On Dec. 1, 1918, E.C. Fuqua, who identified himself only as “the writer,” produced a small publication, “The Bellvue Churchman,” in which he relates a history of Pleasant Valley Church of Christ to date.
It came into being in 1911, at first located in a stone schoolhouse on the Graves property just over the hill to the north of the present location. In 1912, after the completion of a building to house the church in Bellvue, it moved close to the main street of the town, a few feet from what would be its permanent location. In the 1940s a hole was dug in the ground adjacent to the building and the church was picked up and placed over what became its basement. That’s where it stands today, on the Rist Canyon Road, a few feet east of the Bellvue Post Office.
Fuqua, who was living in Greeley, explained that in 1911 he received an “urgent invitation” to come to Bellvue immediately to preach the gospel. A revival had been held in the area and, according to Fuqua “A number of people had been “convicted,” but for some reason the preacher would not tell these people what to do to be saved, but left them unsaved and confused.”
Turned out Fuqua had a last minute “financial obligation” in Boulder and sent Brother B.A. McCollum in his place. The result was the baptism of 15 people, a number that was added to when Fuqua arrived on the scene. After a short time in the school house, he encouraged these believers, many poor and in debt, to raise what cash they could to build a church. With great effort they raised less than $100 which he supplemented with a loan. A total of $994.56 paid for the building and the lot.
The sturdy little church stands to this day, topped by a distinctive church bell and expanded over time to accommodate 50-some loyal members. Marty Trujillo, a native Coloradan who had gone to Oklahoma to attend a Christian College and earn a degree in Bible Studies, was 27, married and the father of his first child when he was called to the church in 1993. He’s been there ever since and has become a much-loved member of the community. When I arrived to visit with him, he was across the street with a half dozen men wielding shovels in an attempt to remove hard-packed snow and ice from the roadside across from the church.
“It was a perfect fit for me,” he explained of his return to Colorado. “I’m a hunter, fisherman, hiker and mountain biker. I could easily have become a mountain man or a gunsmith.” But he found a home at the church where he raises a huge organic garden behind the place and nurtures 10 beehives. He and his wife, Aletha, raised their three children in a home adjacent to the church where they still live.
He supplements his income with a weekly shift behind the scenes dealing with bulk mail at the post office across the street and occasionally sells some of his honey to defray expenses.
Trujillo says he’s not an evangelist. His goal is to serve his parishioners, and he remains unconcerned about the growth of megachurches. He believes that small churches, under about 100 people, serve a need that is difficult to meet in very large churches.
“I’d like to see lots of small churches in communities,” he says. “I think of small churches as 7-Elevens and large churches like Walmarts.” He’s a 7-Eleven kind of a guy, serving a small number of people.
“This church is a family,” he says.
The church is an active one. They have two services, Sunday school and a Bible study session every Sunday and take pride in their a capella singing. You won’t find an organ, or even a piano in the church. They have a pot luck dinner every month, vacation Bible School and a Fellowship Day in August, when the community is invited for tours of the garden and beehives, games of horseshoes, singing, good food and fellowship. The church recently hosted a ladies appreciation day when the men cooked breakfast for the women.
The church has a history of retaining ministers for long periods of time. A Mr. Horton remained on the job for 30 years. Jack Harvey, another early minister, was paid the grand sum of $7 a week, supplemented by eggs, milk and vegetables provided by his parishioners so that he could manage to feed his family. The tradition continues today; Trujillo says he often receives fresh eggs from his parishioners.
For three of four months following the High Park Fire in 2013, Pleasant Valley Church of Christ was a bustling hub of activity. When the Disaster Relief organization of the Church of Christ based in Tennessee called to offer help, Trujillo wasn’t sure how to respond.
“They wanted to send a 50-foot semi loaded with disaster supplies, but I wasn’t sure how we could handle and where we might store what they planned to send us. “Just ask,” the relief people said. “You’ll find a way.”
And that was when the little church became headquarters for providing all sorts of relief for those suffering from the loss of their homes and belongings because of the fire. “It was the most beautiful thing you’d ever want to see,” Trujillo said. “It brought the community together. Neighbors got to know each other in a way they never had before.”
They ended up working hand-in-hand with the Red Cross and providing for the needs of firefighters as well as fire survivors. “We’d put out a call for socks and get way more than we needed,” Trujillo said.
The church has plans to expand its parking area and create handicapped access to the basement. Trujillo is passionate about his organic garden and sharing his woodchip technique which makes tilling unnecessary, saves water and lessens weeding time.
The church remains content with serving the Bellvue community. The doors to this non-denominational, creed-free place of worship are open to all, but no-one seems worried about growing their numbers or competing with larger churches for members. Rather, Trujillo says, “We concentrate on spreading joy.”