175 Years of Tradition A conversation with Norma Petersen
Recently Hope Happens had a chance to conduct an interview with another of our life long members, Norma Petersen. Hilltop would not be what it is today without her, and there is little doubt that she wouldn’t be whom she has grown into.
Hope Happens: What are your favorite memories of growing up in Hilltop?
Norma Petersen: Sitting in a full pew with my whole family – there were six of us. I loved sitting on my dad’s lap listening to the service. My dad passed away when I was 13 years old and some of my best memories of him focus around Hilltop and going to church on Sunday’s. When I was in kindergarten, one day I told my dad I was not going to church. He clearly said I was and we had a big talk under the pear trees that used to be located at the edge of the parking lot. I did go to Sunday school that day under protest, but I felt special because I got to sit in my oldest sister’s classroom and color and hear what was happening in the “Big Kids” classroom. I remember going out during Sunda
y school to take walks and explore on sunny summer days. We explored the families in the cemetery or walked out past Donna’s house to explore God’s endless wonders of nature. I remember going to those pear trees and enjoying a pear after church – the fellowship continued right out the doors of the church.
HH: What are/were your favorite things done at Hilltop?
NP: I have always loved Bible School. When I was a child, it was held during the day and we had 40-50 kids there each day. It was such fun. I still enjoy Bible school now serving as a volunteer. I think it is such an important part in educating the children/youth of our church about the wonders of the Bible and how we can live a life centered on its teachings.
HH: What do you wish we still did at Hilltop that we don’t do anymore?
NP: It would be great to get a youth fellowship up and running again. We are patiently waiting for God to touch someone’s heart and agree to lead the youth of our church. It is an important role – the leader often gets as much out of the service as the youth who benefit from their leadership.
HH: What, if any, are some things you wish as a church we were more involved in?
NP: We need to continue to find ways to be more involved in the Madison community. There are many opportunities to serve and assist Madison in being a loving, welcoming community – we need to find ways that Hilltop members can offer their skills and talents to the Madison community.
HH: Where would you like to see the ministry of Hilltop go from here?
NP: Hilltop is a loving body of individuals. We care about all the families that are a part of our “Hilltop family.” We need to continue to explore our outreach efforts outside the doors of our church. We have a lot of talented and skilled members who might be able to offer their services to families in need. It would be great to explore local mission outreach efforts – Habitat for Humanity or setting up times to volunteer at a local shelter.
HH: What is the most memorable moment you’ve had at Hilltop?
NP: I would have to say I have two memorable moments at Hilltop. The first happened when I was about 10 years old during Bible school. My Bible school class was meeting the in school house and Suzy Gray was one of our teachers. She took us by small groups over to the sanctuary to allow us to pray at the alter – showing us how easy it was to “talk” with God in prayer. That night I asked Jesus into my heart and to help me to be a good Christian. The second was the day I married John here at Hilltop. We had a beautiful, hot October day for our wedding – we were so grateful the air conditioning had been installed! People always dream about having the “perfect” wedding, but I was just grateful to be marrying my best friend in front of my family and friends here at Hilltop. During the exchanging of the rings portion of the service, John said – with this Thing I thee wed – instead of with this ring I thee wed. His brother, who is even taller than John, looked at me with a panicked look on his face wondering what I would do. What could I do but smile at John to let him know that I will love him always and forever…with this Thing!
HH: Are there any stories or anecdotes you would like to share from your time at Hilltop?
NP: I remember as a teen ager that the first 2-3 pews on the right side of the church were full every Sunday with youth. It was great when you were considered old enough to get to sit up front with the kids and no longer have to sit with your parents. I remember as a child when Santa Claus, AKA Clinton Dennick, would visit with the children in the church fellowship hall. Santa gave each child a small box of chocolates – a real treat for me! This is the church where I was baptized, joined the United Methodist Church, married my husband and attended the funerals of both my parents – Helen and Robert Lash. This church holds a lot of cherished memories for me. With Hilltop’s strong foundation in Christ I am sure it will be here in the future to make memories for many generations to come.
With a mind-set that respects the past and carries the hope of the future it’s no wonder Hilltop is continuing to grow and change into a 21st century church!