Monday, September 03, 2012

Musings -- September, 2012 Newsletter

In my short time at Hilltop, I have tried to honor what has been “normative” at Hilltop.  This has been a consistent ethos in multiple areas.  As it relates to worship, I have been sometimes amused where my questions of “what is normal” for a particular element of worship are answered with “we don’t have a ‘normal’ on that.” For a new guy this is actually good! 

I pray that as it relates to worship and worship design we can be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Roberta and I work hard to create a truly worshipful aura or atmosphere for our worship time.  An example is we want there to be a clear beginning and end to worship and what happens in between that start and end is a combination of praise, prayer and proclamation.  That said, we are hopeful changes are subtle and enhance worship to the point they are not noticed.  We come back to the objective of creating an aura, an atmosphere, a mood.  It is our clear prayer that those who come to worship will depart spiritually fed by the harvest of music, word, prayer and sharing that goes on during our time together.  The entire worship experience contributes to a feeling of being spiritually sustained.
The church year is important to us.  For the foreseeable future, we will follow a flow of scripture provided by the church year along with special days designed to awaken in us memories from our past in community and how those memories and ideas shape us in the present and provide us an anticipation of the future.  The rhythms and themes of the year has historically given us a rich symphony that challenges us to live out our lives as Christians.  You will see us occasionally make a particular religious day important on a Sunday.  We will also endeavor to encounter some of our secular holidays and frame them looking for a less secular meaning.

French, Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote:  “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  We pray that as you enter into the space that is our sanctuary you have a spiritual encounter with the sacred.

By Pastor Dennis but written on behalf of all who contribute to worship leadership at Hilltop.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Fall Kick-Off at Hilltop

September is the month when football “kicks-off.” Television stations advertising is focusing on upcoming professional and collegiate games. Last Sunday Marilyn and I saw a local high school team practicing. The season has started.
September is “Kick-Off Month” for Hilltop as well.

September 9th is “Kick-Off Sunday.” For example, all the music ministry groups will return in September to enchant us with their musicality. Our United Methodist Women have their kick-off luncheon. Youth resumes. Christian education starts with a number of different offerings. Additionally we have baptisms and commissioning. The summer season is now over and we are back and there is a lot going on. 

I invite you to use September as a time to look at the various small groups or educational opportunities offered and engage. The Jesus of the Gospels stopped by fishing villages, tax collection booths and other remote locations in Galilee and invited humble, everyday people like you and me to join him in what ended up being a life, and world-altering encounter. Jesus’ personal kick-off with those invited encouraged them to “come and see.” He invited them into a fuller relationship with their God. 

My invitation is for you to come and see what is going on at Hilltop. And I invite you to find a Hilltop activity that will help deepen your relationship with your God and your Creator. 
  • If you have not been at worship for a while, let me invite you make attendance a weekly expectation for yourself. 
  • If you have been at worship but not taking part in religious education, let me invite you to so order your life to make your level of discipleship deeper and your theology more clear. 
  • If you have been in one group focused on religious education, and are not growing, let me invite you to change groups and see if the change will reinvigorate your growth. 
  • If you have a musical talent that is untapped, let me invite you to offer your talents in one of the Hilltop musical groups. 
  • If you have a desire to change the life of a child on a weekly or monthly basis, let me invite you to help children grow spiritually. 
This is the time when the sport of football “kicks-off” the season. Let this be for us at Hilltop the season where we kick-off a new, revitalized relationship with Hilltop, the people that make it the quality church it is, and God. 

Yours in Christ, 

Pastor Dennis

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


To the Cloud of Witnesses known to the world as Hilltop United Methodist Church.  To Marilyn and me, it will be home.    

Home is an important idea. 

In baseball we find profound theological insight by the terms used to describe the game itself i.e. sacrifice, as well as the overall objective of the game:  to get home, safe.

When I first came to Colorado in 1973 John Denver had just made popular a song about Colorado and how he was “Comin' home to a place he'd never been before.” 

When my replacement pastor here in Colorado was introduced to the church leadership last month, his wife said “I feel like I am home.”  Home should be a place of profound and deep safety, we know it when we experience it, and it is in fact a critical element in our life journeys. 

In Romans 12: 1-2 Paul invites the scattered house churches in Rome to be a “living sacrifice” on behalf of Christ in the world, and he encourages them to be different than the rest of the world.
Those are three important concepts as we write to you the last time in 2012 from afar:  home, sacrifice, different. 

The time is fast approaching when Marilyn and I will be with you there in Utah having come 'home to a place' we ‘have never been before’ and knowing we will be safe.  We know our shared future experience in community will be different than the world and we will be blessed by God through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Your prayers for us as we goal to finish well in Colorado and also goal to start equally well in Utah will be powerful and effective as we have faith that you are righteous people, i.e. James 5: 16.
Until we join you in the home that is Hilltop, know that Marilyn and I truly look forward to joining you in collaborative leadership.

Until then, know that both of us are simultaneously excited and humbled by the journey that lies before us. 

Until then, peace truly be with you,

Pastor Dennis

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cheering the Handoff

This will be my last article to the Stratmoor community as your Shepherd (the meaning of the word Pastor.)
I cannot tell you how proud I am to have been the pastor of this flock for more than eight years.  My initial conversation with key saints in 2003 told me that God wasn’t finished with Stratmoor yet, and they were open to the idea of change and new things.  Jerry Zoebisch and Bonna Campbell were two of the critical elements in the openness to different ideas being planted and nurtured.  We have been fruitful and I am proud to have been part of the nurturers of that fruitfulness.  The pronoun is “WE.” 

You should be proud of many things.  A few are:
  • Seeing the future in Easter (resurrection) terms and rejecting a theology that would call for you to be stuck at Calvary with death and loss.  Hopeful!
  • Reclaiming Sunday morning in 2007 and using the existing space to grow in new membership for the kingdom and to allow the economics to follow rather than lead.  Impressive! 
  • Thinking outside of the walls and boldly launching the food pantry on B-Street and Fox Meadow Middle School tutoring.  Jesus didn’t say “I’ll meet you at the temple” and rather He journeyed out in the wilderness to nurture those whom the temple community had forgotten.  Biblical!
  • Moving from a worshipping community composed largely of older adults with no children present to an exciting, vibrant community with an excellent blend of various ages and spiritual maturity.  Children’s time at Stratmoor, particularly at the non-traditional service is joyous and spirit-filled.  Exciting! 

Those are illustrative and not exhaustive.  At the end of John the author suggests to tell the entire story of Jesus would require far more space and time than he had available.  I, too, am so constrained.
This has been an exciting time to be at Stratmoor.  Christ the Lord is Risen Today! 
Marilyn and I leave with mixed emotions.  Excited for the new opportunities that lie ahead, prayerful that Stratmoor will continue to flourish and grow and sad that so many we love will not be in our daily lives. 

I am proud to have been your pastor this past eight plus years.  It will be a time in our story of joy, hope and affirmation.
Marilyn and I are so grateful for so many for so much, for your faithfulness, your support, and your grace.
I pray you shower Pastor David and his wife Donna with the same love you have showered on us.  God continues to do a “new thing” with Stratmoor and he most assuredly is not finished with you yet. 

God bless,

Pastor Dennis

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Resurrection People

We celebrate Easter every Sunday.

This has been a critical part of our self-identity for my time at Stratmoor.  I developed the phrase by combining ideas that Sunday worship should be a celebration and every Sunday is to be understood in terms of Easter.  It wasn’t hard to meld those two ideas into a phrase that spoke volumes about who I hoped we could and would be:  celebratory people finding hope in the resurrection story.

We are now in the midst of the seven week period that is named Easter. 

Easter at its core is faith in the related ideas that death does not define us and that God will roll away the stones which separates us from wholeness.

It is my prayer and hope that those related ideas continue to be part of the Stratmoor self-identity. The hope that was Jesus appeared to die on Good Friday and the disciples and his followers mourned:  hope was dead.  They discovered on Easter that hope was not dead, but very much alive.  Faith in the resurrection was the engine that powered the growth of Christianity.  The power of the idea that death does not define us gave so many previously without hope … hope.

I invite us in the Season of Easter to hold to the faith that we do celebrate Easter every Sunday. Every Sunday is a little Easter, and every Easter is a great Sunday and whether a little Easter or a great Sunday, we are to come into worship to celebrate.

We celebrate Easter every Sunday.  Let’s embody that phrase every week!  


Pastor Dennis

Sunday, March 18, 2012

God Calls Us from Places of Safety

On March 11th, the suggested material for the church year deposited grist on my mill (on behalf of God) John 2 and Jesus "cleansing" the temple.

The text in John is different from Matthew, Mark and Luke.  For example, in John, this scene happens at the start of Jesus ministry rather than at the end in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Perhaps a demonstration for the disciples of what this new rabbi was going to expect of them?  

          I wondered if John wasn't inviting us to see Jesus in terms of a new and different relationship with God.  

               I wondered if God wasn't perhaps calling us to leave the safety of the status quo (the temple) which included honoring our traditional ideas of what God expects of us and follow Jesus (the new "temple") as the embodiment of that different relationship with God.  

There was irony in this theme:  this was the Sunday of the announcement of my move from Stratmoor (in Colorado, my home for fifteen of my adult years) to Hilltop (in Utah, a place I have never lived.)

C. S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, answers the question if the Jesus character (Aslan the Lion) is safe:  "Safe?  Of course he isn't safe, but he's good."

Don't you wonder what the new disciples must have been wondering as Jesus is "cleansing the temple:"  'what have I gotten myself into with this Jesus guy?  Maybe I need to get back to dad tending those nets.'  


          But maybe, moving from a place of safety to a new and different place is exactly what God expects of us at a time of God's choosing, not our own!

Harvey Martz is the Senior Pastor at St. Andrew UMC in Highlands Ranch, CO.  He observes that it is challenging for us as leaders to espouse a change through us until it happens to us.  

To preach a message of leaving a place of safety where we think we understand our world to a different place requires understanding this Jesus might not be safe, but remembering he is most certainly, good.  


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pastor Dennis Resume

Current Appointment:  Stratmoor Hills United Methodist Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado:  Dennis has been the Senior Pastor since 2003 to one of the three fastest growing congregations in the Rocky Mountain Conference.  Stratmoor consists of over 250 multi-cultural members, constituents, youth and children in an area of high residential turbulence.  As a result of his and the congregation's prayers, faithfulness, and hard work, attendance, membership, and stewardship have tripled in the last eight years.  The Reverend Doctor Melanie Rosa, the District Superintendent, describes Stratmoor as the poster child for a Vital Congregation in the Mile High-Pikes Peak District. 
Dennis has been in ministry within the Rocky Mountain Conference of the UMC since 2000 in a variety of appointments.  He serves as an officer of the Conference through his duties as the Conference Statistician.  He is also Vice President of the Council on Finance and Administration. 
In 1994 Dennis retired as a Regular Army Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded a Legion of Merit, the second highest peacetime award upon retirement.  Military responsibilities included light infantry, human resource management, and cost analysis.  His assignments took him to Alaska, Colorado, New York, Virginia, Kansas, Korea and Germany with brief excursions to other European countries and Japan.  He attended the Airborne School (yes, exiting a perfectly good airplane while still in flight) and U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, among others.  At various times he was the first-line supervisor to as many as fifteen field grade officers as well as more than a 150 enlisted soldiers. 
Dennis has been an ardent student and practitioner of leadership his entire adult life.
Dennis has been published as an author of articles and letters-to-the-editor in 1776 (Army’s Human Resource Magazine), Army Magazine, Army Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post on a wide range of personnel, theological, and resource related topics.  He is competent in conversational Spanish spending eight weeks in Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, and Guatemala practicing.  He was the 2006 recipient of The Spirit of Rotary award in the Rotary Club of Colorado Springs.  He has served as the local board president for both Westside CARES and Family Promise (formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network.) 
Education is a core family value and as a result, he has an eclectic education focused on excellence with two degrees from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC:  a Doctor of Ministry, to be awarded May 7, 2012, and a Master of Divinity, 1999 (Summa Cum Laude) in addition to a Master in Business Administration (1979) from Rochester (N.Y). Institute of Technology, and a Bachelor of Music (1971) from Georgia State University in his hometown of Atlanta.  
Between 1982 and 1989, Dennis ran seven marathons (26 Miles, 385 Yards.) He qualified for and competed in the prestigious Boston Marathon in 1988.  He has skied in North and South America, Asia, and Europe.  He has golf clubs and spends time on a golf course, but to call it golf is a stretch.  His goal before he dies is to visit every Major League baseball stadium.  To say he's a baseball fan is an understatement.  There is theological meaning in a game with an objective to get home safe.
Dennis and Marilyn White have been married for nearly 25 years and are parents to a blended family with four adult children living in Virginia, Colorado and Texas.  Praise God!

Note Number 1 to Hilltop UMC

Sisters and Brothers in Christ at Hilltop United Methodist in Sandy, Utah!  

Marilyn and I are excited about becoming part of what God is doing at Hilltop United Methodist. 

In Matthew 28:20 Jesus gathers the remaining disciples on a mountain and uses these verbs:  “go … make … baptize … teach.”  That passage and those verbs are key elements of Marilyn’s and my spiritual formation.  In order to “go” we must leave places of safety and boldly and confidently answer God’s call.  Our Christian vocation is the intentional creation of new life-long students of the gospel realized through our relinquishment of worldly ways.  Everything we understand about Hilltop communicates Hilltop is a community with that spiritual grounding. 

I told the Hilltop Staff Parish Relations Committee that if we had been asked to write a description of a church where we would feel called, the description Hilltop provided was one we would have written.

We are impressed with what you are already doing

We are excited about joining the Hilltop Christian family on this journey.

We look forward to being at Hilltop in July! 

We see this as a sacred opportunity God has placed before us. 

We both ask you to be in prayer for churches relinquishing their pastors to other churches this year.  This is a time of anxiety you uniquely understand.  Your collective prayers for patience and assurance are powerful, knowing that God is at work and will provide. 

Yours in Christ,

Dennis Shaw