Paul Kottke given Centus Samaritan Award for lifelong work in community

May 09, 2016
Rev. Paul Kottke
On May 5, the Reverend Paul Kottke received the 2016 Centus Samaritan Award for his lifelong work in community projects, including the founding of Denver Urban Ministries (now Denver Urban Matters), co-founding Capitol Hill United Ministries, a coupon program which raised more than $800,000 for persons on the margins (which was originally conceived by his mother), work with Together Colorado, formation of the interfaith Religious Advisory Council of University of Denver. And of course, his ministry at Warren United Methodist Church, Iliff School of Theology, University Park UMC and now, his work as the Superintendent of the Denver Metro District for the Rocky Mountain Conference.
 
The following are Rev. Kottke's remarks on receiving the award:

"I extend a deep appreciation to Rev. Margaret Rush Hankins for her introduction of me. To Susan Geissler, Executive Director of Centus, to the Board for selecting me. Margaret mentioned how my mother conceived of the Coupon Project. I would like to mention that in two months, my parents will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. I leave tomorrow to fly to Phoenix to be with my parents for Mother's Day.
 
I have always been committed to the Public Good. As Parker Palmer would say, 'of a public worthy of the name good'. Probably because I saw my mother, as we lived in a small town of New Mexico, fight tenaciously for the dignity and fair treatment of the marginalized and vulnerable, whether they were Native Americans, Hispanics, the homeless, the alcoholics needing a safe detox place.  And my father, who stood firmly with her even as it meant the loss of patients from his dental practice.
 
My commitment to the Public Good carries with it a self-interest. For I find that life is more meaningful, more able to experience the joys, more able to see the beauty which surrounds us, when I live into the Public Good. I find that I am in relationships and communities which are able to provide support and love in those times of struggles when I live into the Public Good.
 
I am reminded of Matthew 22. As we live into our love of God, as we learn how to love the Strangers then, I believe, we are more able to access the Sacred love which God desires for ourselves. Life is simply more abundant when one lives into the public good.
 
Within the last year, we have seen an assault on the notion of civility, an assault on the concern for the Other, and assault on basic goodness which is unprecedented in my generation. We are seeing people without apology openly scapegoating on the vulnerable. Public leaders calling for a caustic response, declaring a consuming self-focus, blaming our anxiety on the Other. Declaring that if we only would get rid of the Other, then our anxiety would be gone.
 
I mention this today in this gathering of pastoral counselors because I feel with every ounce of my being that there is a direct connection between the health and wholeness of the individual and the same for gatherings of people, such as congregations.
 
I believe that we have an unprecedented opportunity, not to fall victims to our fears, but to give formation to a new sense of community. Not a community based on homogeneity [sameness] but rather community that finds our vitality directly connected to our diversity.  Not a community grounded in answers and doctrines, but rather on relationships with the Other, "hearing one another's story". Not a community of control and judgment, but rather valuing the 'muckiness' of the human conditions (our joys and our tears), a community where we learn to "dance in the mud" because the Sacred is indeed here and now.
 
Together, then let us work for the good that is both the individual and the public - creating communities anchored in health and wholeness. Now is the time. Now is the time."