Pastor’s Corner April 8, 2018

HOLDING HISTORY
Seven years ago, I was a leader for two youth mission trips in southeast Tennessee and southern North Carolina. While cleaning out a garage, we discovered almost 20 years’ worth of LIFE Magazine issues in mint condition. We carefully spread out all the magazines and arranged them chronologically, beginning in the late 50s all through the mid 70s. The issues covered our workspace with history. One of the other adult leaders was a history teacher, and the youth gathered around her as we flipped through history in a way none of us had experienced. Getting to hold issues sharing pictures of walking on the moon and the Vietnam War and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination brought a new understanding and respect to my life. I also became intrigued by the fact that we were in the backyard of this history: smack dab in the middle of the Jim Crow South. That was something I had not spent much time thinking about before. What were the thoughts of the owners while reading these issues? How did this town react?
As we remember Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination fifty years ago in Memphis, Tennessee, I can’t help but remember this trip I had. What effects did King’s presence and voice have on the black population in Tennessee? What effect did it have on Montana in 1968? All these questions are important to ponder. King was in Memphis to protest and march for sanitation workers’ conditions and low wages. After his death, riots broke out all across the country. It is still the story of our country today. Many have fought, but our work is not done. Both of these mission trips I experienced that summer were helping families living without plumbing in their homes. Generational poverty, inhumane working conditions, and discrimination plague our country still today, and much of King’s fight is still being fought. What will our future generations find in our garages? What stories of hope, fighting for justice, and equality will we share? How will we hold history in fifty years? Will it be still be our story? Or will it be an injustice eradicated?

Peace,
Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner March 25, 2018

At the beginning of the week, I was asked to write a bit about my thoughts on Holy Week. As we reflect on the Passion during this week, Jesus challenged us with his example of love and sacrifice. We remember that Jesus was our savior and paid the ultimate price to forgive our sins. What we often overlook is that Jesus also was a progressive advocate for social justice. Here is a brief article from the United Methodist Church website regarding the mission of social justice.

“Advocating for Justice
The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Wesley and the early Methodists expressed their opposition to societal ills such as slavery, smuggling, inhumane prison conditions, alcohol abuse, and child labor.

We believe that salvation entails renewal of both individuals and the world. Our faithful response to God’s saving grace has both a personal and social dimension as we grow in “holiness of heart and life.” By practicing spiritual disciplines — “works of piety” such as prayer, Bible study, participation in corporate worship and communion — we grow and mature in our love for God. By engaging in acts of compassion and justice — “works of mercy” such as visiting the sick and those in prison, feeding the hungry, advocating for the poor and marginalized — we live out our love for God through service to our neighbor. “Our love of God is always linked with love of our neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world” (Book of Discipline 2012, p. 51).

Just as our own discipleship occurs both at a personal and communal level, our work in the world extends beyond helping individuals to transforming the conditions that create injustice and inequality: “it is our conviction that the good news of the Kingdom must judge, redeem, and reform the sinful social structures of our time” (Book of Discipline 2012, p. 53).

Our Social Principles are the church’s prayerful and thoughtful attempt to speak to contemporary issues through a biblical and theological lens, seeking “to apply the Christian vision of righteousness to social, economic, and political issues” (Book of Discipline 2012, p. 53).

As the agency tasked specifically to assist The United Methodist Church’s work of advocacy, The United Methodist Board of Church and Society works to provide “witness and action on issues of human well-being, justice, peace” through research, education and training.”

The Passion of Jesus Christ reminds us that we are not only called to ministry to spread the Good Word but also to challenge social injustice and inequality. I hope this week finds you well.
-Matt Hankins



Pastors Corner March 18, 2018

The Church of CrossFit

There is a distasteful joke about CrossFit athletes that goes something like this: “Ever wonder if someone does CrossFit? Don’t worry, they will tell you.” This makes me chuckle a bit because I love CrossFit, and I LOVE to talk about lifting weights, competitions, and technique. But, at an introspective angle, this joke makes me cringe because I am reminded how evangelical I am about CrossFit, but I often fail to be evangelical about the Church.

CrossFit (and other exercise-based groups) are thriving these days, becoming a church of sorts for millions of people. There is something to be said about these communities thriving at the same time as religious affiliations decline. The communities offer encouragement, accountability, support, training, and purpose. Most people attend regularly, come to one another’s aid in times of need, and push one another to work hard and strive for a balanced life. Even if we are seeing decreases in traditional church, human beings still carry the same age-old desires for connection, relationships, and participation in something larger than themselves.

According to an article written by ter Kuile, “Strikingly, spaces traditionally meant for exercise have become the locations of shared, transformative experience.” You can read the whole article here: https://caspertk.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/how-we-gather.pdf

The zeal found in a CrossFit community is fascinating, and it may even be encouraging to us in church communities. In fact, if a person wants to be the owner of an affiliated CrossFit “Box” gym, he/she has to answer what CrossFit has meant in his/her life, and why does he/she want to share that with others. Sounds a lot like discipleship, doesn’t it?

The carryover seems very natural when we look at the missions of both the Church and community of CrossFit. In fact, there are specific Christian groups and Boxes out there: https://faithrxd.org/

This topic is very large, and I plan to continue to explore this. But, for today, I leave you with a couple questions to ponder:

  • What communities are you a part of which have given you a shared, transformative experience?
  • How can we in Helena and the surrounding area learn from community groups like CrossFit to take church beyond the walls?
Would you be interested in an exercise-based disciple group?
 
Peace – Pastor Sami


Pastor’s Corner 3/11/2018

“Snow Can Bury Houses”

The title is a quote from Rev. Dawn Skerritt of Columbia Falls UMC. She is Yellowstone Annual Conference’s disaster response coordinator, and she has been working faithfully to serve our brothers and sisters in the northern parts of Montana.

Our uncommonly harsh winter this year has affected many people in our communities and state. Just the month of February has brought over 160 additional inches of snow to the northern parts of our state. Wind, dry snow, and one road in and out of town have created emergencies and hardships on the community of Browning, MT and surrounding areas.

But, as quickly as the snow fell, the Holy Spirit swept through the country. The outpouring of aide and donations to the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish is amazing, and it gives me hope. In fact, on umc.org, the featured UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) story is our own state’s story.

One of my favorite characteristics of the United Methodist Church is our connection to one another. The rapport and trust men and women before me built in the arena of disaster relief and aide is mesmerizing. It ripples out from all corners of the earth. I remember having an interim pastor at my home church in high school, and she told stories of traveling on missions around the world, and being welcomed fully because of the cross and flame on her baseball cap. It was a language all its own; it told a story of love and mercy and relief.

Over the past month, we easily see that this statement is still true. Over the past month, I also see the responsibility we carry with us to continue this work, to continue keeping the cross and flame a true sign of hope for those within our walls and outside our personal reach. Today is UMCOR Sunday, which is a time to celebrate the good news UMCOR has shared through action and also to financially support UMCOR’s administration costs, so it can continue to give 100% of its donations to its causes. Very few organizations are able to do this.

I invite you to do 3 things over the next few weeks:

  • When you hear your heater turn on, when you throw another log on the fire, or you hop in a hot shower, pray. Remember those in our midst who go without and those who have to choose between these things, especially in the winter. Rev. Skerritt’s comment about snow burying houses is the harsh reality of our brothers and sisters up north right now. Many are in danger and in need.
  • Tell someone about UMCOR. Tell someone about how UMCOR has built a rapport unlike anything else, and that money is used faithfully.
  • Consider supporting UMCOR in different ways through this year. Whether it is through monies or building the various kits, any donation will go to someone in need, either this spring or in the months to come.
May we keep the cross and flame a sign of hope. May we see the Holy Spirit moving in our midst right next to the winds of winter.
 
Peace be with you all.

Pastor Sami