Pastor’s Corner – Sept 3

Following Jesus is hard.

As your outgoing pastor, I am going to be as honest with you as I can. This Christian life we have decided to follow, and this way of knowing a God of love, justice and peace is not designed to be an easy path. We are called to “love God” and “love our neighbor.” The simplicity of this commandment found in scripture has a pleasant sound, but its consequences can deafen us unless we allow them to move us through our own awkwardness. My new congregation in Billings is fond of saying “And everything else is just a footnote” after this commandment.
 
Here is my footnote: when I came back to Helena 6 years ago, St. Paul’s called me to reach out to young adults (18 until you decide you aren’t young) in the community. Within the first year I had realized something, “Unless we shift our entire church culture, my efforts to meet and encourage young adults in their faith will be fruitless.” Shifting our church culture means we need to shift the culture, so that people of all ages can serve in leadership, grow in their faith and do it all side by side. In our world, the divisions of difference have grown, not on purpose, but by convention. Ages are separated by institution walls: Children in schools. Older adults in retirement homes. Adults by differences in culture, class, status, and even by the fact that you can go to work and home and never see a person outside either location.
 
The path of Jesus for the church is going to be breaking down walls to reach people with love. This isn’t complicated and I think these words embody this sentiment for the church, “It sounds trite but it is true: If you want to move from handout to ministry, if you eschew the world of “drive by charity,” if you are ready to stop “playing church” and want to “be the church,” then pray about it. If you belong to a local congregation that wants to make a difference, and you wonder what God has in store for your future, then pray about it. Pray for God to direct your congregation to ministry with, not to, the poor and marginalized. Pray for God to open your eyes and the eyes of your congregation to see those who experience marginalization among you.”
 
One of my favorite ministry moments in Helena is still one of the simplest. Leaving a coffee shop with a friend he said, “Can you pray for me?”
“Sure,” I responded.
(Awkward silence).
“Now?”
“Yes!” my friend urges.
“I haven’t done this on the street before.”
“Same as if you are doing it inside a church.”
 
Our communities in Montana, across the west are full of people who have no community of faith, and many are searching for meaning in a community who will help them remember Jesus’ great commandment. Can we get through our awkward and follow the hard path? God willing my hope is to prayerfully attempt this work in Billings. Will you join me in this work? Will you work with your incredible new pastors and do this work of the church in Helena?
 
 
Enthusiastic Peace,
Pastor Tyler
 
 
P.S. God likes awkward people, and most often is just waiting to work with us to change the world in love.


Pastor’s Corner — Aug. 27

“I Spy with my little eye something that is…red.” Did you play this game when you were younger? I played often with my brother (I think when my mom was trying to quiet us down!). One would spot something in the room and the other would try to guess what it was. The red button on mom’s blouse. The red light on the cable box. The red stripe on the table cloth. Until I would guess what Mike had picked out. When I was a young mom I discovered the I Spy  books. Pages and pages of pictures of random objects. My daughters and I would sit down and look through the pages. I’d “spy” a specific object on a page and they would look for it. We’d take turns spying objects. It was great fun and a good way to develop observation skills.
 
I played I Spy with the children in worship a few weeks ago. Then I asked them “How do you see
God?” If God is not a person, how can we see God? They came up with some great ideas such as seeing God in creation, in acts of kindness, in moments of beauty. How do you see God? It is a good discipline to train our eyes to “see” God each day, to notice. For truly God is present with us every moment of every day.
 
How have you seen God this week? I saw God on Tuesday afternoon at the Silver Linings tea at Covenant UMC. Silver Linings is a wonderful care program for people who are developmentally disabled. Their clients range in age from child to adult. All have significant challenges they live with every day. Each client was highlighted with the things they most enjoy, such as playing with water on a hot day, or hiking on a trail, or playing on the playground. Stories were told of the things each student has accomplished, like learning to make eye contact with others or walking independently. And we learned what makes each of them special. One young man has a gift for making people smile and laugh. A deaf and blind boy enjoys creating art and says that even though he can’t see it, the staff say it is beautiful. One young person used to keep to herself all the time and has learned how to interact with others and has discovered she likes that. Another young woman is learning how strong her body is and what it is capable of doing. The staff are very creative, have everlasting patience, and offer love and care each day. That is God in action. Those students know they are loved and valued. Those students have discovered a place where they are cared for, challenged, can learn and contribute. My heart was touched by the stories of these special people. I spy God at Silver Linings!
 
 
Pastor Patti


Pastor’s Corner – Aug. 20

A message from our Bishop Karen Oliveto, written 8/15/2017:

Much has been written about white supremacy and white nationalism since this weekend’s deadly violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, and rightly so. We must condemn this evil that is seeking to fray the beautiful tapestry of American society. The hatred and racism that sustain these movements are literally life-threatening and must be confronted and dismantled.

But it is all too easy to point fingers and not do the hard work of personal soul searching, to be honest about the “every day racism” we whites participate in and benefit from. As a white woman, I have to confront my privilege, and the fact that my walk in the world is much easier because of my race than persons of color. Every day, I must confess my racism. Racism is so deeply embedded in our culture and entangles all of us in its web of inequity. I have to consciously reject it every day and the main way I do that is through the power of empathy, listening deeply to how those of color have a much different experience of the world than I do. I must understand that doors that open up automatically for me because of my whiteness open with difficulty—if at all—for persons of color. My race affords me places of safety not granted to those of other races.

I am not frightened of police officers. I don’t worry that by putting on a hoodie, I will be perceived as dangerous. I have never given my nieces and nephews “the talk” about how they should behave if ever stopped by a police officer. I have never been followed in a store by the owner because he or she automatically assumes that I am a suspect for shoplifting simply because of the color of my skin. I have never had to look very far—in books, movies, television, or church meetings—to see people who look like me. In white America, the color of my skin grants me power and privilege.

Racism isn’t an inconvenient social construct.  It is a deadly way to control others.

Racism permeates all corners of American society. Even the church is not immune from its cancerous presence. My own denomination’s history reveals a theology once held that supported the outrageous belief that owning another person and treating them less than human was in line with Christian values. Racism fueled segregation in the church through the creation of an all-black non-geographic jurisdiction in order to preserve (white) “unity”.

If we are to effectively oppose and defuse the movements of white supremacy and nationalism, the starting point must be with our own collusion with racism. Until we do this hard work, we will keep in place the social fuel that will allow these movements to flourish.

My white friends, we can no longer remain silent. We can no longer pretend we live in a post-racial society. We can no longer deny the privilege we possess. We can no longer believe that racism no longer exists.

With eyes wide open, may we dismantle the sin of racism, in our own lives and in the systems and institutions of which we are a part. May Love guide our work, focus our anger and fear, and lead us all into the promise of Beloved Community.

 

Bishop Karen Oliveto, Mountain Sky Area

(Find her blog at karenoliveto.blogspot.com)



Pastor’s Corner – Aug. 13

From Pew to Canoe

The outdoor recreation industry employs and serves millions of people in the summer months. In areas such as ours here in Montana and western North Carolina, Sundays can be one of the busiest days of the week for weekend warriors and seasonal workers. Rev. Wayne “Wayner” Dickert and the Bryson City United Methodist Church decided to take the worship service to the river banks of the Natahala River, using a brewery building as a chapel. They gather, sing, hear scripture, pray for one another, and share in communion. Then, they enjoy nature.

Pastor Wayner shared that being out in the community was the most important part of his ministry. Outdoor guides are finding River Church their welcoming home. These River Church members are unable to drive to a surrounding church to attend a worship service and also guide a trip that same day. That means deciding either to attend church or to make money to live on. Many young river guides express gratitude for church being on the river because they can worship and work on the same day. Others have flocked from all surrounding areas over their love of the water and connection to a former paddler. For the outdoor sports enthusiast, the Weekend Warrior lifestyle and traditional church lifestyle don’t always mesh well. Bryson UMC is reaching beyond its walls to bring these two together.  “It’s just a place where people can come together and be exactly who they are and accepted and loved,” Anne Connelly, a former national team paddler explained.

Offerings from River Church go to clean water projects around the world. They have donated 16 wells in Haiti thus far. After worship, the community hit the water, making connections through going to work or enjoying a day on the river together.

Visit the River Church’s website for more information: www.nantahalariveroflife.org
 
Do you have any ideas for our community for reaching our Weekend Warriors here in the Helena?
 
Pastor Sami