February 15 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings Friends and Members of St. Paul’s,
 
As I shared in the Pastor’s Corner last week, my husband, Lyle, and I once again invite you to join us on a journey to the Holy Land. Over the past 20+ years, we have led journeys to the Holy Land regularly – usually every 2 or 3 years. We have always delighted in sharing this time with members and friends of our church family. For many, the Bible comes alive in a new way. Often, faith is deepened and enriched. Our trips combine well-planned itineraries with the expertise of an excellent guide (someone we have come to know over the past 20 years) and the support of a good travel company, dedicated to making travel accessible and affordable. While we have loved every journey we have made over the years, we do anticipate that this will be the last one we will lead.
 
The trip is scheduled for Jan. 18 – 29, 2016. All-inclusive pricing is $3796 from Helena or Billings. There are brochures available in the foyer of the church or at the office. If you wish to check it out online, you can find the journey this way: Go to www.EO.travel/mytrip . When asked, enter the following information: Tour=HL16; Date: 1/18/16; Code=H; ID#: 23081. This will take you to a page describing the journey and allow you to download a brochure if you like. You’ll notice that there are small discounts for early registration. We have again secured the services of our guide, Doron. He loves working with our groups and especially loves our itinerary . . . we spend more time in the Holy Land than most groups which allows us to see and experience more. We are also offering a “pre-tour” to Jordan (for an additional $1198). That portion of the journey leaves on Jan. 13 and spends 6 days in Jordan (seeing the actual Baptismal site, the Roman city of Jerash, a full day in Petra, stopping by the Jabbock River, looking over Mt. Nebo to the Promised Land – and, weather permitting, a swim in the Dead Sea). The group then crosses the border, joining those just arrived from the US in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.
 
I invite you to consider whether this may be the time for you to take this journey. Your relatives and friends are also welcome to join us … there is pricing available from just about every city in the US (and, as you know, often that is priced less than from Helena). Since 1974, the travel company we use, Educational Opportunities, has been dedicated to providing quality Christian travel programs at an affordable price. Over the years, more than 300,000 Christians have traveled on the various faith-based tours. They monitor all situations carefully, ensuring groups are safe and have good experiences.
 
If you are interested, pick up a brochure. Call me with questions. I would love to have a robust group from St. Paul’s travel with us once again….
 
Grace and peace, Marianne


February 8 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings Friends and Members of St. Paul’s,
 
Over the past years, my husband, Lyle, and I have led journeys to the Holy Land regularly – usually every 2 or 3 years. We have always delighted in sharing this time with members and friends of our church family. For many, the Bible comes alive in a new way. Often, faith is deepened and enriched. Our trips combine well-planned itineraries with the expertise of an excellent guide (someone we have come to know over the past 20 years) and the support of a good travel company, dedicated to making travel accessible and affordable.
All of that is to introduce our plans to lead one more journey to the Holy Land. We anticipate that this will be the final time we will lead such a journey. (We may well go back in the future, but it will be simply to see friends and family.)
 
The trip is scheduled for Jan. 18 – 29, 2016. All-inclusive pricing is $3796 from Helena or Billings. There are brochures available in the foyer of the church or at the office. If you wish to check it out online, you can find the journey this way: Go to www.EO.travel/mytrip. When asked, enter the following information: Tour=HL16; Date: 1/18/16; Code=H; ID#: 23081. This will take you to a page describing the journey and allow you to download a brochure if you like. You’ll notice there are small discounts for early registration. We have again secured the services of our guide, Doron. He loves working with our groups and especially loves our itinerary . . . we spend more time in the Holy Land than most groups which allows us to see and experience more. We are also offering a “pre-tour” to Jordan (for an additional $1198). That portion of the journey leaves on Jan. 13 and spends 6 days in Jordan (seeing the actual Baptismal site, the Roman city of Jerash, a full day in Petra, stopping by the Jabbock River, looking over Mt. Nebo to the Promised Land – and, weather permitting, a swim in the Dead Sea). The group then crosses the border, joining those just arrived from the US in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee.
 
I invite you to consider whether this may be the time for you to take this journey. Your relatives and friends are also welcome to join us … there is pricing available from just about every city in the US (and, as you know, often that is priced less than from Helena). Since 1974, the travel company we use, Educational Opportunities, has been dedicated to providing quality Christian travel programs at an affordable price. Over the years, more than 300,000 Christians have traveled on the various faith-based tours. They monitor all situations carefully, ensuring groups are safe and have good experiences.
 
If you are interested, pick up a brochure. Call me with questions. I would love to have a robust group from St. Paul’s travel with us once again….
 
Grace and peace,
Marianne


Sunday, February 1 Pastor’s Corner

“So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don’t have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know.” ~Marcus J. Borg
 
As many of you know by now, one of our most popular lecturers, Dr. Marcus Borg, died unexpectedly on Wednesday morning, Jan. 21. His wife, Marianne, said he ‘rose before the sun.’ She and his son Dane and Dane’s husband, Benjamin, were with him when he died. His daughter and grandson had visited just the weekend before. Marcus had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis on December 19 and died from that. It was quick and he was at peace, still filled with hope for the future.
 
Marcus’ death is certainly a loss for the church. He was a consummate scholar who was also passionate about his faith. He wanted the work of sound Biblical scholarship to be readily accessible to the local church and that was precisely the audience to whom he addressed most of his books. Many of you have benefitted from one of his books or a class or a video series that included Marcus’ work.
 
When I went to seminary 25+ years ago, Marcus was a visiting professor at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley (my seminary) while his wife, Marianne, was going to the Episcopal seminary. That was before he had written most of his books! I happened to live in the same duplex as the Borgs and, to make a long story short, we became friends. It is a friendship that has endured and though we haven’t seen them often, we have usually gotten together at least once a year and it always seemed like we could pick up where we left off! We had hoped next to take a trip to Assisi, Italy together.
 
There will be a large public celebration of life for Marcus at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, OR on March 22. Yesterday, on Saturday, Jan. 31, however, there was family celebration at the small Episcopal Church (also called Trinity) in Bend, OR. The Borgs have attended there since moving to Powell Butte in central Oregon several years ago. When I spoke with Marianne Borg last Monday, she whispered the hope that perhaps we might join the family at that service. That is a long way to tell you that that is precisely where Lyle and I are this weekend. Tyler offered to cover preaching here. Su DeBree is covering the service in Lincoln where Lyle was scheduled to be. When she knew we were making the journey, Marianne also asked me to be part of this service for Marcus, one of 3 people offering reflections.
 
My relationship with Marcus has deeply affected my life and my faith. He has been a friend and mentor and I will miss him greatly. I am so grateful he was able to come to St. Paul’s twice so that many of you have caught a glimpse of the blessing he has been – and will continue to be – for thoughtful Christians everywhere.

 

Grace and peace,
Marianne
 


January 25 Pastor’s Corner

Greetings All and a very happy last
Sunday of January to you!
It is just one month since Christmas . . . does it seem longer than that to you? Just one month ago we were singing Christmas carols and delighting in the beauty of lights and Christmas trees. We were in the midst of family gatherings. I was anticipating a visit with my family in Florida. My, how things have changed! Of course, winter has its own beauty although I admit that it is a bit of a challenge for me to appreciate it sometimes. I’m just not a fan of icy roads, cold winds, snow and long nights. Still, beauty abounds – and I have some good news to share that I think will warm us all up!
One month ago we were hoping for a robust end to our year – and that is exactly what happened. Your generosity meant that we met all of our financial obligations. We actually received $477,618 in income in 2014 – which was about $20,000 more than we projected. That, coupled with our fundraising (a Wednesday night dinner hosted by staff, a ‘Resurrection matching challenge’ offering, and snowflake gifts) means that we begin 2015 on healthy footing. In addition, to date, our Stewardship pledges to the General Fund for this year are about $14,000 ahead of last year!
I do not yet have a final report on the status of our building (AKA ‘mortgage reduction’) fund but, between our pledges and a few special gifts, our income also fully funded our mortgage obligations.
PushPay, our electronic giving system, which we rolled out in mid-December has been a success and is being used regularly. It is still too early to know for sure how it will impact us in the future although the indications are good. The PushPay system itself is indeed all we hoped it could be – safe, secure and easy to use. I am especially grateful to Tyler for all the research and work he did to help us make this happen. In addition, 15 more people have made arrangements to use our process of EFT (electronic funds transfers) for giving – bringing our total number of participants to close to 100. That particular method of giving is completely free and helps greatly with cash flow, especially during the summer.
Now all of that is news that should warm our hearts! We have much to celebrate as we engage in our All Church Conference tomorrow night where we will receive the details of these reports, approve our budget for 2015, affirm our leadership roster, review a membership report, approve General Endowment requests and share conversation about our hopes and dreams for the future.
Several times last year, the Finance Committee and the Trustees reported on our fiscal health. As we move into 2015, I am working with our Finance Committee to find new ways of better communicating financial information to you. If you have particular questions, please feel free to contact me or Kari Leonard (Finance Chair) or Kathie Roos (Trustees Chair).
Grace and peace,
Marianne