The History of Saint Peter Lutheran Church in Greenwood Village
Saint Peter Lutheran Church began in 1979 when the Division for Mission in North America of the Lutheran Church in America called the Rev. Hal Elvert as mission developer for a new congregation. Pastor Elvert and his wife, Andrean, began to lay the foundation for the new faith community. A total of 10,000 homes were contacted in the development survey.
Pastor Elvert led the first worship service on November 1, 1979, at Belleview Elementary School, with 25 prospective members and visitors in attendance. The following months included both sorrows and joys. In January 1980, Pastor Elvert experienced a massive heart attack. Despite this setback, the congregation experienced the joys of many firsts: Sunday School classes, an adult choir, a women’s Bible study group, and confirmation classes were formed, and the ministry attracted new families.
Saint Peter Lutheran Church was officially organized on April 12, 1980 with the names of 105 adults and children on the charter. In April 1981 the first Congregation Council was elected, and council officers and committee chairs were selected. In June the congregation extended a call to Pastor Elvert to serve as the church’s first pastor.
In April 1981, Saint Peter Lutheran Church was invited to share facilities with Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. The two congregations undertook many joint worship projects. However, as both churches expanded, Saint Peter began a search for another home. On September 5, 1982, the congregation began worshiping at Cottonwood Creek Elementary School. Meetings and activities were held in rented office space or in members’ homes.
The congregation’s first building program was initiated in the fall of 1982. Plans called for a 6,700-square-foot facility located on three acres of land at the corner of Belleview and Boston Avenues in Greenwood Village (which is near the now well-established Denver Tech Center) with a total cost of approximately $540,000.
Due to deteriorating health, Pastor Elvert resigned as pastor on May 31, 1984. He died a few months later. The congregation honored his memory by proceeding with the building plans and searching for a new pastor. On December 9, 1984, the Rev. Karen Parker was installed at Saint Peter. Her caring leadership style helped the congregation to rapidly move forward.
January 27, 1985, marked the groundbreaking for Saint Peter’s first building. Pastor Parker’s husband, Don, a structural engineer, closely monitored the construction process. The first service in the new building was on August 4, 1985, and dedication was on September 8, 1985. During the next two years, the congregation’s average worship attendance more than doubled.
In 1987, council leaders voted to give 10 percent of the total budget as benevolence to the Rocky Mountain Synod and to increase this amount by one percent each year. On November 11, 1990, the congregation retired its mortgage.
Blessed by growth and a vision for mission, the congregation proceeded with plans to expand its facilities in 1991. The expansion included a new sanctuary, narthex, and sacristy, as well as remodeling of some existing spaces. The groundbreaking was held on June 7, 1992, the first service on Christmas Eve 1992, and dedication on January 7, 1993. In 1995, congregational leaders began a “Vision 2001” process to discern a God-pleasing vision for the future.
In January 1997, Pastor Parker resigned her position in order to accompany her husband on a job transfer to California. Amidst joyful tribute and tearful farewells, Pastor Parker led her final worship services at Saint Peter on February 9, 1997.
Several pastors ably served Saint Peter during the eighteen-month pastoral call process. Pastor Jeffrey Louden served for one year, followed by Pastor Tom Guinn who had also served as interim pastor during Pastor Karen’s two sabbatical leaves. Pastor Vera Guebert-Steward also provided valuable pastoral support to the congregation while serving as Minister of Outreach for the South Metro Outreach initiative.
In September 1998 The Rev. David Risendal began his ministry as Senior Pastor of the congregation. Under Pastor Risendal’s leadership, the congregation further refined the goals established in Vision 2001 and developed a new vision statement:
We are the body of Christ:
—Inviting all people to share our faith
—Growing in faith and understanding
—Serving with Christ-like love and compassion
Growing into that vision, the council, in the spring of 2000, suspended the existing committee structure and began efforts to cultivate a permission-giving environment that empowered the congregation’s membership to express their gifts and passions.
Pastor Linda W. Henke served as Associate Pastor from November 2000 to March 2002, providing leadership for spiritual gifts discernment, evangelism, and worship. Saint Peter Lutheran Church also has been capably served by many lay professionals including music leaders Corrine Paulson, Sheree Weverstad and Renae Gudvangen; youth ministers Marcy Behrens, Paul Grainger and Audrey Bjorneby; ministry coordinators Cindy Buschagen and Gretchen Hack; and secretaries Carolyn Cobble and Kathy Mehnert.
The congregation also completed several long-term goals. An Allen electronic organ was installed in 2001, complemented by a grand piano. A new baptismal font features moving water with oak and mahogany carvings suggesting the flames of the Holy Spirit or the branches of a growing tree, and biblical texts related to the baptismal promises.
At this writing the congregation is exploring how renewed efforts in the areas of youth and family ministries, evangelism, and membership involvement –- combined with current strengths in areas like worship, education, service, and small group ministries –- can strengthen its ministries, and better enable it to be an inviting, growing, and serving people.