All of us want to participate in something bigger than ourselves, to be connecte...
Nova Church, Denver, CO
By Rev. Katie Fowler
That was the question the leaders of Corona Presbyterian Church were wrestling with in the Fall of 2017. (Side note: Corona is named not for the global pandemic– as we are sometimes asked. Or, while we are on the subject, for the beer. No, when Corona was founded in Denver in 1904, the neighborhood and nearby school were also called “Corona.”)
They were searching for a new lead pastor and, of course, that raised questions of discernment. There was a deep love for the surrounding neighborhood, now called Capitol Hill (picture lots of millennials and older zoomers running around plus stunning views of the Rockies). But there was also a sense that something new was needed. The membership of Corona had been in decline for several decades. The surrounding area had become increasingly post-Christian. Many felt like there was a growing disconnect between the church and the neighborhood.
Lots of prayer and conversation and dreaming.
And a courageous decision was made.
“Let’s plant a church.”
In the winter of 2019, Corona called me and my husband, Chuck, to be their pastors. But they were clear from the beginning, our time and energy needed to go toward planting a new church focused on connecting with younger generations.
With lots of love and support from our former church, First Pres Colorado Springs, Chuck and I moved 60 miles north to the Cap Hill neighborhood of Denver. Our early days were filled with meeting neighbors, learning the area, gathering followers of Jesus who might be interested in starting a new church community with us, and embedding our life and daily rhythms in the neighborhoods of downtown Denver.
And then a pandemic hit (which, to be clear, was not named after our church). But by the fall of 2020 a core team had formed. A new church was born. Then in March of 2021, Nova Church launched our public worship gathering.
We know many of our neighbors are not interested in conventional forms of church. The days of “if you build it, they will come” are long gone for most. We imagine ourselves as a “hybrid model” of a church plant– a more conventional approach of a Sunday night worship gathering, discipleship groups, and an emphasis on missional living AND trying to figure out what God is doing far beyond the walls of a church building and joining God there, forming smaller expressions of the church (we call them wild branches).
In many ways, we are embracing a “both/and” way of doing ministry. One church that is almost 120 years old and another church that is about to turn two — two churches partnering together in the mission of God in our city. How does the new honor the existing? How does the existing bless the new? With Nova, the “both/and” looks like an emphasis on spiritual formation AND an active pursuit of justice and being a part of God’s mission. We see the goodness and beauty found in a local church AND we know that many have experienced harm in past church experiences– that is certainly true for many members of Nova. We see the richness of what God has done in the past and the very real need to re-imagine church in our context. God is constantly doing a new thing.
We used to say we have two churches and two kids and we are tired :) And then we had another baby this summer. But in this too, we are learning (again and again) that Jesus is present and at work. Our job is to join God there– to participate in what God is doing. The invitation is to enjoy life with God. And sometimes, thank goodness, that looks like taking a nap.