Pastor’s Corner – October 8

Our Call to End Gun Violence – We are called as United Methodists to eradicate the many forms of violence that destroy the integrity of individuals, families, communities, and nations. The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church contains our official positions on many issues, including gun violence. The 2016 version includes some of the ways in which to prevent gun violence. As we sit in the rubble of yet another mass shooting, I invite you to meditate on these practices and how we as a community can do more:

1.) For congregations to make preventing gun violence a regular part of our conversations and prayer times.

2.) For congregations to assist those affected by gun violence through prayer, pastoral care, creating space, and encouraging survivors to share their stories, financial assistance, and identifying resources for victims and families.

3.) For individuals who own guns as hunters or collectors to safely and securely store their guns and to teach the importance of practicing gun safety.

4.) For congregations that haven’t experienced gun violence to form partnerships with faith communities to have experienced gun violence in order to support them and learn from their experiences.

5.) For congregations to lead or join gatherings for public prayer at sites where gun violence has occurred and partner with law enforcement to help prevent gun violence.

6.) For congregations to partner with local law enforcement agencies and community groups to identify gun retailers that engage in retail practices designed to circumvent laws on gun sales and ownership, encourage full legal compliance, and to work with groups that organize faith-based campaigns to encourage gun retails to gain full legal compliance with appropriate standards and laws.

7.) For congregations to display signs that prohibit carrying guns onto church property.

8.) For congregations to advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence.

If you would like to read more about the United Methodist Church’s stance on violence, particularly gun violence, explore the www.umc.org website. This website provides helpful information, prayers, statistics and articles!
 
 

Blessings,

Pastor Sami


Pastor’s Corner — October 1

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. … A time to hold on and a time to let go.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6

The seasons demonstrate for us that the world, God’s beautiful creation, is constantly transitioning from what was, to what is, and eventually to what will be. Sept. 22nd was the autumn equinox. It is officially fall. A season of transition from the heat of summer to the cold of winter. The days are getting shorter. The leaves are turning color and soon will fall off. As this happens, may it be a que for us in our spiritual lives. May we use this season of fall as a time to let go.

It is our natural human tendency to hold on, to want things to remain the same, and to resist change. But truly, the only thing that we can count on is change. 

An important life skill is learning what to hold on to as if our life depends on it and what to let go of. In general, we should hold on to that which gives us life and let go of that which negatively impacts us. So, what are you holding on to that is bearing on you negatively? It may be guilt and regret. It may be anger, resentment, bitterness. It may be unrealistic expectations for yourself or others. It may be that you are too busy and need to let go of some activities or commitments. It might be time to let go of some stuff. This is difficult work. It can take more courage to let go than to hold on. But it is also life giving work. If it helps, write down the things you want to let go of on a piece of paper and dispose of it in some way. Sometimes a physical act can help us feel the spiritual work that is going on. What is holding you back? 

As you observe the leaves falling off the trees this fall, ask God to help you identify and let go of those things that are hindering you. For letting go makes room for new life.
 
 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner — Sept 24

The Power of Wonder Woman
 
When I lived in Choteau, a group of my friends and I would compete in a charity golf tournament each summer. It was to raise money for breast cancer research. My team chose the Wonder Woman logo for our shirts, and we wore pink capes. The capes didn’t fare well in the winds of the Rocky Mountain Front, nor for golfing. However, the shirts stuck, and they became a sort of power for all of us. Outside of the annual golf tournament, our shirts were worn regularly. My friends and I would see the shirt, and we would talk about the memories from golfing or working out or how much we loved wearing the shirt. When I am having a particularly stressful time, I have sometimes deliberately worn my Wonder Woman shirt for a little boost.
 
Wonder Woman, the character first appearing in 1941, stands for so much more than a superhero. Just like our simple black t-shirts stand for so much more than a Saturday spent together. Designed in the eye of the hurricane
 
that was WWII, the Wonder Woman character defeated the trope “damsel in distress” by being extraordinarily skilled in combat and technology from the Amazon. She was an ambassador and fought for justice. In fact, the writers drew from feminists of that time to build her character and story. For a short time in 2016, Wonder Woman was an honorary member of the United Nations as an ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.
 
This character is, at the same time, unique and universal. Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) is all of the girls and women out there: full of potential and power, bundled up with the stories of all those before us. May we all remember the power of togetherness and the strength of unity. And may we always be symbols of justice.
 
 

Peace,

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner – Sept 17

The infant Kal-El was put into a space ship and rocketed from the doomed planet Krypton to planet earth. His scientist father believed that the rays of earth’s yellow sun would grow miraculous power in his son. And it did. Kal-El was raised by a couple in Kansas. He became Clark Kent. As he matured and grew, empowered by the sun’s rays, he gained powers beyond the average man. His kryptonian cells served as living solar batteries that fueled his super powers. Clark Kent became “faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound … He became Superman!”

I love that concept that the rays of the sun created super powers in Clark Kent. I believe we all have super powers too, fueled by the Holy Spirit. Each person is created in the image of God. God is awesome, so each person must be too! Each of us is gifted and special. Yes, we are flawed, have struggles and shortcomings AND we are beautiful, amazing, and awesome. The qualities that make each of us unique are our super powers. What is your super power? How can you use your super power to fight crime? To bring peace? To make this world a better place? To do good? Like Superman, we have kryptonian cells which serve as solar batteries fueling our super powers…our receptor cells for the Holy Spirit. You and the Holy Spirit together make a dynamic duo! It is easy to feel inadequate in our society today. When you feel inadequate or unworthy, remember you have the power of the Holy Spirit available to you. Claim your position as one half of a dynamic duo. Turn to the Holy Spirit to empower you.

The apostle Paul understood this. He knew that he was an ordinary man, but when filled with the Holy Spirit, he could do amazing things. You might say he knew the Holy Spirit fueled his super powers. He also knew this power was available to everyone. So, he prayed people would be filled with power. One example is his prayer for the believers in Ephesus. It goes like this, “I pray that out of God’s glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” -Ephesians 3:16-20 NIV

Next time you feel powerless or inadequate, remember you are half of a dynamic duo! You are a uniquely awesome creation of God. The power of the Holy Spirit is available to you and will work in and through you to do more than you could ever imagine. Let’s partner with the Holy Spirit and exercise our super powers to change the world for good. Up, up and away!
 
 

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner – Sept 10

Holy History, Batman!

Today we are beginning a new sermon series called “Dynamic Duos!” where each week we will explore different duos in the Old Testament and their relevance for us today. This phrase first appeared in the October 31, 1940 issue of DC Comics titled “The Case of the Joker’s Crime Circus” in Batman #4. The line reads:
 

…and as if on cue, the dynamic duo leaps into the room…

 

 

 

This phrase became the unofficial title of Batman and Robin when Batman added Robin as his trusty sidekick. This duo changed the comic’s path in many ways. The Dark Vigilante was now a father figure to the orphan boy, making the characters even more relatable. By 1949, the duo was so popular, they got their own film series called “Batman and Robin” primarily based on the idea of pairing and the power of togetherness.

 

The Old Testament is bursting with dynamic duos, and each have different origin stories, different emotions and struggles, different gifts. Some are difficult stories to hear; some are empowering. All of them are relatable, though. The scriptures are full of lessons and stories that help us connect with God, and we hope that this sermon series does that.

As far as Patti and myself being superheroes, we are unsure. But we do know that we are excited to be working together, bringing dynamics to our community of Helena and our two congregations that are unique and faithful. As we explore pairs and connections in the Bible these next weeks, we invite you all to explore the connections you have in your lives. Where do you see God working in your own relationships and connections? What are ways you can be a hero?
 
 

Peace,

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner – Sept 3

Following Jesus is hard.

As your outgoing pastor, I am going to be as honest with you as I can. This Christian life we have decided to follow, and this way of knowing a God of love, justice and peace is not designed to be an easy path. We are called to “love God” and “love our neighbor.” The simplicity of this commandment found in scripture has a pleasant sound, but its consequences can deafen us unless we allow them to move us through our own awkwardness. My new congregation in Billings is fond of saying “And everything else is just a footnote” after this commandment.
 
Here is my footnote: when I came back to Helena 6 years ago, St. Paul’s called me to reach out to young adults (18 until you decide you aren’t young) in the community. Within the first year I had realized something, “Unless we shift our entire church culture, my efforts to meet and encourage young adults in their faith will be fruitless.” Shifting our church culture means we need to shift the culture, so that people of all ages can serve in leadership, grow in their faith and do it all side by side. In our world, the divisions of difference have grown, not on purpose, but by convention. Ages are separated by institution walls: Children in schools. Older adults in retirement homes. Adults by differences in culture, class, status, and even by the fact that you can go to work and home and never see a person outside either location.
 
The path of Jesus for the church is going to be breaking down walls to reach people with love. This isn’t complicated and I think these words embody this sentiment for the church, “It sounds trite but it is true: If you want to move from handout to ministry, if you eschew the world of “drive by charity,” if you are ready to stop “playing church” and want to “be the church,” then pray about it. If you belong to a local congregation that wants to make a difference, and you wonder what God has in store for your future, then pray about it. Pray for God to direct your congregation to ministry with, not to, the poor and marginalized. Pray for God to open your eyes and the eyes of your congregation to see those who experience marginalization among you.”
 
One of my favorite ministry moments in Helena is still one of the simplest. Leaving a coffee shop with a friend he said, “Can you pray for me?”
“Sure,” I responded.
(Awkward silence).
“Now?”
“Yes!” my friend urges.
“I haven’t done this on the street before.”
“Same as if you are doing it inside a church.”
 
Our communities in Montana, across the west are full of people who have no community of faith, and many are searching for meaning in a community who will help them remember Jesus’ great commandment. Can we get through our awkward and follow the hard path? God willing my hope is to prayerfully attempt this work in Billings. Will you join me in this work? Will you work with your incredible new pastors and do this work of the church in Helena?
 
 
Enthusiastic Peace,
Pastor Tyler
 
 
P.S. God likes awkward people, and most often is just waiting to work with us to change the world in love.


Pastor’s Corner — Aug. 27

“I Spy with my little eye something that is…red.” Did you play this game when you were younger? I played often with my brother (I think when my mom was trying to quiet us down!). One would spot something in the room and the other would try to guess what it was. The red button on mom’s blouse. The red light on the cable box. The red stripe on the table cloth. Until I would guess what Mike had picked out. When I was a young mom I discovered the I Spy  books. Pages and pages of pictures of random objects. My daughters and I would sit down and look through the pages. I’d “spy” a specific object on a page and they would look for it. We’d take turns spying objects. It was great fun and a good way to develop observation skills.
 
I played I Spy with the children in worship a few weeks ago. Then I asked them “How do you see
God?” If God is not a person, how can we see God? They came up with some great ideas such as seeing God in creation, in acts of kindness, in moments of beauty. How do you see God? It is a good discipline to train our eyes to “see” God each day, to notice. For truly God is present with us every moment of every day.
 
How have you seen God this week? I saw God on Tuesday afternoon at the Silver Linings tea at Covenant UMC. Silver Linings is a wonderful care program for people who are developmentally disabled. Their clients range in age from child to adult. All have significant challenges they live with every day. Each client was highlighted with the things they most enjoy, such as playing with water on a hot day, or hiking on a trail, or playing on the playground. Stories were told of the things each student has accomplished, like learning to make eye contact with others or walking independently. And we learned what makes each of them special. One young man has a gift for making people smile and laugh. A deaf and blind boy enjoys creating art and says that even though he can’t see it, the staff say it is beautiful. One young person used to keep to herself all the time and has learned how to interact with others and has discovered she likes that. Another young woman is learning how strong her body is and what it is capable of doing. The staff are very creative, have everlasting patience, and offer love and care each day. That is God in action. Those students know they are loved and valued. Those students have discovered a place where they are cared for, challenged, can learn and contribute. My heart was touched by the stories of these special people. I spy God at Silver Linings!
 
 
Pastor Patti


Pastor’s Corner – Aug. 20

A message from our Bishop Karen Oliveto, written 8/15/2017:

Much has been written about white supremacy and white nationalism since this weekend’s deadly violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, and rightly so. We must condemn this evil that is seeking to fray the beautiful tapestry of American society. The hatred and racism that sustain these movements are literally life-threatening and must be confronted and dismantled.

But it is all too easy to point fingers and not do the hard work of personal soul searching, to be honest about the “every day racism” we whites participate in and benefit from. As a white woman, I have to confront my privilege, and the fact that my walk in the world is much easier because of my race than persons of color. Every day, I must confess my racism. Racism is so deeply embedded in our culture and entangles all of us in its web of inequity. I have to consciously reject it every day and the main way I do that is through the power of empathy, listening deeply to how those of color have a much different experience of the world than I do. I must understand that doors that open up automatically for me because of my whiteness open with difficulty—if at all—for persons of color. My race affords me places of safety not granted to those of other races.

I am not frightened of police officers. I don’t worry that by putting on a hoodie, I will be perceived as dangerous. I have never given my nieces and nephews “the talk” about how they should behave if ever stopped by a police officer. I have never been followed in a store by the owner because he or she automatically assumes that I am a suspect for shoplifting simply because of the color of my skin. I have never had to look very far—in books, movies, television, or church meetings—to see people who look like me. In white America, the color of my skin grants me power and privilege.

Racism isn’t an inconvenient social construct.  It is a deadly way to control others.

Racism permeates all corners of American society. Even the church is not immune from its cancerous presence. My own denomination’s history reveals a theology once held that supported the outrageous belief that owning another person and treating them less than human was in line with Christian values. Racism fueled segregation in the church through the creation of an all-black non-geographic jurisdiction in order to preserve (white) “unity”.

If we are to effectively oppose and defuse the movements of white supremacy and nationalism, the starting point must be with our own collusion with racism. Until we do this hard work, we will keep in place the social fuel that will allow these movements to flourish.

My white friends, we can no longer remain silent. We can no longer pretend we live in a post-racial society. We can no longer deny the privilege we possess. We can no longer believe that racism no longer exists.

With eyes wide open, may we dismantle the sin of racism, in our own lives and in the systems and institutions of which we are a part. May Love guide our work, focus our anger and fear, and lead us all into the promise of Beloved Community.

 

Bishop Karen Oliveto, Mountain Sky Area

(Find her blog at karenoliveto.blogspot.com)



Pastor’s Corner – Aug. 13

From Pew to Canoe

The outdoor recreation industry employs and serves millions of people in the summer months. In areas such as ours here in Montana and western North Carolina, Sundays can be one of the busiest days of the week for weekend warriors and seasonal workers. Rev. Wayne “Wayner” Dickert and the Bryson City United Methodist Church decided to take the worship service to the river banks of the Natahala River, using a brewery building as a chapel. They gather, sing, hear scripture, pray for one another, and share in communion. Then, they enjoy nature.

Pastor Wayner shared that being out in the community was the most important part of his ministry. Outdoor guides are finding River Church their welcoming home. These River Church members are unable to drive to a surrounding church to attend a worship service and also guide a trip that same day. That means deciding either to attend church or to make money to live on. Many young river guides express gratitude for church being on the river because they can worship and work on the same day. Others have flocked from all surrounding areas over their love of the water and connection to a former paddler. For the outdoor sports enthusiast, the Weekend Warrior lifestyle and traditional church lifestyle don’t always mesh well. Bryson UMC is reaching beyond its walls to bring these two together.  “It’s just a place where people can come together and be exactly who they are and accepted and loved,” Anne Connelly, a former national team paddler explained.

Offerings from River Church go to clean water projects around the world. They have donated 16 wells in Haiti thus far. After worship, the community hit the water, making connections through going to work or enjoying a day on the river together.

Visit the River Church’s website for more information: www.nantahalariveroflife.org
 
Do you have any ideas for our community for reaching our Weekend Warriors here in the Helena?
 
Pastor Sami 
 


Pastor’s Corner – Aug. 6

Ecclesiastes 3:7b says, “There is a time to speak and a time to keep silent.” I know we all have regrets over times our tongues got away from us and words flew out of our mouths and hurt somebody. I suspect we all have regrets over times we did not speak up, and later wished we had said something. Imagine these scenarios:
 
You walk into a conversation at work or at school where a person is being ridiculed. You hear the deriding comments. Even see the humor in them. Do you speak up or keep silent?
 
Someone walks into a social situation and is very vocal about his/her political views. Would you speak up or keep silent? Does your answer change if you agree or disagree with their opinion?
 
A person is happily living in denial. It may be an issue around facing their age, the prognosis of an illness, or the reality of a mental illness. You can see through the denial to the true reality. Should you speak up?
 
There is a time to speak and a time to keep silent. Words have great power. They dig deep into our souls. Mother Teresa says, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” I would say the same is true for unkind words; they carry an echo as well.
 
How do you make choices about when to speak up and when to listen? How does your faith inform your choices? These are worthy questions to ponder. And we will reflect on what the Tiger Lily has to say to us about this topic of words and their power.
 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti