Pastor’s Corner May 20, 2018

Pastors Corner

When I arrived in Helena just 10 short months ago, I was impressed by this incredible staff team. We have had some transition already as positions became open and we found new people to join our staff. We now have three more positions open. (see their notes below)

First, I want to express my appreciation for Jillian, Dave, and Sue. Each one has made invaluable contributions to this congregation over the years. We will have a reception on June 10 during fellowship time to express our gratitude to each of them.

Second, I want to assure you that I am working closely with our Staff Parish Relations Committee to assess our staff structure and hire new staff. We will continue to seek amazing people to lead and serve us. We have posted the job descriptions for the Choir Director and Worship Director on our website at www.stpaulshelena.org/jobs. If you know anyone you think is perfect for the job, spread the word. We are working to create job descriptions and an application process for the remaining positions. Keep posted.

I’m confident God is continuing to guide us as we walk on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti

 

A Note from Jillian Newton

When I came to Helena, I never could have imagined that I would have an opportunity to work with a choir that has the caliber of singers we enjoy here at St. Paul’s or that I would find congregation as welcoming as this one. The joy and confidence I have gained from this community have inspired me to take the next step in pursuing a lifelong dream. This fall, I will be attending Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey in order to earn a Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting. My goal is to one day teach at the university level, training the next generation of choral performers. While I am sad to be leaving my St. Paul’s family, I am so grateful for the outpouring of love and support I have received and I look forward to making music with you all for the rest of the year.
 

A Note from Dave Buness

Dear Family,
Yes, you certainly have been family to Fay and me for the past forty-five years.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that George Harper and Annie Wix approached us as we were unloading our U-Haul and asked us to take over the music program at St. Paul’s.  It has been a wonderful place to raise a family and become a part of the St. Paul’s community.  Fay plans to continue as pianist/organist but I have decided that I am most comfortable singing in the choir, so I am resigning as Music and Arts Coordinator.  We are saddened that Jillian Newton, our choir director is also resigning to pursue her graduate program in music.  We hope to fill these positions quickly.
 
 

A Note from Sue McNicol

Beginning May 29 I will venture two blocks from St. Paul’s UMC to start employment with another of Helena’s remarkable non-profit organizations – Prickly Pear Land Trust. I’m excited about this opportunity to work with an expansive group of volunteers and staff dedicated to connecting land and people. While I’ll be leaving my employment with St. Paul’s, I remain committed to the mission of this vibrant faith community and the work of Helena United Methodist Ministries. St. Paul’s has been a place of healing and growth for me these past seven years. I’m grateful for the many opportunities and relationships St. Paul’s and Covenant UMC have offered me as well as guidance and support from these congregations and staff on the path to becoming a Local Pastor. I intend to continue steps toward becoming a Licensed Local Pastor serving in the Helena area. Thanks for being my faith community, co-workers, friends and mentors. I so appreciate you

 



Pastor’s Corner May 13, 2018

“Trust the wait.

Embrace the uncertainty.

Enjoy the grace and beauty of becoming.

When nothing is certain, everything is possible.”

This has been a rough couple of weeks. It seems everywhere I turn there is chaos tossing me about. National headlines continue to shock, hurt, and anger me. Flooding from spring run off is disrupting people in our community. Progress feels slow in coming for our divided denomination. And on and on.

This morning I was reminded of the ocean. As a girl growing up on the beaches of Southern California, I went to the beach often. God met me on the beach time and time again, filling me with peace. As I looked out over the expansive Pacific Ocean I was filled with a sense of God’s awesomeness which gave me assurance that God was bigger than whatever I was experiencing in my life at the time. The beach became a place for my spirit to connect with the spirit of God.

I also spent a lot of time swimming in the ocean. I found it exhilarating, experiencing the power of the ocean. I loved the calming sensation of floating on the swells of the waves. I enjoyed the thrill of catching the power of a wave and riding it onto shore. But, you can’t enjoy all of that without getting caught up in a wave and tossed about. Being pulled underwater, thrown about in all directions, rolled around by the power of the wave. Those moments are scary. My instinct is to pull my head above water and thrash about fighting the wave. But, I was taught in those chaotic moments, instead to dive deep, to get underneath the chaos of the wave. It was counterintuitive, but it worked! For under the chaos of the crashing wave is a space of calm. Diving deep is the way you get to that place of serenity.

My instinct these past few weeks has been to work harder, to push through, the thrash about, getting all caught up in the chaos. Instead, I should be diving deep. Diving deep in prayer, through scripture reading, taking sabbath, and getting out on the trails. For in those spaces God will meet me and God will meet you. When we dive deep, the Holy Spirit will grant us serenity amid the chaos. Next time you feel like chaos around you is tossing you about, remember the ocean and dive deep. I’m certain God will meet you there.

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner May 6, 2018

The Holy Spirit and Social Justice

 

We talk about the weird coincidences in our day of hearing a favorite song, or we recognize a nudge to call a family member and chat. But, what about those Holy Spirit nudges we feel that arch us toward social justice? One of our favorite characteristics of the Holy Spirit is that she is unpredictable just like the wind: flying and rushing into crevices and corners unnoticed and forgotten. This is true, much to our dismay some days.

 

Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III recently wrote an article in Plough titled “Powers and Principalities: King and the Holy Spirit”. Rivers claims that it was the Holy Spirit at work in and through Martin Luther King, Jr, which made much of the civil rights movement possible. But, also, Rivers adds that it was King allowing the Holy Spirit to move through him. And it was that Holy Spirit movement that made King the most influential voice and conscious of religious and racial freedom from the United States in the twentieth century.

 

It is a daunting task to think about, especially as the church in our modern world. The same Holy Spirit that powers our worship services powers us to march, to respond to injustice, and to fight for love over fear. The United Methodist baptism liturgy calls us to these exact things; to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness and reject evil powers of this world; to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. These are the kinds of tasks that can make us stand out, or even be ridiculed and mocked. These are the kinds of tasks that become heavy and emotionally draining.

 

This discipleship life is daunting but not impossible, especially because we have one another. We have community. We have grace and the Holy Spirit to power us. In the next week or so, I invite you to look within your realm of influence: what ways can you resist injustice? What ways can you resist evil? Can you allow the Holy Spirit to move in and through you?

 

Peace,

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner April 29, 2018

The Birth of a New Denomination:
This year marks the 50th birthday of the United Methodist Church. The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church became a new denomination between April 21 and May 4 in 1968. The special Uniting Conference was a process, gathering leaders and members of both denominations in varying ways, merging paths and making history.

There are still many, many people who were serving during this monumental time in our church history. One of my parishioners and dear friends Gerry Paulus from Choteau, now almost 104, told me stories of being asked to represent Montana at the initial summits in the mid-60s. She traveled to New York City with 2 other people from Montana and began conversations about what it would look like to be united.

Just months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the uniting conference came in the midst of total chaos in America. Those present at the conference speak of hope and accomplishment; the pure fact that the church was striving to unify in the midst of deep division in the culture. Retired Bishop D. Max Whitfield was interviewed this last week about his witness of the historical conference. He was a student pastor in 1968 and was serving as a page and marshal. He would run around being a “go-fer”, and then pause to marvel at history being made around him.
The new denomination wasn’t without its own issues, much centering around the racial divide in the country and the church. The Evangelical United Brethren members were in support of the uniting, but, at the same time, they wanted to make sure their rights and privileges were respected in the process as well. As the new denomination formed and grew, challenges and opportunities continued. However, the hope found in a new beginning and new justice pushed the new church forward. Not everything was solved or figured out, but it was the beginning. Pastors remember struggling to type “United” in their bulletins the next Sunday. And, even two years after the Uniting Conference, a special General Conference was held to make more decisions about how to be church in the midst of division and struggles.

In February of 2019, we will have another special General Conference in St. Louis, MO concerning our unification surrounding our longstanding LGBTQ divisions. If you would like to read more about this momentous time, check out many articles on umc.org. And, as we approach this special General Conference next year, my hope is to share more stories and more pieces of history. Our witness to this work is just as vital as the witness 50 years ago. Let us move forward with hope and unity and faith.

Peace,
Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner April 22, 2018

Today is Earth Day on our secular calendar and it is Festival of God’s Creation on our United Methodist Church calendar. It is a day to pause and appreciate Creation. It is a day to commit to actions which will care for Creation.

While there are political implications, at the heart of it, caring for our environment is a faith issue. One thing I take away from the creation accounts in Genesis is that God masterfully created this planet in such a way that it can create and sustain life, our life. Slight nuances and changes in the rhythms and patterns of this world have significant impact. God has given us this planet as a gift that we are responsible to take care of. And our actions have a positive or negative impact on creation. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have the opportunity to hike on mountain trails, sit on the shore of a lake, walk along the beach searching for sea shells, or hear the birds sing and enjoy the flowers blooms.

So our faith and these holidays compel us to grow in our care of creation. The focus of Earth Day this year is to reduce plastic pollution. Plastic is an amazing invention. Plastic is so useful and has made our lives much easier! However, plastic is difficult to break down and so once it is created, it sticks around in our environment for a lifetime. Studies say only about 20% of plastic is recycled or incinerated. That leaves 80% of our plastic items in our landfills and our environment. I read an article earlier this year that said the plastic microbeads we most commonly find in our skin care products don’t disintegrate, they remain in our water system and ultimately end up in the bellies of fish. That has caused me to re-think what skin-care products I use. We each make choices every day that impact our environment. Our actions do make a difference. I encourage you to find one way you can reduce plastic pollution.

  • How can we reduce our use of single-use plastic such as straws, water bottles, plastic silverware, and cotton swabs with plastic sticks?
  • How can we use our consumer dollar to protect the environment and reduce use of plastic?
  • How can we package our food in ways that use less plastic?
  • How can we recycle the plastic products we do use?
  • How can you participate in political activism around issues of plastic pollution?

If you want to learn more about plastic pollution and what we can do about it, visit earthday.org.

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner April 15, 2018

The Power for Living

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Acts 1:8

When the Holy Spirit showed up with power in Acts 2, it’s unlikely many of those present in Jerusalem had any idea the magnitude of what was in store. They were recovering from the trauma of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They were trying to follow in his way. They had the Law to guide them. And they were doing their best to remember what Jesus had taught them. And Jesus promised them they would not be alone, in fact he promised that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. That same Holy Spirit who enlivened them on the day of Pentecost is still active in the world today!

Following in the way of Jesus is difficult. We can’t do it in our own strength. We need help. We are not alone. We have one another. And that is a great support. But in addition, we have divine help available to us in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us power to live the life of faith.

Way back in the beginning, the Bible teaches us the Creator took mud and breathed into it the breath of life. And human beings were formed. That Holy Spirit is life. The Holy Spirit is movement. The Holy Spirit is power.

Max Lucado shares about the time he wanted to learn how to dance. He went to the library and checked out a book on dancing. He read it. He memorized the diagrams. He learned the rules. He laid out a pattern on the floor and taught himself to dance. When he felt confident, he invited his wife to dance with him. As you can imagine, when he asked her what she thought, she said, “Dancing with you is like dancing with a robot!” She told him to relax, to listen to the music and let the music lead him. When he let the music enliven him, then they danced, they really danced.

When we attempt to live on our own power, we are living like a robot. When we listen to the music and let the music lead us, we can dance through life. The music is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enlivens us. The Holy Spirit guides us. The Holy Spirit disrupts us.

For the next six weeks, we will be exploring how the Holy Spirit empowers, shapes, transforms, and disrupts us.

I encourage you to begin each day by opening your spirit to the Holy Spirit. Seek to listen to the music of God and see how it enlivens your steps each day. The Holy Spirit is active in our world, often beyond our awareness. Let’s seek to connect with the Holy Spirit together and see how God empowers, guides, transforms, and disrupts us.

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



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