As pastor of the Community Spirit-United Church of Christ (UCC) in Montrose, Karen Winkel is excited about her congregation’s move to the Ute Museum in March.
Since April 2013, when this group separated from the UCC Hillcrest church, they have had their services in several locations.
The Ute Museum holds a special place in Winkel’s heart because she has an affinity with Native American cultures. She was born in Flagstaff, Arizona, while her parents were working on the Navajo Reservation in Tuba City.
Her father worked for the Forest Service and they settled in Fresno, where Karen attended junior and senior high school, then college at Fresno State. “I was preparing to be a teacher there, but although I love education and kids, I could sense an ‘offness’ about that.
“From the time I was a small child, I had a theological mind and a mystical orientation,” she said.
When she got to the end of her studies she asked God to show her the next step. That led her into a career at Fresno State working with international students. “The office was extremely collaborative. We would pool ideas on how to help our students. That career was the perfect training ground for my future career in ministry.”
Montrose was on the horizon while she was a seminarian and spent a summer with the UCC church in Nucla. “I fell in love with them and the area,” she said. She served at a church in Salt Lake City and another in Kentucky.
She came to UCC Hillcrest Church as pastor in Montrose in 2009. But eventually she found that there were two different visions in the church and in April 2013 the congregation separated into two.
“What we are doing in the 21st century is the progressive side of the Protestant church. We are living in a progressive, spirit-filled understanding of Christianity. In the way we are church together, there is a profound impulse to love people as they are. Whether it’s the folks who are there on Sunday or the people in the community. There is an alignment between those behaviors and those stated beliefs.
“There’s always going to be a gap between what I say I believe and what I do.”
For this reason the congregation has made a point of going to Grand Junction to march in the annual gay pride parade. They’ve made a point to be on the corner of Main and Townsend when there are occasions to communicate their concern about social issues.
Winkel says that when she sees those students in Parkland, Florida rising up for gun control, it’s a spirit thing. Particularly at a time when older people might be inclined to write off millenials, the young as only interested in their cell phones and online pursuits.
“One young man said this is not a hobby for me, this is a calling.”
This is really an exciting adventure for her these days and she feels fortunate. “Lots of time pastors at the front end of their ministry get a church that is absolutely delightful, stimulating and lovely, and then they go on to challenging ministries and wind up their career battle weary. They’ve got nicks, and scrapes and scars.
“I’m just appreciating the pleasure that it is to launch into this adventure with this particular group of people, in this particular community at this particular time.”
The church will meet beginning March 4, at 11 a.m., in the conference room of the Ute Indian Museum, 17253 Chipeta Road. All are welcome.