About Columbine United

CUC is an open, welcoming community. Democrat or Republican, gay or straight, cowboy or tech-hipster, traditional or contemporary, young or young-at-heart, or somewhere outside any of these labels – you will find CUC to be a place with open arms, ready to embrace you just as you are. We strive to be a place where real life meets an everyday faith that makes sense and makes a difference.

Feel and experience the energy and community at CUC – the connection that families are finding in our children and youth ministries, the meaning individuals are discovering through our worship, service and mission projects, and the friendships that transform life in our small groups and Christian education classes!

Our vision is that all who seek a relationship with God will come to Columbine United Church and find light, love and friends for their spiritual journey. We invite you to come as you are to the CUC community. One that accepts, nurtures, listens and inspires. One that offers many opportunities to explore and celebrate growing healthy relationships with God, self and others that are shaped by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Embracing the spirit of this vision encourages a life bright with purpose, participation, fellowship and giving. It is a life abundant with the adventure of growing together in faith.

Our Values and Beliefs

Columbine United Church is a Christ-centered, theologically open, ecumenical congregation where faith and life meet.

Our Values

As a community, we value unconditional positive regard, the process of life-long faith development, the joyful sharing of resources, and the actualizing of our divine potential.

Our Vision

Our vision is that all people seeking a relationship with God can come to Columbine United Church and find a welcoming community that will accept them, care for them, provide the means by which they can explore and celebrate their relationship with God, and be challenged to live their faith in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Our Mission

The Mission of Columbine United Church is to inspire and sustain a faith driven church environment where members, friends and seekers of all ages may explore and develop their personal relationship with God. We seek to grow our faith through the teachings of Jesus Christ and the study of scripture, critical thought and theological exploration, and in fellowship with others, regardless of racial, ethnic or religious background, gender, or sexual orientation.

Our Beliefs

We believe the scripture is inspired by God and God continues to speak through them.  We take the scriptures seriously, not literally.

Because we believe that all God’s children are full participants in the Body of Christ, we encourage the full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in the life of our church.  At CUC, our LGBT brothers and sisters are fully involved in congregational life.

Meet Our Team

Dr. Steve Poos-Benson

Senior Pastor

Adventure, imagination, passion, and love are a few adjectives to describe the life of Steve Poos-Benson. Through his speaking, teaching, writing, and insight, Steve lights a spark of life and a desire to embrace all the world offers. His writing is a reflection of his thirty-year career as a pastor, spiritual guide, and life coach. Through his work as Senior Pastor of Columbine United Church he has become a global voice for progressive Christianity. He builds bridges of understanding between people of all faith backgrounds. People follow Steve through his weekly messages on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as well as his weekly blog, Cowboy Jesus.

While fun and lively, Steve’s work is based upon solid academics. He earned his BA from Whitworth University in Spokane Washington, his Masters of Divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary, and his doctorate from McCormick Theological Seminary.

In April 1999, Steve was at the center of a watershed moment in U.S. history - the shootings at Columbine High School. He was a first responder to the scene. The shootings defined his life for the next decade. Steve worked with families whose children had been killed or wounded. He also ministered to the family of one of the shooters. As a part of his work, he was interviewed by Time Magazine to assess the progress of healing in the community. He addressed the nation twice as a part of the five- and ten-year anniversary ceremonies.

In the years following the shootings, thousands sought his help to heal and regain a sense of purpose. Over the years he developed principles that enabled people to redirect their lives according to their divine purpose. In the wake of trauma, he encouraged people to see that their lives were far from over, but could move in new and creative ways.

Steve enjoys an active life outside of his work. With his wife Phoebe, they raised three children, now young adults. They live in the mountains of Colorado in the log home they both built. Steve loves all things athletic. He swims, bikes, runs, hikes, and practices yoga. He studies martial arts with the rank of Black Belt. Weekend afternoons finds him either scaling a fourteen’er, or riding his Palomino horse, Magic.

Jill VanderWal

Associate Pastor

Jill VanderWal grew up in Boulder Colorado and has had the opportunity to live and explore Washington, California and Michigan. Jill attended the University of Washington for her undergraduate degree and earned her Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Jill is always up for an adventure! She enjoys travel, the outdoors, gardening, cooking and sampling food from around the world. Rev. VanderWal has a deep passion for building vibrant and relevant faith communities. Jill is a life long learner; always collecting new trivia and bizarre stories. The gift of having kids is that Jill has acquired a whole new reading list – she’s become a Harry Potter fan. Some of Jill’s favorite places in Colorado include Grand Lake, Buena Vista and San Isabel National Forest. “Colorado is a great place to be! Columbine United Church is a great place to be.”

Joseph Noëlliste

Worship Director

Although born in Evanston, Illinois, Joe spent his childhood and teenage years as a MK (Missionary’s Kid) on the caribbean island of Jamaica. Joe holds a Masters in Music Theory from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington and is currently an ABD (All but dissertation) candidate in the doctoral church music program at Baylor University (Waco, TX). Joe has a strong passion for his primary instrument, the piano, all aspects of music making, such as composition and arranging, song writing, conducting, audio engineering, and music business, as well as all expressions of worship music, be it traditional, contemporary or gospel. His passion for all things music is only eclipsed by his love for his amazing wife, Erin, and his darling baby daughter, Aria Grace. Besides family and music, Joe enjoys being an avid sports fan who follows the NBA, NFL, Tennis, MMA, and the Olympics, and loves the sports debate show, First Take. If you catch Joe around the church sometime, ask him about the time he got to see Lebron James play in a high school basketball game...O.M.G!

Samantha Bronson

Minister of Children and Youth

Samantha is from Midland, TX, and went to Baylor University in Waco, TX. She got her degree in Child and Family Studies with an emphasis on Child Development. After feeling a draw towards ministry, she attended Truett Seminary (a part of Baylor). There she got her Master's of Divinity with a concentration in Theology.

She has a passion for the ministry of the church and the faith development of all people, but especially children and teenagers. She enjoys learning with the young ones, grabbing boba tea, and exploring the area with the children and teenagers of CUC.

Samantha lives in Littleton with her husband, Luke, and her mini-goldendoodle Indiana (Indy). They are expecting an aussiedoodle at the end of May named Anakin (Annie). In her free time, you can expect Samantha to be reading, playing board games, and kicking back, and relaxing!

Tag Worley

Minister of Facilities and Technology

Hailing from the great state of Kansas with a degree in Media Communications from the University of Kansas, Tag brings a lifelong wealth of experience and knowledge to his position as Columbine's Facility Manager and Tech Specialist. With a passionate desire to “fix things”, Tag embraces every duty and challenge with an intense focus to keep the building current, comfortable, and attractive for every member and guest that enters. You may also encounter Tag at the sound desk on Sunday mornings managing the audio/visual and streaming aspects of our services or possibly utilizing his extensive music performance career behind the drum kit. Tag loves traveling and seeing the world with his flight attendant wife, Alann. They both are now enjoying the “empty nest” after raising two fine young men, Tucker and Dylan, who are pursuing their individual passions out in the world.

Tom Rehling

Pastor Emeritus

Tom grew up in Millstadt, IL, a small town near St. Louis His father was a coal miner and his mother was a home maker. He graduated from Belleville Township High School, earned his B.A. from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, his M.Div. and Doctorate of Ministry from Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, MO. Tom was ordained as a UCC minister in 1973. He served churches in Jewell, IA; Chappaqua, NY; and Waterloo, IA. In 1988 he was called to serve as an Associate Conference Minister for the Florida Conf UCC and in 1998 was called to the Rocky Mountain Conference where he served as the Conference Minister until his retirement in 2013.

Tom and his wife Betsy have been members at Columbine United Church since 2003. They have three children and six grandchildren. In the summer of 2017 Tom joined the staff of CUC as a part time Associate Minister.

Natalie Bowdish

Office & Communications Manager

Natalie Bowdish is from Dayton Ohio and moved to Denver in 2018. Her undergraduate degree is in Linguistics and teaching ESL (English as a second language), but Natalie has found she much prefers administrative work to teaching. Natalie spent her first two years in Denver working as the administrative assistant at a home care agency. In 2021 she started working at Columbine.

Her job at Columbine includes managing Realm (the church database), keeping the website up to date, manning CUC’s social media, and running the church office (once it is finally built!). If you have any questions about the church, Natalie is the first person you should ask!

Natalie lives in south Denver with her husband, Tyler, their cats, Marmon and Wesley, and their dog Lucille. Natalie enjoys playing tabletop games, drawing, painting, and hiking.

Our History

Columbine United Church started in a small living room. Fifteen people sat on chairs and couches dreaming of a congregation that was going to someday become a thriving part of the Columbine community. Together, they felt the call of God to minister to the people of this new suburb. It was more than just a dream, it was a reality to which they would dedicate their lives. This humble group of fifteen, some still in our congregation, built the foundation of the church that we now know and love.

In 1968, CUC was founded as a United Methodist Church. The first group of members worked hard to build and expand their dream, but met great challenges. Their fledgling congregation struggled to expand beyond their initial group. They even considered dissolving as a congregation. The spark for the group came when they were approached by the three denominations, The Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist, and the United Church of Christ, to form an ecumenical congregation. These denominations were working to plant three new ecumenical churches in the Denver metro area – one in Montbello, one in Aurora, and a third in the Columbine Valley. It was this spark that ignited the ministry that would soon flourish into Columbine United Church.

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What caught the soul of people who were invited to this small group to worship was the strong sense of a welcoming community. Everyone knew each other’s names and they genuinely cared about the individuals and families that lived and worked around them. The small group began to expand and grow. The congregation bought their first piece of property on a small bluff above Platte Canyon Road. They built a Montessori school, and then met in the school building (which currently serves as our staff offices) on Sunday morning and rearranged the chairs back for school on Monday morning.

The congregation took another major leap of faith when they decided to build a sanctuary. When the denominations denied funding for the project because they lacked a large membership, several of the members took out second mortgages on their homes to secure the necessary financing. These members talk fondly about the first Christmas Eve held in their still-under-construction sanctuary. They were bundled in down coats and sat on bales of hay and folding chairs.

The congregation grew and expanded as the Columbine neighborhoods expanded. Several pastors led the congregation, beginning with Rev. Doug Bale and then Rev. Jim Brock. CUC went through a large expansion when Rev. Ken Biel was hired in 1977. Ken took the small church and grew it to a thriving 600-member congregation. CUC was known for its dynamic ministry that welcomed people from all different theological and denominational backgrounds. When Ken retired in 1991, then Associate Pastor, Steve Poos-Benson, was hired as the Senior Pastor and Head of Staff. Under Steve’s tenure, CUC took its next step of growth to its current size of 1200 members. Throughout the history of CUC, there have been many strong pastoral and lay leaders which have led the congregation.

The seeds of the congregation, planted back in its conception, still continue to flourish. CUC is known for its welcoming community that embraces people of all theological and denominational backgrounds. The dream of the first members, to build a congregation that would provide dynamic worship and serve its community, is realized every day of the week. The present congregation is a living testimony to what God can do through a small group of people, who feel the call of Christ in their lives.

Today, we are still affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and The United Methodist Church.