July 24, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

July 13-16 in Scottsdale, Arizona I led our delegation from Yellowstone Conference at the Western Jurisdictional Conference.  At the conference we set the direction for the United Methodist Church in the western United States.  The primary task at our conference was electing our new Bishop.  Bishops serve in the jurisdiction they are elected and are appointed by a committee to serve the different areas in our jurisdiction.  If you have more questions about this process I invite you to watch a series of videos by Rev. Brad Laurvick online at highlandsumc.com/umcbishops

I am pleased to announce that Bishop Karen Oliveto was elected by the Western Jurisdiction and that she will be serving our area, the Mountain Sky Area that covers Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone Annual Conferences.  As you have no doubt read in the headlines Bishop Oliveto is in a committed same sex relationship with her incredible wife, Robin.  We elected Bishop Oliveto on her credentials and our deep belief that she has the skills to lead our church.  Her appointment to our area is a blessing because of the administrative and pastoral skills she will bring to her work. 

My invitation to us as a reconciling congregation is that we help by supporting other churches in our area that may be struggling with how to welcome Bishop Oliveto’s leadership.  We will be holding a reconciling ministries meeting Sunday, July 31 at 9:45 AM in the Library to talk about this. 

We will keep everyone informed about how we can help welcome Bishop Oliveto and her wife Robin to our area.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler

July 17, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

As I write this Pastor’s Corner, the weather is a bit blustery and rain clouds fill the sky.  People are sporting jackets and hats that are seldom seen during July. I even put some heat on in my car as I drove to work!  However, by the time you are reading this, I am quite confident  that the weather will have returned to some lovely and comfortable mid-July temperatures.   I suspect plentiful sunshine will have returned – although we will all express gratitude for having had rain.  I am also relatively certain many of us will have enjoyed an amazing Symphony Under the Stars Saturday night, complete with a fireworks display.

As you notice, I began this Pastor’s Corner with some ‘future predictions.’  Those were relatively easy to make … and by the time you are reading this, you’ll be a good judge of just how accurate I am.    However, there are some other predictions I’d love to be able to make that aren’t so easy.

Last week, in the Pastor’s Corner, Tyler shared some information about the Western Jurisdictional Conference that was held in Phoenix over the past several days.  Tyler was one of our clergy delegates to that Conference which is held every 4 years, typically during the July immediately following General Conference.  Actually Jurisdictional Conferences were held simultaneously in all the Jurisdictions in the United States . . . Northeast, Southeast, North Central, South Central and ours, the Western Jurisdiction.  Though there are some other tasks, the primary task accomplished during each  Jurisdictional Conference is the election of Bishops.  Bishop Brown retired this year and Tyler was part of electing a bishop to fill that vacancy in our Jurisdiction.  The delegates in other Jurisdictions did the same thing, electing bishops to replace those who retired.

Following the election, the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee met to assign the bishops to particular areas.  In other words, just as pastors are assigned to a particular church by Bishops, so are Bishops assigned to a particular Conference by this committee.  Bishop are assigned for a 4 year ‘term’ and usually serve 2 terms before being assigned to a new Conference.

For the past eight years, our bishop has been Bishop Elaine Stanovsky. Typically, we would expect that we would be assigned a new bishop (and we almost always get a newly elected one).  However, since we are exploring the possibility of a merger in the next 4 years in our Mountain Sky area between our Conference (Yellowstone) and the Rocky Mountain Conference and, since Bishop Elaine is very familiar with this process and, since negotiating a change like this is challenging, we have requested that Bishop Elaine be re-assigned to us for a third term. 

I would love to be able to predict what the outcome will be to the elections and to the assignment – but that is impossible!  So, instead, I have written a fill-in-the-blank Pastor’s Corner.  If by any chance we have this information before we print, I’ll fill it in.  More likely, however, you’ll need to do it yourselves on Sunday morning!  Just wait for the announcement! 

The newly elected bishop in the Western Jurisdiction is Karen Oliveto and the Bishop assigned to our Mountain Sky Area is Karen Oliveto.

Grace and peace, Marianne

July 10, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Next week I will be heading to Phoenix, Arizona to attend the Western Jurisdiction meeting of the United Methodist Church.  At the conference we will be helping set direction for our churches in the Western United States including Alaska and Hawaii.  The primary way we set direction is by electing the Bishops who will serve the conferences within our area.  I am looking forward to serving as one of our four representatives, two church members and two pastors, from the Yellowstone Conference. 


I won’t spend this message geeking out on how the process to elect Bishops works in our church.  However, what I do want to share is what you might see in the news. While the Western Jurisdiction meets Phoenix, all the other regional jurisdictional conferences will be meeting across the United States, so there will be lots of news coverage.  Our jurisdiction is courageously putting forth two members of the LGBTQ+ community as candidates for Bishop.  As many know LGBTQ+ inclusion is something the United Methodist Church continues to struggle with as a denomination.  By nominating these two individuals they are aiding the larger church in deeply questioning the understanding of all people as beloved children of God. 


Some people have described these nominations as something that will create a rift in the church.  After a week of sharing in ministry at camp and after praying with people of several sexual orientations and gender identities it is clear to me that what our jurisdiction is doing is saying clearly what our reconciling statement says each Sunday.  If you look on the bottom of our bulletin, “(We) accept…all people into the full life of our congregation.”  Prayers are appreciated this week and blessings as you all continue to share God’s love in the world. 


Enthusiastic Peace,


Pastor Tyler

July 3, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Three years ago, I served as a ‘chaplain’ at the Gladstone’s Library in Wales during the month of July.  One of my responsibilities was to preside several times a week at the daily celebration of Eucharist.  That service typically drew as few as 5 and as many as a dozen or more attendees, depending largely on the program being offered at the Library at any given time. The chaplain position was open to an ordained clergy person of any denomination provided the person was theologically ‘open-minded’ and inclusive.  The only requirement was to follow the rubric (order of service)  of the Anglican Church in Wales. It is a rubric which differs from that of the Anglican Church of England. It was indeed a wonderful month for me.  One of the first official times I celebrated the Eucharist that summer happened to be on July 4th .
It is a singular experience to celebrate American Independence Day in Britain and it required some thought as I prepared for that day’s Eucharist. Though I was not expected to offer a sermon, I was expected to offer prayers appropriate for the day.  In the end, for the prayers of petition, I chose these words written by Sr. Joan Chittister. It seems to me they capture something of what I would pray for today as we gather here in Helena on the eve of Independence Day 2016.

                                                                                                                        Grace and peace, Marianne


Great God, who has told us

“Vengeance is mine,”

save us from ourselves,

save us from vengeance in our hearts

and the acid in our souls.

Save us from our desire to hurt

as we have been hurt,

to punish as we have been punished,

to terrorize as we have been terrorized.


Give us the strength it takes

to listen rather than to judge,

to trust rather than to fear,

to try again and again

to make peace even when peace eludes us.


We ask, O God, for the grace

to be our best selves.

We ask for the vision

to be builders of the human community

rather than its destroyers.

We ask for the humility as a people

to understand the fears and hopes of other peoples.

We ask for the love it takes

to bequeath to the children of the world to come

more than the failures of our own making.


We ask for the love it takes

to care for all the peoples

of Afghanistan and Iraq, or Palestine and Israel

as well as for ourselves.


Give us depth of soul, O God,

to constrain our might,

to resist the temptation of power,

to refuse to attack the attackable,

to understand

that vengeance begets violence,

and to bring peace – not war – wherever we go.


For You, O God, have been merciful to us.

For You, O God, have been patient with us.

For You, O God, have been gracious to us.


And so may we be merciful

and patient

and gracious

and trusting

with these others whom you also love.


This we ask through Jesus,

the one without vengeance in his heart.

This we ask forever and ever. Amen!

               Sr. Joan Chittister, OP



June 26, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

One of the most incredible parts about St. Paul’s is the way we continue to be grounded, growing, giving and going even through the summer months. This week has seen our successful Summer Camp at St. Paul’s, organized by our Children’s Coordinator Lynn Van Nice and her team.  We had over 25 kids here each night for games, dinner, learning, and listening to the stories of Jesus.  This event was one of our new ventures in ministry as we shift away from the vacation bible school model.  Additionally during Summer Camp  we had two successful parenting classes, a special thanks to John Weida who taught “Kid Communication.”  Overall, Summer Camp was a huge success and I want to thank Lynn for her creativity and hard work on this event.

This week I also received this note from Vicki Weida and felt we should celebrate the amazing mission giving we continue to take part in:

“An extremely packed pick-up load of clothing went to the Blackfeet Clothing Store on Saturday, June 18 following Annual Conference.  Pastor Calvin and Sheri Hill can really squish in a lot of bags and boxes!!!  So, THANKS to everyone at St. Paul’s who donated clothing.  Blackfeet United Methodist Parish (BUMP) has two work groups coming in that will help sort clothes.  Sheri told us that sometimes kids are dropped off at the Boarding School with only the clothes they are wearing.  She now meets them at the clothing store and lets them “shop” for things when others are not there.  So great that we send things that fit those Middle School age kids.  Also Calvin said they sometimes have a need for Prom dresses, so we can keep that in mind for the next drive. This is a great way to be involved and United Methodist Women thank you all.  The next clothing drive is scheduled for after the UMW Bazaar in October.

The storage garage for UMW is now nearly empty.  It is time to start saving items for the Second Hand Treasures sale.  Call Vicki Weida (439-8390) or Teresa Bustos (461-4989) if you have things that need to go into storage prior to the sale in October.  Remember no clothing and nothing that does not work or that should just be thrown away.  Thanks.”

Prayers for restful, fun and exciting summer adventures.  Thank you all for continuing to help St. Paul’s as we share God’s love and good in our community. 

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler

June 19, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

This was in my email ‘inbox’ on Monday morning.  I know many people have said, in response to the horror of last Sunday’s senseless attack in Orlando, that we need to do more than pray.  And, of course, that is true. We need to change behavior, attitudes and actions.  We need to challenge hateful rhetoric and stand up to bigotry.  We need respectful discourse.  Still, for people of faith, the best place to begin is with a change of heart.  And, often, that begins with prayer.  This has been part of my prayer this past week.  Perhaps it can help us create a more loving community . . .

                                                                           Pastor Marianne

A Prayer for Orlando
               God of Life, God of Justice, God of Healing, God of Love, have mercy on us all.  In ancient days, in the face of a world filled with violence, your rainbow promise embraced the skies with every color in creation.  Renew in us our commitment to that rainbow of hope.
               We pray for the lost and the wounded, for their families and beloved ones.  Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep.  Hold fast the sorrowful, and make us all instruments of your peace.
               We pray for the LGBTQ community around the world, but particularly here in this country we call home, as together we confront this devastating act of terror, the worst shooting in U.S. history.  Our hearts are broken.  Surround us with your Spirit of healing, your graceful presence in the midst of grief.
               Save us from hate, from prejudice, from the ways we turn away from you and from each other.  Embolden us to follow Jesus in crossing lines of hostility and suspicion, building bridges between neighborhoods, religions, and regions of your world.  Save us from the contempt that leads to violence, and also the contempt that leads – in the wake of violence – to an even more fragmented, segregated, polarized world.  Make us a people of faith, not fear.
               We know you are God of law, of Torah, of instruction and insight and learning.  We pray for our leaders in government and community life, and for the people they are called to serve.  Give all of us wisdom and courage as we build our common life.  Let our laws become at once more sane and more humane.  Stir in us a holy impatience with a world so full of gunfire.
               And above all, save us from that most banal form of sin, the sin of numbness and weak resignation.  Save us from accepting this as “the way things are.”  Come Holy Spirit, breathe in us, inspire us, and wake us up — so we might renew our participation in your making “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

               Have mercy on us.  Save us.  Breathe in us, awaken us, and make all things new.  And today, more than any other day, make us instruments of your peace and hope that you promised will pass all understanding.  In Jesus’ name we pray,  Amen.

                          www.saltproject.org; © 2016 SALT Project, All rights reserved. Used with permission.

June 12, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Dear Friends,

Now that school is out and graduations are over and, with the celebration of Choir Sunday last week, I think we can safely say that summer has – unofficially – begun!   I hope your summer travel plans take you to refreshing and relaxing times.  Enjoy these days – the beauty of Montana, the long days of sunshine, more relaxing schedules, days at the lake and the cooling breezes in the evening.  Breathe it all in and enjoy!  When you are in town, I hope you will join us on Sunday at worship.

Please know that our office hours change in the summers as well.  Beginning June 27, our office hours are 9 – 1 p.m. and we will also be closed every Friday from June 24 – August 5.  That is simply to accommodate some staffing changes.  Of course, though our hours are shorter, if you have need of something, don’t hesitate to call and let us know. We can often accommodate your needs even during a time we are closed.  Your staff will be working hard to manage office duties and determine our ongoing needs during this time of transition.  We are of course working to determine our additional staffing needs as we move into the fall and we will share more information about that soon.

This next week, we are once again welcoming the Annual Conference meeting of our Yellowstone Conference.  Our Bishop will be here as will 200+ delegates from churches throughout Montana and northern Wyoming. We will be doing ‘the work of the Annual Conference’ which includes reviewing petitions, approving a budget, hearing about General Conference and, perhaps most significantly, deciding on the future of our Conference.  There is a proposal that we merge with the Rocky Mountain Conference (Colorado, Southern Wyoming, Utah). We already share a bishop.   As you might imagine, there are lots of ‘pros and cons’ in this proposal and the delegates to the conference will spend time hearing from and discussing the possibilities and problems with the proposal. 

Annual Conference is an open event. You are welcome to stop in for all or part of the meeting.  However, even if you are not interested in attending a meeting you don’t have to be at (!), you might still want to come down to the Cokesbury Bookstore which will be set up in the west end of the Fellowship Hall.  This is literally our own Conference bookstore and you’ll find great books and great buys!  A visit to the bookstore is often my favorite part of Annual Conference!

Whatever you do this week . . . enjoy the wonderful beginnings of summer in Montana!

Grace and peace,


Brazil Mission Trip Update

There has been a change in plans for the Brazil Mission Trip – July 2016.  There are not enough team members to justify using the medical boat for a mission, so the parameters have changed. Medical care and other mission activities will be done via small boat travel to small communities near Boa Vista. This includes an indigenous tribal village.


The team is ready to accept donations of Tylenol, ibuprofen, vitamins, and children’s clothing. Pastor Augusto in Manaus will fill out our group with members from his church. We will need to buy antibiotics and worm pills in Brazil. So, instead of donating a big bottle of Tylenol, it would be just as helpful to receive a monetary donation for a similar amount. Cash or checks to the St. Paul’s July 2016 Brazil Mission would be extremely welcome.


Please contact Don Skillman for more information at 461-8061;



May 29, 2016 A Message From Lois Neal

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you today to let you know that I am leaving the employment of St. Paul’s as of June 3, 2016. What does one say when it is time to leave a job that has been so much a part of me for so long? It is difficult to find words.

It has been a great honor to work among you and with you these last 16+ years. I feel like your trust and support have nurtured me to grow, shift and experience God in different ways.

Thank you to Pam Carlson, who first saw the leadership capability within me back when I was in Parents of Preschoolers (early 1990s!) and to Alma Taylor who first encouraged me to take a position at St. Paul’s (1999). Thanks to our pastors and staff for all I have learned with and from them. Thanks to all who have nurtured me into leadership and to those who have trusted my leadership and counsel.

Thanks to those who have entrusted me with their stories in groups, in Emmaus and in my office. I am honored. I have learned so much from you … about you, about me and about how God works among us. Thanks to those who have worked with me on teams and committees; your help and willingness to be of service has made my job easier and richer.

Thanks to those with whom I have shared a trail, a cup of tea, a meal, or a discussion. Thanks to those who have shared their tears, their laughter and their joys. Thanks to those who have corrected me, helped me see differently and challenged me. I am much better off for having known you.

Thanks to all of you who have not yet crossed my path. Your support of St. Paul’s supported me. May you find the nurture and community you need here among these walls and with these amazing people.

What are my plans? Initially, I hope to be able to spend more time on creative endeavors, exploring my own spiritual path, resting and enjoying our grand outdoors. I am not retiring as much as regrouping. I will probably seek employment again after a time of ‘re-listening’ and ‘re-centering’. This will be a time for me to listen to where God is leading me.

May we all learn to listen to God’s nudges, trust in the messages we ‘hear’ and see God in each other.

Blessed be, Lois

May 22 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Today our Scripture text comes from a part of the Bible with which we are not terribly familiar . . . The Book of Proverbs. It is part of the ‘wisdom literature’ of the Bible. Proverbs were part of an educational system for the Israelite people. Practical and folk wisdom was passed from parent to child and, in the process, community was formed. People literally came to know ‘who they were’ and ‘whose they were’ through memorable bits of wisdom that could sustain them. However, contrary to what you may think, a ‘proverb’ was not always quite as clear as one might think. Consider these ‘contradictory proverbs’ . . . Look before you leap and He who hesitates is lost. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again and don’t beat your head against a stone wall. Haste makes waste and time waits for no one. A word to the wise is sufficient and talk is cheap. So, which is it?

From Reading the Old Testament by Lawrence Boadt: “The nature of the proverb combines two somewhat opposed truths: it is evident to everyone as really so, but it is also ambiguous, and not always true in the same way in every case. Thus we can say, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ and ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ and mean both because different aspects of our experiences are brought out by each . . . Proverbs was not a boring book to our ancestors, but a treasure of practical wisdom which invited reflective thought and new discoveries of meaning . . . “

In the end, the point of passing on proverbs was the formation of a ‘wisdom people.’ And, it seems that wisdom is found at the intersection of ambiguity and certainty. So, which is it – the squeaking wheel gets the grease or silence is golden? And the answer is . . . it all depends. We become wise as we discern the answer at any particular moment in our lives.

The journey to wisdom is a life-long one and it will always require balancing what we already know with new and emerging possibilities. This process has been happening since the beginnings of our faith. All the wisdom has not already been decided and the truly wise among us are those grounded in tradition, yet open to the breath of the spirit.

May we all have the courage to become wise!

Grace and peace, Marianne