The Rewards and Challenges of Denver’s City Ministry
We found families in our new church home that we had known years before in the Plainfield, New Jersey and DeRuyter, New York churches. That was special to have them in our church family again. Soon we got to know our new Brothers and Sisters in Denver. The organist, it turned out, was related through her husband to my father. Uncle Elmo and Aunt Madeline were in Boulder and we had all holiday meals together in one of our homes. Was so special living near them.
The denominational Women’s Board was here in the Boulder/Denver area and I was quickly involved in that work. The next year I became secretary. I enjoyed all my work on the Board and learned so much. We had monthly meetings. One year I represented the Board at the International United Church Women Convention in Los Angeles, California. That was so special meeting and visiting with so many sisters in Christ in other countries including Communist countries. There were committed Christian women throughout the world. We had small group discussions as well as General Assemblies. A great week sharing and listening and growing spiritually. To God be the praise!
We had never served a big city church, so did not know what to expect. We found that the needs are the same as every church we had served. We found the “same” people housed in different bodies. People need sincere love, sensitive listening and encouraging. We quickly loved these new friends and co-workers in the Kingdom church. People felt welcome in the parsonage and came in often to visit. We were used to this and it helped us feel at home quickly.
Attendance was small when we arrived in Denver. Many area people no longer attended church. Edgar called in every home of church members as quickly as his schedule would allow. He wanted me to go along for the first visit, which I did. Edgar and I were always early risers so he went to his study around 5:00 a.m. so he could have some time for Bible study and meditation before interruptions began. I had that time alone to get my day started right before I needed to awaken Esther and Ernie for school and Catherine for her job at the Nursing Home. She decided to work a year and save before starting college. She also worked for a veterinary, thinking she wanted to be a vet herself. It was special having her home one more year.
Once a month they had a Fellowship Meal after church so Edgar suggested they have a “Home Coming” Sabbath that week and invite all area members to be our guests. Many were in church worship that day and remained for the meal after. More than one family began worshipping regularly again and became close friends. Most weeks we had some visitors in church and some became active members. Church attendance grew. We gave God the praise.
We were blessed with a large, enthusiastic, faithful group of young adults with young families. They began a Sabbath School Class called “Caraway Street,” patterned after Sesame Street and teaching the young children truths to apply to their lives, memory of Books of the Bible and many Bible verses. These young people asked Edgar to lead them in a Bible study each week, which he did. They began with “The Survey of the Bible” and progressed to topical studies. The women also had a Women’s Bible Study weekly. I began going to that, but soon realized I needed to offer to keep their children at the Parsonage during the study. I loved that and the women were glad to be free to get all they could from the study each week. Michele taught these women when Rich started medical school and they moved to Denver. We were glad they were still in Fort Collins during Catherine’s first year there. We really missed Catherine, but soon Helen was transferred to a Social Security office in Denver and again lived with us.
The entire church family welcomed her and was supportive and encouraging to her and to us. We got permission to partition the huge Family room in the basement so Esther and Catherine (when at home) could have a bedroom on one side and Ernie on the other side. Helen had the upstairs large bedroom and bathroom. David eventually slept in Ernie’s room at one end of the wide hallway up there. It had a window and cross ventilation.
Esther and Ernie moved to the partitioned bedrooms in the basement, and Helen had the upstairs room, hall and bath. Was so special having Helen home a year or so. She became active in the church and helped with “Caraway Street.” Rich and Michele had Nathan in August and in November David Christopher was born. The following January Brian Ashby was born and Christen Lee in March and Michael Edgar in May. Was nice to have some grand children now in Colorado. We really missed Catherine being at home with us.
I babysat for David when Helen went back to work. It was so special having Helen at home again for a year or so. When David was nine months old, Helen was transferred back to the Clarksburg, West Virginia Social Security office. How we missed Helen and David but she was glad to be back in West Virginia again. We adjusted in time.
The winter David was born, a neighbor, Jocille, asked me if I knew anyone who might baby sit her newborn son, Preston, when she had to go back to work at United Airlines at the airport. I thought one of our young mothers might want to baby sit to make some extra money and be home with their child. No one wanted to do that, so I told her I would do it for her but did not want to be paid for it. We became fast friends and David and Preston were little chums as they grew together. Preston missed David, too, when they moved. Jocille borrowed my hand flour grinder to grind her own wheat berries into flour. It is not easy work! As a result, she bought us a gift of an electric stone ground flour mill since I would not accept pay. What a wonderful, useful gift we still use today! Preston had a sister, Meredith, and we kept both children while Jocille worked until we moved. We hear from them every Christmas and have followed both children’s “squash” career. Both have earned gold medals in the Olympics in “squash” competition. Their father was a “squash” professional on a team. They both played squash when very young. When I began caring for both children, Jocille insisted she pay me and I did let her do that until we left.
Immediately after our arrival in Denver, Edgar realized he was expected to report to some Diaconate members on his daily calls and other activities. By the third year, they discovered Edgar would listen but he answered to God in what he did and not to man. This did not sit well and more and more they began “telling him” what he was to do and criticize things he had done. Attendance at worship continued to grow and many were baptized and some joined the church. Everyone was openly supportive of Edgar’s ministry except his deacons and deaconesses. He just would not let them dictate what he was and was not to do.
The “Head” deacon, Dr. Ted Horsley, and wife took us out with other families, at times, to fancy restaurants and at least once to a Dinner Theatre. They bought Edgar a proper “black” suit and me a “proper” evening dress for formal occasions. We thanked them and wore those outfits on occasion. It was not until later that we began to feel that they were laying groundwork for “buying” our loyalty and support of them, especially at business meetings. Some diaconate members almost avoided visiting with us. They were friendly if we drew them out in conversation but never initiated a visit. Other deacons and deaconesses were friendly and open the first few years and freely visited us in our home and invited us to their homes. Edgar was able to work closely with the Diaconate in planning and carrying out ministry that helped us as a “family” grow closer in Christian love and respect one for another.
I remember one morning Helen started to work and on the other side of the church as she went down the drive she saw sleeping bags on the patio with people in them. She came back in our drive to tell her Dad. He went over and invited them in to eat with us which they did.
Esther and Ernie walked along the canal at the edge of our back lot to the footbridge to cross and go on to school another block or so. More than once Ernie brought home sleeping bags “he found.” He also found a lady’s purse with ID and meds in it, a stereo and speakers “almost” covered with leaves and brought them home. The police were getting used to us calling them. I told Ernie not to bring any more sleeping bags home. That was someone’s bed and they would need it next night. One evening he hurried inside and quickly said, “Mom I found another sleeping bag but I did not bring it home.” In the midst of my praising him he added, “Someone was in it.”
A homeless shelter for street people in mid-Denver was two homes away on the other side of the church building. Edgar let them, welcomed them, to play basketball where we had a hoop mounted in our church parking lot. Some church members complained to them and they quit coming.
One summer we had 2 bicyclists from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota stop and asked if they could sleep in the church building that night. Edgar let them and we invited them to eat breakfast with us. They were bicycling to the West Coast up the coast to Oregon and back to Minnesota by school time again. They said they would let us know how the trip went. We heard nothing, but Christmas time we had a “Thank you” again and a full agenda of their travels. They did bike to Los Angeles then put their bikes on a train and went by train up the coast and then back home. We were glad we had helped them a little along the way. Could have been one of our own adventurous children.
I remember an obscene phone call I had one evening that shocked me so much I said, “I cannot hear you. Can you repeat that?” I heard the same filthy language but that time had time to think and said, “I’m sorry, I cannot hear you. This connection must be bad. Give me your number slowly and I will try to call you back.” He did and I noted it and called the police, hoping a police woman would call back instead of me. They explained that if they did and charged someone it would not hold up in court because they tricked the man. I was not so smart, after all. The police woman came to the house though and took all the information. I never heard from the man again thankfully.
This reminded me of the only other obscene phone call I ever had. That was in the middle of the night at Conference when we were staying in a school dorm. Again I could not believe what I was hearing and said, “I don’t know who you think you are talking to but I will let you talk to my husband,” and handed the phone to Edgar. When he answered whoever it was hung up. He never awakened us again that week of conference.
Always we felt the love, support and encouragement of all the church family except the deaconate and fortunately they only met once a month. By the time things reached a climax, not one deacon openly supported Edgar. The wife of one of the younger deacons came to Edgar with things she knew about Dr. Horsley’s personal life that “did not match what the scripture says a deacon should be,” she said. She really wanted to do the right thing and wanted Edgar’s help doing it. She was willing to meet with Edgar and the Dr. and as brothers in Christ talk about this thing. Before the meeting time she called Edgar to let him know that maybe she was wrong about Dr. Horsley so there was no meeting.
Actually Edgar was already “informed” of what she had revealed to him by others who knew also. He was seeking God’s timing, leading and wisdom in how God wanted him to bring the subject up to the Doctor. One of the deaconesses sometime later came to Edgar thinking Edgar “knew” of the doctor’s straying morally, and felt she must apologize to him for not telling him what she knew to be true earlier. Now Edgar knew he must confront the Doctor with the concerns of this Diaconate member and ask him, if her concerns are true, to step down as “Head” deacon for the sake of God’s Kingdom work until he can “clear” his name and straighten up his life. Edgar got an appointment to see the doctor and visit with him. Very soon all the diaconate knew of Edgar’s conversation with the doctor.
The regular quarterly church business meeting was very soon and everyone gets a copy of the meeting agenda when they arrive. Under “correspondence” at the beginning of the meeting the secretary had several letters of resignation from diaconate members. The first one read was the Doctor’s letter stating that “the Pastor has asked me to resign as a deacon so I am asking the church to take my name off of the “Diaconate”. Someone, as if prompted already, made a motion to accept his resignation letter to be discussed under new business. Everyone voted “yes”. They read another letter stating that “because Ted Horsley had been asked to resign, and is resigning, I am resigning as a deacon also”. Again someone quickly made a motion to “not accept other diaconate member resignation letters at this time but ask other deacons and deaconesses to reconsider and if, at the next regular business meeting, they still want to resign submit their letter again.” This was quickly seconded and soon voted through with no objections.
Under new business the Doctor’s letter was again read and discussed. Someone made a motion to accept the Doctor’s resignation. It was seconded. There was some discussion and in the end only the doctor’s wife objected to his being removed from the diaconate. This was a tense business meeting but we as a family of God had done what each felt we had to do as Christians. Not too long after this, the Doctor and his “new wife” moved from the Denver area. How very sad that this has to be some of the DenverChurch history. It humbles us and we feel bad it had to be. We especially felt for Mrs. Horsley and worked to help her through her very difficult trauma days. I don’t believe any other of the deaconate asked to resign.
Diaconate members were all so “unChrist-like” as I saw them and I really questioned whether I could take Communion from their hands the following Sabbath. I began to pray earnestly about what I should do. The deaconate roped off every other row so they could personally serve each one in the congregation. “How would it effect others if I refused to take communion that day”? God indeed is good. He taught us true forgiveness. During our roughest days we prayed “without ceasing,” wondering what God wanted us to do. I heard two times a voice in my heart saying, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.” I knew I must forgive and concentrate on being Christ-like, myself. God, in his time and then justly, would judge other people. That was not my job. A huge weight was lifted immediately and I was able to see diaconate members in a new light – sincerely doing what each thought was right. God truly works in every experience we have to equip us to better serve Him preparing us for what He knows is still ahead.
Slowly, things with the Diaconate changed. Edgar and I both felt the need to make a call at the Cox home to get to really know them, their day by day lives and how we might need to support and encourage each of them. Myrna asked us to come for a meal and bring Esther and Ernie. We were so glad to do that. It was a great evening of sharing and learning to really begin to know their family, finally, as we shared dreams, concerns and blessings. The children went to the basement after supper to play games down there. We could openly share personal feelings. Gary and Myrna felt the need to explain why they had tried not to be too friendly with us at church. Myrna said that they and the Horsley’s had been accused by church members in years past of causing the recent Pastors to leave the church. They and the Horsley’s, at the Doctor’s suggestion, had agreed together to not be too close to the new pastor and that is why they have only tried to be “supportive” of Edgar.
Now we knew why the Cox’s seemed to hesitate to really be open and friendly with us. We shared heart to heart and it was very revealing of their honest desire to be supportive. I said “That is really strange to hear of your pact with the Horsley’s before we arrived, for Edgar does not dare go to bed each evening until the Dr. has called to find out what Edgar has or has “not” done that day, and he is free with advice, also.” They were obviously shocked but I spoke truth and it was too late to take it back so I could only say I was sorry I revealed that truth to them.
As we returned home, we felt really good about our visit that evening and were assured that the Coxes were sincere and wanting to be supportive in ministry. We were so thankful we finally initiated the visit. We just got home and “the phone rang”. Edgar went into his office to answer it. During our ministry in Denver we were always careful not to share with anyone things we were told as we visited in homes. It was Dr. Horsley, and maybe he knew we were going to Gary and Myrna’s and called them to see how the evening went but some way he knew some of our conversation and challenged Edgar openly because of my telling them about his phone calls each day to check on what Edgar had or “had not” done.
Things got openly worse from this point on. The diaconate got more “demanding.” One older and supportive deacon died and an older and very supportive couple (both deacons) moved away to warmer climate.
Edgar and I continued to feel God’s leading and knew His blessing. Looking at church records we noted that the last four anyway ministers had left the active church ministry from this church. Pastor Al Rogers went to the Memorial Board from here; Pastor Ken Smith became President of Milton College from here; Pastor Warner went into secular work and Pastor/Missionary John Conrad developed Multiple Sclerosis and retired from pastoral ministry. We could only guess how this happened from our own experiences here. We determined we would not become discouraged and quit. God called us here and He will not forsake us but lead us to victory.
One diaconate meeting the deacons insisted that I must attend so I did. What an eye opener. Edgar asked if he could record the meeting for his own reflection later and they said, “No, their meetings are secret – just between them.” I was prepared with pen and notebook in case they said, “No.” I took notes on every critical word they said, so was never invited to attend a meeting again thankfully. The whole meeting was spent tearing Edgar apart, then at the close they had a prayer time asking God to bless the things said and done!
Edgar had a call to the North Loup, Nebraska church and was personally interested but knew he must stay on to finish what he had started and trust God to give him patience, wisdom and love to minister to the larger church family. He was not going to quit nor let the diaconate cause him to leave.
There were certainly things about a large city ministry that we only had samples of before. Occasionally, we had had someone stop, wanting money for food or other family needs. Now in Denver it was almost a daily experience. Talking with other pastors as far away as Boulder sometimes they had made the rounds. If a family was hungry I fixed more than one meal and set them down at our table to eat with us.
By the time we had another call, the diaconate were working together with the pastor again. All the trauma had messed up Edgar’s stomach and digestive system, but he now had a church family working together to build up and support one another as they served the needs of the community. It seemed the time to leave and let a new pastor come. He was “choosing” to leave, not being “voted out.” People were supportive and understood this was God’s leading. Edgar had a call to his home church in Nortonville, Kansas. It seemed the right time to make a change. Esther and Ernie were in the first year of High School – Esther 10th grade and Ernie 9th grade. They lived with Leon and Linda so they could start school the first day and not have to move again in late November. It was hard to leave them and return to Denver but knew this was best. Leon and Linda, Jon and Coral welcomed them. When it was time for Edgar and I to leave, the church surprised us with a big party and a gift of a set of china and goblets for sixteen place settings. A deaconess had bought the gift.
We Serve Edgar’s Home Church
Helen and David moved South of Topeka, Kansas that Fall of 1981. Again Helen was transferred. They came to Nortonville weekends and stayed with us.
We moved to Nortonville the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Rain clouds chased us the last few miles. I had plants and TV and things that might break in the car. The truck had arrived just ahead of us and it had been unloaded and all things in the house. We quickly unloaded our car when we arrived. The rain arrived in a cloudburst. We were in the dry. Leon and Linda, Jon and Coral brought Esther and Ernie home. We were a family again. We had a beautiful fern in the front picture window, a welcome gift from Helen and David. The church had bought the home next door for a parsonage, and it turned the old parsonage into a Parish House, pastor’s study and S.S. classrooms. We were happy in the smaller home. It had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths besides the large living room, dining room and kitchen. The basement was finished and we partitioned off 2 bedrooms with solid drapes. Worked well and I had two double beds and some folding cots down in the basement. Our laundry room, game room and cellar were down there. We had a back covered patio with a hanging swing. How we enjoyed that. Soon, Nortonville was home.
I was asked to be the “Story Lady” at the local Library one morning a week for an hour. The former pastor’s wife, Muriel Osborn, had done this and they loved her. She had a degree in Early Childhood Education. I did not. I would have pre-school children and this was challenging but I could not tell them, “No.” I loved that time with town preschoolers and thankfully had no discipline problems. I had no helper and 12 to 15 children most weeks. We prepared a program twice a year for the residents in the nursing home which was very close to the library and we walked over there. That was fun for the children and for the residents. I used a lot of repetition so we sang the same songs to start our Story Hour each week and had a song we sang when it was time to go to the Story mat so I could read books on various themes. Another song when we moved to low tables and chairs for our related craft. Time went quickly and I loved those children. We had a Christmas cookie decorating party in the Parish House each Christmas which the children and their mothers loved. I am thankful I had that experience. I looked forward to that each week.
The Church women in Nortonville had never had a Church Women United emphasis. I talked it up and we invited women from each of the five churches in the small town of Nortonville to attend an organizational meeting in our parish house. We talked about community needs we might work together to fill. Women from every church, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Christian and Seventh Day Baptist were there. They were excited to work together to start a used clothing Bank where anyone could come and get free clothing. We advertised for clean used clothing and worked one day a week to mend, iron, wash if necessary and organize items to give away. Many women helped weekly. The fellowship was great. Our Clothing Bank was soon open two days every week in our Parish House. Women from every church actively helped and many hands made light work. Through this Clothing Bank we were able to minister to other special needs that surfaced as we visited, and God used us to draw our churches in town into His Body in Christ as we served Him together. Was a good experience for all of us.
I taught a Sabbath School class wherever we lived. This was always time consuming all through the week and such a joy as I related to children of whatever age, PreSchool to Jr. High. I grew, too, as I prepared and taught Bible truths to live out in life.
Edgar did not get his stomach healed all during his ministry in Nortonville. He had come full circle and was back in his home church that had first licensed him to preach. God had protected him from teenage rebellion many youths live through. Area people knew him as a hard working, conscientious youth, so the whole town welcomed him home and he was able to minister to many town people as well as to his own congregation. Families that had dropped out of regular worship returned and were active and faithful again. God blessed his ministry, and it was special for me to live two doors from Edgar’s mother and across the street from brother, Charles, and wife, Reba. Also Merlin and his wife, Juanita, were in church and lived in neighboring Leavenworth. I got to know, respect and really love Edgar’s family and friends I had only known by name. Being in Nortonville was good for all our family. Edgar loved to go out to the farm and spend time walking around. The barn was being taken down by a church member for the good lumber from it. Edgar happened to be there on a windy day when suddenly the barn began to creak and soon swayed and caved in on itself as he watched. An emotional moment. He was glad he was there. No one else was around. The farm home was gone and only the washhouse and cellar behind the house were left. Edgar painted and did some repairs to preserve them.
The second Christmas, all our family got home except Ruth and Walt and girls. Willy and Jen had been married that fall. Leon and Linda and family lived in Nortonville, Helen and David in Kansas, Richard and Michele came from Denver where he was in MedicalSchool. Rob, Connie and family came from Ord, and Ace and Annita and boys from Detroit, Michigan area. Noëlle came from the Phoenix area and Catherine Jeanne came from Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she was in graduate school. Was so special having that many home together. God is so good. What a blessing our children are. A true gift from God. How much we learn about God as parents ourselves: Love, patience, grace, forgiveness. The more children we had, the more love God gave us to “love” each one equally. I might never have learned that.
Many staid upstairs in the old parsonage and we ate our Christmas dinner over there. What a celebration, and Edgar’s mother joined us. Other relatives visited during the day. Someone got the “pig” game and what fun they had playing that in the evening. Edgar took everyone on a guided tour of the home farm, school he attended and Seventh Day Lane where the original church was built and later moved to Nortonville as well as the parsonage. Lots of history. Think Robert recorded the Tour on his movie camera.
Leon’s family often came for supper Friday evening before Bible study and prayer time. That was special. Leon graduated from college, then went to Seminary in Kansas City. Harold King and Don and Charlotte Chroniger were there, too, and all came to church regularly. Because so many people traveled long distances, the women decided to have a Fellowship Meal each week for any who wanted to stay. This was well attended and good fellowship and people continuing to visit leisurely through the afternoon at times. How we missed Leon’s when he was called to Ashaway and went there as pastor. Life is change in process, for sure.
While we were in Nortonville, Helen and Kenneth Brannon were married. This time all of our children got home to help in the great celebration. My brother, Rex, and his wife, Phyl, came, too. Everyone helped and many hands made the work easier. Esther had taken an adult course in cake decorating in Denver and she was really professional. Her cakes were beautiful for every occasion. She is and was a real artist. Ken and Helen and David may have lived another year in the Kansas City area so we saw them every weekend. How we missed them when they moved to Adam Center, New York, up near Watertown and the Canadian border. Catherine Jeanne and Gentry Gamble were married shortly after Helen and Ken in Louisiana.
Before long Esther was looking at colleges and we were glad she chose a school not too far from home. She went to Topeka where some church friends were going, also. She came home weekends, which was special for us. Then, next thing we knew Ernie was graduating from High School and off to college a little further away, but many weekends he got a ride home with other friends from Nortonville. He was in KansasState at Manhattan, Kansas.
The summer after Esther’s first year of college she spent the summer in Summer Christian Service Corps in Riverside, California. That summer Baron was born and Esther decided to take off a semester of school and take care of him so Catherine could continue medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans. She did that. In the fall, Edgar turned sixty-five and Catherine asked if he was ready to retire and, if so, would we come to live with them until she finished medical school. Edgar considered it and the more he considered it the better it sounded and we knew Catherine needed help she could count on and we really wanted Esther to go back to college the second semester. Edgar’s health continued to be not good so he announced in the church worship that he would retire on February 1, 1986.
Edgar’s last Sabbath was a big celebration of his ministry with many family members present and many town friends at church and the afternoon celebration. It was very touching and a combination of sadness and celebration. It was so hard especially to move away and have Esther and Ernie feel they have no home to come home to now. They knew they could stay with Grandma but we knew that would not be the same. It was emotionally traumatic for each of us to leave them in Kansas and be so far away in Louisiana. Robert and Connie and family came for Sabbath day. Connie took the girls back to her parents near Omaha, Nebraska, and Robert and the boys traveled with us to Catherine’s. Robert had his pickup truck with some of our things in it. Bill and Marie Prentice who were church members drove a cattle trailer down with the rest of our belongings.
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