Pastor’s Corner — November 12

Life is a roller coaster. We experience ups, downs, loop-de-loops, and extreme curves. Often we can’t predict them and brace ourselves. This is true for us. It was true for the early believers. They were living under foreign rule, God seemed distant, life was hard. Then Jesus appeared on the scene and they had hope! He healed people. He taught with great insight and truth. He stood up to the religious authorities. He offered life! Then it all came to a shocking halt when Jesus was crucified. But he came back and appeared to the believers. Offering hope, direction, new purpose. I suspect those early believers felt like they had gone through the wringer the past couple of years. How did they handle it? How did they stay grounded? What did they hold on to? Acts 2:42 tells us “the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.” They held on to their faith and to one another. God’s grace sustained and empowered them in this way. God’s grace will do the same for us.
Both congregations, Covenant and St. Paul’s, have experienced a wild roller coaster ride lately. Wonderful celebration alongside shocking grief. What are we to do? How do we find God in the midst of it? Let’s pattern ourselves after those early church people:
• Let’s devote ourselves to teaching, both in scripture and in contemporary spiritual authors. Those can be words of life for us, nourishing our souls.
• Let’s be devoted to the community, our church family. For God’s grace is living in and among the people. As we connect with one another, we will discover the presence of God.
• Let’s share meals together. Eating together nourishes our bodies and our souls. Connect with your friends. Share life together. Laugh and cry together, for in that we will be healed and sustained.
• And finally, let’s be devoted to prayer. Our tendency is to keep busy in seasons of grief, and there is value in that. But we also need to remember to pause, to breathe, to connect with the very presence and power of God who created us and loves us more than we can imagine.
Grief is a difficult journey. Grief is the pain we feel after a loss. And the more we loved the person, the more pain we feel. There is no way around the pain. To avoid or deny it only leaves us wounded and stuck. We need to find a way to embrace the pain and walk through it. This takes time. So be patient and gentle with yourself and one another. As we walk with one another, our goal is not to “get over it.” Our goal is to integrate our loss into our life. As we do, we will grow into a new reality and find meaning and joy again.
Walking on the path of grace,
Pastor Patti

Pastor’s Corner – July 9

When I was in college I took a public speaking class. One of my assignments was to write a short speech on a favorite saying. I chose, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I don’t know why I remember that, but it came to mind this week as I was reflecting back on my life and the joys and challenges I have faced. I guess I have always tried to see all experiences, whether good or bad, as opportunities to grow. Otherwise bitterness, anger, and resentment can take over my heart and joy eludes me. Perhaps the biblical equivalent is Romans 8:28, “in all things God works for good.”
I’m reading an inspiring book, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, by Henri Nouwen. The title is a good summary of his theme: spiritual formation is not so much religious practices we add into our lives, but rather paying attention to how we experience the spirit of God moving in our daily lives. In the first chapter he talks about time. We typically view time as chronos, the series of events that make up our days. And we never have enough of this kind of time! He encourages us to view time as kairos, which I’ve heard defined as God’s time.
When we view time as kairos then we train ourselves to see God’s hands at work in our everyday moments and every moment becomes a potential connection to God, whether we are doing chores, spending time with someone, resting, playing, or serving another. Each moment and each activity becomes an opportunity to receive the love of God, to be transformed by the love of God, and/or to share the love of God. Our days then, become a mosaic of God’s work in our lives. This sounds all too simple, but it is challenging for me. My “To Do” list tends to control my life. But, in the moments I can focus on kairos, and increase my awareness of God’s activity in my life, life becomes lemonade!
How do you see God at work in your daily life? I would love to hear your story!
Walking in Grace,

Pastor’s Corner – June 11

The Pianos of St. Paul’s UMC (a short history)

Because our pastors are involved with the Yellowstone Conference this week, thy have asked me to tell you about an exciting new development.
When Fay and I moved to Helena in 1973 and were hired as organist/pianist and choir director, the pianos in the old church were older upright pianos which were in pretty bad shape. Through negotiations with Dick Dightman, our previous choir director, and Ernest Neath, the organist at the early service (and also owner of “Neath Music”), St. Paul’s purchased a small “studio upright” Young Chang piano which became the main piano in the sanctuary of our old church.
When we moved into our new church in 2005 it became obvious that this small Young Chang piano would not fill our new sanctuary space. In April of 1999, Bill and Bonnie Toliaferro had pledged $25,000.00 for the purchase of a new grand piano, so Fay and I went shopping. We located a Yamaha grand piano in Spokane, Washington which we really liked, so in June of 2005 we purchased our present 6 ft. 11 inch grand piano which has been in our sanctuary ever since.
The Young Chang piano, which had been our “best” piano was moved to the choir room of our new church. Here again we felt the Young Chang piano was too small for that space, so we moved our personal 5 ft. 10 inch grand piano built by Kawai into the choir room to be used for rehearsals and performances.
We have promised our grand piano to our daughter, Megan, who teaches music at Denver Community College. She and her husband have recently done a remodel of their home in Denver, and they are ready for the piano We have been given permission to “take back” our piano and replace it with a nearly identical Kawai grand piano owned by Ron and Roberta Nelson who have offered their piano to the church for a very reasonable price. Fay has played this piano and feels very confident it is a fine instrument. The money to pay for this piano will come from the choir annuity which has sufficient funds to cover the cost, and the choir will then give this new piano to St. Paul’s on a permanent basis so that all pianos located at St. Paul’s UMC will belong to the church. The moving of pianos will take place later this month.


Dave Buness, Music and Arts Coordinator, St. Paul’s UMC

Pastor’s Corner – June 4

As many of you know, I returned just last week from spending almost two weeks in Norway.  Most of my time there was spent attending a meeting of the Connectional Table of the UMC which was held in Oslo.  The actual work of the Connectional Table is a bit difficult to describe but the over-arching goal is to bring together representatives from all over the denomination to identify and address the challenges of, and opportunities for, working together as a worldwide church.  In a sense, the Connectional Table is a kind of ‘church council’ on a large scale.
When the meeting ended, Lyle and I spent an additional 3 days exploring Oslo and then traveling into the fjords of Norway. We visited the mountain village of Flom, rode a ferry through the Sognefjord and stayed the night in Bergen before riding the scenic train back to Oslo for our flight home.  To say the least, it was magnificent scenery – and we had long days during which to enjoy it all. Currently, sunrise in Norway is at 4:07 a.m.  and sunset is at 10:22 p.m.!
We flew in and out of Edmonton, Canada so upon our return, we took advantage of our trip to spend a night at the peace park in Waterton before heading home.  As you might imagine, we were a bit tired but as we sat in the lobby of the Prince of Wales hotel, watching the sun set and the shadows deepen on the lake, I was struck with the fact that the beauty before us bore a striking resemblance to the beauty of the fjords we had just left.  My point?  Beauty abounds everywhere!  Or, to borrow from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins  . . . The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It is for us to notice and appreciate the gifts that surround us. 


And, isn’t that the invitation of summer?  As school ends and as the days lengthen, be sure to find time to enjoy the beauty around you!  Though visits to Norway or countless other places are tremendous opportunities, the reality is that we don’t need to travel far to see the treasures of the natural world.  We are surrounded by them.  May you take time this summer to appreciate the blessings that beckon all around.
Grace and peace, Marianne

Pastor’s Corner – March 5

“Follow Jesus, and expect the unexpected”
These are the words shared at our Ash Wednesday service last week as people received Ashes on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday began our season of Lent, the season we share in each year as Christians to help us prepare for Easter. In the ancient church, this season was used to prepare new Christians for the baptism on Easter, a ritual that invited them into the church. It also served as a way for Christians to recommit to the faith each year by re-learning the practices of faith alongside those who were new.
Ritual is a practice that opens us and our senses to the environment around us. Christian ritual invites us to be aware of what Jesus calls us to be and what God is doing in the world around us. When we take a moment to pray in tense situation, we feel God’s calm that gives us the peace to move ahead. When we stop our lives for an hour of reflection in worship, it opens us to see new opportunity to make our world better. When we relax into a practice of focused meditation, it develops the discipline of our minds to handle more complex problems. Taking time for ritual is like exercise, the more we do it, the deeper we can go with God in our lives.
To expect the unexpected is about allowing ritual to open us to receiving what God is doing in our lives. It may help us notice problems that need our community’s assistance, it may invite us to spend more time with someone who needs our company, or we may need theirs. If we open ourselves to God this season, and listen to the lessons of Jesus, what might happen?
As you enter this season I invite you to take part in one of our many practices: Sue McNicol is teaching a class on receiving God through photography. Join the God Hunger prayer group that meets Wednesdays at noon in the balcony. I will be teaching a class on discovering God and faith through full emotional living. Listen to each sermon this season as Marianne, Rick and I unfold the stories of Jesus the give un-expected lessons. Take part in the challenge to daily offer some resources to Intermountain found at
Pick at least one ritual and use your church as a resource to open yourself to God’s unexpected love this season.
Enthusiastic Peace,
Pastor Tyler

Pastor’s Corner – Dec. 11, 2016

This letter is from Sally McConnell the Yellowstone Annual Conference Missions Coordinator.  One of our primary missions as a conference is supporting pastors in East Angola through our United Methodist connection. I invite us to learn a little more about this amazing program that members of our church continue to support.

Pastor Tyler

Friends of Yellowstone Conference,

The pastors we support in East Angola are doing essential ministry and changing the lives of people in need. Pastor Serrote has been a pastor for four years. You may wonder why he has just finished high school. For almost 40 years Angola suffered through wars— first of independence, then a civil war. Whole generations missed out on an education. Angola was on a path of rebuilding, until the drop in oil severely impacted their economy.

Rev. Andre Cassule visited Yellowstone Conference this past spring. He traveled all across our conference sharing his story of faith and ministry, and the impact that YAC is having half-way around the world in small villages and towns in Angola. His ministry is not only on weekends where he enriches people’s lives in faith, but he has also started an agricultural project for the people in his village where they raise food together to benefit the individuals and the church.

You can watch a short video of him by going to

The United Methodist Church in the U.S.A. faces struggles and uncertainties right now. But what IS certain is this: The pastors we support in East Angola are doing essential ministry, and changing lives. WE have the opportunity to offer hope. Your continued support of pastors is needed. $50 a month makes a difference. As Rev. Cassule said:

“My family and I need you in order to serve Jesus.”

You can give through your church using Advance

# 3021453 (Angola pastor support), or by going to and use the above Advance #. Learn more by going to

Sally McConnell

Yellowstone Conference Missions Coordinator

“I want to thank Yellowstone Conference for their support with
supplement salary for the pastors in UMC East Angola, because it is
the only income most of us and our families survive on. I have particularly benefited a lot from this support because I managed to pay
school fees for my education at Quessua High School, where I graduated at the 12th grade last year. I also enrolled for a Bible course at
the Faculty of Theology, where the savings from your support has
enabled me to buy writing materials for my studies. I am also supporting my two siblings with school fees with the same stipend.”

– Pastor Famoloso Domingoes Serrote, 24

Pastor’s Corner – August 28, 2016

Education has long been a centerpiece of the United Methodist tradition.  This goes back to John and Charles Wesley who received a strong education from their mother Susanna.  Susanna was a woman who had an incredible education background for a woman in her era.  Susanna knew several languages, knew the Bible well, and passed on her vast knowledge to her children.   In Montana, Methodists have long worked for education one great example is the founding of the college that is now Rocky Mountain College in Billings.  Due to this history we believe that people can change the world when empowered through a good education and with the support of a spirit filled community.


In this spirit it is important for us to continue learning as a congregation on how we can help our community to be a place that supports education.  The only way for us to do this is by learning to be missional and connecting with our schools. 




  1. Describing an act of sharing God’s love in the community.
  2. Existing as part of the above act.


Today, during worship we are going to be missional in several ways.  First, we are going to bless the backpacks of our students heading back to school.  We want our children to know that we care about their education and that we are supporting them as they learn.  As we bless backpacks we hope that God’s love is at work in our schools through children, educators, and staff.  Second, we will take a student offering to support students through scholarships administered by our United Methodist connection.  This shows we support people connecting with knowledge in our global community.  Finally, we will be invited to write letters to educators and staff in our schools.  Specifically, we will write messages of support to all of Central Elementary School’s staff and teachers as our neighborhood school, and then write letters to others in our school districts we want to support.  A form letter can be found at

Gracious God bless our teachers, staff, and students as they return to another year of learning.

Enthusiastic Peace,


Pastor Tyler


August 16 Pastor’s Corner

As I was working on designing and coordinating activities for St. Paul’s and HUMM this fall, it seemed it would be a good time to share with everyone the ways we have grown young adult ministry in the past 4 years. As many know, my primary responsibility at St. Paul’s when I was appointed was to explore young adult ministry. Young adult’s ages range from 18-35, ages that often do not find a home in churches to explore their spirituality. St. Paul’s decided to take a leadership role in creating an Associate Pastor position to explore this area of ministry.

Over the past 4 years I have worked to attempt several different avenues to attract, engage and provide spaces for young people to engage Christianity and their spirituality. The first year our primary focus was a young adult small group that allowed for young adults to meet each other and explore their faith. The group served its purpose, but felt like it segregated young people from the life of the church. The next year we shifted focus to Sunday’s @ Six, a coffee-shop style worship and discussion experience. This again had some real energy at the beginning, but required a large amount of energy for a very small group. This last year we put a lot of energy into Challenge Helena (, an exciting way to engage the whole community in social justice that had an intergenerational planning team, including some young adults. Along with these specific projects we have worked to ensure that our website, classes, worship, and church are welcoming to young people.

No one of these things has been a huge success, but each one of our efforts in young adult ministry has let young people know that church is about more than just letting them know about Jesus. Young people know that as Christians we care about the community, the world and them. This last Wednesday we had 25 people at our Young Adult BBQ, mostly people exploring St. Paul’s as a possible faith community. Many of these people are sharing that they found St. Paul’s because they want a safe and accepting place to explore their faith.

I think we have learned some valuable lessons through our experiments and some of our experiments will be growing into successes over the coming years. We have grown some young adult leaders who will begin to take roles in the church. We plan to have some new styles of small groups, classes and conversations for young adults. We will also continue looking at how Challenge Helena might be a new way to engage young adults in social justice. God is doing some amazing things through our willingness to create space for experiments in ministry. We can be proud that we are partnering with God and each other as we continue to seek ways to invite all ages into the life of our faith community.

Enthusiastic Peace,
Pastor Tyler

Pastor’s Corner May 17

“Courageous” This is the adjective that Ann Waickman used about clients of Helena Food Share. She used this word for people of all ages who seek food assistance during her Challenge Helena talk. ( It takes courage to be a parent who needs to admit that you cannot provide for your family, despite your best efforts. Courage for children to peer over a counter and ask for something to fill the empty place in their stomach. Courage for a mother to call Food Share and make sure they have milk, so she can trust the trip will bring nourishing food to her family. By giving to the Helena Church Challenge we have quite literally been lending “canned courage” to people in our community.

Bringing “canned courage” is what St. Paul’s and Covenant have done by their continuing support of the Church Challenge for Helena Food Share. The Church Challenge was started in 2014 during one of the lowest donation times of the year to get churches in Helena to cooperate by reaching a shared goal. We started knowing that 4,000 lbs was the average during April/May. We set out to double this number and brought in over 9,000 in 2014 and 8,213 pounds in 2015 from 20 churches. In 2015 St. Paul’s brought in 2,079 and Covenant brought in 780 lbs. “Canned courage” is our work and Christ is present in the courage.

Thank you for helping to share courage,

Pastor Tyler