Pastor’s Corner July 29, 2018

The Taste of Liberation

In a world that tells black women, their lives don’t matter, cooking nutritious food can be a quiet act of resistance. I recently read an article by Taylor Nichole Johnson titled The Taste of Liberation, featured in a Sojourners Magazine issue from 2016. Over the past month or so, I have been leading a class focused on food and faith. We have discussed the ethical implications of our current food system, our human connection to God and food, and the theology of Holy Communion. My view and relationship with food have changed even in this short amount of time, and Johnson’s article resonated with me because food is more than just food. It is nourishment.

Johnson shares of her childhood filled with home cooking and family in the kitchen, teaching her hands the muscle memory of preparing and baking. Then, she shares how that wholesome relationship with food switched gears into an addiction to “non-food”. With a toxic combination of racial tension in college and body image struggles, Johnson found herself not well in her spirit or her body. Non-food became her self-medication.

The story of the woman outwardly keeping their entire world spinning while privately suffering in silence is many women’s story, especially women of color.

Johnson’s journey to healing through food did not begin with food options, but with theology and spirituality. Going to seminary, she began to wrestle with the meaning of hope and evil, suffering and invisibility. She began to ask herself if she truly believed she was created in the image of God. “Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I was being converted. The seeds my mother and I planted 15 years earlier in the kitchen burst forth with vitality”

Now, food fuels Johnson’s activism, her theology, and her work with nutrition, food sovereignty, and black girls. She describes nutritional violence against black bodies and poor bodies. Cooking and eating became ways of resistance to Johnson. It was a radical self-love. We cannot fight injustice if we are unwell.

What do you think? How can you use food and cooking to break chains of unhealthy self-care? How can you teach others?

Read the whole article at https://sojo.net/magazine/august-2016/taste-liberation

Peace,

Sami



Pastor’s Corner July 22, 2018

Virtues of Patience

“The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

For the first time I planted a vegetable garden this year. It’s been an experience. To begin with, I was grateful for the raised bed and good soil. I enjoyed the process of going to the nursery and choosing what I wanted to grow. It was satisfying planting the pepper, tomato, and zucchini plants. I’ve been watering the garden and watching it. I was surprised, after being away for a week, how big all the plants and the weeds (!) had gotten. However, there are still no veggies to eat. I expected to have peppers and tomatoes and zucchini by now. Instead, I water, weed, and watch, and wait.

Waiting is hard. As we have access to most everything at our fingertips on our phones, waiting is not a virtue we practice much. Patience seems counter-cultural in our increasingly speedy society. The dictionary defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. That makes it sound very hard; acceptance, tolerance, no anger. Opportunities to exercise patience come in many forms; from little things like road construction to more significant things like waiting for healing after a surgery. The virtue of patience is challenging.

In my devotion this week the author writes, “though patience may appear passive, it is actually a form of concentrated strength. Patience needs to respect the reality of process.” Things take time. Sometimes we just need to sit back and wait. Which requires concentrated strength. I appreciate the reminder that patience isn’t passive, it’s an active discipline. Actively exercising faith and actively trusting the process.

Psalm 40:1-3 says

“I waited patiently for the Lord;

He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, and out of the mud and mire;

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

As I read that again, I saw it in a new way. In between waiting patiently and standing on a firm place, the poet was in the slimy pit. Patience is not a pretty process. Usually there is mud and mire involved. If you are in a slimy pit right now, hold on to hope. Trust in the process. Exercise that concentrated strength. And most of all, rely on the Holy Spirit. For Paul reminds us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us strength more than we can muster in our own power. One day you will be standing on a solid rock again. A little more patience and I will be eating my garden vegetables!

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner July 8, 2018

New Hires:
 
Here at St. Paul’s, we have a strong sense of community. But that does not stop at the church doors. Our missions have reached out into the community and far afield into the world.

Helena has seen some real challenges lately. One of those challenges was the closing of Helena Industries. Luckily, Family Outreach of Helena has stepped up and helped many adults with disabilities find jobs in our community.

From their website:

“The focus of our program is to teach families and friends how to teach skills to children and adults with special needs. In addition, the families and friends often request education regarding the disability and information about resources and services available. We work hard to ensure that children and adults in the Family Outreach program have the same opportunities that all Montanans have in education, in the community, in friendships, and in life.”

Family outreach serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays. Their service programs provide developmental training, education, behavioral assistance, social skills and job training. They were founded in 1977 and added adult services in 1994.

St. Paul’s has been on the receiving end of this mission this time.We are proud to announce the hiring of two amazing men, Thes and Charlie, who will be doing the janitorial work in the church building and the Susanna Wesley building. They are already hard at work for us and are doing a great job.

Thes and Charlie both used to work for Helena Industries. Charlie loves all kinds of machinery and enjoys tinkering with engines. Thes is very friendly and outgoing and likes to test out equipment and electronics.

You might see them in hallways or offices with their job coach working diligently to make our church home shine. Both of them are very thankful and happy to get back to work.

Please stop and introduce yourself and get to know these great guys!



Pastor’s Corner July 1, 2018

Divergent Church
 
I recently read an article about Tim Shapiro and Kara Faris’ new book Divergent Church: The Bright Promise of Alternative Faith Communities. The book focuses on doing church differently, and, even though the ways seem unconventional, they are rooted in deep faith practices.

The typical Christian life is going through changes. Our country has changed. Communities of faith need to take risks and be innovative in making Church relatable again. This book explores some possibilities for offering several ways to experience God at work in the world.

Two quick lessons I learned in my first church internship involved unconventional church and fear around risk: The first involved an existing contemporary service on Sunday morning. It was decided to try the service downstairs in the fellowship hall to help with interruptions by the other two services and to have worship in a space that wasn’t the typical “church” feel in hopes to reach people uncomfortable in a church. After about a month, the senior pastor had received so much anonymous criticism letters he moved the service back upstairs to the sanctuary. The contemporary service continued to be the “middle child” of the congregation, never receiving the support or respect it deserved.
The second involved my intern church reopening a closed UMC in a neighboring town. The church sat in a Hispanic neighborhood with Spanish as the primary language. A team was put together to lead Sunday worship and then cook and serve a free dinner on Tuesdays. Over 120 people ate on Tuesdays. Families who may have otherwise gone without were given food. Sunday worship did not grow. Soon, the elaborate home-cooked meal turned into cheap alternatives and quick meals with little prep time. Sunday worship did not grow. The new church shut its doors. I overheard the original team talking right before it closed, and their reason for stopping was because they were fixing nice meals, and all “those people wanted was food” and didn’t come to our church.

Traditional church is still very needed. Also, new, innovative ways of doing church are still very needed. Just as we all learn differently and through different means, we all experience God in different ways. These divergent churches explored in Shapiro and Faris’ book are nontraditional, possibly unusual, but are serving as people’s main congregational gathering, providing spiritual formation, connection, and a sense of identity.

I share these stories not to point and scoff, but because they have shaped my ministry and affected my theology. I will never forget that conversation I overheard or the drastic effects those decisions had on that church community. I also learned the importance of holy risk-taking, or also how we like to say, following the holy spirit. It can lead us down paths that seem not worth our energy, money, and time. But, introducing someone to God’s love is the name of our game.
Come talk to me about your holy risk-taking ideas!

Pastor Sami