurrection in the City Lutheran Church on Easter Sunday 2013!

IT’S NOW–RESURRECTION IN THE CITY LUTHERAN CHURCH!

Easter Sunday started with a scrumptious Easter Breakfast prepared by the men of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church. Worship opened with remembering the blessings of almost 75 years of ministry that God had poured out on the congregation — Word and Sacrament ministry, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, funeral and memorial services. There was confession for the times we had failed as a congregation to follow God’s leading, and there was forgiveness. Pastor Schlechte noted that in gratitude to our gracious God for His guidance and strength, we come together as a rebirthed congregation, with a new name and mission, Resurrection in the City Lutheran Church. We responded: As the baptized people of God, united with Jesus, walking in the newness of life, we go forward with the powerful Word of God and sacraments. Intentionally, we endeavor to proclaim the gospel in word and deed. Filled with the Holy Spirit and resurrection life, we will serve northeast Denver by bringing resurrection in lives, in homes and in community.

And then the congregation of Resurrection in the City Lutheran Church joined their voices with many guests from sister congregations in “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” Special music enlivened the worship. Rev. Quentin Poulson, Director of Urban and Inner City Missions for the LCMS, shared in the teaching time. Three baptisms — an infant, child and adult — were added reasons for celebration!

AREAS OF EMPHASIS

As we considered Pastor Schlechte’s vision for our congregation, we explored many different areas where we could focus our ministry. We’ve talked, prayed, considered, struggled, and asked God for His wisdom and guidance.

Our focus has narrowed to:

  • Connect with our neighbors
  • Discipleship
  • Engage with Inner City School. (We rent our school building to the Inner City School, but the principal and staff are eager to find ways for the church and school to engage with each other.)

Nearly ever person in the congregation is connected to at least one area to help it develop.

HERE’S WHAT WE’VE BEEN DOING:

  • Resurrection in the City has taken big steps to reach this point — thanks to many con- gregations who are walking alongside and committed to ministry in this part of Denver. As often happens when people lose hope — as Mount Calvary had, facilities and property suffer. We give thanks to God for the work of our members and those of sister congregations who have labored and supported the rebirthing! There have been numerous workdays, thousands of volunteer hours to clean and renovate our property, and miles walked in distribution of publicity for various events, including our Easter celebration. The prayers and words of encouragement give us energy to stay focused on our mis- sion.
  • Resurrection has new people worshipping and that causes us to celebrate God’s goodness in leading each of them to our midst. If we doubted that God would provide, all we need do is look around the church at Sunday worship. We see His Spirit is at work . . . and we have hope.
  • Our new front steps and front doors, fresh paint, brightly polished floors (gifts from sister congregations) and deep-cleaning throughout the building and property have had a profound impact on the congregation’s spirit. Newly completed landscaping around the church and community building is another dramatic change!
  • Ministry Action Teams are at work.The team engaging with Inner City School finds various ways to connect with students, family and staff, i.e., serve as judges for the school speech competition, host coffee for parents one morning each week, and support and encourage students and staff

    The Connecting with Neighbors Team engages with the community — host summer Community Fest and Saturday morning coffees as well as clean and pick up trash along York Street.

    One of the sub-teams explored the feasibility of a bilingual Child Development Center/ Early Learning Center. These conversations were in response to repeated comments from community leaders about the need for quality daycare, the importance of preparing children for school, as well as a possible means to bring the diverse communities in our neighborhood together. We wholeheartedly agree! At the present time, the reality is that the project is beyond our capability in people and financial resources. We did, however, see that God was leading us to connect with children in another way.

SOAR (Student Opportunities at Resurrection)

It all started with the question “How can we serve Harrington?” As the principal of Harrington Elementary School (a public school one block away) thought about the question, she commented that she’d often thought it would be great to serve coffee to parents as they bring their children to school. Her simple idea turned into a simple way to serve our community. A free cup of coffee often opens the door to engage in conversation and relationships have devel- oped.

Two significant events happened in the spring/summer of 2014 at Resurrection in the City.

  • Our congregation participated in “Planting Gospel Seeds While Serving Human Needs” interviews with agencies and neighbors in our community. One of the recurring themes was concern for children.
  • We were introduced to “Rebecca’s Garden of Hope” based in Orlando, Florida and its successful tutoring/mentoring program. Resurrection in the City entered into an agreement with this organization to use its template to develop a similar program.

At every turn, it was concern for children to succeed in school and in life.

We started our tutoring/mentoring program — SOAR (Student Opportunities at Resurrection) on March 3, 2015 with 10 students from Harrington Elementary School and Inner City School God is pouring out his blessings! SOAR’s mission is “Bringing hope to students as they grow in body, mind, and spirit.” Twelve tutors and eight volunteers share their love with children every Tuesday from 3:15 to 5:45 p.m. A healthy snack at the beginning helps students focus on their homework and enrichment activities. Following dinner, a closing devotion time focuses on Jesus and His love for each one of us.

At the present time, we have 17 children registered. Eighteen tutors and seven volunteers willing give of their time, energy and love to a make a difference in the lives of those children and their families.

God is doing amazing things at Resurrection in the City and through SOAR. We are exceedingly grateful for funding from an LCMS Domestic Grant, Rebecca’s Garden of Hope Grant and Thrivent Action Team Grant. Several individuals and LCMS congregations along the Front Range have provided generous financial gifts and in-kind contributions.

No doubt, God is at work! SOAR is soaring!

NEW VISION STATEMENT

Resurrection in the City adopted an updated vision statement in October 2015. Much of the former Vision Statement had been accomplished. As Resurrection in the City looks to the future, the following Vision Statement, adopted October 5, 2015 by the Board of Directors, is guiding their thinking and planning:

The life cycle of the butterfly, from cocoon to the newly emerged butterfly, describes the ongoing evolution of Resurrection in the City in urban northeast Denver.

Over the past three years, like the butterfly that comes forth from the chrysalis, the congregation has begun to “stretch its wings” in ministry to community and in renovation of property.

New thinking has surfaced. We’ve left behind “survival mentality” for an understanding of the need to love and serve community. As we stretch our wings in this endeavor, they are growing stronger, similar to the butterfly who stretches its wings as it emerges from the cocoon.

The butterfly symbolizes the resurrection. Christ, cocooned in the grave on Good Friday, bursts forth with new life on Easter morning.

We too, were once cocooned in our old sinful nature. Yet, through Christ’s atoning work on Mt. Calvary and his resurrection on Easter morning, we have new life. We are a new creation.

There are people in northeast Denver who remain wrapped in the cocoon of sin. Without the Good News of Jesus Christ they will never be free; they will never emerge with new life now or in eternity with Christ. The community institutions in our neighborhood are also cocooned in sin; created by God to nurture, yet often not understanding and living up to His calling.

We stretched our wings in developing a relationship with Harrington Public School, a turnaround school with similar values as Resurrection in the City. Hope bursts forth as students, staff, and parents are served. We see further relationships devel- oping in community with individuals and with other agencies.

While creation groans, waiting for the new heaven and earth, we see restored and renovated facilities utilized for ministry.

A significant portion of the campus at Resurrection in the City remains cocooned, waiting for restoration. By the end of 2016, we see a newly renovated gathering place in the Community Building. In 2018, we visualize a daycare building renovat- ed for use by Resurrection in the City and/or other groups for serving community.

We feel energy radiating into the city to bring new life to the people of northeast Denver. We hear a multi-cultural group of disciples speaking with their neighbors, restoring trust and respect between neighbors, businesses, government, and church. We hear the sound of prayer continually ascending to the throne of God for all in the city.

We see disciples of Resurrection in the City working with the people of northeast Denver to make a more appealing, united, and safe community.

Within two years we see a new pastor leading Resurrection in the City in loving and serving the people of northeast Denver.

We see people of all ages, genders, socio-economic groups, and ethnicities being brought into the Kingdom of God as we seek to bring about God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

PROPERTY RENOVATION

As often happens when people lose hope, property suffers as did our four buildings and a storage shed. Painting and cleaning up around the church was a relatively quick and easy way to let our neighborhood know that we are alive and that we care about our property. They are noticing and commenting.

New landscaping, retaining wall, concrete work and irrigation system around the church and community building has dramatically changed the corner of 36th and York. We are grateful for the support of the Rocky Mountain District, Metco Landscaping and DBC Irrigation Services.

Property is still in need of repairs—some major. There is still much work to be done.

YOU CAN HELP!

  1. PRAY! We desire your prayer support—individually and corporately.
  2. Participate in work days, servant events or prayer-walking and encourage others to join you.
  3. Help children grow in mind, body and spirit by tutoring at SOAR.
  4. Support Resurrection in the City financially for ministry and/or property renovation. Gifts may be given to Resurrection in the City Lutheran Church and designated for “Re-birthing.”
  5. Tell others about this exciting new mission in the heart of Denver—Resurrection in the City Lutheran Church. “Like” us at: http://facebook.com/resurrectioninthecity).

Please take time to share our story of hope, and let others know what we’re doing at Resurrection in the City.

%d bloggers like this: