Boulder Adventist Church recently marked its 140-year anniversary. Displayed on a wall of the lower floor of the church, between Connect Group classrooms, is a plaque commemorating part of the history of Boulder Adventist Church. It states that the church was organized in 1879 and its congregation was meeting first in the home of Henry Pierce at 905 Arapaho. It was on August 2, 1879 that makes the Boulder congregation the oldest to be organized in Colorado.
The first church building was constructed a year later at the southeast corner of Broadway and Mapleton. The congregation moved to a brick structure at 7th and Highland in 1898. The present church was built in 1949 on the southeast corner of the original Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium and Hospital property. The ceremony for laying the cornerstone was attended by several hundred people.
Settled by the early prospectors in an attractive area of the Rockies, and what today is known as Wild West, the region was frequently visited by the early Adventist pioneers and over the years, the Adventist community became known for health-related activities, as well as its educational presence. The early denominational pioneers held numerous outreach activities, and Ellen G. White spoke at a temperance rally.
The work of one unnamed man in Montrose, combined with established congregations in Boulder, Longmont (1880), and Denver (circa 1880), and the presence of James and Ellen White, who held the first formal series of Adventist meetings in the history of Colorado, as well as setting up a personal summer retreat in the state in 1872, led to the 1882 establishment of the Colorado Conference.
The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia details when the church was established in Boulder. “At Boulder on Aug 2, 1879, a church of 26 was organized – the first in Colorado – and a Sabbath school of 40. At St. Vrain a church of 13 was formed in October,” (p. 330).
Involved in leading a fledgling church organization, with James White being president of the General Conference, the Whites, an itinerant missionary couple, were present in Boulder on August 2, 1879 the day when the church was organized. “The Whites returned to Colorado in the summer of 1879 following a mule drive by wagon train from Dallas, Texas. They were in Boulder when the Seventh-day Adventist church was organized on August 2,” (See: Del L. Johnson, in: Denis Fortin and Jerry Moon, The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia, p. 726).
The church has continued to develop over time, changing quite dramatically in terms of the demographics of the congregation and the focus of the ministry. Gary Nowlan, who joined the Boulder congregation in the 1960, notes “how things changed from many members living close enough they walked to church to now when very few members even live in Boulder. I’ve been a member long enough to see the evolution of the church service from very formal to very contemporary.”
Commenting on the 140 years of the church, its community influence – healthful living, medical work, education – and the evolution of the church’s presence, Gary says, “In my view, there is a core of persons who have been members for many years and who are very loyal to the Boulder Church.”
Gary notes the resiliency of Adventist Boulderians. “That core of believers, joined by many others, is willing to adapt to changing times. We may not always like the changes but are willing to accept them for the sake of a flourishing church. A church needs young people and children to flourish. If the changes help to attract young adults and children, we are willing to accept the changes,” Gary adds.
For Gary, and others in the congregation, the continuum of the church is a reflection of the mission-oriented pioneers, many of whom were young and engaged in making the world a better place. “I believe this attitude toward young people and children has been an important part of the character of the Boulder Church during the time I have been a member.”
Reflecting on the 140th anniversary, there are many reasons for maintaining and enhancing the presence of Seventh-day Adventism in the important city of Boulder and not many, if any, for abandoning it.
—Rajmund Dabrowski, text and photos