February 28 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Today as we continue our Discipleship series we will focus on how corporate worship and small groups help us to grow as disciples. After worship today you will receive a bookmark with a reminder that discipleship is what Jesus described as the greatest commandment, “Loving God and Loving Others.” As United Methodist we continue to live discipleship through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness of the love of God active in our world. Today’s focus on worship and small groups is the presence portion of our United Methodist vows.

One of the situations I struggle with most as a clergy person is when I meet people in the community and they say, “Oh, I feel so bad I haven’t been to church in 3 months.” It doesn’t bother me because they think they should have been in church, but rather because of the guilt they feel. Not being in church should not make us feel guilty. If you don’t go to church, you are not a bad person. If you don’t go to church and suddenly walk in a church you will not get struck by lightening (I have heard this a lot too). Attending worship is a spiritual practice that is designed to help support us in our relationship with God and how we are in relationship with our community. By listening to a gift of music, hearing a message of hope, praying alongside our brothers and sisters and being in community worship with one another we encounter God’s love together. In return for our commitment of time we are energized in the spirit to go out into the community carrying God’s love.

Last Wednesday night, I spent time with the youth group and they got to ask me tough questions about God and the Bible. As we began I asked them why they come to youth group, and almost everyone said, “The good people we get to be around and know.” Being around people that are working to create good community and encourage one another to live the teachings of Jesus is what small group is. Small groups are not always organized units called small groups, but instead the groups of people that you find support from. Small groups from our church might work together on projects, events, or just meet, but ultimately the goal they achieve is surrounding one another with positive support rooted in God’s love.

As you pray this week about your next steps in discipleship, ask yourself, “What areas of worship and small group community are missing for me?” See where God is inviting you to grow in faith to support your life, and if you are still unsure ask a trusted spiritual mentor, pastor or friend in our faith community.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler



February 21 2016 Pastor’s Corner

We continue our Lenten Study on Discipleship with a focus on prayer. Prayer is something Jesus taught to his disciples and is deeply rooted in Jesus’ Jewish tradition. This ancient practice is something that people seeking God have continued to struggle with.

Take a minute and imagine a complete stranger walking up to you and asking, “What is prayer?”

Prayer is hard to define. Is prayer a conversation with God? Is prayer listening for Jesus’ call in our lives? Is prayer simple meditation that is good for our blood pressure? All of these questions could be answered with a yes.

However, as a disciple of Jesus we should look to his answer when he was asked how people should pray. He answered with the Lord’s Prayer that we say every single Sunday. In it I think is what Jesus’ believed prayer to be, a way to step aside from the craziness of life and remember to be in relationship with God and with others. When we live a life that embodies prayer we are being mindful of our relationship with our God who loves us and binds us together, and mindful of loving our neighbors.

Just like any relationship there are many ways to pray and I invite you to search for the form of prayer that fits you the most. Perhaps it is reading scripture each day, taking a few moments to say the same prayer each day, following a devotional book, say the Lord’s Prayer, say a quick prayer when people cut you off in traffic, perhaps its sharing and praying for others through sharing on social media, but most especially to find something you do each and every day. By practicing praying each day you strengthen your love for God and for all those around you.

To help us to pray more as United Methodists in Helena we have created a Facebook Group where people can share their prayers throughout the week. This is a way for us to build a community of people in constant prayer for one another and our community. If you want to be a part of this please go to this web address and request to join the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HelenaUMC/ All are welcome in this circle of prayer and community.

Enthusiastic Peace,

Pastor Tyler



February 14 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Today is the first Sunday of Lent which is perhaps the oldest season of the church. Before Christmas was celebrated, Christians celebrated the Great Three Days or Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The death and resurrection of Jesus have always been at the heart of the Christian story. Gradually, the days leading up to the ‘Triduum’ were extended and the entire season became important as a time of preparation. At some point, the length of the season was set at forty days (probably reminiscent of Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness). The word itself – ‘Lent’ – comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” So, just as spring is a time of preparing the soil for planting and growth, so is Lent a time Christians have set aside to till the soil of our lives in preparation to more fully follow Jesus.
 
For many of us, Lent has also traditionally involved personal discipline or practices. Here are a few suggestions of ways you might make this season special . . . there are countless more ideas than these. This is just to get you started!
 
Grace & Peace, Marianne
 
 
10. Try an electronic fast. Give up TV, Facebook, texting, tweeting, e-mail and all things electronic for one day every week. (Or everyday of Lent!) Use the time to read & pray.
 
9. Start a prayer rhythm. Each day of Lent, go to the Upper Room Prayer Wall and pray for another person. You can find the prayer wall at: http://prayer-center.upperroom.org/prayer-wall.
 
8. Go deeper into the Bible. You can perhaps begin by reading a psalm or reading through all four gospels over the course of Lent..
 
7. Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it. Study a book on forgiveness, such as The Art of Forgiving by Lewis B. Smedes.
 
6. Give up soft drinks, fast food, tea or coffee. Give the money you save to help folks in a different part of the world who are in crisis.
 
5. Create a daily quiet time. Spend 10 minutes a day in silence and prayer. Read a daily devotional like the Upper Room (found in the foyer of the church) or online at http://devotional.upperroom.org/. You may find it can help you add spiritual practice to your daily life beyond Lent.
 
4. Cultivate a life of gratitude. Write someone a thank you letter each week and be aware of how many people have helped you along the way.
 
3. Participate in a Lent Photo-a-Day practice and pray each day with your camera in your hand.
 http://alivenow.upperroom.org/2016/01/22/lent-photo-a-day-practice/
 
2. Volunteer one hour or more each week with a local shelter, tutoring program, nursing home or Food Share.
 
1. Pray for others you see as you walk to and from classes or drive to and from work.


February 7 2016 Pastor’s Corner

First, let me affirm that it is truly a joy to be back at St. Paul’s! Between Lyle’s surgery in Missoula and my journey to the Holy Land with our large group over the past 3 weeks, I have been away from St. Paul’s for a month. Even for me it seems like a long time! Much has happened in our lives – yours and mine – and in the life of our church. Much has happened in the world. During my long trip home from Tel Aviv on Tuesday, I had plenty of time to think . . . and over and over, I pondered just how blessed I was to have a community like St. Paul’s to come home to!
 
Thanks so much for the many ways you have supported both Lyle and me as we have met the challenges of the past two months. Lyle’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery happened quickly as you know. Your prayers and generosity have meant the world to us.
When we decided that I needed to accompany and lead the Holy Land journey as planned, we knew we would need extra support for Lyle while I was away. Again, you stepped up in ways that we can only describe as overwhelming and gracious. From phone calls to providing rides to bringing food, Lyle was well cared for . . . and we are continuing to enjoy the abundance of food you have provided!
 
In addition to the support of our congregation, our St. Paul’s staff has been amazing. Not only have they been supportive and helpful with the challenges in my life, they have been instrumental in helping our active congregation continue to thrive. I know that my absence over the past month has put additional pressure on our staff and they have risen to the occasion. I offer my gratitude to them all – Associate Pastor Tyler Amundson, Sue McNicol, Meladie Brandle, Renata Strauss, Lois Neal, Lynn Van Nice, Dave and Fay Buness, Nancy Trudell, Tanya Anderson, Ken Girton, Rob Bonnes and Phyllis Michelson.
 
The next weeks and months will hold new challenges as Lyle and I both adjust to new habits and a ‘new normal.’ We are grateful to share life with all of you in this community of faith.
 
Gratefully,
Marianne