150th Jubilee Year-Draws to a Close

Over the past year we have been celebrating the 150th year of Methodism in Helena with the St. Paul’s Jubilee.  It began last Easter with Marianne preaching about our church rising from a pile of logs, then we had an incredible Jubilee celebration in June with Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky presiding, during the fall we invited the congregation to focus with Intermountain on Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACEs) and how this study would help us see new ways we could share God’s love in our community.  Our study and effort in this area helped to propel our community to found a coalition of people who are hoping to transform Helena through understanding ACEs.  We are going to draw this Jubilee Year to a close on Holy Humor Sunday, April 3.


As a part of this Jubilee year wrap-up we will be screening a 30-minute video on ACEs in the Church Library at 9:45 on April 3.  This video is a presentation by Schylar Canfield-Baber who identifies as resiliently overcoming 10 ACEs and Dr. Elizabeth Kohlstaedt, Ph.D. a member of our church and the Chief Clinical Officer of Intermountain.  Dr. Kohlstaedt and Pastor Tyler will be present to answer questions about why ACEs continues to matter and what our community is doing to use ACEs to transform how we work to help people better their life situation and be more resilient.  Please join us for this great opportunity.


To learn more about ACEs and why it matters to us as United Methodists read our introduction letter to ACEs at


March 27, 2016 Easter Pastor’s Corner

Easter Blessings to all the Friends and Members of St. Paul’s!
Early in March, I wrote an Easter letter which many of you received. Today, in the Pastor’s Corner, I want to share some highlights from that message.
Last year, on Easter, we began our Jubilee, celebrating 150 years of ministry in Helena. Since then, we have remembered various parts of our history. On June 21, our Bishop was with us for a grand worship service and picnic on our patio. That was a great way to celebrate our past. We unveiled a Jubilee booklet (there are copies available today in our foyer if you would like one).
Then, in the fall, we turned our attention deliberately toward our future, choosing to work with Intermountain to make an impact for good in our community. After all, it was the Methodist preacher Brother Van, whose vision started Intermountain as a ministry of healing and hope for hurting children. And it was the Methodist Deaconesses who kept it all going, handing the ministry over eventually to a staff whose continuing vision for how to help hurting children and families today has blossomed into the ministry we know as Intermountain. And throughout that time, St. Paul’s provided financial and hands-on support. So, building on our history and our long partnership with Intermountain, we chose to help raise awareness about ACES . . . ‘adverse childhood experiences’ . . . as part of our Jubilee year celebration. You perhaps attended the talk last fall on the evening of the Art Walk. Or, perhaps, you saw the Challenge Helena presentation about ACES. Or perhaps you attended the screening of Paper Tigers in January. There is another Paper Tigers screening right here in our sanctuary on Tuesday, April 19 at 6 PM.
The point is, when we began our Jubilee year, we didn’t want it to be only about the past (though we have lots to celebrate). We wanted to celebrate the past and move into the next 150 years by taking deliberate steps to make a difference. We have done that for sure.
Our Easter offering this year will again focus on our relationship with Intermountain. It will support the remodeling project that will provide a chapel at the Helena Intermountain campus on Lamborn. Today, the chaplain’s program serves children of many faith backgrounds. The chapel has been a long hoped for vision that is finally taking shape and nearing completion. It is planned as a flexible space for reflection and spiritual growth for the many and varied needs of the children Intermountain currently serves. Brother Van and the Deaconesses would be thrilled! To contribute to that offering, just use the Easter envelope or mark your check ‘Easter offering.’
Yesterday, on March 26, 2016, we officially began our 151st year! As we move into our future, be assured that the celebrating continues through our ongoing ministry and outreach for good. We are still going strong, moving forward into our future with joy and a continued commitment to make a difference. Congratulations St. Paul’s . . . and may the story continue!

Pastor Marianne Niesen

March 20 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Today, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of the week Christians call ‘Holy Week.’ Before Christians celebrated anything else . . . even Christmas . . . they recalled the last week of Jesus’ life. They recalled Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (which we will talk about today). They remembered the acclamations of the people who saw in Jesus one who led them in paths of peace and justice
From the praise of the crowds, the early believers remembered the last supper Jesus ate with his friends at the Upper Room. It was a meal of love – as well as a time of farewell for, when Jesus left the meal to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was arrested and taken away. For Catholics, that day is called ‘Holy Thursday.’ Protestants know that same day as Maundy Thursday. ‘Maundy’ is a shortened form of ‘mandatum’ – Latin for ‘commandment.’ At that meal on that day, according to John’s gospel (John 15:12), Jesus gave his followers a new commandment (or mandatum) to love one another. Holy or Maundy Thursday reminds us that at the heart of Jesus’ teaching – even at the moment of his greatest suffering – is his commandment to love.
And then the remembering turns to the crucifixion. On a day that, in retrospect, Christians called ‘good,’ Jesus was condemned to the ultimate Roman form of capital punishment: death by crucifixion. The traditional ‘time’ of his crucifixion and death was noon – 3 p.m. (which is why many Good Friday services are during that time). However, of course, while that is tradition, we have no idea of the actual time.
Holy Saturday was remembered as a time of loss and waiting. The male disciples fled in fear. We are told the women – like Mary Magdalene – stayed to the end, accompanied his body to burial, and stayed to mourn.
And then came Easter . . . the magnificence and wonder of Resurrection upended the mourning and the morning! Over the years, as the early believers pondered what had happened, they proclaimed every Sunday as a ‘mini’ Easter. But, once a year, during a week called ‘holy’ they recalled the whole story.
Years later, a longer period of preparation got attached to Holy Week. It was called ‘Lent.’ And years after that, the tradition of Christmas took root. But first, there was a Holy Week.
So, today we begin the oldest remembrance of Christianity. I encourage you to attend our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Thursday will be a communion service, ending with the old custom of ‘stripping the altar’ of everything on it, recalling the desolation of those who saw their beloved friend arrested and taken away. Friday’s service will be a Tenebrae (Latin for ‘shadow’) service. After music and reflections, we will gradually extinguish candles as we remember Jesus’ seven ‘last words.’ The exuberance of Easter will follow on Sunday . . . and, for me, the joy of Easter is more vibrant after sharing in the solemn remembrances of the week.
Join us in celebrating Holy Week at St. Paul’s!

March 13, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

You’ve probably noticed that over the past two weeks, I have been taking some time away from the office. When I returned from the trip to the Holy Land, I realized that I simply needed to have some time with Lyle. We both needed time to learn our ‘new normal’ and I in particular had a lot to learn to help him with some of his new medical requirements. So, working with Tyler and the Staff Parish Relations Committee, I have taken some ‘medical leave.’ I will likely take a bit more time over the next month or so as we adjust and learn.
In January, Lyle had surgery to remove his bladder. It was the only way for them to remove the cancer which had unexpectedly been found on the bladder. It was not as simple as removing a tumor. That means that Lyle has a urostomy and now wears an ostomy bag. Some folks have asked me if this is permanent – and yes, it is. This kind of surgery is, as you might imagine, life changing. Others of you have been through it. And, while the ostomoy protocol after this kind of surgery is well known and relatively similar for most people, each person responds differently and so part of our learning is through trial and error. Some things that work for others don’t work for us. We simply need to work to find the protocol that is right for Lyle and that we can maintain. Frankly, it is exhausting and far more time consuming than either of us were aware at the beginning.
As Lyle and I discussed this over the past few weeks, we made a decision to share this with you. We thought it might help you understand the fact that I am not quite as available as I have been in the past. It also helps us to not need to explain such things over and over.
Having said all of that, please know that we are doing well. We both have appreciated all of the offers of help. Your generosity – of time, presence and food – has been a true gift to us both. If we haven’t called on you, it is not because we don’t appreciate the offers. In the end, there are simply some things only we can do . . . like learning ostomy care and making visits to the cancer center and hospital for out-patient help.
The final thing we wanted you to know is that the medical care we have received here in Helena through St. Peter’s – at the medical clinic, hospital and the Cancer Center – has been outstanding. Lyle’s surgery was in Missoula because that kind of surgery is not done in Helena. But all of the follow-up and his continuing care is being handled by people here. We truly feel blessed by the competence and genuine caring of the people with whom we have worked.
So, thanks so much for being the community of caring you are!

March 6, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

What do people say about St. Paul’s in our community?

When I introduce myself as a pastor at St. Paul’s to members of our Helena community I get mixed responses, “Oh…that big gray building just down from the Cathedral.” “That is the church that does so many efforts in our community to serve the poor.” “Which church is that again?” “That church has been so welcoming to our community group.” “Love that church, they speak out on important issues.” “Oh…THAT church.”

I am guessing many in our church community struggle to know when to talk about our faith community, unsure of the response you will get. What has your experience been? Talking about church and how faith is important to your life can be challenging in the current time. As a pastor even I struggle to talk about our community and navigating an engagement with someone to make sure they know I am not always on a recruiting venture. This navigation of non-recruitment is especially true now that I wear a collar while working. However, I also find that people really want to know what churches are doing and are intrigued when they run into a person of faith at a science conversation, in a community conversation about justice issues, or sitting next to them at the local hangout. Many want to learn more about the church living in the world.

A part of our Lenten discipleship series is exploring how we might find ways to invite others into a life of faith. Perhaps there is someone in your life who is really seeking something like our church, but asking him or her to join us brings about a fear of what that might lead to. Will everyone think you are out recruiting for Jesus? One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard on this is, “Build a relationship before you ever invite someone to church.” Get to know people in our community like you already do. Then when the topic of our church comes up or we get excited about a church event don’t shy away from sharing about it. Remember not everyone likes sports, but no one is afraid to talk about how much they love their team. Our church is your team and if this faith experience means something to you then it probably can mean something to others out there that are curious about faith practices in their life.

Blessings on your Discipleship journey,

Pastor Tyler

February 28 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Today as we continue our Discipleship series we will focus on how corporate worship and small groups help us to grow as disciples. After worship today you will receive a bookmark with a reminder that discipleship is what Jesus described as the greatest commandment, “Loving God and Loving Others.” As United Methodist we continue to live discipleship through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness of the love of God active in our world. Today’s focus on worship and small groups is the presence portion of our United Methodist vows.

One of the situations I struggle with most as a clergy person is when I meet people in the community and they say, “Oh, I feel so bad I haven’t been to church in 3 months.” It doesn’t bother me because they think they should have been in church, but rather because of the guilt they feel. Not being in church should not make us feel guilty. If you don’t go to church, you are not a bad person. If you don’t go to church and suddenly walk in a church you will not get struck by lightening (I have heard this a lot too). Attending worship is a spiritual practice that is designed to help support us in our relationship with God and how we are in relationship with our community. By listening to a gift of music, hearing a message of hope, praying alongside our brothers and sisters and being in community worship with one another we encounter God’s love together. In return for our commitment of time we are energized in the spirit to go out into the community carrying God’s love.

Last Wednesday night, I spent time with the youth group and they got to ask me tough questions about God and the Bible. As we began I asked them why they come to youth group, and almost everyone said, “The good people we get to be around and know.” Being around people that are working to create good community and encourage one another to live the teachings of Jesus is what small group is. Small groups are not always organized units called small groups, but instead the groups of people that you find support from. Small groups from our church might work together on projects, events, or just meet, but ultimately the goal they achieve is surrounding one another with positive support rooted in God’s love.

As you pray this week about your next steps in discipleship, ask yourself, “What areas of worship and small group community are missing for me?” See where God is inviting you to grow in faith to support your life, and if you are still unsure ask a trusted spiritual mentor, pastor or friend in our faith community.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler

Brazil Mission Update 2

It’s encouraging to build things because you get a concrete vision of what your labor accomplished at the end of each day.  Our team (with no surprise) spontaneously evolved into a highly efficient “amorphous blob” (Ron Waterman’s term) that does everything and anything with the constantly changing combination of people and skill sets to get the job done. We’ll explain further when we can.
The local people learned that I am a doctor. Each day a few will approach and ask if I can help with an ailment or two. Our robust first aid kit is all that I’ve got, and it has helped a lot. In two occasions I was asked to follow someone home because someone there was too sick to come to me.
Once it was to see a man if 59 years old. Decades of untreated diabetes made him appear more like 75 years. He was super sick. That was immediately evident from the horrendous stench of decaying flesh that surrounded him. He was sitting in a chair with his feet elevated on another chair in front of him. Both feet were wrapped in bloody gauze. Frank pus oozed from under the bandages. His legs were tremendously swollen, to the point that edema fluid dripped through the skin. Blood and pus were all around his left ear. His abdomen was hugely swollen with fluid. He clearly had end-stage kidney failure with massive fluid overload, and was horribly infected as well.
The scene of suffering and the overwhelming smell of dead flesh was too much for the New York nurse with me. She left her meager supplies and had to go. The Brazilian girl who brought me to him had to leave the house and sit outside.
Somehow I was able to talk with him and change the dressing on the foot that hurt the most. It was terribly infected, deep into the flesh and bones, draining pus and dark blood.
I gave him all of our narcotics and a few supplies. Then I stretched the limits of my comfort zone and asked him if he wanted me to pray with him. He said, “yes, definitely.”  So I knelt by his side and held his filthy contaminated hand that id watched him pick at his wounds with and began to pray out loud for him. He started to sob deeply as I did so. It broke my heart. I had to go be alone for awhile. Much later when I was able to share this with Mike, I told him that I was doing OK until Jesus walked into the room and blessed us both. It was intensely powerful.
By Mission Team Leader – Don Skillman

Brazil Mission Update 1

Our Mission Team has sent another great group of disciples to Brazil this February to help build a church.  However, a church is not all they are building.  I learned from Don Skillman our team leader that the relationships they are forming, the personal care, and mostly the prayer they are providing are building bigger things that churches.  Don described praying with a person riddled with disease and the powerful experience of sharing grace and love with another.  Continue to pray for the team and enjoy the pictures.

by Pastor Tyler

With Comfort Food, Everyone Wins!

By Kit Johnson – Team Leader of our winning Comfort Food Challenge Team
About three weeks ago Marcia Armstrong asked me if I would help cook for the comfort food challenge. I was honored to be asked, and always up for a good challenge. Comfort food; the first thing that came, to my mind was home made chicken pot pie. Visually stimulating, and palate pleasing. We assembled a small but efficient team, Marcia, Susan, and myself. Cooking went well into Saturday night, and final prep Sunday afternoon. Then the big event, Susan decorated our table beautifully. The pies were served at a feverish pace for two and a half hours.
 It was a humbling expirence seeing the outpouring  of generosity from local churches and businesses.  And the biggest winner of the night was Family Promise and people in need.
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February 21 2016 Pastor’s Corner

We continue our Lenten Study on Discipleship with a focus on prayer. Prayer is something Jesus taught to his disciples and is deeply rooted in Jesus’ Jewish tradition. This ancient practice is something that people seeking God have continued to struggle with.

Take a minute and imagine a complete stranger walking up to you and asking, “What is prayer?”

Prayer is hard to define. Is prayer a conversation with God? Is prayer listening for Jesus’ call in our lives? Is prayer simple meditation that is good for our blood pressure? All of these questions could be answered with a yes.

However, as a disciple of Jesus we should look to his answer when he was asked how people should pray. He answered with the Lord’s Prayer that we say every single Sunday. In it I think is what Jesus’ believed prayer to be, a way to step aside from the craziness of life and remember to be in relationship with God and with others. When we live a life that embodies prayer we are being mindful of our relationship with our God who loves us and binds us together, and mindful of loving our neighbors.

Just like any relationship there are many ways to pray and I invite you to search for the form of prayer that fits you the most. Perhaps it is reading scripture each day, taking a few moments to say the same prayer each day, following a devotional book, say the Lord’s Prayer, say a quick prayer when people cut you off in traffic, perhaps its sharing and praying for others through sharing on social media, but most especially to find something you do each and every day. By practicing praying each day you strengthen your love for God and for all those around you.

To help us to pray more as United Methodists in Helena we have created a Facebook Group where people can share their prayers throughout the week. This is a way for us to build a community of people in constant prayer for one another and our community. If you want to be a part of this please go to this web address and request to join the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HelenaUMC/ All are welcome in this circle of prayer and community.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler