Pastor’s Corner April 8, 2018

HOLDING HISTORY
Seven years ago, I was a leader for two youth mission trips in southeast Tennessee and southern North Carolina. While cleaning out a garage, we discovered almost 20 years’ worth of LIFE Magazine issues in mint condition. We carefully spread out all the magazines and arranged them chronologically, beginning in the late 50s all through the mid 70s. The issues covered our workspace with history. One of the other adult leaders was a history teacher, and the youth gathered around her as we flipped through history in a way none of us had experienced. Getting to hold issues sharing pictures of walking on the moon and the Vietnam War and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination brought a new understanding and respect to my life. I also became intrigued by the fact that we were in the backyard of this history: smack dab in the middle of the Jim Crow South. That was something I had not spent much time thinking about before. What were the thoughts of the owners while reading these issues? How did this town react?
As we remember Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination fifty years ago in Memphis, Tennessee, I can’t help but remember this trip I had. What effects did King’s presence and voice have on the black population in Tennessee? What effect did it have on Montana in 1968? All these questions are important to ponder. King was in Memphis to protest and march for sanitation workers’ conditions and low wages. After his death, riots broke out all across the country. It is still the story of our country today. Many have fought, but our work is not done. Both of these mission trips I experienced that summer were helping families living without plumbing in their homes. Generational poverty, inhumane working conditions, and discrimination plague our country still today, and much of King’s fight is still being fought. What will our future generations find in our garages? What stories of hope, fighting for justice, and equality will we share? How will we hold history in fifty years? Will it be still be our story? Or will it be an injustice eradicated?

Peace,
Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner March 25, 2018

At the beginning of the week, I was asked to write a bit about my thoughts on Holy Week. As we reflect on the Passion during this week, Jesus challenged us with his example of love and sacrifice. We remember that Jesus was our savior and paid the ultimate price to forgive our sins. What we often overlook is that Jesus also was a progressive advocate for social justice. Here is a brief article from the United Methodist Church website regarding the mission of social justice.

“Advocating for Justice
The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Wesley and the early Methodists expressed their opposition to societal ills such as slavery, smuggling, inhumane prison conditions, alcohol abuse, and child labor.

We believe that salvation entails renewal of both individuals and the world. Our faithful response to God’s saving grace has both a personal and social dimension as we grow in “holiness of heart and life.” By practicing spiritual disciplines — “works of piety” such as prayer, Bible study, participation in corporate worship and communion — we grow and mature in our love for God. By engaging in acts of compassion and justice — “works of mercy” such as visiting the sick and those in prison, feeding the hungry, advocating for the poor and marginalized — we live out our love for God through service to our neighbor. “Our love of God is always linked with love of our neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world” (Book of Discipline 2012, p. 51).

Just as our own discipleship occurs both at a personal and communal level, our work in the world extends beyond helping individuals to transforming the conditions that create injustice and inequality: “it is our conviction that the good news of the Kingdom must judge, redeem, and reform the sinful social structures of our time” (Book of Discipline 2012, p. 53).

Our Social Principles are the church’s prayerful and thoughtful attempt to speak to contemporary issues through a biblical and theological lens, seeking “to apply the Christian vision of righteousness to social, economic, and political issues” (Book of Discipline 2012, p. 53).

As the agency tasked specifically to assist The United Methodist Church’s work of advocacy, The United Methodist Board of Church and Society works to provide “witness and action on issues of human well-being, justice, peace” through research, education and training.”

The Passion of Jesus Christ reminds us that we are not only called to ministry to spread the Good Word but also to challenge social injustice and inequality. I hope this week finds you well.
-Matt Hankins



Pastors Corner March 18, 2018

The Church of CrossFit

There is a distasteful joke about CrossFit athletes that goes something like this: “Ever wonder if someone does CrossFit? Don’t worry, they will tell you.” This makes me chuckle a bit because I love CrossFit, and I LOVE to talk about lifting weights, competitions, and technique. But, at an introspective angle, this joke makes me cringe because I am reminded how evangelical I am about CrossFit, but I often fail to be evangelical about the Church.

CrossFit (and other exercise-based groups) are thriving these days, becoming a church of sorts for millions of people. There is something to be said about these communities thriving at the same time as religious affiliations decline. The communities offer encouragement, accountability, support, training, and purpose. Most people attend regularly, come to one another’s aid in times of need, and push one another to work hard and strive for a balanced life. Even if we are seeing decreases in traditional church, human beings still carry the same age-old desires for connection, relationships, and participation in something larger than themselves.

According to an article written by ter Kuile, “Strikingly, spaces traditionally meant for exercise have become the locations of shared, transformative experience.” You can read the whole article here: https://caspertk.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/how-we-gather.pdf

The zeal found in a CrossFit community is fascinating, and it may even be encouraging to us in church communities. In fact, if a person wants to be the owner of an affiliated CrossFit “Box” gym, he/she has to answer what CrossFit has meant in his/her life, and why does he/she want to share that with others. Sounds a lot like discipleship, doesn’t it?

The carryover seems very natural when we look at the missions of both the Church and community of CrossFit. In fact, there are specific Christian groups and Boxes out there: https://faithrxd.org/

This topic is very large, and I plan to continue to explore this. But, for today, I leave you with a couple questions to ponder:

  • What communities are you a part of which have given you a shared, transformative experience?
  • How can we in Helena and the surrounding area learn from community groups like CrossFit to take church beyond the walls?
Would you be interested in an exercise-based disciple group?
 
Peace – Pastor Sami


Pastor’s Corner 3/11/2018

“Snow Can Bury Houses”

The title is a quote from Rev. Dawn Skerritt of Columbia Falls UMC. She is Yellowstone Annual Conference’s disaster response coordinator, and she has been working faithfully to serve our brothers and sisters in the northern parts of Montana.

Our uncommonly harsh winter this year has affected many people in our communities and state. Just the month of February has brought over 160 additional inches of snow to the northern parts of our state. Wind, dry snow, and one road in and out of town have created emergencies and hardships on the community of Browning, MT and surrounding areas.

But, as quickly as the snow fell, the Holy Spirit swept through the country. The outpouring of aide and donations to the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish is amazing, and it gives me hope. In fact, on umc.org, the featured UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) story is our own state’s story.

One of my favorite characteristics of the United Methodist Church is our connection to one another. The rapport and trust men and women before me built in the arena of disaster relief and aide is mesmerizing. It ripples out from all corners of the earth. I remember having an interim pastor at my home church in high school, and she told stories of traveling on missions around the world, and being welcomed fully because of the cross and flame on her baseball cap. It was a language all its own; it told a story of love and mercy and relief.

Over the past month, we easily see that this statement is still true. Over the past month, I also see the responsibility we carry with us to continue this work, to continue keeping the cross and flame a true sign of hope for those within our walls and outside our personal reach. Today is UMCOR Sunday, which is a time to celebrate the good news UMCOR has shared through action and also to financially support UMCOR’s administration costs, so it can continue to give 100% of its donations to its causes. Very few organizations are able to do this.

I invite you to do 3 things over the next few weeks:

  • When you hear your heater turn on, when you throw another log on the fire, or you hop in a hot shower, pray. Remember those in our midst who go without and those who have to choose between these things, especially in the winter. Rev. Skerritt’s comment about snow burying houses is the harsh reality of our brothers and sisters up north right now. Many are in danger and in need.
  • Tell someone about UMCOR. Tell someone about how UMCOR has built a rapport unlike anything else, and that money is used faithfully.
  • Consider supporting UMCOR in different ways through this year. Whether it is through monies or building the various kits, any donation will go to someone in need, either this spring or in the months to come.
May we keep the cross and flame a sign of hope. May we see the Holy Spirit moving in our midst right next to the winds of winter.
 
Peace be with you all.

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner March 4, 2018

The people of St. Paul’s are very generous! Thank you for all of the ways you extend your time, spirit, and resources to help others. One example is this week, as the donations have been pouring in to support those in the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish. As you know, they have been hit hard by winter storms this year, to the point that they are in crisis, unable to get food, supplies, and propane. Last week we initiated a disaster response plan and called for donations. We are partnering with the Yellowstone Annual Conference and UMCOR, our United Methodist disaster relief agency. The response is incredible! Supplies have arrived, or are on the way as we sit in worship this morning. A special thank you to Debbie Irby, who is coordinating our efforts. (here is a picture of donations we received in one 5-hour time-span. We had piles of this daily all week!)

A reminder, next week is UMCOR Sunday. A day we take a special offering to support the administrative costs of operating UMCOR so that donations the rest of the year can go 100% toward the specific crisis. I encourage you to contribute as you are able.

Another upcoming example of your generosity is the mission team we will be sending to Brazil, April 6-18, led by Don Skillman. The team is going to Boa Vista, Roraima to work with our friend of many years, Pastor Augusto Cardias. A large room will be constructed by our team which will be used as a place to feed refugees from Venezuela and also will be part of a school that Pastor Augusto hopes to open for children with special needs. There is nothing like that available in Boa Vista currently. The Venezuelan refugee problem is enormous. Augusto’s church feeds several hundred people every week and the need is much larger. On Saturdays, he brings busloads of children and their mothers to the church for recreation and a simple meal. It’s a few hours of rest and play for people who are in a truly desperate situation. We’ll be conducting a medical mission during our time in Boa Vista as well. When there in January this year, with the help of two nurses and Augusto’s wife (Marcia), Don evaluated and treated 487 people in 12 hours. There are several ways you can support the mission team. They are accepting donations of ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and vitamins for adults and children. Please don’t donate “gummi vitamins” because they melt together into a big glob! These items can be left in the church office, please. They are accepting financial donations to support the costs of construction materials, food, and medication. There is some room for children’s clothing and small toys, too. The climate is very warm, so light T-shirts and/or shorts are what they wear. And of course, please pray for good health and safe travels for the team.

There are countless other ways you each put your faith into action and offer love and compassion to others locally, nationally, and globally. Together we are bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer each week.

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner – February 25, 2018

The United Methodist Church is in a discernment process around theological conflicts we have. We are seeking ways to find unity amidst our diversity. A challenging task. The Bishops have formed and empowered a Commission On A Way Forward consisting of laity and clergy to do this work. The Commission is expected to bring recommendations to the Council of Bishops in February of 2019. As they continue the work, we are invited to support them in prayer. This week, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Wisconsin Annual Conference, invited us all to join in the following prayer: 
 
Daily Prayer by Steve Zekoff:
“Everlasting God, we pray that your Spirit’s power permeates The United Methodist Church as new possibilities are considered by those designated to discern our way into the future. Protect us from the mentality of presuming our perspective is superior when other members of your church experience your presence and message differently than we do. Open us to a creative outcome from our current struggles, one which surrounds all with your protection. Help us to recognize your love expressed through leaders and followers, the vulnerable as well as the powerful, the quiet as well as the noisy. May we feel your protective presence with us as we walk alongside the diversity of believers who make up Christ’s body. Guide us into your future with grace. Amen.”
 
Walking on the Path of Grace – Patti


Pastor’s Corner – February 18, 2018

Why Jesus? This is the title of the book that we will be pulling our sermons from during Lent. William Willimon asks us in the introduction, “Who is Jesus?” If you met someone who had never heard of Jesus before, how would you tell him or her about Jesus? Willimon describes Jesus as a Jewish man who worked in Judea. He called disciples, told stories, had compassion for the suffering, was a notorious troublemaker who went to a lot of parties, and was tortured to death after a short run as a wandering rabbi. But is that all Jesus is? Why do billions of people follow Jesus? Why do people sing songs to Jesus? Why have great cathedrals been erected and masterpieces of art created to honor Jesus? Who was Jesus? Who is Jesus?

Maybe a more important question is, “Who is Jesus to you? What difference does Jesus make in your life?”

We will spend the next six Sundays exploring who Jesus was, and what difference he makes in our lives today. I was intrigued by this book which expanded my thinking about Jesus. As one who has grown up in the church and pursued a theological education, you might think I have it all figured out. But I do not. And that is one of the compelling things to me about this life of faith in Jesus. We never arrive. There is always room to grow in our understanding and in our living. Willimon concludes his Introduction with this statement, “Be warned: in reading this book, you are taking a risk of getting discombobulated, commandeered, and befriended by the most interesting person in the world.” Will you join me on this journey with Jesus this Lent season?

It is my hope that as we journey toward Easter this year, we will get to know Jesus better and allow ourselves to be transformed.

Walking on the path of grace,
Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner – February 11, 2018

LENT: A Holy Season of the Year

What is Lent? According to our United Methodist tradition:

“Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.” http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-lent-and-why-does-it-last-forty-days

I think of Lent as that season in our Christian year to grow deeper in faith; through study, devotion, fasting, service, or prayer. Historically, in the early church, it was a time to teach new believers the doctrines of the church in preparation for baptism. Thus, traditionally, many churches, including ours, offer special studies during Lent. Sami and I will be preaching from a book called Why Jesus? by William H. Willimon. The premise is that Jesus is the most fascinating person in the world who has made a huge impact. How do we describe Jesus? Who was he? What did he accomplish? What difference does that make in our lives today? I was intrigued as I read this book at how much more I have to learn about Jesus. I will be leading a study in this book on Wednesday evenings at Covenant. Join us for a soup supper and discussion. All are welcome. We have several other studies going and starting that could help deepen your faith. See if any sound intriguing to you.

Lent is also a season historically for fasting or other spiritual practices. How might you draw closer to God through taking on a new spiritual practice?
 
Perhaps fasting from a particular food, or from social media. Or taking on a new prayer practice. On Wednesday evenings in Lent, Sami and Dominic will be preparing interactive prayer stations based on the Psalms. They will be available from 6:30-7:00 in the St. Paul’s sanctuary. There is also a community sing following, which explores music as a way to draw closer to God and one another. Is there a spiritual practice that might help you focus on God?

Or perhaps, you don’t need to add one more thing to your already busy life. Perhaps to draw closer to God you need to stop doing something. I talked to a colleague today who has put all meetings and small groups on hiatus for Lent in order that his church people might have time to rest, to be with their families, to take up a new hobby, to renew their spirit, to invest in relationships at work or in the neighborhood. Is there something you need to stop doing, in order to draw closer to God?

Or perhaps, in order to grow in faith, you need to take the focus off of yourself and onto others in the form of service. Is there some way you can intentionally help others this Lent season? Jesus constantly taught us to be with the poor, the lost, the lonely, the sick. How might you share the love of God with others in service?

Lent, a holy season of the year. What might you do or not do, in order to draw closer to God over the next 40 or so days? I pray as we embark on this season that we might discover the abundant life Jesus promises each one of us.

Walking on the path of grace,
Pastor Patti

 



Pastor’s Corner – January 28, 2018

What is Your Spiritual Type?

As we continue to explore different beginnings in our individual lives, another facet of beginnings is beginnings within the church. One of our responsibilities as the body of Christ and church communities is to nurture and raise up new leaders. This refers to those exploring God’s call within a lay leadership arena and also exploring God’s call toward professional ministry. Both of these are important work! My favorite part of baptizing people is presenting the person to the community before me and sharing our spiritual responsibility to nurture and raise him/her to be the best version of themselves possible.
 

These beginnings aren’t just at baptisms. One of the best ways to explore ways God is moving you toward leadership is through spiritual gifts inventories and simple quizzes. The Living Prayer Center, a ministry of The Upper Room, which is the publishing house of the Walk to Emmaus curriculum, offers a spiritual-type test to help with discerning. The test consists of 15 questions and four possible results: Sage, Lover, Prophet, and Mystic.

Your first challenge: to take a couple minutes and take this spiritual test! It may surprise you! I just took it and my result was Sage. It says I value responsibility, logic, and order. I love words, busy schedules, and details. My contributions are usually found in theology, education, and publishing. It also says I need to break a rule or two once in a while to not be dry!

Go to http://prayer-center.upperroom.org/resources/quiz and discover what your spiritual type is. What did you learn about yourself? Where does your type pull you in our communities’ leadership?

Your second challenge: tell me what your type is! Let’s find you a place to explore that spiritual type! Maybe there is a book you want to study or a community project you would like to support. As we begin this year, let’s begin some new ministries together!

Peace,
Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner – January 21, 2018

We are only three weeks into 2018 and it feels like months! I think because I have been hearing story after story of trauma, stress, and difficulty. My daughter Amanda is living right in the midst of the mudslides in Montecito, CA. Each day she tells me about the death and destruction as well as the hope and life. They go hand in hand. I have been following the disturbing stories of the gymnasts and athletes who suffered abused at the hands of a pedophile doctor. As much as my heart breaks, I also have been inspired by their courage and power in telling their stories. What has struck me in all of this is the evidence of the faithfulness and everlasting love of God in the midst of all the pain. I also have been hearing stories of cancer, untimely deaths, and other traumas. But in each story is a thread strength, love, courage, and hope. A light shining through the broken cracks. Alongside all this trauma I have been studying the life of Jonah…you know the guy who ended up in the belly of a big fish! His story has wide swings between curse and blessing, obedience and rebellion. The imagery in his prayer is powerful and has grabbed ahold of my heart. It conveys the turmoil he was in as well as the hope he holds on to from the bottom of the sea.

Jonah’s Prayer (Jonah 2:1-6 NLT)

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said,

“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
    and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
    and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
    and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
    I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
    Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’

“I sank beneath the waves,
    and the waters closed over me.
    Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
    I was imprisoned in the earth,
    whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
    snatched me from the jaws of death!

 

So, for those of you out there who feel like you are sinking in a sea of waves, facing turmoil of your own, may you find hope and comfort in Jonah’s prayer. Make it your own, holding onto a thread of faith, trusting in God, even from the bottom of the sea. And may we all lift one another up with love and compassion, for we never know what people are going through.

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti