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


Pastor’s Corner – Jan. 8, 2017

St. Paul’s is blessed with amazing staff who support our many ministries, missions, and the spiritual life we grow here at St. Paul’s.  Over the last 8 months we have been working to develop that team and to bring on a new staff member to be a part of our team.  The goal for our changing staff team is to bring on people willing to serve and empower the members of our church in continuing to share God’s love in Helena and work for good. 

At the end of December, we invited Hailey Cole to join the staff team as the Facility and Finance Coordinator.  She will be helping us manage the church buildings, do the in house financial work, and be support for our Trustees and Finance Team.  Sue McNicol our Parish Administrator will be training Hailey and then shifting to provide leadership for the Discipleship, Education, and Communications functions in our office.  I want to share a special thank you with Sue and Renata Strauss, our Administrative Assistant, as well as other staff who have provided coverage during this transition.  We are truly honored to have passionate people employed to support our congregation and ministry, and are glad to welcome Hailey to this group. 

We are excited to have Hailey joining our team.  She comes highly recommended and is bringing some incredible skills and knowledge to us.  I invite you to welcome her as you see her on Sunday mornings and throughout the week.  Be sure to share your name with her and know there are a lot of us, so introduce yourself multiple times. 

“I am thrilled to be joining the team at St. Paul’s.  I really enjoy working with both the financial and facility pieces of organizations.  After working for Helena Parks and Recreation for a number of years, first as a lifeguard and then as the Administrative Assistant supporting finances and building rentals, this is a welcome opportunity.

In my spare time I love traveling abroad, baking gluten free cupcakes, walking downtown, and getting lost in a good book.” – Hailey Cole

 

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler



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