Pastor’s Corner – May 14

            It was the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart who said If the only prayer you ever said was ‘thank you’ it would suffice.  And while that may well be a good principle of the spiritual life, those words don’t seem quite sufficient when it comes to expressing my gratitude to all of you for the retirement celebrations and notes and gifts you have shared with me over the past 2 weeks!  But, whether it is enough or not, expressing a hearty thank you is precisely where I am going to begin. Thanks for your welcome of my family and friends on April 30. They loved being here for worship that Sunday and attending the party later that afternoon at the Intermountain Community Services Center. In so many big and little ways, you helped each one of them feel comfortable.  For me, personally, it was such a blessing to have my parents, siblings and spouses and my cousin and spouse here to share the fun.  It was also a treat to have Marianne Borg with us.  And, of course, there were others . . . too numerous to list.   I especially enjoyed having time to spend with them all last week. 
 

            Thanks too for the beautiful pendant and ring I received.  I know many of you contributed to make that gift possible – thanks!  Your generosity – to the ministry of the church and to our wider mission has always been a blessing. This personal gift to me will always remind me of the special people who make up St. Paul’s.  I am truly humbled by your expressions of affection and support. 

            As you read this, I am on my way to Oslo, Norway for a meeting of the Connectional Table of the UMC. Created at the 2004 General Conference, the Connectional Table was formed to serve as both the visioning body of the church and the steward of resources to carry out the vision of the denomination worldwide.” The membership of the CT consists of Bishops, General Agency leaders, and representatives of the various caucuses and Jurisdictions of the church. I was nominated and elected to represent the Western Jurisdiction.  I confess that it is difficult for me to be away when I have such limited time remaining to be with you. However, the meeting is an important one and the responsibility to attend out-weighed my reluctance!  Lyle is going with me.  Since his cancer diagnosis and re-occurrence, we have resolved that we would not miss an opportunity to travel together. I will return at the end of May, will be in worship on May 28 and will preach again June 4.
 

            In the meantime, please know how grateful I am for your generosity and for the recent celebrations. Although I know the focus has been around my retirement, in reality we are celebrating all we have done together over the past 23 years!

            Gratefully, Marianne



Pastor’s Corner – April 30

Today we get to celebrate 23 years of Pastoral ministry that Rev. Marianne Niesen has shared with our congregation and our community. Marianne will officially retire June 30 of this year, but as good Methodists, we methodically figured more people would be around in the spring to celebrate Marianne’s years of service.
 
 
Over her tenure, Marianne has been an amazing witness to faith in the public sphere. She has led us faithfully from our old building into this new and incredible space. Marianne’s leadership brought us dynamic speakers on faith from Marcus Borg, to John Domnic Crossan, to Amy Jill Levine, and Bishop John Shelby Spong.
 
 
I personally will always remember Marianne as my pastor and one of my greatest colleagues. She is the first pastor I saw use a video illustration for her sermon when she showed a clip from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Just like that movie, Marianne has also broken down a barrier for us as the first woman to serve as our Senior Pastor. She has led us with grace and integrity for the past two decades.
 
 
I hope you will join us today at noon in the Fellowship Hall or this afternoon from 4-6 PM at the Intermountain facility at 3240 Dredge Drive to celebrate Marianne’s ministry.
 
Join us in the celebration,
Pastor Tyler


Pastor’s Corner – April 23

To the people called Methodists within the Mountain Sky Area:
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Risen Savior, Jesus. In this season of new life, we look upon the Mountain Sky Area with great hope as God’s Spirit is creating Beloved Community in our midst. Yet Resurrection does not mean the end of all challenges for God’s church.
 
We write to keep you informed of an important matter involving the Mountain Sky Area and our United Methodist Church. We believe it is important to keep the people of the Mountain Sky Area apprised of developments in the questions raised over Bishop Oliveto’s election last July.
 
Immediately after the Western Jurisdictional Conference’s episcopal election concluded, the South Central Jurisdictional Conference asked our denomination’s top court, the Judicial Council, for a declaratory decision on the validity of the election. The Judicial Council will hear arguments in the matter when it meets in Newark, New Jersey, on April 25, with a ruling expected within days. This process is outlined in our Book of Discipline.
 
As the Joint Cabinet of the Mountain Sky Area and the Lay Leaders of the Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain Conferences, we believe that Bishop Oliveto’s election is valid. It is our prayer that the Judicial Council will confirm this position. Nonetheless, we know there are several potential outcomes. We know the ruling will have implications for the entire denomination, but as Bishop Oliveto is our episcopal leader, we will be affected most.
 
Accompanying this letter is an information sheet prepared by Western Jurisdiction and Mountain Sky leaders for distribution in our churches. We ask pastors and church leaders to make this letter and the accompanying material available to congregations as soon as possible. After the ruling, we will provide more information and guidance for our churches and leaders.
 
No matter what the decision is, we know some among us will not agree. Some will feel hurt. Some will feel distanced from the church. That is why we must be in prayer for one another and for our church. In addition, we ask you to pray for Bishop Oliveto, the Cabinet, our conference leaders, members of the Judicial Council, and all who will participate in the hearing on April 25.
 
We do not believe agreement, even on major issues like this, has ever been a requirement for loving each other and remaining one family in Christ Jesus who, in the week of his death and resurrection, prayed that we may be one (John 17:21).
 
Although the Council’s decision could have significant implications on our life together, we have faith that the Resurrection of Jesus is what most determines our future. The United Methodist Church, and its predecessors, have faced many challenges and disagreements in the past and has lived to witness to the grace of God in Jesus Christ through our distinctive Wesleyan voice we offer the world. We know God will see us through this time as well.
 
Yours in Christ,
Melanie Rosa, Dean of The Rocky Mountain Cabinet
Jeff Rainwater, Dean of The Yellowstone Cabinet
Don McCammon, Lay Leader of The Yellowstone Conference
Margaret Hotze, Co-Lay Leader of The Rocky Mountain Conference
Kunle Taiwo, Co-Lay Leader of The Rocky Mountain Conference


Pastor’s Corner – April 16

Dear Friends and Members of St. Paul’s,

Easter is here and this year it comes with a clear start to spring. New life is happening all around us and it can be seen in budding plants and the fits and starts of warming weather. The birds have started to return and nature itself is attempting to remind us of the way in which new things can happen. It is a great reminder of how we are called to nurture and affirm new life as people of Christ who “practice resurrection.”

In September of this year I will take my leave from Helena and begin serving the faith community of Shiloh UMC in Billings. The coming months will involve a transition of pastoral leadership from Marianne, Rick and myself to Rev. Dr. Patti Agnew and Rev. Sami Pack. I am excited to see the new life that our incoming Pastoral team will bring to Helena. As we prepare for new life it seems important to highlight some of the things we have accomplished during my 6-year tenure here. None of these would have been possible without the leadership of the gifted friends and members of St. Paul’s, you make ministry in Helena happen.

-We became a reconciling congregation affirming “St. Paul’s United Methodist Church welcomes all people of any age, gender, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, or disability into the full life and membership of this congregation.” This statement has led to new connection and new ministry.
-We started new ministry in the brewery with “God After Hours.”
-We raised nearly 20,000 pounds of food doing the “Church Challenge” with area churches.
-We understood Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACEs) and supported a local coalition to help foster this understating in our community.
-We have welcomed many new people to St. Paul’s.
-We have continued to be a safe place for families without a faith home to turn for funerals and memorial services.
Our mission trips and service to our community and the world continue to support life.
-We celebrated 150 years of Methodism in Helena during our Jubilee year.
-We challenged Helena to think more deeply about issues of social justice including homelessness, hunger, and affordable housing.
-We began an incredible collaboration between Covenant UMC and St. Paul’s UMC called Helena United Methodist Ministry. And the list goes on…
 

We continue to “affirm life” and “practice resurrection.” This means that this list is just the beginning of things we will continue to do in the name of God’s love.

This year our Easter offering is an invitation to help us “spruce up our house” and prepare for the future. Our spaces here at the church are utilized to support the community as well as our faith life, and they are in need of upkeep. Your donations will allow us to get ahead on our maintenance and provide safe and inviting buildings for people to experience new life. Thank you in advance for continuing to support our ministry through your gifts and your service to our church.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler Amundson


Pastor’s Corner – April 9

Hello, St. Paul’s UMC of Helena! I am looking forward to moving to Montana and joining you on this amazing adventure of faith. By way of introduction: I grew up on the beaches of Southern California until I was 29, when I moved to Colorado. I am a fourth-generation clergy person. William Booth sent my great-grandparents from England to the States, to found the work of The Salvation Army here. My grandparents, aunt and uncle, and many cousins followed in their footsteps. As a youth I loved riding horses, all my church activities, school activities and gymnastics. Our family drove a motor home every summer from Los Angeles to northern Indiana to visit family there. Our favorite trips took us through Glacier National Park! I have two daughters. Amanda is 22 and attending college at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. Natalie is 19 and attending college at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. You’ll meet my parents too, Paul and Sandi! They live in South Carolina, but love to visit!
 
I attended church the first time when I was 10 days old, on Christmas Eve! I have been a United Methodist ever since. I have experienced the church at its best and at its worst. As a child, the church shaped me and taught me that God loved me. Our youth group was full of characters – but there was a place for each one of us. We grew closer to one another and God through fun, learning and serving. The church was family. Years later, as a newly single parent with 2 teenage daughters, the church surrounded me with love through acceptance, support, encouragement, and gift cards to buy groceries. Once again, the church was my lifeline and an extended family. Neither of those churches was perfect, nor had perfect people in them. They had their share of conflict and negativity. But overriding all of that was as sense of love and acceptance. I have also experienced the church as judgmental, cold, and exclusive.
 
Here is one of my favorite scriptures which lays out a path for our living in faith. “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” Eph. 5:1-2 The Message
 
I have resonated these past 9 months with Bishop Karen’s call for the church to be beloved community. That is the church at its best! The church as a place where all people can experience the transforming love of Jesus. And a place from which we share that love of Jesus with others. I look forward to being beloved community with all of you.
 
Pastor Patti


Pastor’s Corner – March 26

It has been quite a month here at St. Paul’s! As the Yellowstone Conference UMC Cabinet has been about the business of making plans that change the transition process in which we have been involved, it is important to remember that our ministry has continued.
 
We have finished a series of classes and started a new set of amazing offerings. Lent began and we are well into our Wednesday Lenten services. We began a new sermon series titled The Unexpected Lessons of Lent and Tyler and I have been reflecting on what are hopefully some new and challenging insights from some old and well-known Bible texts. We have been working on plans for a celebrative Easter service. (As always, the chancel choir will sing at both services.) Our choir director, Jillian, brings new and exciting ideas to our planning table. The Lenten Children’s choir has been rehearsing and today will sing at the 11:00 service. Today we will also commission some of the members of our next Mission Trip to Brazil.
 
We have also hosted and been involved in the Women’s and Men’s Walks to Emmaus on the first and second weekends in March. Marianne led the Spiritual Director team for the Women’s Weekend and Tyler led the Spiritual Director team for the Men’s weekend. Many of our members and friends were involved in the weekends as part of the team. As all of this has taken place, our staff has done an amazing job doing their normal work and offering hospitality to the many groups who know St. Paul’s to be a welcoming and accessible community. We have hosted funerals and Tyler and retired pastor Lyle Hamilton and I have been called upon to lead several memorial services over the past several weeks.
 
Why do I tell you all of this? Though we are in the midst of change and though that change affects our pastors, staff and church members deeply, life and ministry has continued. We are a vibrant and active faith community with much to offer Helena and the world. Today you will learn the name of your new Lead Pastor and soon a new Associate will be appointed. Their leadership will be important – but no more important than the ongoing commitment and ministry of our staff and of all of you who call St. Paul’s home. Together, we will move through this time of transition and, all the while, we will continue to be an active community of faith and hope.
 
I love this quote from Philippians 1:6: I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. Very likely, Paul thought the end was coming soon – thus, the term ‘the day of Christ Jesus.’ He was wrong about that, but his confidence that the work of love and grace and hospitality would continue – indeed needed to continue – among the followers of Jesus was right. And it continues to be true among us, in our time. We are not alone – the one who has loved us into being continues to love us and live in us and lead us. And that is good news that will sustain us as we go forward.
 
Grace and peace in the journey ahead!
Marianne


Pastor’s Corner – March 19

Today, as we listen to the unexpected with one another, I would invite us to open our hearts to what God is doing in the story of our church and our own lives.  For the past month I have been struggling, even fighting, with the announcement you will hear at the beginning of worship today.  “We had plans together,” kept going through my head.  The danger of abrupt change is that sometimes we hold on tightly to who we think we are supposed to be, instead of letting change work on us.

 

Change brings with it challenges and is always scary.  If I have learned anything in my work here it is fear of change never really goes away, even if you are the wisest and most reflective person.  Jesus took time to reflect and pray every time deep change was coming his way.  Jesus also didn’t avoid the emotions that come with deep change, he embraced them and lived through them.  However you are feeling today I invite you to not bypass it for a feeling of “being ok,” but instead embrace it as your authentic self.  We are called by God to be our authentic selves, and letting go of who the world tells us we should be at any certain moment.  I will join you in these emotions, because I believe that in letting emotions live and die that we will find new life. 

 

I wonder what new life is forming in this amazing place we live and how our church might be a part of helping people live authentic lives.  As I drove across the state this week I saw solar panels going up, I had conversations with a family that moved to Montana for the connected environments of our communities, and I jumped on trampolines at a Trampoline Park.  All of these new things are happening through people taking risks on new relationships and new ways of thinking.  If we are to embrace change, we have to live through some risks together and be willing to invite in new partners in God’s work. 

 

In the coming months I hope to be in conversations and prayer as a community about what God is doing among us.  However, you feel at the end of worship today, I hope you know one thing, “God is with us.”  God is with us in the pain, the fear, the sorrow, and God is with us now and always. 

 

I am thankful for the ministry of each of you.

 

Pastor Tyler



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 stpaulshelena.org/lent2017.
 
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 – Feb. 26

Intermountain here in Helena is an unexpected lesson.  This organization offers incredible gifts of healing and guidance to children and families living through mental health challenges.  Intermountain grew out of a need at the turn of the century to provide a home for children who were left to fend for themselves.  Behind that history is the story of Rev. Brother Van Orsdel who is said to have been in tears pleading at the Annual Conference for the Methodist churches in the region.  The public tears of a grown man and the vital work of women deaconesses have become the hope of more children and families than we can count. 

Hear the words of one parent who has seen hope in the work of Intermountain:

“I am a single parent of two adoptive children, one of whom has suffered with the emotional/behavioral chaos of attachment disorder since early childhood.  At one point I was having to call our local police to help restrain my daughter during her violent behavioral outbursts.  I was at the brink of losing my family (and possibly my life). 

Now, after 18 months of residential treatment at Intermountain, we are an intact family ready to thrive.  My daughter is returning home with the skills to manage her feelings and behaviors long before they get to the rage that previously overtook her mind and body.  We as a family have learned important skills for success.  This program not only changes lives, it literally saves them!”

Last year Intermountain treated 1334 children and youth, and made a difference in the health of Montana communities.  This Lent we are asking members, friends and you as the disciples of St. Paul’s to make a difference by financially supporting Intermountain through a spiritual practice.

Our Lenten focus is “Unexpected Lessons: The Journey of Discipleship.”  We will be learning from the great stories of the gospels to remind us how God can surprise us with unexpected lessons from the stories in our lives.  This is no ordinary path we follow.  In this spirit you will be given the opportunity to fill blessing cans for Intermountain.  These cans will be accompanied by a Blessing Guide to a Lenten Thank Offering.  Unexpectedly we are using a retro St. Paul’s guide from the 1990’s, so enjoy the throwback information on it.  Each day there is a practice on this guide that will ask you to consider your blessings and invite you to give from your abundance like “10 cents for each slice of bread in your house, pray for those who scavenge for food.”  It is a simple activity to do with friends, family or kids. You can find the Lenten Guide here:  Lent Bag

 

We invite you to journey with us through the unexpected.



Mission Accomplished!!!!

Re-entry into the US atmosphere is imminent as this is being written. Before we peel off our flight suits and go through the post-mission debriefing with Mission Headquarters, it seems fitting to reflect on a few snapshots from this maiden Montana mission to Cuba.

* During the final stage of our launch to Cuba we endured a Mission “hold” of one day in Newark due to a “Nor’easter” snow storm. No flights were then available from Newark for two additional days. Fortunately, our Mission Navigator (Eric) established contact with Houston (… “HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM”…) and rearranged final launch from Houston. Thus an extra flight stage and night in that Texas city. Hence our Mission time in Cuba was shortened by several days.

* From Houston, gliding over the blue expanse of the Gulf, we spotted Cuba!! Surrounded by a turquoise patchwork quilt shallow sea sifting into sand and green shore vegetation. Touch down! First the asphalt of the Havana Airport, then the chaotic motions of the Cuban baggage claim and Customs…. Finally!!!….on Cuban soil!!

* Havana is ruggedly handsome in it’s old age and patina, with stewardship apparent in it’s historic buildings and vintage automobiles, yet it’s people are youthful regardless of their age!

* Church services in Cuba resonate with enthusiastic and passionate worship. Booming amplified voices of Pastors, colorful young dancers with tambourines, music and songs that literally vibrate your heart. Via con Dios!!

* Astounding contrasts are everywhere in Cuba….rusted-out holes in sidewalk utility covers (watch where you step!), juxtaposed with the beautiful old, old, buildings dripping with the romance of Spanish architecture, shortages of staple foods (two weeks of rations per month), but the absolute best ice cream (Coppela – from Havana) that you will ever eat.

* Cubans share among friends, guests, and strangers with Christ-like action, backing up their faith through their service – as the hands and feet of Jesus. On the day we left, Oscar told us, “Christ is in Cuba, and He has grace for his people, and He will be with us forever. They (the people) do not have much money, but when we ask, He does not fail.”

* Friendships in Cuba are like bread — flour, water, salt, and yeast mixed with love patted, and rolled and allowed to rise baked to perfection and savored. Jokes and laughs, hand slaps (high fives are now universal), hugs, exchanges of gifts, food and mementos, promises of emails to come, vows of remembrance, and many, many prayers. God has been our cook and baker.

* Our governments may have differences, and we may be separated by tariffs, blockades, diplomatic exclusions, executive decisions, and legislation from souls who have not yet set foot in both countries….but, we remain neighbors only 90 miles apart – brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, grandparents….all of God’s family – drinking the same Earth’s water, breathing the same Earth’s air, warmed by the same Sun, and held in the same comforting and nurturing hands of God, guided on the same paths by the teachings of Jesus. Our intentional sameness is overwhelming.

* As we glide to a touch down on US soil, and the wheels of our craft are stilled, baggage is reclaimed and we disperse back to familiarity, the Mission travel is concluded….but the Mission continues. Each of the twelve pioneer Montana missioners to Cuba must now spread and share the great images, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, music, worship services, friendships, occurrences, and spiritual wealth that God has endowed on us from our Cuban experiences. This is our Quest. Our prayer of thanks to all who supported us in the name of Jesus thank you!!! Via con Cristo!!!! Amen.

2017 Montana Methodist Mission to Cuba