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



Pastor’s Corner – March 5

“Follow Jesus, and expect the unexpected”
 
These are the words shared at our Ash Wednesday service last week as people received Ashes on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday began our season of Lent, the season we share in each year as Christians to help us prepare for Easter. In the ancient church, this season was used to prepare new Christians for the baptism on Easter, a ritual that invited them into the church. It also served as a way for Christians to recommit to the faith each year by re-learning the practices of faith alongside those who were new.
 
Ritual is a practice that opens us and our senses to the environment around us. Christian ritual invites us to be aware of what Jesus calls us to be and what God is doing in the world around us. When we take a moment to pray in tense situation, we feel God’s calm that gives us the peace to move ahead. When we stop our lives for an hour of reflection in worship, it opens us to see new opportunity to make our world better. When we relax into a practice of focused meditation, it develops the discipline of our minds to handle more complex problems. Taking time for ritual is like exercise, the more we do it, the deeper we can go with God in our lives.
 
To expect the unexpected is about allowing ritual to open us to receiving what God is doing in our lives. It may help us notice problems that need our community’s assistance, it may invite us to spend more time with someone who needs our company, or we may need theirs. If we open ourselves to God this season, and listen to the lessons of Jesus, what might happen?
 
As you enter this season I invite you to take part in one of our many practices: Sue McNicol is teaching a class on receiving God through photography. Join the God Hunger prayer group that meets Wednesdays at noon in the balcony. I will be teaching a class on discovering God and faith through full emotional living. Listen to each sermon this season as Marianne, Rick and I unfold the stories of Jesus the give un-expected lessons. Take part in the challenge to daily offer some resources to Intermountain found at stpaulshelena.org/lent2017.
 
Pick at least one ritual and use your church as a resource to open yourself to God’s unexpected love this season.
 
Enthusiastic Peace,
Pastor Tyler


Pastor’s Corner – Feb. 26

Intermountain here in Helena is an unexpected lesson.  This organization offers incredible gifts of healing and guidance to children and families living through mental health challenges.  Intermountain grew out of a need at the turn of the century to provide a home for children who were left to fend for themselves.  Behind that history is the story of Rev. Brother Van Orsdel who is said to have been in tears pleading at the Annual Conference for the Methodist churches in the region.  The public tears of a grown man and the vital work of women deaconesses have become the hope of more children and families than we can count. 

Hear the words of one parent who has seen hope in the work of Intermountain:

“I am a single parent of two adoptive children, one of whom has suffered with the emotional/behavioral chaos of attachment disorder since early childhood.  At one point I was having to call our local police to help restrain my daughter during her violent behavioral outbursts.  I was at the brink of losing my family (and possibly my life). 

Now, after 18 months of residential treatment at Intermountain, we are an intact family ready to thrive.  My daughter is returning home with the skills to manage her feelings and behaviors long before they get to the rage that previously overtook her mind and body.  We as a family have learned important skills for success.  This program not only changes lives, it literally saves them!”

Last year Intermountain treated 1334 children and youth, and made a difference in the health of Montana communities.  This Lent we are asking members, friends and you as the disciples of St. Paul’s to make a difference by financially supporting Intermountain through a spiritual practice.

Our Lenten focus is “Unexpected Lessons: The Journey of Discipleship.”  We will be learning from the great stories of the gospels to remind us how God can surprise us with unexpected lessons from the stories in our lives.  This is no ordinary path we follow.  In this spirit you will be given the opportunity to fill blessing cans for Intermountain.  These cans will be accompanied by a Blessing Guide to a Lenten Thank Offering.  Unexpectedly we are using a retro St. Paul’s guide from the 1990’s, so enjoy the throwback information on it.  Each day there is a practice on this guide that will ask you to consider your blessings and invite you to give from your abundance like “10 cents for each slice of bread in your house, pray for those who scavenge for food.”  It is a simple activity to do with friends, family or kids. You can find the Lenten Guide here:  Lent Bag

 

We invite you to journey with us through the unexpected.