Who We Are
Is this church part of a denomination?
Yep. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA is in Full Communion (meaning we get along well and share the same core beliefs) with the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, the Moravian Church, and the Reformed Church in America.
Is everyone Lutheran at HFASS?
Not even close. In fact, one former pastor was an Episcopal priest! So, HFASS is a big tent, though our Lutheran identity is deep in our DNA. Also, at HFASS we like to say that “we don’t care what you believe, but we care a lot about what you hear!” And what you will hear is an unrelenting confession of grace for all, for us and for our enemies. This Good News is at the heart of what we mean when we say “Lutheran.”
What do we believe?
HFASS is a big tent kind of church where people believe all kinds of things. So, we don’t often talk about what “we ALL believe.” In fact, we like to say that what people believe (and even what they do) is none of our business. Instead, what we care about is what people HEAR. And what you will hear at HFASS is what is often called “generous orthodoxy.” The faith you will find at HFASS is what we confess in the historic Creeds of the Church and in our practices of being rooted in the sacraments of Holy Eucharist, Baptism and the Confession & Absolution of our sins. To read more about what we confess as a congregation, read the HFASS Manifesto. Our Manifesto was written by housemates (what we call our parishioners) in 2019 and is not a binding statement of belief. Instead, it is a reflection of this moment in time in the life of our congregation.
What is the current demographic in the community?
Well, at this point we are a community of around 500+ people (with 50-100 showing up most Sundays). There are married couples, young families, Baby Boomers and a few folks in their 70s and 80s. Other than that, it’s mostly folks who are between the ages of 22 and 42 and single. About one third of the congregation is queer identifying and those that are not are courageous allies who have family members who are queer. Maybe a quarter of us identify as Lutherans; the rest are post-Evangelicals, Methodists, agnostics, Reformed, Episcopalian, and the ever-popular “nothing”. Actually, it’s pretty easy to look around on any given Sunday and think, “I’m unclear what all these people have in common.”
What are your Sunday services like?
Pretty much just like a Rolling Stones concert… uhhh, we mean, nothing at all like a Rolling Stones concert. We follow the ancient liturgy of the church (chanting the Kyrie, readings from scripture, chanting the Psalm, sermon, prayers of the people, Eucharist, benediction, etc.) We also sing the old hymns of the church. So there’s lots of ancient tradition at HFASS, but there’s also some innovation. We always include poetry and a time called “Open Space” in which we slow down for prayer and other opportunities to actively engage the Gospel; writing in the community’s Book of Thanks, writing prayers, making art or assembling care kits for those experiencing homelessness in Denver.
We like to say that we are “anti-excellence/pro-participation”, meaning that the liturgy is led by the people who show up. The pastor offers the Eucharistic prayer and (most times) the sermon; all the other parts of the liturgy are led by people from where they are sitting. As a matter of fact, even the music is made by the community — with the exception of the 3 or 4 times a year that we have a bluegrass service, the liturgy is a capella. So, all the music you hear in liturgy comes from the bodies of those who showed up.
Who is your pastor at HFASS?
Pastor Wylie shares leadership with a team of lay leaders who we call Housekeepers. Our head housekeeper (sometimes called a Council President in other churches) we call Mrs. Hughes (see Downton Abbey). We also have a cantor, Jamie Halladay, who leads the choral guild (anyone who shows up to learn the hymns on Sundays at 4:20 pm) and the congregational singing during liturgy.
What is the space like where you meet?
We are currently meeting in the beautiful parish hall of South Broadway Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ congregation. The 130-year-old church is in the heart of the South Broadway neighborhood in Denver. Our historic building can get warm in the summer, so we do what we can to make folks comfortable (popsicles and hand fans).
How can I support this ministry?
Pray without ceasing. And consider offering a one-time or ongoing financial gift.
Are there children at HFASS?
Yes! We have an area in our worship space that features a nice rug and toys to play with during the liturgy. We like for kids to be actively involved in our worship life as full participants. However, a nursery and children’s liturgy are also provided for families who want to use them. The nursery attendant will be in the nursery for children 4 months to 3 years and a children’s liturgy also takes place for kids 3-10 (they leave the service together after the Prayer of the Day and come back during the Sharing of the Peace).
What are this community’s practices around the Eucharist?
We have an Open Table at HFASS, which means that everyone without exception is invited to receive the bread and wine at communion which for us is the body and blood of Christ. This is His table. We also offer gluten free bread and non-alcoholic wine.
Why do we need a House for All Sinners and Saints?
House is important because it is experimenting with new ways to do church which make sense to urban postmodern folks. It is a place where:
- The Gospel matters, liturgy is recontextualized, and we are free to reclaim the word “Christian”
- Scripture is honored enough to be faithfully questioned and struggled with
- We no longer have to culturally commute or bracket out parts of ourselves to be in Christian community
- We are co-creators of liturgy, rather than just passive participants. Aesthetics and theology both matter
- The community is both intellectually and spiritually stimulating
- We provide a connection or a bridge to the traditions of the church
How was HFASS started?
Beginning in 2008, Founding Pastor the Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber gathered with a small group of 8 people in her living room and those gathering grew slowly into what you find today. Nadia pastored the church until 2014 as the solo pastor, and then in 2015, she stepped back into a half-time position and the church called Pastor Reagan as Pastor. Between 2015 and the summer of 2018, Pastor Reagan and Pastor Nadia pastored the church together, while Nadia spent a lot of her time writing and on the road as a public theologian. In 2022, the community called Pastor Wylie as Associate Pastor. While on sabbatical, Pastor Reagan discerned to transition away from the community. The community voted to extend a solo pastor call to Pastor Wylie and they were installed on Palm Sunday of 2023. Nadia has published four books to date: Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television (2008, Seabury Press), Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint (2013, Jericho Books), Accidental Saints: Finding God in the Wrong People (Convergent, 2015), and Shameless: A Sexual Revolution (Random House, 2019). In July 2018, Nadia retired from House for All in order to pursue full-time her call as a public theologian. For Nadia’s speaking schedule, please see her website: www.nadiabolzweber.com.