May 26, 1984 marked the day Dr. David McKenna (what a great guy!) handed me a Master of Divinity diploma and sent us forth into the world. We packed our stuff, loaded a truck, and headed to Colorado.
In March of that year we attended a preaching event in Lexington that featured Bishop Melvin Wheatley Jr. from the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. Sue and I went to the event and introduced ourselves to Bishop Wheatley. He was gracious and invited us to have a cup of coffee following the evening worship service. We actually met in his hotel room where he inquired about our Asbury experience and shared news from the Annual Conference. It was a great conversation but one that was also very sad. He was grieving the potential death of his son. While he was in Lexington, his wife was caring for their adult son who was in the last moments of his life.
Bishop Wheatley was a dignified man. He was easy to talk to and gracious to the end. He happened to mention that the Cabinet was having difficulty filling an Associate Pastor position in Fort Morgan, Colorado. It was hard to fill because the responsibility was dominantly focused on youth ministry. "Do you know anything about youth ministry." Our eyes lit up...that is what we trained for and dreamed of from day one. We thought we would either do full time youth ministry or serve small rural congregations like Genoa. So far, only part of that has come true.
Sometime in late April of 84 we got a phone call from Rev. Al Unger who was serving as the Senior Pastor of the Fort Morgan United Methodist Church. He inquired about our background, training, and our theological positions. Then he offered us a position. We said yes but wondered why we didn't hear from the District Superintendent. It seemed a little backwards but it was all good.
Our yes was complete even though we had no idea where Fort Morgan might be. We got out our map and started to dream. Those dreams came true! Al became a good friend and faithful mentor. I was honored to call him 'boss' and double honored to be a part of his funeral service a couple of years ago.
The Fort Morgan church loved us and gave us room to grow. Our youth ministry started off with a circle of four young people sitting on the floor of my office. Sue and I were the initial team and those kids were the nucleolus of things to come. The group began to grow, the church let us expand the youth room, and young people came to faith in Christ. Soon it was the fastest growing youth group in the Conference and the largest gathering of young people in the city. 50-75 young people came every Wednesday evening and the adult team grew with a group of faithful disciples. God was good!
I was in a meeting at the old Conference office when Rev. Bob Link and his DS partner Rev. Mason Willis quietly opened the door and invited me to join them in the hall. "We have a missional church that we would like you to consider. Where, we can't say. Are you interested?"
I must have nodded my head! By February 15, 1988 Sue and I were the new pastoral couple at the Longs Peak United Methodist Church in Longmont. Did you ever notice that when things change they often stay the same?