January 10 – From Our Parish Administrator

As we begin the New Year, I am excited to introduce you to our newest staff member, Renata Strauss. Renata became a member our team on January 3 and is quickly acclimating to St. Paul’s and her role as Administrative Assistant.

A conventional “first day” for a new employee at St. Paul’s might include an introductory brunch with staff, a tour of our buildings, an overview of our various programs and ministries and perhaps a chance to settle into the workspace. However, as we all know, St. Paul’s is not exactly conventional. Consequently, let me describe Renata’s first day at St. Paul’s. She arrived at 9 AM to an office bustling with activity. Two volunteers were hard at work assisting with office functions and the pastors were meeting with coordinators of ministry and worship to plan for upcoming services. Staff were bouncing from phones to computers trying to address immediate needs and schedule events. All the while, Renata was patiently observing, asking relevant questions and greeting new faces. At some point she did receive a tour and an overview, however the best part of her orientation came from you…the St. Paul’s community. It was exciting for me to watch Renata experience the vibrant energy of St. Paul’s in action. Our office was abuzz with people dropping by to sign up for classes, deliver donations, and provide assistance in preparation for committee meetings and so much more. Renata was blessed with an opportunity to meet our remarkable Christian community in action…FULL THROTTLE!

No employee handbook can begin to describe the activity and culture of St. Paul’s. It must be experienced. The past few months have been especially challenging for staff as we have struggled through busy times and learning new tasks. It has been all of you who have made the work of St. Paul’s possible through this transition and who continue to make St. Paul’s an extraordinary missional community. We have selfless volunteers assisting us at every juncture and as a result are able to weather change and provide continuous service and ministry. My heartfelt thanks to all of you.

I invite you to stop by the church office and introduce yourself to Renata (she works 9 AM – 1 PM). Share your name, but more importantly, share with her your involvement with St. Paul’s. You are the living, breathing handbook for those new to St. Paul’s. Please join me in welcoming Renata, her husband Eric, son Mack (age 5) and daughter Ada (age 6) to our community.

Forever grateful –

Sue McNicol – Parish Administrator

Want to help build a church? – Brazil Trip February 2016

  • building2 amazonDepart Montana on 19 February
  • Arrive in Manaus 20 February
  • Work in Boa Vista 22 – 27 February
  • Leave Brazil 28 February
  • Arrive back in Montana 29 February


 The church is in a small town called Boa Vista, in a region referred to as “Alto Manaquiri”. The nearest real town is 40 minutes away, called Manaquiri. Manaus is about 4 hours down the Rio Solimoes from Manaquiri, by fast passenger boat.


Construction still needed:

Concrete sub-floor                    Doors                      Windows

Electrical work                             Bathrooms


In the photos I can see a lot of wood planks on the ground. These are for the walls. They will be nailed up. There may be some brick work, but a lot of bricks are not waiting there.





Tools On Site:

1 electric saw             1 big electric screwdriver             1 big square

1 small drill                                    Various screwdrivers                       Shovel, hoes


Tools NOT On Site:

Hammers                      Tape measures                                    Hand saws           Anything else


Other Information:

We can sleep in the Methodist Church in Manaus when there. On mats on the floor, for free.

Or we can get rooms in a nice hotel when in Manaus. About $65 per night x 3 nights total (the 5 of us coming from Helena have opted for the hotel.)


During the work week we will stay in a hotel in the town of Manaquiri

50 reais per person per night (US$14.00 x 6 = $81)

Air-conditioning; Real beds; Television (Portuguese)

Breakfast and Supper will be in Manaquiri

It’s 30 – 40 minutes by boat to the work site (this will be enjoyable)

Transport boat rental is 500 reais/day ($135/day x 6 days = $810). Boat holds 12 people


Lunch and afternoon snack will be in Boa Vista

Cook’s pay and food for the week = 5,000 reais = $1,351

Tools can be safely stored at Mr. Neca’s house (The community leader.)

Breakfast and Supper in Manaquiri ( ?? $20 per person per day ??)


Building Supplies: Estimated to be 13,000 reais.

1 dollar = 3.7 reais currently                         13,000 reais = US $3,513


Team Expenses (in US dollars):

Building Materials                                               3,513

Daily Boat, Manaquiri to Boa Vista             810

Cook and Food, etc in Boa Vista


Total = $5,674

[Fund raising has already reached about $1,500 for Team Expenses. So make this Total = $4,174.]

If the team is 10 people = $420 per person

If the team is 7 people = $600 per person

PLEASE NOTE: The exchange rate of reais per dollar can change at any time, for better or for worse. So these numbers are not exact.


Individual Expenses (In approximate US Dollars):

Manaus Hotel                                                         200 (total for 3 nights)

Manaquiri Hotel                                                    81 (total for six nights)

Meals in Manaquiri                                             85 (total for six days)

Meals in Manaus                                                  100 (total for 3 days)



Total =   $566


Adding it All Up:

Team costs, assuming 7 people     600

Individual costs         566

Total = $1,166

Plus 10% because you’d be crazy not to plan for it = $120 + $1,166 = $1,286



Brazil Visa if you need one, costs about $200


 Your airfare (We have paid $952 – $1350 each coming from Helena).


I have applied for $2,000 from our church which will be used to further reduce team expenses. If we get all of it, the total cost will go down by $285 for each mission team member.


Point of Contact
Don Skillman;   406-461-8061;                   Donskillman24@gmail.com

The Giving Tree was a great success this year! 

Thanks to your generosity we provided gifts for 12 mothers at Florence Crittenton, 32 pairs of pajamas for Intermountain children, 40 gifts for 10 Helena Indian Alliance families and 65 gifts for 12 families in the Health Department Outreach program.  Christmas has been brought to all these families due to your generosity!  And thank you to Joan Sheline for her organization and passion for this ministry.

January 3 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings to you this Christmas Season,

Youth are an incredibly important part of our mission here at St. Paul’s. As a Christian community we value creating ways for young people to build community and explore their spiritual lives. At the core of this belief is our commitment to having a Youth Ministry Coordinator as an integral part of our church staff.

Over the past 9 years, Meg White has served in this capacity with an incredible amount of grace and love. Meg has helped us explore the issues facing youth, helped the youth build safe community to grow in their faith, and pulled together an incredible cohort of adult leaders to support the youth of St. Paul’s. Meg’s work has been a testament to our hope that we can be a loving faith community for all ages. Thank you Meg! We look forward to honoring you in a celebration later this winter.

With Meg’s resignation we must now explore how we continue this legacy of ministry with young people. This means we want to take adequate time to search for our next full-time Youth Coordinator. In the interim, we have asked Meladie Brandle to serve as an Interim Youth Program Manager. Meladie has been the adult serving our Youth Leadership Team this year. She is also a dedicated member of St. Paul’s. Meladie’s primary responsibility will be organizing and maintaining our Wednesday evening and Sunday morning youth programs. We are thrilled to have Meladie’s help with these vital parts of youth ministry.

Over the next few months the Staff Parish Relations Committee will put together information and materials for an extensive Youth Ministry Coordinator search. We hope to complete this interview process sometime later in the spring. In the meantime we can use your help. First, please support Meladie by your prayers as she continues the Sunday and Wednesday programs. Please offer to help her, if you are able. Contact Pastor Tyler if you are interested in helping to coordinate an extra program for youth – such as campfires, a day at the lake, organizing rides to Convo or Junior High Retreats, or some other creative activity. We are able to offer a few of these kind of activities for youth, but we need your help to do so.

We are thankful for the ministry of Meg, and hopeful for a strong continuation of our youth program.


Pastor Marianne and Pastor Tyler

December 27 Pastor’s Corner

May the blessings of Christmas be yours in abundance!
I don’t know about you but I immensely enjoy the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It always seems to be a more restful time, especially after the frenzy of preparation for Christmas. I hope you get some of that restful, playful, enjoyable time in the week to come.
For Lyle and me, this year’s Advent preparation was even busier than normal. Just before Thanksgiving, a health concern was raised during Lyle’s annual physical. He has spent the weeks of Advent undergoing various tests. As many of you know from experience, medical tests often involve a lot of waiting and hoping and wondering – all of which is very much in keeping with the spirit of Advent! From very early in this process, we knew that his diagnosis included cancer so we have been working with the Cancer Center at St. Peter’s. We both want to affirm the excellent care we have received. We are incredibly blessed to have such a high quality of medical care here in Helena.
On December 18, we received the diagnosis that Lyle’s tumor is an unusual and rare cancer and is found on his bladder. The recommendation for treatment is surgery as soon as possible. This kind of surgery cannot be done here in Helena so this past week, in the midst of Christmas Eve preparations, we have been to Missoula for a consultation. We hope surgery will be there in the near future. When we have more information, we will be glad to pass it along but, until then, we both simply ask for your prayers and support.
The St. Paul’s staff has been so helpful as they have covered things I could not get to. Many thanks to them and to all of you who have offered help. I’m sure we will take you up on your offers in the future but, for now, we simply ask for your understanding if calls are not returned immediately or if we are unable to respond to requests.
As you know, we are both the leaders of the group which leaves for the Holy Land in mid-January. Lyle will not be able to go but we are hoping that I will indeed be accompanying the group. Again, we are still awaiting further word.
Again, thanks for your prayers! Lyle and I consider ourselves richly blessed to be part of a community like St. Paul’s. Though there is much we do not know about what the future holds, we do indeed trust in the One who holds the future!
May 2016 bring an abundance of blessings to us all!
Grace and peace,

Advent – Christmas Day –Witnessing Wonder – Every Character

FullSizeRender 3I woke up to the sound of my phone vibrating on the nightstand.  It was Christmas Eve the full workday for Pastors.  I always take the morning off, but it still means at least 8-10 hours of work with all the services.  I am not complaining, I just want you to know where my head landed.  Then from the other room I heard my oldest daughter say in one of those excited whispers, “One more day.”  My wife and I both laughed out loud, in a whispering way.
Jim Harnish in our study this week talks about the question he is asked by people each year.  He is asked if it is hard to come up with material for the Christmas Eve service at his church each year.  For Jim Harnish he does not because this Christmas story, the one we have been journeying towards is one of the mystery of God born into the world.  There is a sense of wonder in telling the story each year.  And just like my daughter I think Pastors, despite the sense of a long day coming, wake up and think, “One more day.”
One more day and Christmas will be here.  For some of us when we were children the anticipation was too much.  Presents and all the excitement of Christmas would keep us up until Santa almost couldn’t come.  Others of us may not have had a great childhood, didn’t feel the anticipation on that Christmas Eve night with Santa, but perhaps you have felt it when you have anticipated God’s presence being born into moments in your life: moments of healing, joy, deep peace, presence of God in heartache, or even the miraculous.
Christmas comes more than just December 25th, it can come when ever God is born into our lives.  We conspire with God when we look for those moments.  In the anticipation of those moments our heart flutter, our minds focus and God feels all the more present.  Christmas moments focus life and helps us to live more fully the life we are called to live in Christ.
God did not come down to earth in Jesus Christ to make life just a little bit better but to save us from existence that is less than life into real life itself.  God came down in Jesus not to prepare us for the next world but to set us free to live in this world the way Jesus lived, which was the costly way of reconciling love, relentless hope, reverberating joy.  (Jim Harnish, When God Comes Down, pg 44)
As you enter this Christmas day, as you see the anticipation of this day on Children’s faces, as you see anticipation on other people’s faces I pray that you can see where God is being born into the world.  And remember that small excited whispering voice that came to all of our characters, “One more day” and God will be born again.

Advent – Week 4 – The Inn Keeper – Our Character

FullSizeRender 2This weeks character is the Inn Keeper.  Let me start by saying that the origin of this character comes from the Gospel of Luke in chapter 2, but there is really no mention of an inn keeper.  Even in the greek there is no character described as an inn keeper.  This character has been added by us, as a useful character to help show the challenge it was just to find a safe place for the Christ Child to be born.
In my sermon at Covenant on Sunday, I highlighted the reality that we have created this character because the inn keeper is realistic and we can empathize being this character.  Tired after a long Christmas season of trying to be nice for everyone we feel our own batteries drained.  One more present, one more performance, or one more batch of cookies.  Then we feel the knock on the door.  We go to the door and find Mary, Joseph and their donkey.  This would be an odd site on my front porch in Helena.  “Hello, we are looking for a place to stay.  Mary is about to give birth to Emmanuel, God with us.”
“But I just gave my last energy by giving some food to the food bank!”  This thought runs through your head, but you don’t say it.
“Oh my God(literally)!  Come inside I have a guest room upstairs.”  As you say it you remember the guest room is actually been transformed into your wrapping paper station of the season.  You realize you have to give up one of your rooms.
The story could go on, but the reality is that inviting God into our lives can seem overwhelming especially this time of year.  There are so many things that can crowd God out.
The inn keeper becomes a useful character to us, because it is a reminder that even offering the most lowly place we have is a way God finds a way into our lives.  God comes as a child and grows with us through the experiences of life.   This holiday season our invitation is to find simple ways to provide a small and humble place for God’s love to be born in us.  The risk to us, is that God can change our lives.  The good news of this season is that God’s change brings with it the hope of a future where all people may feel God’s love.

December 20 Pastor’s Corner

Welcome to this year’s Christmas Choir Sunday! Today you will be treated to hearing the Christmas choruses of Handel’s Messiah. This is a wonderful way to enter the spirit of the season during this final week leading to Christmas. I am hoping you will take a minute to thank Tanya Anderson, our Chancel Choir director, for her work in making this possible. She has done an amazing job leading our awesome Chancel Choir this fall. She and Dave Buness have worked hard to make the transition from Dave’s leadership to her leadership a smooth one. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with such great talent and I know today’s music will be a blessing to us all!

Tomorrow night, we will be celebrating our annual Solstice Service featuring the Wilbur Rehmann Jazz Quintet. This has become one of the most popular events of the season as we simply spend time listening to wonderful music, reflecting, praying and learning together. We have traditionally shared this service with the Helena Jewish Community and this year will be no exception. Together we will reflect on the theme Leaning Toward the Light, which seems especially appropriate as we all deal with the challenges in our personal lives and in our world. This year’s Solstice event will again include the young fiddle player and singer Brigid Reedy and her Dad, John Reedy. I am told Brigid’s younger brother will also be joining them.

Next Sunday will be an opportunity to celebrate the joy of the season by remembering the many ways we have been ‘going in mission’ this past year. If you think about it, the service on Dec. 27 is the last service of our first 150 years of ministry! I sometimes wonder what those pioneers who began the community that would become St. Paul’s would think of what we have become and of all we have done. I personally think they’d be amazed and proud. I also think they are some of the saints in the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who are cheering us on and supporting our ever expanding mission.

May the joys of Christmas be yours! If you are traveling this season, may your journey be safe and your time blessed. If you are here in Helena, I hope to see you at one of our Christmas Eve services. The Christmas pageant – the service especially geared toward families – is at 5 PM. That will be followed by the Christmas candlelight services at 7 and 9.

May the blessings of the coming of the Messiah be yours in abundance!

Grace and peace,


Advent – Week 3 – “le point vierge” – God Experiences

FullSizeRender“A French phrase caught my attention in the writings of Thomas Merton. Even poorly pronounced, le point vierge sounds better in French than its English translation ‘the virgin point.’ Merton defined le point vierge as the ‘point at which I can meet God in a real and experimental contact.’ He said, ‘This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.’” (Christine Bochen, Thomas Merton: The Essential Writings, pp. 60-61)
Jim Harnish points to the story of Mary this week as we explore the characters of the Advent story.  Mary is usually described as the Virgin mother of Jesus.  This distinction often carries with it a strange scientific inner debate about what exactly this means.  Virgin as a term carries with it a strange idea of purity, a sense of something un-touched, innocent, or somehow more pure than that which is the opposite.  On a snowy morning the “virgin snow” might be the snow that is untouched by creature or vehicle, somehow better because it has not been reached yet by something which disturbs it.
Yet, the le point vierge that Harnish uses as described by Thomas Merton somehow changes that understanding.  The virgin point somehow becomes this interaction with God that is experimental and new.  New and experimental contact is often messy and not some perfect interaction.  Mary’s story is anything, but perfect in the sense of how a king should come into the world.  An unwed young woman finds herself pregnant and not in a place of wealth, and with a significant other who has to decide whether he still wants to be with her.  Yet, the story of Mary focuses on this virgin point by showing Mary’s willingness to be open to God’s love entering the world through her.  The story of God enters the world in the all the wrong ways, and yet the gospel writer uses the word for purity to describe it.  I think the gospel writer uses the word not prove Mary’s sexual purity, but her willingness to be part of God’s working in the world.
This past week I was in Denver.  I love riding public transit when I am in Denver, it makes for great people watching.  A young man strolled up to me at one of the stops, in a way that made me think he was trying to sell me something.  He pointed to my clergy collar and asked me if I was a priest.  I clumsily shared that I was a pastor not a priest(as if it mattered to him).  He asked me, “Does drinking make me a bad person?”  I had to stop for a minute.  I immediately thought in my head, NO!  However, he asked me as a clergy person, so he must be looking for guidance.  I responded by asking, “Is it causing a problem for you?”  He shared with me that it was not and then shared the gentleman shared he was looking for something deeper in his life.  I shared with him some resources for faith community connectional and he went to the other side of the train platform to go on his way.
Le point vierge can be as simple as this interaction I had was.  I almost got caught up in who I was, what my title was, but instead I felt the tugging to listen.Being willing to share love with others is what it means to touch God in an experimental way.  By being open to how God might use us, we get out of the way enough for God’s love to be present through us.
Pray this week for the young man I met and seek ways to find yourself at le point vierge.  
When is a time you found yourself at  le point vierge?  Share your story.

ACEs Awareness … for Good!

St. Paul’s, we have been faithful for 150 years and in turn God continues to call us to help bring healthy change to our community.  This fall as a part of our 150th celebration we partnered with our long-time ministry partner Intermountain and their educational organization Child Wise to explore ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences).  These 10 ACEs describe events that might happen in a child’s early life that can impact their physical, mental and social health for their entire life.  The studies show that the higher ACEs score the greater the likelihood the child will face adversity in their life.


In our work we shared the gospel message through the words “adversity is not destiny.”  St. Paul’s and our partners believe that adversity does not determine a person’s destiny and that we can reduce the likelihood of adverse results of their childhood experiences.  We facilitated two events and recorded three videos that will continue to share ACEs as a language to understand adversity, so that we can learn to prevent and overcome the challenges facing children and adults.  I want to especially thank our three speakers for these events: Todd Garrison, Director of Child Wise, Schylar Canfield Baber, Board Member of Child Wise, and Dr. Elizabeth Kohlstaedt, Ph.D.,Clinical Director at Intermountain.  To learn more about ACEs in Montana go to whatsyouracescore.com


Due to our efforts and the amazing work of Intermountain and Child Wise, our community has taken up this gospel message of hope.  A coalition of non-profits, schools, individual citizens, and hopeful entrepreneurs is uniting under the name Elevate Montana – Helena.  On January 25, at the Helena Middle School auditorium there will be screening of  Paper Tigers, a movie about how working intentionally with the knowledge of ACEs transformed an alternative high school in Walla Walla.  The coalition hopes to get 800 people to the event and then from that event get 100 people to be trained in the language of ACEs to help begin to transform our community.


St. Paul’s is most definitely following its calling… for good.  I am excited to see where the next 150 years take us.


Enthusiastic Peace,


Pastor Tyler


This video comes from our November event at the Art Walk, Design a Child’s Destiny.  It covers the clinical and biological realities behind ACEs and also how one person’s story relates to these statistics.

This video is art by 406 Youth United(our youth group) inspired by their work understanding ACEs.

For more videos on ACEs go to challengehelena.org and to learn more go to elevatemontana.org