Praying and Gathering to Learn

by Heidi Gold – Team Convenor

The WCI team has been meeting at our Gather and Pray sessions since we started in October. Our discussions have been guided in part by the book, e Good and Beautiful Community, by James Bryan Smith. He writes about a balance that is needed between personal spiritual formation and community engagement. He shares that at times, we tend to emphasize personal faith over social justice or vice versa, but if we can bring these two together, based on the true narratives about God, that this will then lead us to lives as a good and beautiful community of Christ-followers.

Each chapter is titled as a di erent ‘community’, such as: e Peculiar Community, e Hopeful Community, e Reconciling Community, etc. He de nes peculiar as di erent from the ordinary or the common. He suggests that Christians are not always di erent, but they ought to be, and often are. Peculiar is not bad, just some- thing di erent than what our culture is used to seeing. Like learning to slow down and live without being ruled by anger and praying for others that have done some- thing against you. is may be considered weird, or peculiar, because the world does not work this way. e other chapters continue to describe di erent perspec- tives or ideas and outlooks of our communities. e readings have generated good discussion and not everyone necessarily agrees with the author’s view. is varied viewpoint is helping us to iden-

tify the practices that will help us develop our churches into “Good and Beautiful Commu- nities” here in Helena.

Language and words are important, and the language in this book has helped me
to better understand the words in our tradition that I have been reading or listen- ing to for a long time. Here are a few that I have a deeper understanding of now: Community, Narratives, Fellowship, Unity, Believers, Apprentice, Genuine, Novice, eology, Spiritual, Religious, Admonish, and Peculiar.

Over the next months we will continue to explore understandings of healthy church communities and use tools like the 360 survey to bring ideas and support to the ministry we do at Covenant and St. Paul’s.

Learn and Imagine 1

The Whole Church Initiative (WCI) team had their first Learn and Imagine event on Saturday, Nov. 19. This is where the Helena group, made up of St. Paul’s and Covenant, gathered with the Great Falls church groups that have joined us in this adventure. We gathered at Covenant UMC and met our facilitator, Rev. Barry Padgett. Barry is a retired pastor that has led churches for many years in Great Falls, Billings and Missoula, and now lives in Missoula.

We were given abundant information and had great discussion. Here are just a couple of things that I learned and am still pondering. Did you know that congregations have lifecycles, like all living things? A church lifecycle begins at birth, moves through adolescence and adulthood, then to maturity, retirement, and then eventually death. Now, this is not meant to alarm anyone! I don’t see St. Paul’s anywhere near the end of life, but I do believe St. Paul’s has already had many lifecycles, starting with the first sermon given on a pile of logs in 1865 which later became the first church in Helena, and then evolving several times to where we are now. Whether our change and growth happened as a result of earthquake or necessity, we have continued to evolve as a church community. Remember, our faith is about resurrection, not resuscitation. This applies to our churches lifecycles too.

We also watched a TED Talk by Simon Sinek where he described ‘The Golden Circle’ (Watch it at https://goo.gl/9sKJaA). This idea could be applied to just about anything; business, marketing, ideas, people…life. But, it inspired our specific discussion on church community and mission. The Golden Circle has three circles, the center is ‘why’ (purpose), the next circle, around ‘why’ is ‘how’ (process), and the next circle around ‘how’ and ‘why’, is ‘what’ (product). The speaker stated that some organizations explain themselves starting with what, how, and why, but successful ones start from the inside out: why, how, what. People don’t buy what you have. They buy why you do it. People invest in things if they appropriately offer the “why” to help them run faster, look better, save time, or in our case become transformed disciples transforming the world to do good.

Our team has only just begun this journey of learning and sharing, and I am truly inspired and hopeful for what this work will do for the future of St. Paul’s, Covenant and Helena United Methodist Ministries.
— by team Convener Heidi Gold


What is WCI(Whole Church Initiative)?

Leading us into our future, a 9-member team made up of St. Paul’s and Covenant UMC members will be participating in the Whole Church Initiative(WCI).  The Whole Church Initiative process will help us seek the future of HUMM, of Covenant and of St. Paul’s as we work together to help share God’s love in our community.  Two years ago our Yellowstone Conference Bishop and District Superintendents greenlighted a two-year trial of the cooperative we know as Helena United Methodist Ministries(HUMM).  HUMM has borne fruit in our Bridges program, shared discipleship and spiritual education, in increasingly shared Mission work, and an incredible unification of pastoral leadership.  As we are entering the third year, with Pastor Marianne’s retirement coming in June of 2017, the Bishop and District Superintendents have asked us to more clearly discern our future through WCI.  This process will give guidance to the conference leadership about what clergy leadership will best support our new and growing ministries and help our churches chart our future of ministry.unnamed


This process is built on the idea that there are no easy fixes. Moving congregations to greater vitality will take dedicated and prayerful work from clergy and lay leadership working in partnership.  The WCI process was developed by a pastor from Billings, Montana, Rev. Jeremy Scott.  Pastor Jeremy serves as our Vital Congregations Developer in Yellowstone Conference and is helping to plant new churches and re-inspire existing churches to follow God’s call for their ministry.


The WCI is built to expose local church teams to a variety of information about church in the 21st century, its opportunities, and its challenges. In addition to information sharing, the process will guide congregations in identifying and executing ministry experiments that will help us better live into God’s calling for our church.  Over the next few months you will be hearing more from our team through newsletters, Facebook, email, and more. 


We invite you to hold our team in prayer.  Our team members are Ron Guse, Berma Saxton, Jim Fishburn, Darrell Vallance, Mike Faehnrich, Bill Avey, Heidi Gold, and Pastor Tyler.