In August 2000, Sam and Leanne Downing moved to Denver with their four children. They came from northeast Mississippi to start a new church in the city of Denver. Although the trend at the time for many churches was to leave the city in favor of the suburbs, God had given the Downings a different passion. They saw needs that could only be addressed by churches located in and Christians living within the city. They sensed that Denver needed a church that adhered to historic Christianity yet loved its city and sought to be a good neighbor in it (rather than being suspicious of the city and living in isolation from it). They also believed that the city is the most strategic place in which to live and minister. Cities are the “gatekeepers” of society; as goes the city, so goes the larger culture. From the beginning City Church Denver’s vision has been to create a community of believers, seekers, and skeptics who come together around the timeless good news of the grace of Jesus who loves us and calls us to serve our city.
City Church Denver held its first worship service on September 16, 2001 (five days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks) under the name City Presbyterian Church, or City Pres. What proved to be one of the greatest tragedies in our nation’s history proved to be a difficult time to start a new church. City Church Denver had a humble beginning with about 35 people. From the earliest days, City Church Denver has been made up of a diverse population, many of whom are not Christians or are “de-churched” and re-exploring Christianity for the first time in their adult lives. The church has continued meeting at the Tivoli and has always sought to be a place where people can encounter the Living God wherever they may be on their journey.
In 2010, founding Pastor Sam and the church realized that City Church Denver needed a different type of leader to better become the church that everyone desired her to be. In the summer of 2011, Rev. Dr. John David “JD” Punch moved from Boston with his family to become the new Senior Pastor of City Church Denver.
On September 9th, 2012 City Pres officially changed it’s name to City Church Denver. The driving influence was a belief that the name of a church needs to more accurately reflect who we are and neither be confusing or a hinderance to those whom we invite or wish to visit.
In 2015, JD received a call to lead another congregation. Rev. Harlan VanOort joined us in September. At the same time, we moved our worship location to co-locate with another church in the Baker neighborhood – First Avenue Presbyterian Church at 1st and Acoma. We are excited about this new chapter for City Church Denver.
As we continue to grow and change we remain true to our original mission and vision when founded and strive to create an atmosphere of grace where Christians, non-Christians, those who have been disillusioned with the church, etc. can process the Gospel. We continue to highlight the centrality of the saving work of Jesus while holding lightly to all the sub-cultural trappings that come with American Evangelical Christianity. We strive to create a culture where the gospel is being lived out in genuine relationships of care for one another and service to the world around us. We want to both show and tell the gospel.
We hope you come join us as we work to live this out.