In our congregation meeting November 18th, 2012, Reverend Michael Stein was overwhelmingly approved for a minimum two year appointment as our Interim Senior Minister. Although a Nebraska native, Pastor Stein has longstanding ties in Colorado; his wife Carla grew up in Salida and both their adult children were born in the state. He also holds a degree from the University Of Denver College Of Law.
Like his father before him, the move to ministry was a midlife career change. At nearly 40 years old, Pastor Stein – who prefers to be called “Michael” – left a career in criminal justice and law enforcement to enroll in Phillips Theological Seminary. The family sold their house in Broomfield and moved to Oklahoma, where Carla worked for Oklahoma State University while Michael took classes and pastored a rural congregation outside Stillwater.
Upon graduation, Michael was ordained in the same Lincoln, Nebraska church where he was baptized 30 years earlier. He then accepted a call to be minister for the Disciples congregation in Scottsbluff, a Nebraska city just 150 miles northeast of Loveland. The call lasted for 13 years – the longest in the congregation’s history – until the family decided to return to Colorado to be closer to family.
Since returning to Colorado, Carla Stein was appointed Dean of Student Services for the Boulder County Campus of Front Range Community College in Longmont. Their daughter Emily, a graduate of Disciples related Drury University, lives in Denver and teaches English as Second Language (ESL). Son David graduated from Texas Christian University and is an admissions counselor for the Fort Worth school. Among his responsibilities is recruiting students from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) nationwide.
As is typical of a small denomination like the Disciples, Michael is not a total stranger in our congregation. Longtime member Lee Sparks was in his last year of seminary when Michael arrived at Phillips, and Kathryn Sparks was also pastor of a congregation in Oklahoma during that time. Youth Director Rachel Nelson also worked with Michael on International Affairs Seminar, a joint mission project of the Nebraska and Central Rocky Mountain regions as they accompanied several youth from our congregation as they traveled to New York and Washington, D.C.
According to Michael, the call to our church is in some ways a return to his roots. “Carla and I were members of First Christian Church in Boulder (now Cairn Christian Church in Lafayette) when I was asked to serve on the pastoral search committee. Our congregation had recently been through a lot of trauma with ministerial misconduct and deep divisions and mistrust among the members.” In the course of a year-and-a-half search for a new pastor, Michael says he heard God’s call for him to enter the ministry. With the guidance of a congregation Elder and the Interim Minister – as well as his father who was in the final stages of lung cancer – Michael began taking classes at Iliff School of Theology in Denver to test the waters. He preached his first sermon on Easter Sunday at the eastern Colorado Disciples churches in Ordway and Manzanola where his father was pastor.
“My dad’s voice was virtually gone, and I stepped in to preach” Michael relates. “I told them preaching your first sermon on Easter is like being an NFL rookie and playing your first game in the Super bowl”.
The Reverend Jesse O. Stein died a month later, but his brother – a United Methodist minister who also has a clergy son — participated in Michael’s ordination service. In lighter moments, Michael jokes about the “genetic defect” that causes family members to enter ministry. Pastor Michael Stein began his ministry with us immediately after the congregation vote, and looks forward to journeying with us as we live into God’s call for us as a community of faith.