May 29, 2016 A Message From Lois Neal

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you today to let you know that I am leaving the employment of St. Paul’s as of June 3, 2016. What does one say when it is time to leave a job that has been so much a part of me for so long? It is difficult to find words.
 

It has been a great honor to work among you and with you these last 16+ years. I feel like your trust and support have nurtured me to grow, shift and experience God in different ways.

Thank you to Pam Carlson, who first saw the leadership capability within me back when I was in Parents of Preschoolers (early 1990s!) and to Alma Taylor who first encouraged me to take a position at St. Paul’s (1999). Thanks to our pastors and staff for all I have learned with and from them. Thanks to all who have nurtured me into leadership and to those who have trusted my leadership and counsel.

Thanks to those who have entrusted me with their stories in groups, in Emmaus and in my office. I am honored. I have learned so much from you … about you, about me and about how God works among us. Thanks to those who have worked with me on teams and committees; your help and willingness to be of service has made my job easier and richer.

Thanks to those with whom I have shared a trail, a cup of tea, a meal, or a discussion. Thanks to those who have shared their tears, their laughter and their joys. Thanks to those who have corrected me, helped me see differently and challenged me. I am much better off for having known you.
 

Thanks to all of you who have not yet crossed my path. Your support of St. Paul’s supported me. May you find the nurture and community you need here among these walls and with these amazing people.

What are my plans? Initially, I hope to be able to spend more time on creative endeavors, exploring my own spiritual path, resting and enjoying our grand outdoors. I am not retiring as much as regrouping. I will probably seek employment again after a time of ‘re-listening’ and ‘re-centering’. This will be a time for me to listen to where God is leading me.

May we all learn to listen to God’s nudges, trust in the messages we ‘hear’ and see God in each other.

Blessed be, Lois



May 22 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Today our Scripture text comes from a part of the Bible with which we are not terribly familiar . . . The Book of Proverbs. It is part of the ‘wisdom literature’ of the Bible. Proverbs were part of an educational system for the Israelite people. Practical and folk wisdom was passed from parent to child and, in the process, community was formed. People literally came to know ‘who they were’ and ‘whose they were’ through memorable bits of wisdom that could sustain them. However, contrary to what you may think, a ‘proverb’ was not always quite as clear as one might think. Consider these ‘contradictory proverbs’ . . . Look before you leap and He who hesitates is lost. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again and don’t beat your head against a stone wall. Haste makes waste and time waits for no one. A word to the wise is sufficient and talk is cheap. So, which is it?
 

From Reading the Old Testament by Lawrence Boadt: “The nature of the proverb combines two somewhat opposed truths: it is evident to everyone as really so, but it is also ambiguous, and not always true in the same way in every case. Thus we can say, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ and ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ and mean both because different aspects of our experiences are brought out by each . . . Proverbs was not a boring book to our ancestors, but a treasure of practical wisdom which invited reflective thought and new discoveries of meaning . . . “

In the end, the point of passing on proverbs was the formation of a ‘wisdom people.’ And, it seems that wisdom is found at the intersection of ambiguity and certainty. So, which is it – the squeaking wheel gets the grease or silence is golden? And the answer is . . . it all depends. We become wise as we discern the answer at any particular moment in our lives.

The journey to wisdom is a life-long one and it will always require balancing what we already know with new and emerging possibilities. This process has been happening since the beginnings of our faith. All the wisdom has not already been decided and the truly wise among us are those grounded in tradition, yet open to the breath of the spirit.

May we all have the courage to become wise!

Grace and peace, Marianne



May 15, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Every four years, The United Methodist Church convenes a ‘General Conference.’ Currrently, 864 delegates —half of them clergy and half laity — are gathered in Portland, Oregon, for General Conference 2016. The clergy delegate for our Yellowstone Conference is our associate pastor, Tyler Amundson.  The delegates are considering more than 1000 petitions that will order the work of our churches, pastors, and agencies, and set official positions on a variety of subjects.
 

Some highlights from previous General Conferences

Through the years, during General Conferences, Methodists have made decisions about the life of the church, and social issues. Sometimes we have been a leading voice. Other times we have been a bit slower in our decision-making.

            Abolishment of slavery: Slavery was a social topic discussed by The Methodist Episcopal Church almost from the very beginning. Many saw the evil of slavery, and a Committee on Slavery reported to General Conference through the early 19th century. At General Conference of 1800, The Methodist Episcopal Church issued a pastoral letter on abolishing slavery, and passed legislation further reinforcing their rules that no Methodist preacher should be a slaveholder or slave trader. Slavery wouldn’t be abolished in the United States until 1865.

            Women clergy: Though the church had appointed women as class leaders from the time of John Wesley, and ordained women as early as 1866, it wasn’t until General Conference of 1956 that women received full clergy rights in The Methodist Church. This year’s General Conference will recognize the 60th anniversary of that decision.

            Education: In the early 1980s, several United Methodist bishops from Africa dreamed of a university that would educate young people from all over Africa. Working with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, they brought the idea before the 1988 General Conference where it was overwhelmingly accepted, and Africa University  (AU) was established. AU, the first private university in Zimbabwe, has graduated more than 4,000 students.

            Global health: The 2008 General Conference showed the commitment of The United Methodist Church to global health with the establishment of Imagine No Malaria. This was part of an international effort to eradicate Malaria. Nearly $75 million have been raised and used to purchase mosquito nets, fund health facilities, train medical providers, and so much more.

            The week to come is when most of the major decisions of General Conference will be made.  You can follow GC activities through the UMC website (www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2016) or get a more personal view through Pastor Tyler’s blog (easy access through our website at www.stpaulshelena.org)

Please keep Tyler and the other delegates in your prayers!

Grace and peace, Marianne



May 8 2016 Pastor’s Corner

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I offer you a beautiful litany, written by Rev. Patty Lawrence and found on her blog (http://apearldownunder.blogspot.ca/2011/05/litany-for-mothers-day.html).  Marianne

We remember Sarai who was taunted by others in the household

because of her inability to have children.

All-encompassing God, we pray for those who feel excluded

when we emphasize one kind of family as normal.

 

We remember Esther, who was adopted and raised by her cousin.

God who embraces us all,

we pray for those who cannot be raised by their parents,

for a short time or permanently.

 

We remember Jochebed, the mother of Moses,

who placed him into a raft on the river.

Saving God, we pray for parents who struggle to raise their children

in oppressive circumstances.

 

We remember Hannah,

who loved her child so much she handed him over to another to raise.

Loving God, we pray for parents who have placed their child in another family.

 

We remember Naomi, who grieved the death of her sons.

God, who grieves with us, we pray for parents who mourn the death of a child.

 

We remember Ruth, who gave up her family to be family to another.

Inclusive God, we pray for those who choose to be family

to those isolated by culture or language or distance.

 

We remember Elizabeth, who had a child in old age

and we remember Mary, who had a child as a teenager.

Ageless God, we pray that as a community we accept people of varying life stages

and responsibilities and relationships.

 

We remember Rachel, crying for her children

God of justice and hope, we pray for those whose children are killed,

and look to a time when children can live safely in their communities.

 

We remember Lois and Eunice, who taught Timothy faith by example.

Faithful God, we pray for those who teach us faith by their lives,

may we remember that we also teach about you in the way we live.

 

We remember other people not named in the Scriptures,

like the mother of the prodigal son.

Companion God, we pray for those who wait for a phone call or a visit,

cut off from family and friends by distance and disagreement.

 

Nurturing God, we give thanks for those who enrich our lives by their presence

who teach us about your abundant love  and who encourage us to journey in faith. Amen.