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


Pastor’s Corner – June 4

As many of you know, I returned just last week from spending almost two weeks in Norway.  Most of my time there was spent attending a meeting of the Connectional Table of the UMC which was held in Oslo.  The actual work of the Connectional Table is a bit difficult to describe but the over-arching goal is to bring together representatives from all over the denomination to identify and address the challenges of, and opportunities for, working together as a worldwide church.  In a sense, the Connectional Table is a kind of ‘church council’ on a large scale.
 
When the meeting ended, Lyle and I spent an additional 3 days exploring Oslo and then traveling into the fjords of Norway. We visited the mountain village of Flom, rode a ferry through the Sognefjord and stayed the night in Bergen before riding the scenic train back to Oslo for our flight home.  To say the least, it was magnificent scenery – and we had long days during which to enjoy it all. Currently, sunrise in Norway is at 4:07 a.m.  and sunset is at 10:22 p.m.!
 
We flew in and out of Edmonton, Canada so upon our return, we took advantage of our trip to spend a night at the peace park in Waterton before heading home.  As you might imagine, we were a bit tired but as we sat in the lobby of the Prince of Wales hotel, watching the sun set and the shadows deepen on the lake, I was struck with the fact that the beauty before us bore a striking resemblance to the beauty of the fjords we had just left.  My point?  Beauty abounds everywhere!  Or, to borrow from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins  . . . The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It is for us to notice and appreciate the gifts that surround us. 

 

And, isn’t that the invitation of summer?  As school ends and as the days lengthen, be sure to find time to enjoy the beauty around you!  Though visits to Norway or countless other places are tremendous opportunities, the reality is that we don’t need to travel far to see the treasures of the natural world.  We are surrounded by them.  May you take time this summer to appreciate the blessings that beckon all around.
 
Grace and peace, Marianne


Pastor’s Corner – May 28

This June, two of our staff will be stepping away from their roles at St. Paul’s.  Meladie Brandle, our interim youth coordinator and Renata Strauss, our Administrative Specialist.  This week and last week’s Pastor’s corners have highlighted the amazing ministry they have done for St. Paul’s.  We are accepting applications for open positions at St. Paul’s through stpaulshelena.org/jobs.
 
Meladie Brandle began serving us a youth coordinator in January of 2016.  We were in need of mid-year support and Mel stepped right up.  She has taken leadership in providing safe and fun space for our middle and high school youth.  Mel has continued through her work to come up with creative ways to help our youth engage their faith, to explore who God is, to ask questions about their world, and to grow in knowledge and experience. 
 
One the most inspiring aspects of Meladie has been her desire to learn more about scripture and her own faith in the process.  She developed games, activities and programs that made learning about the Bible and Christianity interesting and inspiring.  One example is the time Meladie had youth hand in their cell phones, and then the kids made apps for their prayer phones, paper phones with little paper apps on them.  These apps were things like being thankful for friends, prayers for health in the family, hope for fun the next day, and prayers for mom. Meladie will be finalizing her service as staff to St. Paul’s person mid-June.  We are so thankful for her service and for giving us time to set up for our next person to fill this role. 
 
Renata Strauss began her service to St. Paul’s a year and half ago.  We were in need of support to cover the front desk, help us with publications, and to provide a welcoming atmosphere in the office.  Renata quickly stepped beyond these basic rolls to offer new ideas and insights, and provide quick answers to challenging situations.  The front desk job at St. Paul’s has you greeting the entire community of God from members and friends of St. Paul’s to the everyday traveler who stops in asking for assistance.  Renata has handled every aspect of her job with skill and quick thinking.
 
One of the skills we will miss most is Renata’s extensive experience with graphic design.  She has created many of the advertising screens you see in worship, the logos we use for different ministries, and has inspired many of us in the office to think more creatively.  Renata not only designs well, but she incorporates feedback quickly.  Her willingness to work as a part of the team and her skill to help us share our ministry creatively will be greatly missed. Renata will be finishing up her ministry with us at St. Paul’s on Thursday, June 1.  We are so thankful for her service and creativity. 
 
There will be a celebration of Meladie and Renata’s service on June 4th in worship and a reception after the eleven o’clock service.  Please join us in recognizing their faithful service to St. Paul’s.
 
With thankfulness,
Pastor Tyler


Pastor’s Corner – May 14

            It was the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart who said If the only prayer you ever said was ‘thank you’ it would suffice.  And while that may well be a good principle of the spiritual life, those words don’t seem quite sufficient when it comes to expressing my gratitude to all of you for the retirement celebrations and notes and gifts you have shared with me over the past 2 weeks!  But, whether it is enough or not, expressing a hearty thank you is precisely where I am going to begin. Thanks for your welcome of my family and friends on April 30. They loved being here for worship that Sunday and attending the party later that afternoon at the Intermountain Community Services Center. In so many big and little ways, you helped each one of them feel comfortable.  For me, personally, it was such a blessing to have my parents, siblings and spouses and my cousin and spouse here to share the fun.  It was also a treat to have Marianne Borg with us.  And, of course, there were others . . . too numerous to list.   I especially enjoyed having time to spend with them all last week. 
 

            Thanks too for the beautiful pendant and ring I received.  I know many of you contributed to make that gift possible – thanks!  Your generosity – to the ministry of the church and to our wider mission has always been a blessing. This personal gift to me will always remind me of the special people who make up St. Paul’s.  I am truly humbled by your expressions of affection and support. 

            As you read this, I am on my way to Oslo, Norway for a meeting of the Connectional Table of the UMC. Created at the 2004 General Conference, the Connectional Table was formed to serve as both the visioning body of the church and the steward of resources to carry out the vision of the denomination worldwide.” The membership of the CT consists of Bishops, General Agency leaders, and representatives of the various caucuses and Jurisdictions of the church. I was nominated and elected to represent the Western Jurisdiction.  I confess that it is difficult for me to be away when I have such limited time remaining to be with you. However, the meeting is an important one and the responsibility to attend out-weighed my reluctance!  Lyle is going with me.  Since his cancer diagnosis and re-occurrence, we have resolved that we would not miss an opportunity to travel together. I will return at the end of May, will be in worship on May 28 and will preach again June 4.
 

            In the meantime, please know how grateful I am for your generosity and for the recent celebrations. Although I know the focus has been around my retirement, in reality we are celebrating all we have done together over the past 23 years!

            Gratefully, Marianne



Pastor’s Corner – April 30

Today we get to celebrate 23 years of Pastoral ministry that Rev. Marianne Niesen has shared with our congregation and our community. Marianne will officially retire June 30 of this year, but as good Methodists, we methodically figured more people would be around in the spring to celebrate Marianne’s years of service.
 
 
Over her tenure, Marianne has been an amazing witness to faith in the public sphere. She has led us faithfully from our old building into this new and incredible space. Marianne’s leadership brought us dynamic speakers on faith from Marcus Borg, to John Domnic Crossan, to Amy Jill Levine, and Bishop John Shelby Spong.
 
 
I personally will always remember Marianne as my pastor and one of my greatest colleagues. She is the first pastor I saw use a video illustration for her sermon when she showed a clip from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Just like that movie, Marianne has also broken down a barrier for us as the first woman to serve as our Senior Pastor. She has led us with grace and integrity for the past two decades.
 
 
I hope you will join us today at noon in the Fellowship Hall or this afternoon from 4-6 PM at the Intermountain facility at 3240 Dredge Drive to celebrate Marianne’s ministry.
 
Join us in the celebration,
Pastor Tyler


Pastor’s Corner – April 23

To the people called Methodists within the Mountain Sky Area:
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Risen Savior, Jesus. In this season of new life, we look upon the Mountain Sky Area with great hope as God’s Spirit is creating Beloved Community in our midst. Yet Resurrection does not mean the end of all challenges for God’s church.
 
We write to keep you informed of an important matter involving the Mountain Sky Area and our United Methodist Church. We believe it is important to keep the people of the Mountain Sky Area apprised of developments in the questions raised over Bishop Oliveto’s election last July.
 
Immediately after the Western Jurisdictional Conference’s episcopal election concluded, the South Central Jurisdictional Conference asked our denomination’s top court, the Judicial Council, for a declaratory decision on the validity of the election. The Judicial Council will hear arguments in the matter when it meets in Newark, New Jersey, on April 25, with a ruling expected within days. This process is outlined in our Book of Discipline.
 
As the Joint Cabinet of the Mountain Sky Area and the Lay Leaders of the Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain Conferences, we believe that Bishop Oliveto’s election is valid. It is our prayer that the Judicial Council will confirm this position. Nonetheless, we know there are several potential outcomes. We know the ruling will have implications for the entire denomination, but as Bishop Oliveto is our episcopal leader, we will be affected most.
 
Accompanying this letter is an information sheet prepared by Western Jurisdiction and Mountain Sky leaders for distribution in our churches. We ask pastors and church leaders to make this letter and the accompanying material available to congregations as soon as possible. After the ruling, we will provide more information and guidance for our churches and leaders.
 
No matter what the decision is, we know some among us will not agree. Some will feel hurt. Some will feel distanced from the church. That is why we must be in prayer for one another and for our church. In addition, we ask you to pray for Bishop Oliveto, the Cabinet, our conference leaders, members of the Judicial Council, and all who will participate in the hearing on April 25.
 
We do not believe agreement, even on major issues like this, has ever been a requirement for loving each other and remaining one family in Christ Jesus who, in the week of his death and resurrection, prayed that we may be one (John 17:21).
 
Although the Council’s decision could have significant implications on our life together, we have faith that the Resurrection of Jesus is what most determines our future. The United Methodist Church, and its predecessors, have faced many challenges and disagreements in the past and has lived to witness to the grace of God in Jesus Christ through our distinctive Wesleyan voice we offer the world. We know God will see us through this time as well.
 
Yours in Christ,
Melanie Rosa, Dean of The Rocky Mountain Cabinet
Jeff Rainwater, Dean of The Yellowstone Cabinet
Don McCammon, Lay Leader of The Yellowstone Conference
Margaret Hotze, Co-Lay Leader of The Rocky Mountain Conference
Kunle Taiwo, Co-Lay Leader of The Rocky Mountain Conference


Pastor’s Corner – April 16

Dear Friends and Members of St. Paul’s,

Easter is here and this year it comes with a clear start to spring. New life is happening all around us and it can be seen in budding plants and the fits and starts of warming weather. The birds have started to return and nature itself is attempting to remind us of the way in which new things can happen. It is a great reminder of how we are called to nurture and affirm new life as people of Christ who “practice resurrection.”

In September of this year I will take my leave from Helena and begin serving the faith community of Shiloh UMC in Billings. The coming months will involve a transition of pastoral leadership from Marianne, Rick and myself to Rev. Dr. Patti Agnew and Rev. Sami Pack. I am excited to see the new life that our incoming Pastoral team will bring to Helena. As we prepare for new life it seems important to highlight some of the things we have accomplished during my 6-year tenure here. None of these would have been possible without the leadership of the gifted friends and members of St. Paul’s, you make ministry in Helena happen.

-We became a reconciling congregation affirming “St. Paul’s United Methodist Church welcomes all people of any age, gender, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, or disability into the full life and membership of this congregation.” This statement has led to new connection and new ministry.
-We started new ministry in the brewery with “God After Hours.”
-We raised nearly 20,000 pounds of food doing the “Church Challenge” with area churches.
-We understood Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACEs) and supported a local coalition to help foster this understating in our community.
-We have welcomed many new people to St. Paul’s.
-We have continued to be a safe place for families without a faith home to turn for funerals and memorial services.
Our mission trips and service to our community and the world continue to support life.
-We celebrated 150 years of Methodism in Helena during our Jubilee year.
-We challenged Helena to think more deeply about issues of social justice including homelessness, hunger, and affordable housing.
-We began an incredible collaboration between Covenant UMC and St. Paul’s UMC called Helena United Methodist Ministry. And the list goes on…
 

We continue to “affirm life” and “practice resurrection.” This means that this list is just the beginning of things we will continue to do in the name of God’s love.

This year our Easter offering is an invitation to help us “spruce up our house” and prepare for the future. Our spaces here at the church are utilized to support the community as well as our faith life, and they are in need of upkeep. Your donations will allow us to get ahead on our maintenance and provide safe and inviting buildings for people to experience new life. Thank you in advance for continuing to support our ministry through your gifts and your service to our church.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler Amundson


Pastor’s Corner – April 9

Hello, St. Paul’s UMC of Helena! I am looking forward to moving to Montana and joining you on this amazing adventure of faith. By way of introduction: I grew up on the beaches of Southern California until I was 29, when I moved to Colorado. I am a fourth-generation clergy person. William Booth sent my great-grandparents from England to the States, to found the work of The Salvation Army here. My grandparents, aunt and uncle, and many cousins followed in their footsteps. As a youth I loved riding horses, all my church activities, school activities and gymnastics. Our family drove a motor home every summer from Los Angeles to northern Indiana to visit family there. Our favorite trips took us through Glacier National Park! I have two daughters. Amanda is 22 and attending college at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. Natalie is 19 and attending college at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. You’ll meet my parents too, Paul and Sandi! They live in South Carolina, but love to visit!
 
I attended church the first time when I was 10 days old, on Christmas Eve! I have been a United Methodist ever since. I have experienced the church at its best and at its worst. As a child, the church shaped me and taught me that God loved me. Our youth group was full of characters – but there was a place for each one of us. We grew closer to one another and God through fun, learning and serving. The church was family. Years later, as a newly single parent with 2 teenage daughters, the church surrounded me with love through acceptance, support, encouragement, and gift cards to buy groceries. Once again, the church was my lifeline and an extended family. Neither of those churches was perfect, nor had perfect people in them. They had their share of conflict and negativity. But overriding all of that was as sense of love and acceptance. I have also experienced the church as judgmental, cold, and exclusive.
 
Here is one of my favorite scriptures which lays out a path for our living in faith. “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” Eph. 5:1-2 The Message
 
I have resonated these past 9 months with Bishop Karen’s call for the church to be beloved community. That is the church at its best! The church as a place where all people can experience the transforming love of Jesus. And a place from which we share that love of Jesus with others. I look forward to being beloved community with all of you.
 
Pastor Patti


Pastor’s Corner – March 26

It has been quite a month here at St. Paul’s! As the Yellowstone Conference UMC Cabinet has been about the business of making plans that change the transition process in which we have been involved, it is important to remember that our ministry has continued.
 
We have finished a series of classes and started a new set of amazing offerings. Lent began and we are well into our Wednesday Lenten services. We began a new sermon series titled The Unexpected Lessons of Lent and Tyler and I have been reflecting on what are hopefully some new and challenging insights from some old and well-known Bible texts. We have been working on plans for a celebrative Easter service. (As always, the chancel choir will sing at both services.) Our choir director, Jillian, brings new and exciting ideas to our planning table. The Lenten Children’s choir has been rehearsing and today will sing at the 11:00 service. Today we will also commission some of the members of our next Mission Trip to Brazil.
 
We have also hosted and been involved in the Women’s and Men’s Walks to Emmaus on the first and second weekends in March. Marianne led the Spiritual Director team for the Women’s Weekend and Tyler led the Spiritual Director team for the Men’s weekend. Many of our members and friends were involved in the weekends as part of the team. As all of this has taken place, our staff has done an amazing job doing their normal work and offering hospitality to the many groups who know St. Paul’s to be a welcoming and accessible community. We have hosted funerals and Tyler and retired pastor Lyle Hamilton and I have been called upon to lead several memorial services over the past several weeks.
 
Why do I tell you all of this? Though we are in the midst of change and though that change affects our pastors, staff and church members deeply, life and ministry has continued. We are a vibrant and active faith community with much to offer Helena and the world. Today you will learn the name of your new Lead Pastor and soon a new Associate will be appointed. Their leadership will be important – but no more important than the ongoing commitment and ministry of our staff and of all of you who call St. Paul’s home. Together, we will move through this time of transition and, all the while, we will continue to be an active community of faith and hope.
 
I love this quote from Philippians 1:6: I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. Very likely, Paul thought the end was coming soon – thus, the term ‘the day of Christ Jesus.’ He was wrong about that, but his confidence that the work of love and grace and hospitality would continue – indeed needed to continue – among the followers of Jesus was right. And it continues to be true among us, in our time. We are not alone – the one who has loved us into being continues to love us and live in us and lead us. And that is good news that will sustain us as we go forward.
 
Grace and peace in the journey ahead!
Marianne


Pastor’s Corner – March 19

Today, as we listen to the unexpected with one another, I would invite us to open our hearts to what God is doing in the story of our church and our own lives.  For the past month I have been struggling, even fighting, with the announcement you will hear at the beginning of worship today.  “We had plans together,” kept going through my head.  The danger of abrupt change is that sometimes we hold on tightly to who we think we are supposed to be, instead of letting change work on us.

 

Change brings with it challenges and is always scary.  If I have learned anything in my work here it is fear of change never really goes away, even if you are the wisest and most reflective person.  Jesus took time to reflect and pray every time deep change was coming his way.  Jesus also didn’t avoid the emotions that come with deep change, he embraced them and lived through them.  However you are feeling today I invite you to not bypass it for a feeling of “being ok,” but instead embrace it as your authentic self.  We are called by God to be our authentic selves, and letting go of who the world tells us we should be at any certain moment.  I will join you in these emotions, because I believe that in letting emotions live and die that we will find new life. 

 

I wonder what new life is forming in this amazing place we live and how our church might be a part of helping people live authentic lives.  As I drove across the state this week I saw solar panels going up, I had conversations with a family that moved to Montana for the connected environments of our communities, and I jumped on trampolines at a Trampoline Park.  All of these new things are happening through people taking risks on new relationships and new ways of thinking.  If we are to embrace change, we have to live through some risks together and be willing to invite in new partners in God’s work. 

 

In the coming months I hope to be in conversations and prayer as a community about what God is doing among us.  However, you feel at the end of worship today, I hope you know one thing, “God is with us.”  God is with us in the pain, the fear, the sorrow, and God is with us now and always. 

 

I am thankful for the ministry of each of you.

 

Pastor Tyler