November 2016 Faith Reflections 4

A New Era of Defiance in Glenwood Springs

On Easter Sunday this year, pastor Matt Shedden and his family celebrated not one, but two rebirths: that of Christ, and that of their church in Glenwood Springs. Known as Glenwood Mennonite for more than 60 years, the new Defiance Church unveiled a name change and a refreshed mission as part of its plan for revitalization—and Shedden is looking forward to seeing where it will take them.

Founded in the mid-1950s, the church’s origins are tied closely with those of Valley View Hospital. A group of Mennonites, summoned to Glenwood Springs to help open the medical facility, at the same time established a church of their own here. Many from this group of transplants ultimately settled in Glenwood Springs, continuing to work with the hospital’s administration and volunteer force for decades. Their church cultivated a modest but beloved place in the community, despite variations in membership over the years.

Recently, the Glenwood Mennonite congregation felt ready for growth and change. Pastor Shedden, together with his wife Kelli and their infant daughter Roosevelt, relocated to the valley from Oregon in the summer of 2015 to help the church realize a new vision. Six months later, Defiance Church has emerged from the foundation that Glenwood Mennonite laid so long ago. Shedden recently met with Roaring Fork Lifestyle magazine, taking a moment to reflect upon the changes and what he hopes they could bring in years to come.
Lifestyle: Why the name Defiance Church?

Shedden: In our church, we give three reasons for our name: First, that it is the historic name of Glenwood Springs, so we say it names where we live and love. Second, that it reflects a small part of our Christian tradition, but also, it names that, at times, we are called to be at odds with what the culture states is important. Finally, that we worship a God, who in Jesus Christ, defies death.

Lifestyle: How are you re-shaping the church’s vision and mission?

Shedden: We’re still in the early phases of this. I love to tell people to come join us and help it take shape. However, overall, we’re looking at being a church that inspires practices for people rather than a church of programs. People are so busy in this world. I think sometimes the church says to us to stay busy, but busy with the “right things”. What Defiance Church believes is that our Sunday gathering forms, teaches, and calls us to live out of where we already are. And, hopefully in the end, we find ourselves drawn into the sabbath rest of God.

Lifestyle: What can a visitor expect during a Defiance Church service?

Shedden: We read scripture, sing modern and ancient songs, and break bread for the life of the world. We offer prayers and intercessions, and then receive a blessing and a sending-forth. We have a great nursery for those with little ones, and during the sermon a break-out time for kids to hear the Bible on a level that speaks to them. We end each service with a lovely short hymn called the Doxology that calls us toward the praise of God the Trinity. We normally sing this hymn a capella and it is one of my favorite parts of our worship.

Lifestyle: Does the church have any special plans for the upcoming holiday season?

Shedden: Our hope is that through our Advent services, starting Sunday, November 27, and culminating on Christmas Eve, people will be able to find a break from the rush of the holidays. We hope to offer a space for silence. We hope people will slow down and breathe during a hectic and often lonely time of year. All this is done so that we can truly contemplate and store up in ourselves the radical in-breaking of God through Jesus, our Immanuel, God with us.

Lifestyle: What kind of growth would you like to see in the coming years?

Shedden: That’s a great question. We try to consider at Defiance Church what it means to grow deeper rather than wider. Our hope is to be a little community drawn deeper into the mystery of God, learning how that can push us into a deeper love for the little patch of soil that God has placed us on.

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