Pastor’s Corner March 8, 2015

Today’s sermon is on Jesus’ saying “I Am the Light of the world.” We will learn in our sermon more about how this message invites us to seek God’s loving support as light to shine on our path. Life is hard and there will be challenges we will face. God’s light doesn’t solve all of our problems, but it does help us look ahead to see where we should place our foot to move forward.

As United Methodists we seek tangible ways to offer this same light in the world. One way we do this is through the United Methodist Committee on Relief(UMCOR). This wing of our church swoops in after major disasters caused by nature or humans and establishes long term support to help communities rebuild. When you donate to a specific cause through UMCOR they send 100% of your giving directly to the cause. We have seen this money come back and support our neighbors in Montana who have been victims of flooding and we see this money used internationally in the Syrian crisis and after the Tsunami in the Pacific.

UMCOR has administrative overhead like any organization, but they keep these costs very low and they never use money donated to a cause. Instead their administration relies on the One Great Hour of Sharing. This is the special offering we will take next Sunday, March 15. This donation taken at all United Methodists Churches promises that we can shine a light when great darkness happens. By giving to this special offering we are allowing UMCOR to be properly staffed to go into areas of great need and be the hands and feet of Christ. Next Sunday please give to this cause by using the offering envelope in your bulletin, or by marking One Great Hour when you give on PushPay.

Thank you for helping be the light in the world.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler



Pastor’s Corner March 1, 2015

Hospitality: the quality or disposition of
receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
Hospitality: kindness in welcoming strangers
or guests; receptiveness

Those are nice definitions. And, most of us would say they are true, right? Hospitality is how we show guests and strangers that they matter. There is now an entire industry related to hospitality . . . “The hospitality industry is a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodging, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise line, and additional fields within the tourism industry.” Most of us don’t even blink an eye at that…we all know about the ‘hospitality industry.’ We take advantage of it any time we travel on a business trip or family vacation. We depend on – and judge the success of – the ‘hospitality industry’ by how well we feel treated when we visit out of town or out of state or, even out of the country. How many of us have told stories of how well we were treated – or how poorly – and made recommendations based on that experience? That’s precisely why the ‘hospitality industry’ makes such an effort to train employees in the art of hospitality.
 
As I’ve thought about these things, I can’t help but wonder why, when we think of the ‘hospitality industry’ we rarely include the church? Shouldn’t the church be at the center of any talk about hospitality? Oh, I know, we don’t like to think of ourselves as an ‘industry.’ Still, aren’t we fundamentally in the hospitality business?
 
The church is responsible for lots of things…for worship and education and mobilizing for mission. We work with all ages – from children to seniors. But, at the heart of it all is our responsibility to share the gracious love of God. We are meant to share the wonder and welcome of a God whose arms stretch wider and whose love is beyond anything we can imagine. At the heart of all of our doctrines and dogmas and discipline is the fact that God so loved the world that nothing could ever separate God from humanity. Perhaps that is the ultimate in hospitality . . . that in God’s eyes there are no strangers, only beloved guests.
 
And so the question for us is . . . how are we doing at ‘receiving and treating our guests and strangers in a warm, friendly and generous way’? It is a ministry and a responsibility for each one of us . . .from having the courtesy to wear a name tag to introducing yourselves to the people around you, to helping someone find a restroom, to . . . well, I suspect you have an idea or two.
 
This Lenten season, as you assess your life, take a moment to consider our fundamental call to offer hospitality to one another – not only because it’s the nice thing to do but because it is how we best share the love of God right here, right now!

 

Grace and peace,
Marianne



Pastor’s Corner February 22, 2015

And so Lent begins. This Sunday you will notice the colors in the sanctuary have gone from stark greens to deep reflective purple. The curtains on the windows have been closed to invite us to reflect inwardly. All of this is done to help us remember it is the church season of Lent. Lent is the period of time leading up to Easter. In the ancient church Lent was used prepare Christians for their baptism. People would learn about Jesus, his teachings, God’s love, and how to practice the faith to help them listen for God’s call in their lives.

The invitation for us this lent is to take the season to reflect on our faith and to seek a re-connection with our original call from God to practice Christian faith. This year both HUMM(Helena United Methodist Ministry) churches, St. Paul’s and Covenant, will be partaking in a sermon and study series entitled The God We Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” sayings of Jesus. Each Sunday we will explore a different “I Am” saying from Jesus and I invite you to follow along, learn more about the character of our God, Jesus, and the Spirit of our tradition. By Easter morning, our hope is that you have found at least a few moments to reconnect with God’s love and remember your call to be a disciple.

As a part of this Lenten journey I would like to invite you to participate in at least one Wednesday night Lenten service, from 6:30pm – 7:00pm. These are prayer services designed to give you time to reflect and engage with God in a hands on way. Each night begins with a short message and is followed by 15-20 minutes of time to prayerfully explore the sanctuary and partake in hands on prayer stations. Each one is designed to help you reflect on a different aspect of faith. If you want an example of one please check out the 1,500 Blessings and Counting station in the back of the sanctuary. This one is designed to help us reflect on how St. Paul’s has blessed our community and us by being a welcoming community of Faith for 150 years.

I invite us all to journey in Lent this season, to seek God, and to be renewed in resurrection.

Enthusiastic Peace,
Pastor Tyler



February 15 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings Friends and Members of St. Paul’s,
 
As I shared in the Pastor’s Corner last week, my husband, Lyle, and I once again invite you to join us on a journey to the Holy Land. Over the past 20+ years, we have led journeys to the Holy Land regularly – usually every 2 or 3 years. We have always delighted in sharing this time with members and friends of our church family. For many, the Bible comes alive in a new way. Often, faith is deepened and enriched. Our trips combine well-planned itineraries with the expertise of an excellent guide (someone we have come to know over the past 20 years) and the support of a good travel company, dedicated to making travel accessible and affordable. While we have loved every journey we have made over the years, we do anticipate that this will be the last one we will lead.
 
The trip is scheduled for Jan. 18 – 29, 2016. All-inclusive pricing is $3796 from Helena or Billings. There are brochures available in the foyer of the church or at the office. If you wish to check it out online, you can find the journey this way: Go to www.EO.travel/mytrip . When asked, enter the following information: Tour=HL16; Date: 1/18/16; Code=H; ID#: 23081. This will take you to a page describing the journey and allow you to download a brochure if you like. You’ll notice that there are small discounts for early registration. We have again secured the services of our guide, Doron. He loves working with our groups and especially loves our itinerary . . . we spend more time in the Holy Land than most groups which allows us to see and experience more. We are also offering a “pre-tour” to Jordan (for an additional $1198). That portion of the journey leaves on Jan. 13 and spends 6 days in Jordan (seeing the actual Baptismal site, the Roman city of Jerash, a full day in Petra, stopping by the Jabbock River, looking over Mt. Nebo to the Promised Land – and, weather permitting, a swim in the Dead Sea). The group then crosses the border, joining those just arrived from the US in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.
 
I invite you to consider whether this may be the time for you to take this journey. Your relatives and friends are also welcome to join us … there is pricing available from just about every city in the US (and, as you know, often that is priced less than from Helena). Since 1974, the travel company we use, Educational Opportunities, has been dedicated to providing quality Christian travel programs at an affordable price. Over the years, more than 300,000 Christians have traveled on the various faith-based tours. They monitor all situations carefully, ensuring groups are safe and have good experiences.
 
If you are interested, pick up a brochure. Call me with questions. I would love to have a robust group from St. Paul’s travel with us once again….
 
Grace and peace, Marianne


February 8 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings Friends and Members of St. Paul’s,
 
Over the past years, my husband, Lyle, and I have led journeys to the Holy Land regularly – usually every 2 or 3 years. We have always delighted in sharing this time with members and friends of our church family. For many, the Bible comes alive in a new way. Often, faith is deepened and enriched. Our trips combine well-planned itineraries with the expertise of an excellent guide (someone we have come to know over the past 20 years) and the support of a good travel company, dedicated to making travel accessible and affordable.
All of that is to introduce our plans to lead one more journey to the Holy Land. We anticipate that this will be the final time we will lead such a journey. (We may well go back in the future, but it will be simply to see friends and family.)
 
The trip is scheduled for Jan. 18 – 29, 2016. All-inclusive pricing is $3796 from Helena or Billings. There are brochures available in the foyer of the church or at the office. If you wish to check it out online, you can find the journey this way: Go to www.EO.travel/mytrip. When asked, enter the following information: Tour=HL16; Date: 1/18/16; Code=H; ID#: 23081. This will take you to a page describing the journey and allow you to download a brochure if you like. You’ll notice there are small discounts for early registration. We have again secured the services of our guide, Doron. He loves working with our groups and especially loves our itinerary . . . we spend more time in the Holy Land than most groups which allows us to see and experience more. We are also offering a “pre-tour” to Jordan (for an additional $1198). That portion of the journey leaves on Jan. 13 and spends 6 days in Jordan (seeing the actual Baptismal site, the Roman city of Jerash, a full day in Petra, stopping by the Jabbock River, looking over Mt. Nebo to the Promised Land – and, weather permitting, a swim in the Dead Sea). The group then crosses the border, joining those just arrived from the US in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.
 
I invite you to consider whether this may be the time for you to take this journey. Your relatives and friends are also welcome to join us … there is pricing available from just about every city in the US (and, as you know, often that is priced less than from Helena). Since 1974, the travel company we use, Educational Opportunities, has been dedicated to providing quality Christian travel programs at an affordable price. Over the years, more than 300,000 Christians have traveled on the various faith-based tours. They monitor all situations carefully, ensuring groups are safe and have good experiences.
 
If you are interested, pick up a brochure. Call me with questions. I would love to have a robust group from St. Paul’s travel with us once again….
 
Grace and peace,
Marianne


Sunday, February 1 Pastor’s Corner

“So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don’t have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know.” ~Marcus J. Borg
 
As many of you know by now, one of our most popular lecturers, Dr. Marcus Borg, died unexpectedly on Wednesday morning, Jan. 21. His wife, Marianne, said he ‘rose before the sun.’ She and his son Dane and Dane’s husband, Benjamin, were with him when he died. His daughter and grandson had visited just the weekend before. Marcus had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis on December 19 and died from that. It was quick and he was at peace, still filled with hope for the future.
 
Marcus’ death is certainly a loss for the church. He was a consummate scholar who was also passionate about his faith. He wanted the work of sound Biblical scholarship to be readily accessible to the local church and that was precisely the audience to whom he addressed most of his books. Many of you have benefitted from one of his books or a class or a video series that included Marcus’ work.
 
When I went to seminary 25+ years ago, Marcus was a visiting professor at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley (my seminary) while his wife, Marianne, was going to the Episcopal seminary. That was before he had written most of his books! I happened to live in the same duplex as the Borgs and, to make a long story short, we became friends. It is a friendship that has endured and though we haven’t seen them often, we have usually gotten together at least once a year and it always seemed like we could pick up where we left off! We had hoped next to take a trip to Assisi, Italy together.
 
There will be a large public celebration of life for Marcus at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, OR on March 22. Yesterday, on Saturday, Jan. 31, however, there was family celebration at the small Episcopal Church (also called Trinity) in Bend, OR. The Borgs have attended there since moving to Powell Butte in central Oregon several years ago. When I spoke with Marianne Borg last Monday, she whispered the hope that perhaps we might join the family at that service. That is a long way to tell you that that is precisely where Lyle and I are this weekend. Tyler offered to cover preaching here. Su DeBree is covering the service in Lincoln where Lyle was scheduled to be. When she knew we were making the journey, Marianne also asked me to be part of this service for Marcus, one of 3 people offering reflections.
 
My relationship with Marcus has deeply affected my life and my faith. He has been a friend and mentor and I will miss him greatly. I am so grateful he was able to come to St. Paul’s twice so that many of you have caught a glimpse of the blessing he has been – and will continue to be – for thoughtful Christians everywhere.

 

Grace and peace,
Marianne
 


January 25 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings All and a very happy last
Sunday of January to you!
It is just one month since Christmas . . . does it seem longer than that to you? Just one month ago we were singing Christmas carols and delighting in the beauty of lights and Christmas trees. We were in the midst of family gatherings. I was anticipating a visit with my family in Florida. My, how things have changed! Of course, winter has its own beauty although I admit that it is a bit of a challenge for me to appreciate it sometimes. I’m just not a fan of icy roads, cold winds, snow and long nights. Still, beauty abounds – and I have some good news to share that I think will warm us all up!
One month ago we were hoping for a robust end to our year – and that is exactly what happened. Your generosity meant that we met all of our financial obligations. We actually received $477,618 in income in 2014 – which was about $20,000 more than we projected. That, coupled with our fundraising (a Wednesday night dinner hosted by staff, a ‘Resurrection matching challenge’ offering, and snowflake gifts) means that we begin 2015 on healthy footing. In addition, to date, our Stewardship pledges to the General Fund for this year are about $14,000 ahead of last year!
I do not yet have a final report on the status of our building (AKA ‘mortgage reduction’) fund but, between our pledges and a few special gifts, our income also fully funded our mortgage obligations.
PushPay, our electronic giving system, which we rolled out in mid-December has been a success and is being used regularly. It is still too early to know for sure how it will impact us in the future although the indications are good. The PushPay system itself is indeed all we hoped it could be – safe, secure and easy to use. I am especially grateful to Tyler for all the research and work he did to help us make this happen. In addition, 15 more people have made arrangements to use our process of EFT (electronic funds transfers) for giving – bringing our total number of participants to close to 100. That particular method of giving is completely free and helps greatly with cash flow, especially during the summer.
Now all of that is news that should warm our hearts! We have much to celebrate as we engage in our All Church Conference tomorrow night where we will receive the details of these reports, approve our budget for 2015, affirm our leadership roster, review a membership report, approve General Endowment requests and share conversation about our hopes and dreams for the future.
Several times last year, the Finance Committee and the Trustees reported on our fiscal health. As we move into 2015, I am working with our Finance Committee to find new ways of better communicating financial information to you. If you have particular questions, please feel free to contact me or Kari Leonard (Finance Chair) or Kathie Roos (Trustees Chair).
Grace and peace,
Marianne


Pastor’s Corner January 18

Today is Human Relations Sunday! Throughout the gospels Jesus demonstrates that ministry is sharing God’s love with all people. By opening ourselves to God’s love we know that we are whole and created in God’s image, and we are invited to share this love with others. Martin Luther King Jr. is our modern day prophet on human rights. As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I invite us to remember the sacrifice it takes to help others respond to the needs of those our society rejects.

The United Methodist Church’s statement on human rights is powerful. As you read this statement remember that churches across the United States and the World are committed to this statement.

“The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation. Our respect for the inherent dignity of all persons leads us to call for the recognition, protection, and implementation of the principles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that communities and individuals may claim and enjoy their universal, indivisible, and inalienable rights.” Paragraph 162, 2014 United Methodist Book of Discipline

In your faith practice I invite you to consider these words, to think deeply about MLK Jr.’s vision and to seek ways to touch the lives of those that society has left behind. Let us all pray that our church continues to work diligently to do this both inside our doors and in our communities.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler



Pastor’s Corner 1-11-15

Going in Mission –

“If your congregation suddenly disappeared, would the community mourn losing the blessings they provide?”

This quote is one I use when I think about mission. Mission is seeking ways to offer blessings to the world. Churches in mission are seeking to share God’s love in tangible ways. By praying, supporting and going in mission we are helping to change the world and share Jesus’ vision of hope for all. St. Paul’s continues to go in mission with integrity by using the heritage of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Wesley’s vision for mission does not just involve sharing stories of God’s love, but also blankets, food, and solutions to real world problems. Go to stpaulshelena.org and click on the outreach tab each month to learn more about the work we are doing.

Today in worship Don Skillman will share some of the ways in which he has served in Mission through the United Methodist Church in Brazil. We are thankful to Don for his example of how to make ministry come alive, and his leadership in helping take several groups from St. Paul’s on trips to Mozambique, Haiti, and Brazil. International or domestic mission is one way to experience the transforming power of sharing God’s love in mission. If you are interested in a trip, I would encourage you to speak with Don, myself or other members of the mission team. These trips will transform and deepen your faith.

Thank you St. Paul’s for your continued commitment to mission that transforms people and the world.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler