Pastor’s Corner 9/2/2018

There have been many predictions throughout history about how fast technology would develop, thus changing our work week. In 1882, the first Labor Day celebration was observed in New York City. It was to honor workers who made contributions to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. As time went on, economists predicted technological advancements would soon lead to a 15-hour work week by the 1930s. Then, by the 1960s, congressional leaders predicted a two-day work week by the year 2000.

Yet, here we are almost 20 years past the prediction, and we see people overworked and underpaid, unemployment, and battles for safe and fair work environments. Working more hours simply hasn’t translated to greater production or higher levels of satisfaction. And, unlike how the predictions of our past had hoped, less work and more rest just aren’t realities for today’s laborers. In my personal experience, we ignore our mental, emotional, and spiritual need for rest.

The phrase “let your soul catch up” has spoken to me lately. We can often work so dutifully and fast that our poor soul can’t catch up. And then, we are surprised when we are exhausted, irritable, and have developed unhealthy habits.

This weekend, I invite you to meditate on the idea of letting your soul catch up. What does that mean to you and your family? What does “catching up” look like?

I also invite you to remember why we have Labor Day: to acknowledge the social and economic successes of American workers. And, a part of that is acknowledging that not everyone gets Labor Day as a day off, and the fight for fair monetary compensation is still being fought. Let your soul catch up and be re-energized for labor. Your labor, in whatever form it exists, is important.

 

Happy Labor Day,

 

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner 8/26/2018

 

Going to School Hungry

More than 13 million kids in this country go to school hungry. One in five children in the United States live in food insecure households. According to the No Kid Hungry campaign, “food insecurity is a family that has enough money to buy groceries three out of four weeks; it’s a mom skipping dinner; it’s having to choose between buying groceries and paying rent.”

What experts are now, finally, realizing, that hunger has an enormous impact on a student’s ability to learn, pay attention, and socialize. Hungry kids are more likely to miss school because of illness, and more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and develop behavioral problems. There is a lot of potential being squandered because kids are going to school hungry.

A creative idea that has blossomed in our country is the idea of sending food home with kids for the weekend and evenings. In New Hampshire, it was discovered when Clair Bloom, a resident, went to her local school to “throw some money” at the hunger problem, and the school told her they didn’t need money. They needed a program to pack food and send home with kids on Fridays. Bloom took on the project, arranging volunteers, crunching numbers for affordable meals for hundreds.

This problem, as you can see from the statistics, is here in our community as well. We all probably  know a child who goes without the basic necessities on a regular basis. Helena Food Share actively tackles food insecurity from many angles, one of which is through Kid Packs. It is entering its 10th year and costs around $125,000 annually to run. However, Helena Food Share sends 1,100 children home with meals each week. Plus, there is story after story of children attending school more often, sick less often, in trouble less, and improved grades…all because of having enough to eat through programs like Kid Packs.

Are you able to help? Are you able to build a little person through this?

 

The Kid Pack Food Drive is on September 8 from 10am to 4pm at Van’s Thriftway (306 Euclid Ave.)



Pastor’s Corner 8/19/2018

Rev. Lydia Sohn, a pastor at St. Mark’s UMC in San Diego, CA interviewed the ninety-year-old people in her congregation. She wrote about it in her blog titled “What It’s like to Be 90-Something: Aging Well, Living Happier.” It is an interesting article about what she expected and was surprised by in these conversations. The paragraph that stood out to me is this:

This radical relational orientation of all my subjects caught me by surprise. As someone who is entering the height of my career, I expend much more energy on my work than my relationships. And when I imagine my future, I envision what I will have accomplished rather than what my relationships will be like. These 90-something-year-olds emphasize the opposite when they look back on their lives. Their joys and regrets have nothing to do with their careers, but with their parents, children, spouses and friends. Put simply, when I asked one person, “Do you wish you accomplished more?” He responded, “No, I wished I loved more.” (www.revlydia.com/blog/2018/7/12/what-its-like-to-be-90-something, accessed August 14, 2018)

That is a significant statement, “I don’t wish I accomplished more, I wish I loved more.” No matter what season you are in, these are instructional words. As I sit at the bedside of people close to death, the conversations typically center on the people and shared experiences in their lives. They take comfort in the impact they have had in this world. And that impact is measured by relationships, not accomplishments.

Jesus taught that the 2 most important commandments, i.e. the heart of living as a faithful disciple of Jesus, is to love God with our whole selves, and to love others as we love ourselves. It’s all about relationships. Relationships with God, with others, and with our selves.

What will your relationships look like when you are 90 years old? What does that say to you about how you are living your live today?

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner 8/12/2018

Who doesn’t love a new pair of socks? Well, you will have an opportunity to share that love with someone this winter! Bombas is a sock company that began in 2013 with the mission and goal to make wearing a clean pair of socks more accessible for everyone, especially those in homeless shelters.

The socks are engineered with an antimicrobial treatment for less-frequent washing, reinforced seams and dark colors, giving them greater durability with less visible wear.

So…how do they do it?

The first way Bombas works to meet their goal and mission is through “one for one”, similar to TOMS Shoes. For every pair purchased, there is a pair donated. If you love to give socks as gifts, order from Bombas!

The second way is through their giving program. And, we are all going to have the opportunity to participate in this because HUMM recently became a partner in Bombas’ Giving Partner program! This month, we will be the recipients of 250 pairs of Bombas socks! They are ours to give to others as we serve.

Thus, Matt and I have come up with the Sock It to ‘Em Video Contest!

Your goal:

1.) to think of groups in need of socks in our community here in Helena. Think outside the box. There are many people in need at places one might not have thought about. 2.) Then, make a short video about why they need the socks. The staff will judge the videos, and they will be awarded as such:

1st place-150 medium pairs of socks

2nd place-75 medium pairs of socks

3rd place-25 medium pairs of socks

The top 3 videos will be shared in worship an on social media. The videos are due by November 1. If you need assistance with making your video, please email Pastor Sami at spack-toner@stpaulshelena.org. Good luck and good skill!



Pastor’s Corner 8/5/2018

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10-14 NIV)

My daughter, Amanda, is visiting for a month or so. Last week we took a day trip to Glacier National Park. (Ask her how my handstand on a rock turned out, she’d love to tell you!) We chose a hike to Florence Falls from the St. Mary Falls trailhead. I love waterfalls. The flowing water is so renewing, full of life, powerful.

The hike was beautiful. The new growth after a fire about 10 years ago has the forest floor all overgrown and green. All kinds of colorful wildflowers. We made it to the falls and enjoyed sitting at the bottom, feeling the spray of the water cooling us off. We ate our lunch and took pictures. Then we started our hike back to the trailhead.
That was when I realized how much my feet hurt. 6 or 7 miles into this hike I discovered it is time to get new hiking boots…the hard way. My feet were hot, sore, squished in my shoes with wet socks. And we still had a long way back to the trailhead. The trail came close to a river and Amanda casually said, “Should we dip our toes in?” We kept walking a few steps, then I said, “Yes!!” So we backtracked to the river, sat down, took our boots off, and put our feet in that ice cold glacial water. Ahhhhhhh. It felt so good. So refreshing. So renewing. Got the blood flowing. We were invigorated to finish our hike.

Are you hot and tired? Do your feet hurt from your daily walking? What are you thirsty for?
In John 4, Jesus says he is the living water. Still water can be stale and stagnant. Living water is renewing, refreshing, enlivening. He is like that ice-cold glacial water. Life-giving water.

I’m not sure what the parallel is in your life for taking off your hiking boots and dipping your hot, tired, sore feet into the living water of Jesus, but I encourage you to reflect on that and do it!

Walking on the path of grace,
Pastor Patti


Pastor’s Corner July 29, 2018

The Taste of Liberation

In a world that tells black women, their lives don’t matter, cooking nutritious food can be a quiet act of resistance. I recently read an article by Taylor Nichole Johnson titled The Taste of Liberation, featured in a Sojourners Magazine issue from 2016. Over the past month or so, I have been leading a class focused on food and faith. We have discussed the ethical implications of our current food system, our human connection to God and food, and the theology of Holy Communion. My view and relationship with food have changed even in this short amount of time, and Johnson’s article resonated with me because food is more than just food. It is nourishment.

Johnson shares of her childhood filled with home cooking and family in the kitchen, teaching her hands the muscle memory of preparing and baking. Then, she shares how that wholesome relationship with food switched gears into an addiction to “non-food”. With a toxic combination of racial tension in college and body image struggles, Johnson found herself not well in her spirit or her body. Non-food became her self-medication.

The story of the woman outwardly keeping their entire world spinning while privately suffering in silence is many women’s story, especially women of color.

Johnson’s journey to healing through food did not begin with food options, but with theology and spirituality. Going to seminary, she began to wrestle with the meaning of hope and evil, suffering and invisibility. She began to ask herself if she truly believed she was created in the image of God. “Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I was being converted. The seeds my mother and I planted 15 years earlier in the kitchen burst forth with vitality”

Now, food fuels Johnson’s activism, her theology, and her work with nutrition, food sovereignty, and black girls. She describes nutritional violence against black bodies and poor bodies. Cooking and eating became ways of resistance to Johnson. It was a radical self-love. We cannot fight injustice if we are unwell.

What do you think? How can you use food and cooking to break chains of unhealthy self-care? How can you teach others?

Read the whole article at https://sojo.net/magazine/august-2016/taste-liberation

Peace,

Sami



Pastor’s Corner July 22, 2018

Virtues of Patience

“The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

For the first time I planted a vegetable garden this year. It’s been an experience. To begin with, I was grateful for the raised bed and good soil. I enjoyed the process of going to the nursery and choosing what I wanted to grow. It was satisfying planting the pepper, tomato, and zucchini plants. I’ve been watering the garden and watching it. I was surprised, after being away for a week, how big all the plants and the weeds (!) had gotten. However, there are still no veggies to eat. I expected to have peppers and tomatoes and zucchini by now. Instead, I water, weed, and watch, and wait.

Waiting is hard. As we have access to most everything at our fingertips on our phones, waiting is not a virtue we practice much. Patience seems counter-cultural in our increasingly speedy society. The dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. That makes it sound very hard; acceptance, tolerance, no anger. Opportunities to exercise patience come in many forms; from little things like road construction to more significant things like waiting for healing after a surgery. The virtue of patience is challenging.

In my devotion this week the author writes, “though patience may appear passive, it is actually a form of concentrated strength. Patience needs to respect the reality of process.” Things take time. Sometimes we just need to sit back and wait. Which requires concentrated strength. I appreciate the reminder that patience isn’t passive, it’s an active discipline. Actively exercising faith and actively trusting the process.

Psalm 40:1-3 says

“I waited patiently for the Lord;

He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, and out of the mud and mire;

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

As I read that again, I saw it in a new way. In between waiting patiently and standing on a firm place, the poet was in the slimy pit. Patience is not a pretty process. Usually there is mud and mire involved. If you are in a slimy pit right now, hold on to hope. Trust in the process. Exercise that concentrated strength. And most of all, rely on the Holy Spirit. For Paul reminds us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us strength more than we can muster in our own power. One day you will be standing on a solid rock again. A little more patience and I will be eating my garden vegetables!

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner July 8, 2018

New Hires:
 
Here at St. Paul’s, we have a strong sense of community. But that does not stop at the church doors. Our missions have reached out into the community and far afield into the world.

Helena has seen some real challenges lately. One of those challenges was the closing of Helena Industries. Luckily, Family Outreach of Helena has stepped up and helped many adults with disabilities find jobs in our community.

From their website:

“The focus of our program is to teach families and friends how to teach skills to children and adults with special needs. In addition, the families and friends often request education regarding the disability and information about resources and services available. We work hard to ensure that children and adults in the Family Outreach program have the same opportunities that all Montanans have in education, in the community, in friendships, and in life.”

Family outreach serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays. Their service programs provide developmental training, education, behavioral assistance, social skills and job training. They were founded in 1977 and added adult services in 1994.

St. Paul’s has been on the receiving end of this mission this time.We are proud to announce the hiring of two amazing men, Thes and Charlie, who will be doing the janitorial work in the church building and the Susanna Wesley building. They are already hard at work for us and are doing a great job.

Thes and Charlie both used to work for Helena Industries. Charlie loves all kinds of machinery and enjoys tinkering with engines. Thes is very friendly and outgoing and likes to test out equipment and electronics.

You might see them in hallways or offices with their job coach working diligently to make our church home shine. Both of them are very thankful and happy to get back to work.

Please stop and introduce yourself and get to know these great guys!



Pastor’s Corner July 1, 2018

Divergent Church
 
I recently read an article about Tim Shapiro and Kara Faris’ new book Divergent Church: The Bright Promise of Alternative Faith Communities. The book focuses on doing church differently, and, even though the ways seem unconventional, they are rooted in deep faith practices.

The typical Christian life is going through changes. Our country has changed. Communities of faith need to take risks and be innovative in making Church relatable again. This book explores some possibilities for offering several ways to experience God at work in the world.

Two quick lessons I learned in my first church internship involved unconventional church and fear around risk: The first involved an existing contemporary service on Sunday morning. It was decided to try the service downstairs in the fellowship hall to help with interruptions by the other two services and to have worship in a space that wasn’t the typical “church” feel in hopes to reach people uncomfortable in a church. After about a month, the senior pastor had received so much anonymous criticism letters he moved the service back upstairs to the sanctuary. The contemporary service continued to be the “middle child” of the congregation, never receiving the support or respect it deserved.
The second involved my intern church reopening a closed UMC in a neighboring town. The church sat in a Hispanic neighborhood with Spanish as the primary language. A team was put together to lead Sunday worship and then cook and serve a free dinner on Tuesdays. Over 120 people ate on Tuesdays. Families who may have otherwise gone without were given food. Sunday worship did not grow. Soon, the elaborate home-cooked meal turned into cheap alternatives and quick meals with little prep time. Sunday worship did not grow. The new church shut its doors. I overheard the original team talking right before it closed, and their reason for stopping was because they were fixing nice meals, and all “those people wanted was food” and didn’t come to our church.

Traditional church is still very needed. Also, new, innovative ways of doing church are still very needed. Just as we all learn differently and through different means, we all experience God in different ways. These divergent churches explored in Shapiro and Faris’ book are nontraditional, possibly unusual, but are serving as people’s main congregational gathering, providing spiritual formation, connection, and a sense of identity.

I share these stories not to point and scoff, but because they have shaped my ministry and affected my theology. I will never forget that conversation I overheard or the drastic effects those decisions had on that church community. I also learned the importance of holy risk-taking, or also how we like to say, following the holy spirit. It can lead us down paths that seem not worth our energy, money, and time. But, introducing someone to God’s love is the name of our game.
Come talk to me about your holy risk-taking ideas!

Pastor Sami
 


Pastor’s Corner June 24, 2018

A response to immigrant family separation:
 
Dear brothers and sisters, siblings in Christ,
In the news, we have seen disturbing reports and pictures of children being taken from their parents and placed in detention centers by our government. Their crime was fleeing their homeland due to violence and threats of death, to make a perilous journey over harsh geography to seek safety within our borders.
 
I remember another time a family crossed a border for similar reasons. When Jesus was born, Herod—who was in power—became threatened by the news of his birth since some were already calling Jesus “King of the Jews.” He sent the Wise Men to see the boy. Herod told them it was so that he could honor him, but he really wanted to know his whereabouts so he could kill him. The Wise Men, after laying their gifts before Jesus, were warned in a dream not to return to Herod and Jesus’ father Joseph was also warned in a dream to flee with his family. They became refugees in Egypt, where they stayed until it was safe to return home. When Herod learned that he had been outwitted, he ordered the murder of every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two.
 
This event is known as the “Slaughter of the Innocents.” Matthew describes the scene with a quote from the prophet
Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” -Matthew 2:18
 
Can you hear Rachel weeping for her children?
 
The horror that is happening to children in our country was multiplied when government officials used scripture to justify these actions. We who follow Jesus know that God keeps widening the borders of who is in and who is out through Jesus’ life, teachings and ministry, Paul’s Emmaus road experience, and Peter’s vision. If the law is not rooted in the Love Ethic of Jesus, who keeps expanding our understanding of who is our brother and sister, it harms and invites death rather than reconciles and brings life.
 
Can you hear Rachel weeping for her children?
 
Scripture reminds us over and over again to welcome the stranger:
Exodus 23:9 — “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:34 — “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 1:16 — “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.”
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 — “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
0Deuteronomy 24:17-18 — “You shall not deprive a resident alien…of justice.”
Matthew 25:31-46 — “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Hebrews 13:2 — “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
 
Some of us learned a lesson about how to encounter the Bible when we traveled to Cuernavaca last fall. For the members of the base Christian community we visited, bible study is more than just reading and reflecting on God’s word. It requires action that is transformational. The Word of God should intersect with the lives of God’s people, so as they read the Bible, they look around at what is happening in their community, then think about what the scripture is compelling them to do. This is followed by action. The community then evaluates what they did so they could learn more. And then they celebrate.
 
May the cries of Rachel be heard in your sanctuary. As scripture is read and prayers offered, may you listen for what God is asking of you and your community. May you respond as faithful followers of Jesus, who calls us to create Beloved Community—that place of love, compassion, connection, and justice for all of God’s children.

Blessings,
Bishop Karen P. Oliveto