Mike Fillmore has been the pastor at Denison First United Methodist Church for not quite two months.
His wife, Kathy, will be the preschool teacher at Boyer Valley starting this month.
“We just came from northwest Iowa and have all kinds of blowing snow stories,” he said. “We’re glad to be south.”
Fillmore joked that when he told the church organization that they wanted to move south, he and Kathy were thinking of something a little different.
“There’s not a palm tree to be found,” he said of Denison.
Even with the lack of palm trees, they both love the town.
“This is a beautiful area. Northwest Iowa is about as flat as that floor,” he said, nodding to the corner of his office.
He and Kathy have been married 37 years and have three grown children.
Their twin daughters live in eastern Iowa.
Their son is the United Methodist Church pastor for Shenandoah and Hamburg.
Mike and Kathy are both from eastern Iowa. They met at Central College in Pella and were married soon after.
He is a graduate of St. Paul School of Theology in Leawood, Kansas.
Fillmore said he and Kathy have been made to feel welcome in Denison by people inside and outside the church
“We’re excited and we feel privileged to be here,” he said. “We both have been struck by how friendly people are.”
The Methodist Church and churches in general are facing challenging times, Fillmore said.
“We’re in a time when people are searching and not necessarily finding what they are looking for, and churches are struggling to adapt, so we’re working on that,” he said.
“The United Methodist Church is going through some pretty heavy conflict right now regarding human sexuality issues, so we’re finding our way through that.”
Everyone is welcome at the church, he said.
“We just adopted a brand new unconditional welcome,” Fillmore said. “No matter who you are, you’re welcome here and we want to journey together in our faith life.”
It’s a problematic time for that message for several reasons, he said.
“The church has made a lot of mistakes in the past and alienated a lot of people,” Fillmore said.
Society is much less friendly right now and technology has created additional challenges for everyone, he said.
“It has changed how we do things. We in the church don’t necessarily know exactly what that means, but we know it has changed, so we’re looking at a lot of different things technologically,” Fillmore said.
He is starting a weekly podcast that will explore church issues with a variety of guests.
“What does that mean in my life when we talk about things like prayer and healing and faith and grace and mercy and all those kids of theological terms?” he said. “How do we relate that to our lives?”
He said the church is looking at doing other podcasts, taking on a stronger social media presence and updating the church website in an effort increase the channels for interaction.
“As people work more hours and more days of the week, they can’t necessarily be in church on Sunday,” he said, “so how do we help them with their faith formation when they can’t do that?
“If someone is regularly tuned in to our live broadcast and they are serving God and loving their neighbor, faith may look different today than it has in the past,” Fillmore said.
All denominations are exploring that question, he said.
“How do we witness to a society that is not the same as it was even 10 years ago?” he said.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to be in a position where we can love one another. We just have to remember who we are and where we came from and we can get back there.”