Pastor’s Corner – Aug. 20

A message from our Bishop Karen Oliveto, written 8/15/2017:

Much has been written about white supremacy and white nationalism since this weekend’s deadly violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, and rightly so. We must condemn this evil that is seeking to fray the beautiful tapestry of American society. The hatred and racism that sustain these movements are literally life-threatening and must be confronted and dismantled.

But it is all too easy to point fingers and not do the hard work of personal soul searching, to be honest about the “every day racism” we whites participate in and benefit from. As a white woman, I have to confront my privilege, and the fact that my walk in the world is much easier because of my race than persons of color. Every day, I must confess my racism. Racism is so deeply embedded in our culture and entangles all of us in its web of inequity. I have to consciously reject it every day and the main way I do that is through the power of empathy, listening deeply to how those of color have a much different experience of the world than I do. I must understand that doors that open up automatically for me because of my whiteness open with difficulty—if at all—for persons of color. My race affords me places of safety not granted to those of other races.

I am not frightened of police officers. I don’t worry that by putting on a hoodie, I will be perceived as dangerous. I have never given my nieces and nephews “the talk” about how they should behave if ever stopped by a police officer. I have never been followed in a store by the owner because he or she automatically assumes that I am a suspect for shoplifting simply because of the color of my skin. I have never had to look very far—in books, movies, television, or church meetings—to see people who look like me. In white America, the color of my skin grants me power and privilege.

Racism isn’t an inconvenient social construct.  It is a deadly way to control others.

Racism permeates all corners of American society. Even the church is not immune from its cancerous presence. My own denomination’s history reveals a theology once held that supported the outrageous belief that owning another person and treating them less than human was in line with Christian values. Racism fueled segregation in the church through the creation of an all-black non-geographic jurisdiction in order to preserve (white) “unity”.

If we are to effectively oppose and defuse the movements of white supremacy and nationalism, the starting point must be with our own collusion with racism. Until we do this hard work, we will keep in place the social fuel that will allow these movements to flourish.

My white friends, we can no longer remain silent. We can no longer pretend we live in a post-racial society. We can no longer deny the privilege we possess. We can no longer believe that racism no longer exists.

With eyes wide open, may we dismantle the sin of racism, in our own lives and in the systems and institutions of which we are a part. May Love guide our work, focus our anger and fear, and lead us all into the promise of Beloved Community.

 

Bishop Karen Oliveto, Mountain Sky Area

(Find her blog at karenoliveto.blogspot.com)



Pastor’s Corner – Aug. 13

From Pew to Canoe

The outdoor recreation industry employs and serves millions of people in the summer months. In areas such as ours here in Montana and western North Carolina, Sundays can be one of the busiest days of the week for weekend warriors and seasonal workers. Rev. Wayne “Wayner” Dickert and the Bryson City United Methodist Church decided to take the worship service to the river banks of the Natahala River, using a brewery building as a chapel. They gather, sing, hear scripture, pray for one another, and share in communion. Then, they enjoy nature.

Pastor Wayner shared that being out in the community was the most important part of his ministry. Outdoor guides are finding River Church their welcoming home. These River Church members are unable to drive to a surrounding church to attend a worship service and also guide a trip that same day. That means deciding either to attend church or to make money to live on. Many young river guides express gratitude for church being on the river because they can worship and work on the same day. Others have flocked from all surrounding areas over their love of the water and connection to a former paddler. For the outdoor sports enthusiast, the Weekend Warrior lifestyle and traditional church lifestyle don’t always mesh well. Bryson UMC is reaching beyond its walls to bring these two together.  “It’s just a place where people can come together and be exactly who they are and accepted and loved,” Anne Connelly, a former national team paddler explained.

Offerings from River Church go to clean water projects around the world. They have donated 16 wells in Haiti thus far. After worship, the community hit the water, making connections through going to work or enjoying a day on the river together.

Visit the River Church’s website for more information: www.nantahalariveroflife.org
 
Do you have any ideas for our community for reaching our Weekend Warriors here in the Helena?
 
Pastor Sami 
 


Pastor’s Corner – Aug. 6

Ecclesiastes 3:7b says, “There is a time to speak and a time to keep silent.” I know we all have regrets over times our tongues got away from us and words flew out of our mouths and hurt somebody. I suspect we all have regrets over times we did not speak up, and later wished we had said something. Imagine these scenarios:
 
You walk into a conversation at work or at school where a person is being ridiculed. You hear the deriding comments. Even see the humor in them. Do you speak up or keep silent?
 
Someone walks into a social situation and is very vocal about his/her political views. Would you speak up or keep silent? Does your answer change if you agree or disagree with their opinion?
 
A person is happily living in denial. It may be an issue around facing their age, the prognosis of an illness, or the reality of a mental illness. You can see through the denial to the true reality. Should you speak up?
 
There is a time to speak and a time to keep silent. Words have great power. They dig deep into our souls. Mother Teresa says, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” I would say the same is true for unkind words; they carry an echo as well.
 
How do you make choices about when to speak up and when to listen? How does your faith inform your choices? These are worthy questions to ponder. And we will reflect on what the Tiger Lily has to say to us about this topic of words and their power.
 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti


Pastor’s Corner – July 30

Can We Help the Buzz?
 
These hot summer days have us all running inside to stay cool and dry. This abnormal weather can also help remind us of our brothers and sisters who cannot escape this heat or its struggles. Our friends in Brazil, in particularly but not exclusively, continue to fight with malaria and Zika Virus outbreaks. Women and children have been hit hardest with the outbreaks, according to Human Rights Watch. This is simply because of the work done within the home. Families are urged to avoid standing water in their houses because mosquito larvae thrive there, but most families don’t have reliable running water, and hold water in tanks. It is typically the women and girls’ job to stock pile water while the tap is running. Legitimate measurements to keep the water covered and repelled are also taken, but it isn’t enough. Most Brazilians live without adequate sewage and disposal. All of these factors are causing easy transmission of Zika, predominantly in pregnancy, and proper medical care for children born with Zika Syndrome is extensive and expensive.
 
Many things need to be put into place for malaria and Zika to be eradicated, many of which are government investment in infrastructure for sewer and water. But there are ways we can help prevent the spread of the virus. Imagine No Malaria, a United Methodist initiative, is continuing to work to eradicate the spread of diseases via mosquitoes across the world. Insecticide-treated bed nets and education about transmission are part of Imagine’s preventative work. More accurate diagnoses, access to medication, proper drainage systems, and training for community health workers are all part of their treatment work. Because of this continual work, malaria deaths are half what they were. This is God at work in our world.
 
If you would like to help this cause even more, visit www.imaginenomalaria.org for resources and ways to donate. And when you swat a mosquito on your arm this summer, say a little prayer for those whom a mosquito bite means so much more.
 
Peace,
Pastor Sami


Pastor’s Corner – July 23

Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
 
Creation reflects its Creator. How do you see God in creation? How does the spirit speak to you through nature?

This morning, as I was walking across the parking lot to work, a beautiful bank of light purple flowers caught my eye. I was enjoying their beauty when I noticed a lone bright yellow flower standing out amongst the purple ones. It reminded me to let my light shine today. To be me. Flowers speak to us when we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The next 6 weeks in worship we will be exploring what flowers can teach us about life, faith, and God. Each flower is unique in shape, size, color, beauty, aroma. Each speaks to us in its own way. Come and reflect with us on the messages flowers speak to us.

I also encourage you, as you are out in nature, whether it is on a trail, or in your garden, or in a parking lot, to open your eyes and ears to what the Spirit might be whispering to you through Creation.

Walking in the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner – July 9

When I was in college I took a public speaking class. One of my assignments was to write a short speech on a favorite saying. I chose, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I don’t know why I remember that, but it came to mind this week as I was reflecting back on my life and the joys and challenges I have faced. I guess I have always tried to see all experiences, whether good or bad, as opportunities to grow. Otherwise bitterness, anger, and resentment can take over my heart and joy eludes me. Perhaps the biblical equivalent is Romans 8:28, “in all things God works for good.”
 
I’m reading an inspiring book, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, by Henri Nouwen. The title is a good summary of his theme: spiritual formation is not so much religious practices we add into our lives, but rather paying attention to how we experience the spirit of God moving in our daily lives. In the first chapter he talks about time. We typically view time as chronos, the series of events that make up our days. And we never have enough of this kind of time! He encourages us to view time as kairos, which I’ve heard defined as God’s time.
 
When we view time as kairos then we train ourselves to see God’s hands at work in our everyday moments and every moment becomes a potential connection to God, whether we are doing chores, spending time with someone, resting, playing, or serving another. Each moment and each activity becomes an opportunity to receive the love of God, to be transformed by the love of God, and/or to share the love of God. Our days then, become a mosaic of God’s work in our lives. This sounds all too simple, but it is challenging for me. My “To Do” list tends to control my life. But, in the moments I can focus on kairos, and increase my awareness of God’s activity in my life, life becomes lemonade!
 
How do you see God at work in your daily life? I would love to hear your story!
 
Walking in Grace,
Patti


Pastor’s Corner – July 2

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

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


Pastor’s Corner – June 25

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


Pastor’s Corner – June 18

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

In prayer,

 

Pastor Tyler



Pastor’s Corner – June 11

The Pianos of St. Paul’s UMC (a short history)

Because our pastors are involved with the Yellowstone Conference this week, thy have asked me to tell you about an exciting new development.
 
When Fay and I moved to Helena in 1973 and were hired as organist/pianist and choir director, the pianos in the old church were older upright pianos which were in pretty bad shape. Through negotiations with Dick Dightman, our previous choir director, and Ernest Neath, the organist at the early service (and also owner of “Neath Music”), St. Paul’s purchased a small “studio upright” Young Chang piano which became the main piano in the sanctuary of our old church.
 
When we moved into our new church in 2005 it became obvious that this small Young Chang piano would not fill our new sanctuary space. In April of 1999, Bill and Bonnie Toliaferro had pledged $25,000.00 for the purchase of a new grand piano, so Fay and I went shopping. We located a Yamaha grand piano in Spokane, Washington which we really liked, so in June of 2005 we purchased our present 6 ft. 11 inch grand piano which has been in our sanctuary ever since.
The Young Chang piano, which had been our “best” piano was moved to the choir room of our new church. Here again we felt the Young Chang piano was too small for that space, so we moved our personal 5 ft. 10 inch grand piano built by Kawai into the choir room to be used for rehearsals and performances.
 
We have promised our grand piano to our daughter, Megan, who teaches music at Denver Community College. She and her husband have recently done a remodel of their home in Denver, and they are ready for the piano We have been given permission to “take back” our piano and replace it with a nearly identical Kawai grand piano owned by Ron and Roberta Nelson who have offered their piano to the church for a very reasonable price. Fay has played this piano and feels very confident it is a fine instrument. The money to pay for this piano will come from the choir annuity which has sufficient funds to cover the cost, and the choir will then give this new piano to St. Paul’s on a permanent basis so that all pianos located at St. Paul’s UMC will belong to the church. The moving of pianos will take place later this month.

 

Dave Buness, Music and Arts Coordinator, St. Paul’s UMC