Pastor’s Corner — Nov. 5

Those to Glory Gone
 
I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew…
 

This week we celebrate All Saints’ Day. It is a day to celebrate those who have gone before us, who stand with us still, and who unite as the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12). It is a day that can mean many things to many people. Some Christian traditions honor saints more or less than others. No matter what, it is a day to remember and honor those who have shaped our church, our lives, and our faith.

My last semester in seminary, I received a care package in the mail. It was from my future appointment home, Choteau UMC. I had already been appointed to begin in July of that year, but I wasn’t there quite yet. Twice a year, the church assembles care packages for affiliated college students during finals week. They knew I was finishing school, so they sent me a box of goodies. There was a main card from the congregation, but stuffed in the corner was another little card with a dollar enclosed. It was from a parishioner who wanted me to choose a place to donate the dollar. I didn’t think much about it and dropped the dollar in a children’s offering at church.

I arrived at Choteau and began to get to know the parishioners. In October of that year, an active parishioner had a massive heart attack and passed away. The funeral was difficult for all involved. Her ministry and love were great, and the loss of her weighed on everyone’s hearts.

A few weeks later, I was picking through a box of school stuff, and I found that little card from my care package. It happened to be from the parishioner who had just died. That saint from May, the name that meant little to me then, was now my friend. I read her note again with different eyes. I read her name with a different tune; a saint of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord she loved and knew.

Let us give thanks for both the saints in glory and those on earth, who have connected us to God. May we add our voices so someone else may hear about the grace and love of God.

 

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner — October 29

A year or so after I moved from California to Colorado, it was time for my husband and me to start our family. I got pregnant and our extended family was ecstatic. But we were living in a small town on the plains of Colorado and felt very isolated from our family. Soon it was December and packages started arriving in the mail. Day after day, more and more packages came. The postmaster even noticed. Our living room was filling up with wrapped packages and at that point it was still just the two of us! All those packages filled our hearts. It really didn’t matter what was in the packages; just receiving them lessened the miles separating us from our family. An abundance of love flowed from our family members miles and miles away, through those packages and into our hearts. Our family was very generous!

Generosity. That is the focus of our stewardship series this year. Generosity is said to enlarge our souls, realign our priorities, and strengthen us to fulfill our God-given mission. To be generous is to place ourselves, our time, our talents, and our financial resources in the service of God. When we are generous with what we have, we find unexpected blessings flowing back into our lives. That is the way God’s economy works.

Remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000? After a long day’s work of teaching and healing, Jesus dismisses the crowd and retreats with his disciples. But the crowd follows them. When Jesus sees the crowd, instead of running away or hiding or saying “I’ve had enough, come back tomorrow,” Jesus is filled with compassion. He begins healing and teaching some more. Then his disciples, practical as they are, draw Jesus’ attention to the fact that it is almost supper time and they are out in the middle of nowhere. In their opinion Jesus ought to dismiss the crowd so they can all go get some food and rest. But Jesus instead looks at the disciples and says, “You feed them.” They don’t know how that is possible. Jesus says, “How much bread do you have?” They count–5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Jesus says, “Perfect. Give them to me.” Jesus gives thanks for the bread and fish, and he hands it back to the disciples, who then distribute it to the crowd. And there is enough for everyone to eat and be satisfied. A crowd of 5,000!
 
Miraculous. Those disciples offered what they had, as meager as it was in the face of the need. Jesus took it, blessed it, multiplied it! That is how our God operates. When we offer what we have in service to God, God takes it, multiplies it, and does miracles.

But there is another part of the story I want to focus on … the leftovers. Not only was there enough for everyone to eat and be satisfied, but there were also 12 baskets left over! God does not provide just enough…our God provides abundantly. Our God is a generous God! Think of God’s gift of grace that is available to all. Abundant grace! God doesn’t limit forgiveness to 7 times, or 70X7 times. God’s forgiveness is limitless. Our God is a generous God. Love spills over from the heart of God into our lives and then flows into the lives of others. And that is my vision for our church…that we would be a place where the love of God spills over into our neighborhood. So let’s place ourselves, our time, our talents, and our financial resources, as meager as they may seem in the face of the needs around us, and see what God does in and through us. I bet we see some miracles!

 

Walking on the path of Grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner — October 22

AMEND Together to End Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and though there is so much violence against the vulnerable in our society, there are groups and people working diligently to change the statistics. Shan Foster, a former NBA player, is using his public visibility to bring awareness. Shan reflects on his travel experience with basketball and mourns the amount of violence he has seen. He also mourns our own culture that supports violence. He is the senior director of external affairs of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and he has partnered with United Methodist Men to lead a group series that will teach men to recognize, respond to, and prevent violence against women, girls, boys and other men.

The group visits middle and high schools in the Tennessee area to teach healthy manhood, healthy masculinity, respect of women, and practical ways to hold each other accountable. Shan’s goal is to engage good men to be a part of the solution by challenging and changing the culture that supports violence.

“At the end of the day, this is a men’s issue,” Shan states. So, they are encouraging men to not stand on the sidelines but to be a part of the solution. The groups become a safe place for men to express how they are feeling and to be heard and supported. They allow men to be vulnerable and talk about possible violence they have experienced as well.

This partnership with United Methodist Men allows the movement to reach further than Tennessee. Let’s help them by spreading this program here in Helena!

How are we starting conversations with older men about what it means to be good role models of being a good partner and spouse, a good father-figure, and a productive citizen of society? How are we teaching our young boys and young men to function in a violent society? How do we create safe spaces for men to be vulnerable and feel supported?

For more information on this wonderful program, visit ywcanashville.com/programs/amend-together or umc.org
 
 

Peace,

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner – October 15

I am pleased to announce that we have hired Dominic Tuttle as our Director of Young Peoples Ministry! Dominic, his wife Hannah, and their 2-year-old daughter, Sienna, currently live in Anaheim, CA. They are packing and preparing to move to Helena by November 1. Dominic and Hannah are attracted to Helena for two main reasons. First, because of the opportunity to do youth ministry full time. Dominic has felt a call to youth ministry since he was a teen. He felt like it was time to take the leap into this profession. Second, they are attracted to the lifestyle Helena offers—a smaller community with outdoor recreation opportunities year-round.

Dominic comes to us with sixteen years of experience in youth ministry. He has served in New Mexico, England, and Southern California. He and Hannah love teens and hanging out with them on their turf. On his visit he jumped right in with the youth, sitting on the floor with them and learning their names quickly. He is able to relax and have fun, but also settle into meaningful conversations. I was most impressed with his passion for working with youth and helping them grow in faith. He has a host of other talents as well, which we will all discover!

Interesting fact—Dominic and Hannah have written and illustrated two children’s books, The Caterpillar Princess and Ollie Poppet.
 

 

We do need to help them relocate to Helena. If you can help with any of these tasks in the next few weeks, please contact me!
  • We need to find them temporary housing. Do you know any snow birds who could make their house available to a few months? Or do you know of an appropriate rental property for a short-term lease? Other creative ideas?
  • Anyone want to make a road trip? We could fly you down to Orange County California, and then you would drive the U-Haul to Helena, so Dominic and Hannah and their 2-year-old can care for one another on the long drive in their car.
  • Any leads on mortgage brokers or real estate agents? They would like to purchase a house here in Helena.
  • Any help we can give Hannah to find a job here in Helena would be great.

It has been a long process finding the best candidate for this position. I believe our patience will pay off. Dominic brings a lot to this position and will be a great asset to our staff. And, most importantly, he will help our youth grow in faith.

 

Walking in Grace,

Patti


Pastor’s Corner – October 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Pastor Sami


Pastor’s Corner — October 1

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

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

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

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

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

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner — Sept 24

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

Peace,

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner – Sept 17

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

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

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

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

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner – Sept 10

Holy History, Batman!

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

Peace,

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner – Sept 3

Following Jesus is hard.

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