Under Construction

Establishing a new faith community is hard work for everyone involved. Nevertheless, I continue to believe that it is harder when one is without an official home. For Belong Church, we have been with a physical home in what was St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Our 107 year old building carries a full legacy and was home to many generations of people who followed Jesus. It is also 107 years old, which means that the building itself has character, charm, and room for a few improvements. 

We are blessed, however, to have the support of our governing body (the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference) who is working to make sure that this building can be a sustainable home for Belong. Over the last year I have been working with contractors, architects, and other vendors to begin to transform our building. Rather than offer a few updates here and there, I wanted to give you a full picture of the changes that have already taken place, as well as those that are to come. 

Restrooms

There are 5 restrooms in the building, and none of them are in good shape. In the next few weeks they will begin to be transformed into more functional areas for us. Here are the things to look forward to:

  • No gender designations on any restroom. They’re all single person use, so take your pick.
  • There will be two restrooms on the main level, one of which will be ADA accessible. 
  • There will be three restrooms on the lower level, one of which will be ADA accessible. 
  • The work on this should be complete within about 90 days. 

Accessibility

Keen observers might ask why we would need an accessible restroom on the lower level when the only way down there is via a set of stairs that might better be called a ladder. I’m glad you asked! We are adding a lift. It will be in the room on the northeast corner, at the end of the existing ADA ramp. It will mean that more of the church is accessible for more of our people. 

There is one possible down side to this particular improvement: there is a small possibility that our ADA entrance will not be accessible during construction. If there is a downtime, I expect it to be very short. We will make sure to communicate any changes before they happen, however at this point I am told that we should not experience any disruption!

Windows

There were many windows that are original to the building, most of them were not in great shape. After being painted shut for a generation, it is very hard work to restore them. We’ve been working since February, but finally the new windows are being finished up this week, and are back to their original look and functionality. They are beautiful!

Heating and Cooling

The windows are good for more than being beautiful- they also allow us to better ventilate the building. When they’re installed, it’ll be easier to keep things cool upstairs and downstairs. 

Yet, that’s not enough to fix extreme temperatures in the rest of the building. We’ve consulted with experts in helping to cool spaces like ours and have come up with a plan. In addition to the mechanisms already in place, we will be installing industrial grade vans to move air in the sanctuary and better venting fans to move hot air out of the building. These plans are underway, and they should be completed before the end of the summer. 

General cleaning and tidying

This one isn’t falling to any contractors. I believe it’s our job to help make our home welcoming and hospitable to all who enter. As such, we will come together on Saturday, August 19th, starting at 10am to help get the building looking the its very best. If you can spare a few hours, awesome! If you can offer 30 minutes, that’s great! Whatever your availability or time commitment, we can use your help, and there will be jobs for everyone. If you can’t make it that day, but you would like to come help out during the week, let me know and we’ll work something out. We are grateful to have such a great and caring community.

Bishop Karen Oliveto

Bishop Karen Oliveto

Belong Church is a part of the United Methodist Church. (Some folks wonder why we don’t have the cross and flame logo on our sign or “United Methodist” in our name. This is a great question for another day/essay.) We are Methodists in our processes and connection and Wesleyan in our theology. We are connected and supported by churches and clergy all over the world. We are overseen by a Bishop, Dr. Karen Oliveto. I have only known her for a short time, but in my time with her I’ve found her to be an inspired leader, an example of Christian charity and love, and a more than capable Bishop.

Bishop Oliveto serves Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. She has a Ph.D and has taught seminary. She loves Jesus, encourages discipleship, and equips all kinds of ministry. She was the pastor of an 11,000 member church in San Francisco.  She is a drummer and an amateur magician. 

There are some people who are objecting to her qualifications to be our bishop. Not because of any of the things I just mentioned. No, they object because she is a lesbian, and she is married to a wonderful woman named Robin. Because of these objections and challenges, a hearing will occur this week in which some people will try to have her election nullified.

When we first dreamed of what Belong Church might be, we dreamed of a community that was intentionally diverse, welcoming and inclusive of our LGBTQ family, and justice-loving. \

The idea of the Kingdom of God is the heart of our mission. We hope, pray, and work for a reality where God’s mercy, grace, and love prevail. We also recognize that we are caught in the tension between how things are now and how they will be when God’s love and grace prevail over all creation. We are not yet there, and the road between here and there is filled with Holy work. 

The United Methodist Church is experiencing this same tension between how things are and how they will be. There are some who cling to homophobic and heterosexist ideas and actively do harm. There are others who are well-meaning, Jesus-loving siblings in Christ who have a different way of reading and understanding scripture than we do. There are also many of us who are fighting for change inside this structure, praying for a day when we better reflect the love of Christ. 

Yet, we find ourselves in a position where the tension threatens to tear something apart. It is my prayer that this is not so. Rather, that the tension will give way to strength, that fear will succumb to love, and that animosity will be transformed into beloved community through the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. 


You are invited to pray for Bishop Karen. The Belong community has committed to spending an hour in prayer at 10am, tomorrow (Monday) morning as we prepare for a daunting week. If you’d like more information, I’ve included several links that give background information and explain the judicial process in more detail. If you’d like to discuss this further, I am happy to connect in person or virtually and chat more. In the mean time, I ask you to continue to pray for those you love, pray for those who you might not love, pray for that we may all come to better reflect the love and grace and peace of our Lord, Jesus. Amen. 

-Rev. Jasper

If you want to hear a reflection by Bishop Karen herself, click here:

https://vimeo.com/211536319

If you want to hear from the delegates who elected her as Bishop, click here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVaHEVhiyvE&feature=youtu.be

There are more well written reflections on her election at the links below:

http://hackingchristianity.net/2016/07/western-jurisdiction-laying-our-body-down-in-the-door-to-let-more-people-in.html

http://hackingchristianity.net/2017/04/united-methodism-at-the-threshold-of-a-constitutional-crisis.html

An Introduction

Dear Belong Family,

On March 1st, 2017, I will have the incredible honor of officially joining the pastoral staff of Belong in a full-time capacity.  Jasper and I have been working closely together from the very beginning, when our new faith community was just a glimmer in the eye of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. 

Because I am a relative newcomer to the United Methodist denomination, and an unfamiliar face to many of you, Jasper and I thought it would be prudent for me to introduce myself, and to share a little bit of my excitement, enthusiasm, hopes and dreams for our new church. 

Since graduating from Colorado Christian University in 2004, I have been involved in full-time pastoral ministry for almost 13 years, primarily in the area of Worship Arts.  I’ve had the privilege of serving churches from a wide range of denominational backgrounds and flavors, from non-denominational to Episcopal to Lutheran, Evangelical Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist.  I’m currently serving as the worship pastor of a non-denominational church in Arvada, a gracious and loving community that has encouraged my spiritual and leadership development, and fostered health and healing for me and my family.    

However, over the past several years, I have found my heart being drawn further and further toward expressions of faith that manifest in attitudes of inclusion and actions of social justice.  I have found that my theology and my perspective on many social issues no longer fit neatly within the “evangelical” box.  When I was introduced to Jasper by a mutual friend two years ago, I instantly knew I had found a partner and a kindred spirit (as Anne of Green Gables would say) in ministry.  Together we began to dream about what an inclusive, relevant, and life-giving Christian community in the city might look like. 

Music has always been a driving force in my life.  My parents met in the trombone section of the high school honor band, and my wife and I shared the drum major podium in our own high school marching band.  I played multiple instruments by the time I headed off to college, and picked up several more during my time in the music department.  I also began to develop a profound awareness of the importance of music and art in a liturgical setting, and a passion for serving the church through faithful, authentic, and excellent expressions of art. 

As we begin this journey together, I look forward to the challenge of developing a worship culture at Belong that reflects the values of our community: specifically those of inclusiveness, justice, and diversity.  My hope is that we will move forward into forms of artistic and musical expression in worship that are transformational, inspirational, and totally unique.  While my role at Belong will involve some broader pastoral duties and responsibilities, I am excited to spend a significant portion of my time crafting and curating meaningful liturgical experiences for those who worship at 1615 Ogden Street.

My wife Karissa and I have been married almost 14 years.  We first met in her grandmother’s 2nd grade Sunday School class, and fell in love under the fireworks during the summer before she left for college.  She is a classic beauty, an accomplished flutist, and the endlessly patient and selfless mother of our three children: Finley (8), Emerson (5), and Coraline (2-going-on-14). 

Thank you for all the grace and support you have already shown to me and my family.  We can’t wait to begin regular worship and involvement with all of you, working to bring about the Kingdom of Christ in our families, neighborhoods, and city.

Grace & Peace,
Justin

Inviting