Pastor’s Corner June 10, 2018

The Third Place

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. — 1 Corinthians 12:26 NRSV

 

The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference published an article written by Kristina Gonzalez, Director of Leadership Development for an Inclusive Church for the PNW Conference. The article, titled What Can Methodists Learn From Starbucks?[1] discusses the approach the corporation Starbucks has taken to systemwide unconscious bias and racism. The company took a day-long pause on May 29 for a systemwide training and reflection time in response to an incident in a Philadelphia store earlier this spring when a store manager summoned law enforcement to confront two Black men simply waiting for a friend to arrive. Starbucks apologized to the men, and the manager was fired.

 

This came in the middle of many public dismissals: perpetrators of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace immediately fired without question, public social media rants becoming grounds for immediate cancellation and dismissal, and many more cases of strict and swift (thankfully!) consequences. For myself, I see this as relief in the midst of severe leniency and ignorance from the past decades. Gonzalez writes about the absence of systemic responses to issues that allow discrimination or abuse to go unchecked. Starbucks, though may not be everyone’s favorite coffee shop, has taken significant and unpopular steps to address bias systemwide.

 

Starbucks was founded on the principle of Third Place: a gathering place outside of home and work. It is to be a place of relaxation, interaction, meeting, debating, reading, enjoying coffee and tea in community. The training, along with reflecting on bias in our society, staff dreamt about how to create public spaces where everyone feels like they belong. Then, Starbucks made their training materials public, providing model ideas for others.

 

Check them out here: https://starbuckschannel.com/thethirdplace/

 

What are your Third Places? Is the church one of your places? Where are our embedded biases? Gonzalez points out the reality that the people called Methodists have had countless moments in our history similar to Starbucks’ moment. How did we respond? Often, it has been to split or segregate. What if we didn’t? What if we did something different? What if we reflected on our biases and then dreamt of how to create space of Third Places…where everyone feels like they belong–because they do?

 

Peace,

 

Pastor Sami

[1] http://www.pnwumc.org/news/what-can-methodists-learn-from-starbucks/



Pastor’s Corner June 3, 2018

Hidden Meanings
 
When my girls were in elementary school, they loved playing hide-and-go-seek in our house. They had great fun. Though, what I never understood at the time was how they always hid in the same place. The seeker would look casually all over the house, but pretty soon, she’d look in the pantry and squeal in delight when she found someone in there. And someone always hid in the pantry. As a competitive adult, it never made sense to me. Why did they always hide in the same place? Why not find a more challenging place so you weren’t so easily found? Then one day I got it, it’s because the fun is not in sitting hidden in some obscure location forever while people are looking for you. The fun is in being found! The squeals of delight taught me that.

Jesus teaches in parables. Riddle-like stories that in a round-a-bout way teach truth about the kingdom of God. Why didn’t Jesus just come straight out and tell the truth in simple statements instead of hiding it in an obscure story about common experience? One reason is the parables draw us in and cause us to think. Then when we figure it out and discover the truth within, it’s like finding your sister in the pantry. There is joy in discovering what is hidden!

The parables of Jesus are simple statements or short stories drawn from common experience with a surprising twist. They are designed to make us think and to see things in new ways. The point of the parable lies in the reversal, the unusual image, or the new twist. The problem is we are so familiar with the parables and we are so distanced from the ancient near eastern culture, the parables lose their shock value.

This summer in worship we will be revisiting the parables of Jesus. We will explore the original cultural setting and see how they capture the mystery of the kingdom of God. Along the way we may even squeal in delight as we discover what is hidden! Parables are not intended to be nice comfortable stories to memorize and keep in our heart. They are designed to capture our imagination, to make us think, to make us squirm, and to cause us to respond.

If you would like to go deeper, join me and Sami in discussion each Sunday beginning June 17th (at 9:00 am at Covenant and at 9:30 at St. Paul’s). Each Sunday we will address the parable we are preaching on, drawing on Jill-Amy Levine’s book Short Stories of Jesus. The book is available for $10 and each week is independent, so drop in when you can!

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner May 27, 2018

The Bold Energy of God

 

Harriett Jane Olson addressed the attendees of the United Methodist Women (UMW) this last week at their annual assembly with the declaration that the bold energy of God resides in us. This is a message that can be easily stated but harder to believe sometimes. Our actions or words can feel empty in the shadow of pain and injustice. But, just as the group has strived from their inception, UMW continues to back up words with actions and movements.

 

“I believe United Methodist Women is as needed today as it has ever been,” Olson said. “We are in a position to make a change; we are everywhere; and we are connected.” Coming after a week of frustration and confusion over failed amendments dealing with gender equality[1] among the United Methodist Church, Olson and other key leaders, including bishops, exemplified the bold energy of God by standing up for the much-needed work the UMW completes each and every day. They called everyone to believe the words, and to then live into that energy.

 

“This is not who we understand The United Methodist Church to be,” Olson said. Many bishops stood with Olson and the UMW as well. Bishop Cynthia Harvey from the Louisiana area stated “We need to tell the stories of our work,” Harvey said. The assembly focused on four main social justice topics: economic injustice, climate justice, maternal and child health, and mass incarceration with an emphasis on stopping the crib-to-prison pipeline.

 

These are difficult topics to discuss and form plans to eradicate them. When hearing statistics about any of these topics, it is easy to get overwhelmed and not believe that the bold energy is working.

But it is. I believe the UMW Assembly is proof of that. Like Olson said, we are in a position to make a change, we are everywhere, and we are connected. This week is Peace with Justice Sunday for the wider United Methodist Church. We are needed now more than ever. Our message of love over fear, our story of justice over vengeance—our dream of a better world—it is all needed now more than ever. These gifts on special Sundays are also proof of the bold energy of God at work through our connection and our influence.

When you give today, you will help Methodists spearhead a peace ministry uniting Arizona border communities, equipping United Methodists in Liberia to implement the denomination’s Social Principles to address social-justice issue, helping Pennsylvania students educate their community about sex-trafficking at home and abroad, plus much, much more.

May you believe in the bold energy of God working within your life, and may you share that truth with others.

Peace,

Pastor Sami

[1] http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/women-grieve-amendment-failures-vow-to-work-harder



Pastor’s Corner May 20, 2018

Pastors Corner

When I arrived in Helena just 10 short months ago, I was impressed by this incredible staff team. We have had some transition already as positions became open and we found new people to join our staff. We now have three more positions open. (see their notes below)

First, I want to express my appreciation for Jillian, Dave, and Sue. Each one has made invaluable contributions to this congregation over the years. We will have a reception on June 10 during fellowship time to express our gratitude to each of them.

Second, I want to assure you that I am working closely with our Staff Parish Relations Committee to assess our staff structure and hire new staff. We will continue to seek amazing people to lead and serve us. We have posted the job descriptions for the Choir Director and Worship Director on our website at www.stpaulshelena.org/jobs. If you know anyone you think is perfect for the job, spread the word. We are working to create job descriptions and an application process for the remaining positions. Keep posted.

I’m confident God is continuing to guide us as we walk on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti

 

A Note from Jillian Newton

When I came to Helena, I never could have imagined that I would have an opportunity to work with a choir that has the caliber of singers we enjoy here at St. Paul’s or that I would find congregation as welcoming as this one. The joy and confidence I have gained from this community have inspired me to take the next step in pursuing a lifelong dream. This fall, I will be attending Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey in order to earn a Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting. My goal is to one day teach at the university level, training the next generation of choral performers. While I am sad to be leaving my St. Paul’s family, I am so grateful for the outpouring of love and support I have received and I look forward to making music with you all for the rest of the year.
 

A Note from Dave Buness

Dear Family,
Yes, you certainly have been family to Fay and me for the past forty-five years.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that George Harper and Annie Wix approached us as we were unloading our U-Haul and asked us to take over the music program at St. Paul’s.  It has been a wonderful place to raise a family and become a part of the St. Paul’s community.  Fay plans to continue as pianist/organist but I have decided that I am most comfortable singing in the choir, so I am resigning as Music and Arts Coordinator.  We are saddened that Jillian Newton, our choir director is also resigning to pursue her graduate program in music.  We hope to fill these positions quickly.
 
 

A Note from Sue McNicol

Beginning May 29 I will venture two blocks from St. Paul’s UMC to start employment with another of Helena’s remarkable non-profit organizations – Prickly Pear Land Trust. I’m excited about this opportunity to work with an expansive group of volunteers and staff dedicated to connecting land and people. While I’ll be leaving my employment with St. Paul’s, I remain committed to the mission of this vibrant faith community and the work of Helena United Methodist Ministries. St. Paul’s has been a place of healing and growth for me these past seven years. I’m grateful for the many opportunities and relationships St. Paul’s and Covenant UMC have offered me as well as guidance and support from these congregations and staff on the path to becoming a Local Pastor. I intend to continue steps toward becoming a Licensed Local Pastor serving in the Helena area. Thanks for being my faith community, co-workers, friends and mentors. I so appreciate you