Pastor’s Corner – July 2

This Sunday we welcome our new pastoral team to Helena. They will be celebrating communion with us at both Covenant and St. Paul’s. They will be serving as the new pastoral team in Helena covering pastoral duties at both St. Paul’s and Covenant. This new pastoral configuration will allow both congregations to get to know Pastor Patti and Pastor Sami as their spiritual and faith community leaders. Pastor Tyler will remain with us through mid-September to serve in an interim capacity and support the new team.

MEET YOUR NEW PASTORS:
Rev. Dr. Patti Agnew
Patti Agnew grew up on the beaches of southern California, in Pacific Palisades. She got her bachelors degree in Mathematics, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, always intending to be a high school math teach. But God redirected her and she got her Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and was ordained as a United Methodist elder In the Rocky Mountain Conference in 1994. In 2016 she completed her Doctor of Ministry degree, also from Fuller. She has served rural and suburban churches throughout Colorado in her 23 years as a pastor.
 
Patti is a single mom with two daughters in college, Amanda and Natalie, who will both be here the last week of July. She also has a dog, Molly. Patti loves hiking in the mountains, she already hiked up to the top of Mt. Helena last Sunday. She is a Colorado Rockies baseball fan. She loves chocolate, gymnastics, and ice cream. And she feels closest to God when she is out in nature. She is excited to begin this new chapter of life here in Helena with the great people of St. Paul’s and Covenant!
 
Rev. Sami Pack-Toner
Sami grew up in Sheridan, Montana and then moved to Great Falls for college. She was a lifeguard through high school, college, and seminary. She moved to North Carolina for seminary, and worked at churches there for 3 years. After graduation, she was appointed to Choteau and Pendroy United Methodist Churches and have served there the past 3 years. Sami was just ordained this last month by our Bishop. Sami and her husband Shane enjoy golf, swimming, snowboarding, dirt biking, fly fishing, and hiking.


Pastor’s Corner – June 25

As I write this final Pastor’s Corner, I do so filled with gratitude for the past 23 years of ministry with and to you, the friends and members of St. Paul’s and Covenant United Methodist Churches. As you know, Rick Hulbert and I both preach our final sermons today as your pastors. Tyler’s final sermon will be in early September.
 
Over the past weeks, I have had several questions about ‘what’s next?’ for me and for my involvement with our churches. First, let me share that Lyle and I have decided to put our home of 23 years up for sale and to make a move – hopefully sometime this summer or fall – to Florida. We plan to live somewhat near my parents and my sister in central Florida. We both plan to stay ‘actively retired’ which will hopefully include some travel, some relaxation, and perhaps work on a book.
 
Part (though certainly not all) of our reason for making the move so quickly has to do with the ‘ethics’ required of departing pastors. These expectations apply whether a pastor retires or moves to another appointment, remains in town or leaves the area. Departing pastors are not available for any kind of pastoral services – preaching, funerals, weddings, etc. – for at least a year. We are also expected to be absent from any involvement in the life of the church community – including attendance at worship – during that time. This allows a new pastoral team time and space to get to know a congregation and to become immersed in congregational life. Pastor Patti and Pastor Sami will bring their own unique gifts and abilities to the life of Covenant and St. Paul’s – and they need time to get to know you and you, them. Change for all of us is difficult – and pastoral changes can be particularly hard. But I trust that both St. Paul’s and Covenant will discover new possibilities for growth and new opportunities to flourish as you embrace your new leadership.
 
Lyle and I are certainly both anxious and excited about our next steps. Please know that we will remain interested in the unfolding of life at St. Paul’s and Covenant. You will be in our prayers and we will tune in to your activities through the website, Facebook postings, newsletters and livestreaming. Most of all, know that you, HUMM and both churches will be in our prayers. Please hold us in yours.
 
 
Grace and peace – and with gratitude,
Marianne


Pastor’s Corner – June 18

This is my last Sunday serving as your Associate Pastor of Young Adult Ministries.   In July, August and September I will be serving as an Associate Pastor of Transition to your new Pastoral team of Rev. Dr. Patti Agnew and Rev. Sami Pack-Toner.  This two pastor team will serve both Covenant and St. Paul’s, and you will get to know them both in July.  Over the next few months I will write a letter each month asking you to be in prayer over a specific question to share our hopes with the new pastoral team.

 

This month I ask you to pray over the question: “What is your prayer for St. Paul’s and Covenant?”

 

When I ask that we pray daily over these questions, please don’t feel guilty the day you forget to pray.  Instead take this story to heart:

 

When I was young, each night before bed my mother would have me pray for each of my family and my friends.  I would add certain friends at points in my life, and forget certain people at other times.  It became disconcerting for my 5-year-old self to think that at times I was forgetting people.  So, at the beginning of my prayers I began to say, “I pray for these family and friends, and everyone even if I forget them tonight.” 

 

Sometimes we feel like we are trying to pray harder and better as adults, and we forget it is designed to be a playful and grace-filled conversation with God.  When I as a pastor ask you to pray daily over this question, I don’t ask you to feel guilty when you forget.  Instead I ask you to playfully and gracefully put this question where you will see it daily.  Then when you see it, take a deep breath and simply offer the question up to God to see where God directs your mind. 

 

As you find answers or nudges in prayer I ask you to write them down and share them with me.  Please share your prayers with me by emailing me at tamundson@stpaulshelena.org.  I will share these prayers with the new pastoral team and the leadership of both churches as we chart the next phase of our journey.    

 

My prayer for St. Paul’s and Covenant is that you become a deeply spiritual people, learning from the ways of Christ, and dreaming with God how to make our community a place where all people know the love of God.

 

In prayer,

 

Pastor Tyler



Pastor’s Corner – May 28

This June, two of our staff will be stepping away from their roles at St. Paul’s.  Meladie Brandle, our interim youth coordinator and Renata Strauss, our Administrative Specialist.  This week and last week’s Pastor’s corners have highlighted the amazing ministry they have done for St. Paul’s.  We are accepting applications for open positions at St. Paul’s through stpaulshelena.org/jobs.
 
Meladie Brandle began serving us a youth coordinator in January of 2016.  We were in need of mid-year support and Mel stepped right up.  She has taken leadership in providing safe and fun space for our middle and high school youth.  Mel has continued through her work to come up with creative ways to help our youth engage their faith, to explore who God is, to ask questions about their world, and to grow in knowledge and experience. 
 
One the most inspiring aspects of Meladie has been her desire to learn more about scripture and her own faith in the process.  She developed games, activities and programs that made learning about the Bible and Christianity interesting and inspiring.  One example is the time Meladie had youth hand in their cell phones, and then the kids made apps for their prayer phones, paper phones with little paper apps on them.  These apps were things like being thankful for friends, prayers for health in the family, hope for fun the next day, and prayers for mom. Meladie will be finalizing her service as staff to St. Paul’s person mid-June.  We are so thankful for her service and for giving us time to set up for our next person to fill this role. 
 
Renata Strauss began her service to St. Paul’s a year and half ago.  We were in need of support to cover the front desk, help us with publications, and to provide a welcoming atmosphere in the office.  Renata quickly stepped beyond these basic rolls to offer new ideas and insights, and provide quick answers to challenging situations.  The front desk job at St. Paul’s has you greeting the entire community of God from members and friends of St. Paul’s to the everyday traveler who stops in asking for assistance.  Renata has handled every aspect of her job with skill and quick thinking.
 
One of the skills we will miss most is Renata’s extensive experience with graphic design.  She has created many of the advertising screens you see in worship, the logos we use for different ministries, and has inspired many of us in the office to think more creatively.  Renata not only designs well, but she incorporates feedback quickly.  Her willingness to work as a part of the team and her skill to help us share our ministry creatively will be greatly missed. Renata will be finishing up her ministry with us at St. Paul’s on Thursday, June 1.  We are so thankful for her service and creativity. 
 
There will be a celebration of Meladie and Renata’s service on June 4th in worship and a reception after the eleven o’clock service.  Please join us in recognizing their faithful service to St. Paul’s.
 
With thankfulness,
Pastor Tyler


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