On Wednesday, October 30, 2013 I was asked to share a “live tribute” at the final ceremony of Pathways Church as it closed down its ministry after a 20-year presence in Denver. For more on the staff & elders decision to shut down the church and sell the building, read here. I got choked up in front of 500+ people as I shared the following tribute….
Today, my husband Tim and I co-pastor at Platt Park Church, which is the congregation that was formerly called Pathways, Wash Park. We changed our church name a little over a year ago, but we have deep roots in the Pathways story in this city.
Pathways’ closing feels very bittersweet to me – and I think bittersweetness is a good thing. (Thank you to Shauna Neiquist for this metaphor!) Life and faith are best when we embrace both the bitter and the sweet. Nothing but sweetness rots both our teeth and our souls. The bitterness is what makes us strong and forces us to push through – it’s what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the most inspiring stories that we share. Bittersweet times can be beautiful because they are seasoned, deep, and rich with wisdom and courage. Our being here together tonight is bittersweet in the best possible way.
On the sweet side of this story…
During its Grant Avenue days, Pathways offered people in this city a safe place to deconstruct and reconstruct their beliefs about God, it provided a relaxed yet reverent space to worship, and it provided an incredible community that felt like a family to many people.
During the South High school days, Pathways was a vibrant place of service and outreach. Rwanda mission trips, Denver serving days, and small groups like the Front Door and Deepen gave countless people a place to serve and find friendship in this city. When Pathways moved out of South High school, the faculty did not want us to go.
On the bitter side of this story…
When things went sideways organizationally in 2008-2009, Pathways was the crucible where many of us learned to be brave. We learned that there is life on the other side of ministry heartbreak, and we came to realize over time that even when the places and people we love most are blown up and stripped away – God is still there. We learned that certain gifts can only be found on the other side of life’s brokenness, disappointments, and hardship. Some of us reluctantly received those gifts because of Pathways’ struggle. Even if we would never have chosen that painful process for our church community, God has used Pathways for growth and formation and transformation in our lives.
On the sweet side for me personally…
Pathways provided me with early opportunities to serve the church. My first times to ever preach a sermon, lead a marriage seminar, or dedicate a child were at Pathways Church.
The most wonderful gift Pathways has given me, and probably you too, is some amazing relationships. Here is where I have intersected with some of the most passionate, creative, unique and wonderful people I know. Some of my favorite people in the world are people I met at Pathways. You all, the people of Pathways have left a forever mark on me. I will never be the same because of you, and I thank God for you. I thank God for the many lives that have been impacted here. I thank God for the many people who came to faith and came back to faith here. I thank God for the formation he has worked and is still working in so many of us because of this place. I thank God for Pathways Church, and I trust that God will capture every bitter and every sweet memory for His gracious purposes in our lives. May He bless and companion each of you always into new pathways forged by His power and love.