St. Laurence Episcopal Church and Risen Lord Lutheran Church have come to an historic agreement to share the same worship facility at 26812 Barkley Road in Conifer, CO. Both congregations agreed that it made sense to combine physical resources; however, the two denominations are not merging as one religious entity.
Once both congregations agreed this idea was worth pursuing, a synergy committee was formed with members of both churches to explore the feasibility of sharing a worship space. The committee met every Thursday for five months to identify needs, potential issues, re-arranging service times, logistics of space-sharing and other key details.
Members were assured during the transition that the individual identities of the Episcopal and Lutheran churches would remain completely separate. While there are similarities between the Episcopal and Lutheran church, the history and structure of each differ greatly.
Risen Lord Lutheran had been leasing a commercial location behind Aspen Park Village for the past three years and was seeking a more suitable worship space. Risen Lord Lutheran Interim Pastor Teri Hermsmeyer approached Reverend Nancy Malloy at St. Laurence with an idea in January 2017 to combine resources. St. Laurence owns their church building; however, like so many churches, raising money to keep the lights on and the doors open is always a challenge. St. Laurence had also launched a search for a new choir director and Risen Lord’s Music Director Jenny Lyons agreed to serve in this capacity for both churches. Many saw these factors as a potential win-win for both churches.
A contract between the two entities was drawn up with legal advice from The Episcopal Church in Colorado. The groups officially began sharing the St. Laurence facility the end of July 2017 with both congregations celebrating the accomplishment with a full communion service officiated by Rocky Mountain Synod Lutheran Bishop James Gonia and a potluck on the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 13, 2017.
Nomads from the Start
Both the Risen Lord and St. Laurence congregations had nomadic beginnings. A small group of people started an Episcopal Mission in 1980, holding their first services in the old Conifer Highlander Restaurant; however, circumstances led to relocation to the Grange Hall on Pleasant Park Road. Eventually, the congregation began meeting in the VFW Hall at Shaffer’s Crossing off Hwy 285 then services moved back to the Highlander banquet room followed by a move to Jackie’s Aerobics Studio on Conifer Road in Aspen Park.
After searching for a permanent home for five years, the right opportunity presented itself and members of the congregation pulled their financial resources together to purchase a 10-acre parcel of land on Barkley Road where the church now resides. Bart Hewitt, a founding member of St. Laurence, purchased an adjacent property to give the church right of way access.
Risen Lord Lutheran founders began meeting in the community center off Parker Road at Shaffer’s Crossing with an eventual move to the community center in Aspen Park then to the Stage Door Theatre. Most recently the Lutheran congregation called a storefront location behind Aspen Park Village home for three years.
A capital funds drive throughout 1985 and 1986 made it possible for St. Laurence Episcopal to have their own permanent church in which to meet. Groundbreaking was held on the day of the Feast of the Holy Cross, Sunday, September 14, 1986. The first worship service in the Barkley Road facility was held on Sunday, May 24, 1987. The church was consecrated on the Feast of Pentecost, Sunday, June 7, 1987.
In 1998, St. Laurence embarked on another capital funds drive, spearheaded by Father Larry Donahue, to provide funding for a Christian education addition. The original building and expansion were both designed by Brewster Caesar, an architect and founding member of the church.
A Quick Comparison
The Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. (ECUSA) is the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion…a “daughter” of the Church of England. “Episcopos” is the Greek word for “bishop,” thus “Episcopal” means “governed by bishops.” Nine dioceses met in Philadelphia in 1789 to form the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA. The first American bishop was consecrated in Scotland on November 14, 1794. The first American Book of Common Prayer was based mostly on the English Book of Common Prayer of 1662. Its consecration prayer was based on the Scottish Book of Common Prayer of 1764. St. Laurence is part of The Episcopal Church in Colorado and is identified as “All Find a Welcome.”
The Lutheran Church’s worship follows the ancient church’s form of liturgy (which means “work of the people”). Risen Lord is part of the Rocky Mountain Synod. Synod means “We Are Church: Better Together.” The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.7 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther. The ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988, by the merging of three Lutheran church bodies.