Pastor’s Corner – Dec. 18, 2016

This week, in the midst of our Christmas preparations and activity, we observe the winter solstice – the longest night of the year.  There is also, of course, a summer solstice – a longest day – but it doesn’t seem to have the impact that the winter solstice has.  The longest night seems to beckon us to reflection and prayer.


One of my favorite ‘winter solstice’ poems was written in 1923 by Robert Frost. Perhaps you too remember reading or even memorizing these haunting words:


Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.


He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.


Though I knew the poem, I didn’t know the story. Frost himself shared it with a young man named N. Arthur Bleau, who after a poetry reading asked Frost that standard and unanswerable question – Which poem is your favorite? At first, Frost replied that he liked them all equally. But after the reading, Frost invited Bleau up to the stage and told him that really his favorite was “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
Then, he shared the poem’s back story.

It was on a winter solstice when Frost and his wife knew they were poor enough that they probably wouldn’t be able to buy Christmas presents for their children. Frost was a farmer, but not a very successful one. He took whatever produce he had and took it into town with horse and wagon to see if he could sell enough to buy some gifts.

He didn’t sell anything. He didn’t buy any presents. He headed home as evening came and it began to snow. The coldness of the journey reflected his inner pain. He had failed as a farmer, but right then he had failed in some way as a father and as a provider. Frost told Bleau that he “bawled like a baby.”

Maybe his horse sensed his mood or inattention because it stopped in the middle of a wood that wasn’t near home. They were still. The snow continued to fall. They were in woods owned by someone who lived in town and might have been a wealthy landowner.  Then the horse shook and jingled its bells. A reminder of Christmas and a reminder to go on and get home to his family.”

The winter solstice often reminds us of such times in our own lives.  That’s why we celebrate an evening of interfaith reflection and prayer this week.  Join us this Wednesday at 7 p.m. for our Solstice Celebration:  Leaning Toward the Light.  Wilbur Rehmann and Friends will share Jazz, the young fiddler Brigid Reedy and her brother Johnny will share some tunes, Sarah Elkins and our choir director Jillian Newton will sing.  And we will light candles and share prayer with the members of Jewish community of Helena.  Together we will ‘lean toward the light’ on the longest night of the year.


               Grace and peace, Marianne

Pastor’s Corner – Dec. 11, 2016

This letter is from Sally McConnell the Yellowstone Annual Conference Missions Coordinator.  One of our primary missions as a conference is supporting pastors in East Angola through our United Methodist connection. I invite us to learn a little more about this amazing program that members of our church continue to support.

Pastor Tyler

Friends of Yellowstone Conference,

The pastors we support in East Angola are doing essential ministry and changing the lives of people in need. Pastor Serrote has been a pastor for four years. You may wonder why he has just finished high school. For almost 40 years Angola suffered through wars— first of independence, then a civil war. Whole generations missed out on an education. Angola was on a path of rebuilding, until the drop in oil severely impacted their economy.

Rev. Andre Cassule visited Yellowstone Conference this past spring. He traveled all across our conference sharing his story of faith and ministry, and the impact that YAC is having half-way around the world in small villages and towns in Angola. His ministry is not only on weekends where he enriches people’s lives in faith, but he has also started an agricultural project for the people in his village where they raise food together to benefit the individuals and the church.

You can watch a short video of him by going to

The United Methodist Church in the U.S.A. faces struggles and uncertainties right now. But what IS certain is this: The pastors we support in East Angola are doing essential ministry, and changing lives. WE have the opportunity to offer hope. Your continued support of pastors is needed. $50 a month makes a difference. As Rev. Cassule said:

“My family and I need you in order to serve Jesus.”

You can give through your church using Advance

# 3021453 (Angola pastor support), or by going to and use the above Advance #. Learn more by going to

Sally McConnell

Yellowstone Conference Missions Coordinator

“I want to thank Yellowstone Conference for their support with
supplement salary for the pastors in UMC East Angola, because it is
the only income most of us and our families survive on. I have particularly benefited a lot from this support because I managed to pay
school fees for my education at Quessua High School, where I graduated at the 12th grade last year. I also enrolled for a Bible course at
the Faculty of Theology, where the savings from your support has
enabled me to buy writing materials for my studies. I am also supporting my two siblings with school fees with the same stipend.”

– Pastor Famoloso Domingoes Serrote, 24

Pastor’s Corner – Dec. 4, 2016

Dear Pastors of the Mountain Sky Area,
These have been difficult days for our divided nation. From all parts of the political spectrum, words have been hurled that hurt rather than heal, that break down the well-being of healthy community, that have reduced people to issues and objects instead of beloved, precious children of God.
Never in my years of ministry has the message of hope and healing that the Gospel offers been more needed. We must not shrink back from our task as disciples of Jesus, to participate in the work he started and continues to invite us to:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
Below is a letter from Council of Bishops President, Bishop Bruce Ough, sent on behalf of all the bishops of The United Methodist Church. As we enter into Advent, I ask that this letter be read to your congregation and distributed for study, prayer, and action. We must provide a bold witness to the world that the power of love continues to move in our lives and world, and we shall remain vigilant against any force that seeks to overcome love, fracture further the human family, or strip our brothers and sisters of dignity and worth.
Advent is a time of watching and waiting. It is not a passive waiting, but one that causes us to seek out the One we are waiting for. May we discover anew the Child born in Bethlehem, who has claimed our hearts and lives and calls us to love one another across our lines of difference, so that together with God’s help we might live into Beloved Community.
Bishop Karen P. Oliveto
To the People Called United Methodist:
Grace and peace in the name of Jesus Christ!
On the eve of Advent and in the post-election climate in the United States, I write as President of the Council of Bishops to call for a renewed commitment to the vision of the Beloved Community of Christ. Isaiah prophesized that a child would be born to re-establish the beloved community – a time of endless peace, a time of justice and righteousness, a time of reconciliation and unity.
For a child has been born to us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
And he is named
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He shall establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NRSV
In a post-election article, Bishop Gregory Palmer eloquently stated the reality of a divided United States. “Everywhere we turn we are reminded of the profound fissures along the lines of gender, race and class, just to name a few. The truth is these fissures and divisions are not new and not directly attributable to the long campaign season just ended. For many years, there has been a growing trust deficit in public leadership and institutions. These are trying times, and the fabric of who we are and who we aspire to be has been stretched beyond anything we desire to look upon. But look upon it squarely we must.”
This state of division and discord is global, fueled by the racist, sexist and xenophobic rhetoric of the recent U.S. election cycle. Recently, Pope Francis warned against the “virus of polarization” and hostility in the world targeting people of different nationalities, races and beliefs. He was blunt and warned against animosity creeping into the church, as well, noting “we are not immune from this.” Pope Francis reminded us of “our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn” and cautioned somberly against those who “raise walls, build barriers and label people.”
As followers of the Christ, we are harbingers, models and guardians of the Beloved Community. As those baptized into the Body of Christ, we “accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” and to renounce the spiritual forces of evil in the world, our respective nations and the church. As disciples of Jesus, we stand against all expressions of hatred, discrimination, oppression and exclusion. As those who serve Christ, we love whom Christ loves. As stewards of Jesus’ Good News, we are peacemakers, pray for our enemies and seek reconciliation with those from whom we have become estranged.
At the November 2010 meeting of the Council of Bishops in Panama, the Council issued a pastoral letter calling for United Methodists to be bearers of the beloved community across the globe. The letter is eerily contemporary and relevant to our current context. It points to the opportunity that is uniquely ours to bind up the wounds and to proclaim the Advent prophecy of a time of justice and righteousness. I include the full text as a reminder of the kingdom reality we are called to incarnate:
“We, the bishops of The United Methodist Church, feel compelled to renew our commitment to work to become the beloved community of Christ. We, as a Council, desire to deal with the crucial issues of racism and the sacredness of every human being. Therefore, as the spiritual and administrative leaders of the church, we issue an urgent call to the whole people of God, lay and clergy: to speak the truth in love in public and private discourse, to act with compassion, and to work for peace with justice in the world.
In order to transform the world, in faithfulness to Christ’s command, we must model respect and kindness and extinguish the fires of animosity. And thus, we call on all churches to engage in genuinely honest dialogue and respectful conversation, such that others who observe the action in our lives might declare, ‘See how they love each other!’
As people of faith, we are charged to build the beloved community because Christ has broken down the dividing walls and ended the hostilities between us. Yet, we continue to build walls in the church and the world which separate us and cause our hearts to grieve.
On the continent of Africa and in many parts of Asia, including the Middle East, the Philippines and India, the historical and contemporary impact of colonialism, racism, tribalism, hostility and religious persecution continue to affect human relationships. The challenge in the Philippines is to break down the barriers between mainline society and tribal peoples. Meeting this challenge will accord equal rights such as land possession and free education for all.
By nature, colonialism in Africa thrives on hostile, violent and demeaning human relationships. Racism and tribalism cut deep wounds, not in one’s flesh and blood, but also on the soul and the spirit. These gaping wounds leave permanent scars.
In Europe racism is a growing issue, with political parties openly working against minority, ethnic and religious communities. Prejudice is overly articulated in the media, in politics and even in churches. Throughout the United States, there has been a rapid escalation of violence related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religious preference. This escalation includes personal attacks, bullying and vicious and criminal acts of violence to the mind, body and spirit of persons. These actions diminish life for victims and their families, as well as for the perpetrators and the whole community. They are the ultimate, insidious and irreverent attacks on the sacredness of God-given life.
Across the world, terrorism – as demonstrated by wanton acts of violence against innocent persons – leaves a trail of loss of life, limb, home and community. Discriminatory treatment is widely practiced against immigrants and refugees everywhere around the world. All of this creates a universal atmosphere of suspicion, mistrust and fear. Often this is the result of religious persecution of various faith communities, including Christians, which threatens the capacity or hope for reconciliation and peace. The church is called to decisively and directly counter these acts and engender and empower a ‘perfect love that casts out all fear.’ (I John 4:18, NVSV) Through intentional action we can ‘overcome evil with good.’ (Romans 12:21, NRSV)
It is incumbent upon the bearers of this vision of a beloved community to do whatever we can today to hasten the day of a just world with peace. This is our hope, our prayer and our commitment.”
Friends in Christ, this is not an invitation to naiveté. People’s lives, livelihoods, security and well-being are at stake. Immigrants are scrambling for the shadows. Indigenous peoples are disrespected and forgotten. Children of color are being bullied and threatened. Muslims are being labeled and listed. Women are ridiculed and objectified. The LGBTQ community is filled with fear. Racism is being legitimized. Hundreds of millions remain impoverished without access to educational opportunities, economic resources, or equal justice.
We must stand against the meanness and hatred that is upon us. We must stand for what is best in us as People of God. We must not address the anger, fear, confusion and insecurity of the prevailing culture with more blame, attack and criticism. As Richard Rohr recently noted, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” We must stand against bigotry, hate and discrimination in all forms and settings. We must proclaim from our pulpits the Good News that overcomes hatred and fear. We must be quick to confess our own sin and places of complicity and vigilant against all that diminishes the worth of any individual.
So, I urge all who follow the Christ to remember who we are in this time. We are the People of God called to proclaim the mighty acts of Christ who calls us out of darkness into his marvelous light. We are the People of God called to create the Beloved Community of Christ. We are People of God commanded to love as Jesus loved. We are People of God created to be the kingdom of God envisioned in the Advent prophecy and fulfilled by Jesus. This is our vision, our hope, our prayer, our opportunity, our commitment. May it be so!
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church