When two pastors of ethnically-diverse churches became close friends, they decided to bring their congregations together in a joint worship.
Aware of COVID pandemic regulations, the attending believers registered ahead for the worship service, and more than 300 of them from the Littleton and Denver Park Hill churches gathered on the Mile High Academy sports field on Sabbath, October 3, 2020.
The church service bulletin explained the reason for the gathering. Pastors Andy Nash, Chris Morris, and Alise Weber from Littleton church, and Kelby “Mac” McCottry from the Denver Park Hill congregation talked with their church leaders about a joint service and the response to the idea was "overwhelming" among all ages. "If our Savior Jesus Christ prayed for us to be together, and if we’ll be together in heaven, why shouldn’t we be [together] on earth?” they asked.
Many congregants sported “Together, John 17:23” T-shirts, distributed to registered worshipers. The joy on their faces, a mosaic of ethnicities worshiping together, was in clear evidence.
The worship featured a 20-minute sermon by each pastor; their theme based on 2 Timothy 1:1-14. Each congregant received a vintage booklet provided at no cost by Thomas Nelson Bibles. “When Thomas Nelson heard about our event today, they immediately said they wanted to be a sponsor,” Nash informed the congregation.
A livestream of the event began with a welcome message by Ed Barnett and Roger Bernard presidents of Rocky Mountain Conference and Central States Conference respectively. They expressed their joy at seeing believers from both territories of the Seventh-day Adventist Church come together.
“Our Littleton church joining with the Denver Park Hill church from the Central States Conference and meeting at Mile High Academy for all-day services was fabulous,” Ed Barnett commented to the Rocky Mountain Conference NewsNuggets' staff.
“I felt bad that I was out of town and not able to join the celebration. Having heard comments from several of our members, I would say that it was a tremendous day. Praise God for the comradery between our brothers and sisters from two different conferences and ethnic backgrounds that are ministering in the same territory. Truly a picture of what heaven will look like,” he added.
This was long overdue, several church members commented. “It’s up to us not to do it in a symbolic manner only, but also to cooperate in joint projects. We are neighbors, serving our community in Denver, aren’t we?” said George Pelote, stewardship director from the Park Hill church.
Among the most welcome outcomes of coming together to worship was the feeling of being like a family, a community in need of camaraderie. It was not difficult to meet students from the school, past and present. Among them were two former students, James Harris from Park Hill, and Kyla Dixon, a member of Littleton Church.
Harris commented that it was nice fellowshipping with everyone outside. The area churches should also come together in the future, he said. “I know Park Hill has been on its own and it’s nice to see [us] coming together with everybody as well,” he added.
Dixon agreed. “It was awesome meeting everybody and intermingling, meeting new faces. It was pretty cool,” she shared.
Bringing People Together
The gathering of fellow Christians more than met the expectations of both pastor-friends. Following the Sabbath service, they shared their personal comments. McCottry said: “Oh, yes. [We need to do this] way more. Way more. Just to see people coming, worshipping, and fellowshipping together — regardless of membership, regardless of color of skin. This is what I wanted to see.”
Andy Nash said that the days of preparation were worth the effort and shared what many people said most: “We should do this more. Why haven’t we done this more? This began out of friendship for pastor Mac and me, and now we see other friendships forming. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.”
As pastors, they recognize a need to encourage and bring people together, and not just for one worship event.
“God brought us together for such a time as this,” said McCottry. “To see what’s happening in the world, in the United States, but to know that we can be a model, that we can still love each other. We may worship in different places, may have different preferences and different styles, but still we are God’s children together. The whole purpose was [coming together] to show that this is how it can be; this is how it’s going to be in heaven, so let’s do it now.”
Nash believes that what they did together could be done elsewhere in the church. “People are desperate for something to be hopeful and positive about. What’s missing in many of the conversations in our country is Christ. As humans we cannot solve problems, but in Christ, there is, as we said today, dunamis, dynamite, and power in Him, as we look to Him together.”
The day continued with a picnic lunch together, followed by a shared service project packing food boxes. The time together ended with everyone’s favorite food — s'mores.
“We will have vespers, along with s'mores, glowsticks, and a huge Capture the Flag game, which I think should be kids versus adults. Timothy vs. Paul,” Andy Nash announced. More than 100 believers accepted his invitation.
— Rajmund Dabrowski is communication director of the Rocky Mountain Conference; this article originally appeared on the Rocky Mountain Conference website.