Pastor’s Corner – Feb. 12

 
Ubi Caritas
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Christ.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Amen
– Mary Daly, Theologian
 
Last week in my sermon, I mentioned that I have been in conversation with people who are struggling with the current political environment in which we live. There are many people who are part of minority groups who are feeling deep fear. I believe they are scared for good reason, in December we saw white supremacists in our own state begin to target the Jewish communities with anti-Jewish propaganda and a statement that they wanted to carry out an armed protest. The community of Whitefish and many others in our state took an appropriate stand and said, “Not in our state!” I thank God for the success of these stands to put an end to this hate for the time being.
 
These conversations with people who are struggling happen because they know I am a safe person to talk to, and this is all due to St. Paul’s reputation of working to be open to all people. When people find out I am a Pastor at St. Paul’s they have a sense of trust that we can be asked questions about how to stay safe in our community. First, I want to thank each of you for continuing that legacy in Helena. Second, I want to invite you to not be afraid to identify yourself as a member of St. Paul’s in the community. People are looking for safe spaces and it provides them an opportunity to share openly their concerns about our world and country.
 
During the 11 O’clock service today, the choir will sing the words of Ubi Caritas in Latin. The chorus, printed here, is a part of an ancient chant of the Christian Church. It is often used as a prelude to the time in the Christian year we celebrate Christ kneeling to wash his disciples’ feet. It reminds us that God comes to serve us, and we are called to serve God. As you read or listen to these words today, say a prayer for the people in our community that are feeling fear. Remember, whenever there is fear and we offer our sincere heart to those in fear, it will root those present in the Love of God. We, as Christians, are called to believe God can help us overcome fear and conflict, and in this moment of history I believe this is what we are being asked by our neighbors to help them do.
 
Enthusiastic Peace,,
Pastor Tyler


Pastor’s Corner – Jan. 29

Today at St. Paul’s we celebrate both a Baptism and New Member Sunday. For today’s Pastor’s Corner, I thought I’d share just a bit about what these two important events are all about.
 
For infant or a child’s baptism, our custom is to have interested parents contact the office. From there, they meet with our Coordinator of Children’s Ministry, Lynn Van Nice. She reviews the baptismal service with them and then schedules the baptism. Families can choose either service on almost any Sunday. (We do not offer ‘private’ baptisms because baptism by nature is not a private sacrament. It is the public act of welcoming a child into the Christian community.) We also make scheduling a baptism as simple as possible because, as we say in the ritual itself, ‘baptism celebrates God’s free gift of grace, offered to us all.” Our hope is that the parents of the ‘baptizee’ commit to raise the child in the church, learning to follow Jesus – either with us or in another Christian community.
One of the things many people do not realize is that baptism is the one sacrament almost universally recognized across Christian denominations. Most mainline Christian churches do not re-baptize. In fact, contrary to the ways we sometimes talk, people are not ‘baptized Catholic’ or ‘baptized Methodist.’ When we are baptized, we become part of the Christian family and subsequently choose to live that out in a particular community or congregation – Episcopalian, Presbyterian, United Methodist, etc.

So that leads to the concept of membership. What does it mean to become a member of a church? First of all, membership presumes baptism. Membership presumes that somewhere, at some time, a person was baptized and that now he or she is choosing to live into that baptism by joining with a particular group of people (like the people of St. Paul’s). For me, membership is about choosing to live and grow my faith with a community that challenges and nourishes me. Frankly, I don’t think membership is something God requires so much as it is something we need. We need each other as we struggle to do the hard work of living faithfully as followers of Jesus. The one thing we ask of people who wish to join St. Paul’s is that they attend an Amazing Grace class. It is a one evening class taught by one or both pastors during which we share some history of Methodism, and more specifically, how we at St. Paul’s live into our faith. It is a good way to meet other people, share insights, ask questions, and get just a bit more familiar with this church community.

I extend a warm welcome today to Cassidy and her family and to our new members, Maggie and Lee Tickell and Dennis and Laurie Mock. Their commitments remind us of our own. Together may we live into the vision of Jesus, becoming the beloved community, committed to loving and serving all.

 

Grace and peace,
Marianne


Pastor’s Corner – Jan 22

 

Each year, retired UM Bishop Woodie White writes a “birthday letter” to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in which he offers his perspective on the current state of race relations. The first general secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race of the UMC, he held that post until his election as bishop in 1984. Retiring in 2004 he then served as bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta until May 2016. In today’s Pastor’s Corner you will find excerpts of Bishop White’s timely letter. 

 
Dear Martin:
This letter almost did not get written this year. I needed more time to sort out the meaning of events during this election season and the election itself …
 
… Sadly, the election season and presidential campaigning were filled with ugly rhetoric of a racial and ethnic character. The emergence … of neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups has been more prevalent. Our racial conversation has been polluted by prejudice and racist words and behavior. Increasing acts characterized as hate crimes are reported across the nation …
 
Martin, the power of racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia, in the minds and hands of politicians and the shapers of institutions, is proof such animosity can be institutionalized.
 
Ideas can become policy, policy can become law and law regularized behavior. It is what, at least regarding race, is called institutionalized racism. Individuals don’t have to act on their racism; institutions do it for them! …
 
That’s why democracy is important. That’s why elections are essential. That’s why who is elected makes a difference at every level of governing — local, county, state and national!
 
Sadly, there are those who would undo progress, who prefer exclusiveness and division to inclusiveness and unity, who prefer to erode the principles and ideals of American democracy itself.
 
Thanks to you, Martin, and countless others, we moved from a less than great America to … one more true to its ideal: “One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
 
However, it is increasingly clear; there is still much work to do — more protesting, marching, organizing, registering people to vote, and being more politically engaged. We must bring people of good will, from all races and backgrounds, to find common ground.
But Martin, our goal, of course, is not merely a better, more just America. We Christians strive for a more beloved community, for what we sometimes call the reign of God. It is where love and justice prevail and where we embrace a common humanity, not just as citizens, but also as brothers and sisters … It is a place where we seek to make God’s will real in all we say and do, and how we live together in … the world.
 
While I was trying to navigate an array of emotions, Martin, I came upon a little book by John Lewis, now a congressional representative, who caused so much anxiety during the March on Washington on that hot day in August in 1963. In Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change he wrote: “The most important lesson I have learned in the 50 years I have spent working toward the building of a better world is that the true work of social transformation starts within. It begins inside your own heart and mind … Thus to truly revolutionize our society, we must first revolutionize ourselves. We must be the change we seek if we are to effectively demand transformation from others.”
 
Oh, how I needed to hear that, Martin! … The morning following the election of the new president, I arose very early, having had little sleep, and offered a prayer to God, emptying myself in unedited emotions. I concluded that prayer with these words: Forgive me, dear God, if I, even for a moment, placed more trust in nation, party, candidate, than in you. For YOU are my rock, my strength, my hope. Amen.
 
Committed to continue the struggle and the journey with the assurance,
We shall overcome,
 
Woodie


Pastor’s Corner – Jan. 15

This week I am struck by courage. I am struck by the courage of members in our faith community: Those facing disease and injury who continue to demonstrate courage in the midst of their hardship. Those fearful, anxious and disheartened by an increasingly divisive political reality who instead of being paralyzed are moved to courageous action. Those who face personal challenge that many of us know nothing about, but instead of stepping back, step forward in courageous faith.
 
This coming week will take courage for many of us to face. We do not run this race alone. We run it with giants of faith and history who have reminded us again and again that the dream of a world full of God’s love is worth every ounce of life in our bones. Martin Luther King Jr., whom we celebrate this Monday, reminded us of the courage we need from the steps of the Lincoln memorial more than 53 years ago. From those steps he called us to be a nation who fought for the ideals of Jesus, ideals built on courage, and ideals built on equal rights and justice for all people.
 
Perhaps as people who study, pray, and work to embody the life of Jesus, we should call ourselves “people of good courage” or even “people of good couraging.” This week I invite us to find ways to courage. Perhaps it is in your personal life, by taking a deliberate step toward healing and wholeness. Perhaps it is in your prayer life, by taking intensive time to find where God is calling you to courage in your life situation. Perhaps it is in our community life, by taking part in efforts like the “Women’s March on Montana” to demonstrate that our communities and state can come together to be a place where all people are respected, represented and have a voice (www.womensmarchmontana.com/).
 
I invite you to join me in “couraging” this week as a way to live your faith.
 
Enthusiastic Couraging and Peace,
Pastor Tyler