Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Love for Belgians

The Herald Journal, September 21, 2008
Logan, Utah

Story by Amy Macavinta
Photos by Meegan M. Reid

Fred Utton’s father started out using draft horses to work his fields, but after he got a tractor, it made it hard for a 10-year-old boy to convince his dad to buy him a horse.

So Utton, who was raised on a dairy farm in New Mexico, trained a Holstein steer to lead, and then broke him to ride. After that, who could argue?

In the pasture behind his home in Young Ward, there are a few paint horses, and Utton has raised quarter horses as well. But it is the Belgian draft horses that he really likes. He has two at home, and also has some brood mares, a stallion and a couple colts pastured in Wellsville, just off the highway.

“People have known those horses before they even know me,” Utton said. “But that’s OK. Those horses are a lot more important than us people.”

Utton, a native of New Mexico, is spending his retirement raising Belgians and training them for the harness. He retired and moved to Cache Valley three years ago with his wife, Ann, and his horses. He has 17 now, although one has been sold to an outfit in Wyoming where she will haul hay for the elk in the winter and pull wagon trains in the summer.

Maize is a 9-year-old mare who doesn’t know yet that Utton is preparing her for a new home. He purchased her for a brood mare, but she has never conceived. Despite her age, she has never been trained to do more than lead. This fall Utton is training her for use on the harness so she can be used as a work horse.

Belgians are a sturdy draft horse, Utton said, so they are well suited for heavier use, such as pulling wagon trains, hay wagons or farm implements.

Utton placed the harness on her early this week. (She has only had it on eight or nine times.)
“Belgians are a lot gentler than quarterhorses,” Utton said.

Maize stood relatively still as Utton placed the harness on her and fastened all the buckles, then hooked her up to a small, two-wheeled cart. Her ears were only slightly pinned back, a sign that she is wary, but not frightened.

The llamas in the field next to Utton’s home make her a little cautious too, as do hay balers and spots in the road where one patch of asphalt is darker than the rest.

While he is disappointed to see her go — she was a good match with her sister — Utton said he plans to have her ready for a horse sale in November.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Casual Worship

Photo by Eli Lucero, Herald Journal

By Amy Macavinta

The Herald Journal
Logan, Utah

The morning sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows on a Sunday morning as the Rev. David Hiester welcomed his congregation for worship. The small group of worshipers were scattered throughout the sanctuary, seated on the old wooden pews.

While they appeared neat and clean, none were in their “Sunday best.” Some were in pressed dress pants and a polo shirt, while others wore denim shorts and flip-flops. One sipped from a Styrofoam cup of coffee throughout the service.

When they sang their hymns, there was no solemn echo of the organ throughout the World War II era church building. Instead, the sanctuary was filled with the joyous sound of the members of the Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Brigham City — who were being careful not to sing too loudly — accompanied by musicians on a keyboard, a guitar and drums.

Then, when it came time to offer his sermon for the week, “Pastor Dave” took his seat at a small bar-height table where one would normally expect to find some sort of podium. His excitement about his church and his religion are apparent in his rapid-fire way of speaking.

Even his sermon deviates from the traditional, by not completely following the guides set in place by the United Methodist Church. But for Hiester, his church is all about accessibility.

“God just wants us to bring our hearts,” he said. “He has made it possible to be in His presence, but it’s not conditional, it’s not when or if — and if dressing up is a barrier to somebody, it’s a stupid barrier, especially for a (guy) who doesn’t throw out barriers at all.”

Hiester understands all too well the barriers that keep people from attending church. He admits that as a young man he was not the kind of guy a girl could bring home to her parents. But it wasn’t until his marriage “was in the pits” that he reached out for a new way of life.

A friend invited him to attend church, and the reverend there managed to spark Hiester’s interest when he mentioned his love for bikes. This was the key that got him talking, piqued his curiosity, until finally, he had a life-changing moment when he knew he had to give his life to God.

His experience has shaped the way he does things at Aldersgate. But his main purpose is to teach about God.

“The point is not to be a casual church but to be effective in delivering the message,” he said. “But if being a casual church does that, then we’re OK with that — in fact, we encourage it.”

Brigham City resident Susan Ream has been attending Aldersgate for seven years.

“I found it very compelling,” she said. “I enjoyed the music, it is more contemporary. But I really just enjoyed the people there.”

Ream grew up attending a Baptist church in the South, which she said has a similar worship style. The casual setting is definitely more comfortable, she said.

Hiester gets so excited about the message he delivers, he can easily span the width of the stage, pacing back and forth with his delivery. But he recently injured his ankle and was required to offer several of his weekly sermons from a chair.

When his ankle healed, and he resumed his upright position, several members of the congregation revealed that they felt more comfortable with him seated.

“They told me it felt more like me talking with them instead of preaching at them,” he said.

He found there was little understanding of the rituals performed during worship so he stepped away from the more formal, methodical approach of leading the congregation and mixed things up a little bit.

Hiester also posts his sermons online — yet another way of making God’s message more readily available.

“Our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ — that’s what lights our fire,” he said.