June 19, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

This was in my email ‘inbox’ on Monday morning.  I know many people have said, in response to the horror of last Sunday’s senseless attack in Orlando, that we need to do more than pray.  And, of course, that is true. We need to change behavior, attitudes and actions.  We need to challenge hateful rhetoric and stand up to bigotry.  We need respectful discourse.  Still, for people of faith, the best place to begin is with a change of heart.  And, often, that begins with prayer.  This has been part of my prayer this past week.  Perhaps it can help us create a more loving community . . .

                                                                           Pastor Marianne

A Prayer for Orlando
               God of Life, God of Justice, God of Healing, God of Love, have mercy on us all.  In ancient days, in the face of a world filled with violence, your rainbow promise embraced the skies with every color in creation.  Renew in us our commitment to that rainbow of hope.
               We pray for the lost and the wounded, for their families and beloved ones.  Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep.  Hold fast the sorrowful, and make us all instruments of your peace.
               We pray for the LGBTQ community around the world, but particularly here in this country we call home, as together we confront this devastating act of terror, the worst shooting in U.S. history.  Our hearts are broken.  Surround us with your Spirit of healing, your graceful presence in the midst of grief.
               Save us from hate, from prejudice, from the ways we turn away from you and from each other.  Embolden us to follow Jesus in crossing lines of hostility and suspicion, building bridges between neighborhoods, religions, and regions of your world.  Save us from the contempt that leads to violence, and also the contempt that leads – in the wake of violence – to an even more fragmented, segregated, polarized world.  Make us a people of faith, not fear.
               We know you are God of law, of Torah, of instruction and insight and learning.  We pray for our leaders in government and community life, and for the people they are called to serve.  Give all of us wisdom and courage as we build our common life.  Let our laws become at once more sane and more humane.  Stir in us a holy impatience with a world so full of gunfire.
               And above all, save us from that most banal form of sin, the sin of numbness and weak resignation.  Save us from accepting this as “the way things are.”  Come Holy Spirit, breathe in us, inspire us, and wake us up — so we might renew our participation in your making “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

               Have mercy on us.  Save us.  Breathe in us, awaken us, and make all things new.  And today, more than any other day, make us instruments of your peace and hope that you promised will pass all understanding.  In Jesus’ name we pray,  Amen.

                          www.saltproject.org; © 2016 SALT Project, All rights reserved. Used with permission.

June 12, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Dear Friends,

Now that school is out and graduations are over and, with the celebration of Choir Sunday last week, I think we can safely say that summer has – unofficially – begun!   I hope your summer travel plans take you to refreshing and relaxing times.  Enjoy these days – the beauty of Montana, the long days of sunshine, more relaxing schedules, days at the lake and the cooling breezes in the evening.  Breathe it all in and enjoy!  When you are in town, I hope you will join us on Sunday at worship.

Please know that our office hours change in the summers as well.  Beginning June 27, our office hours are 9 – 1 p.m. and we will also be closed every Friday from June 24 – August 5.  That is simply to accommodate some staffing changes.  Of course, though our hours are shorter, if you have need of something, don’t hesitate to call and let us know. We can often accommodate your needs even during a time we are closed.  Your staff will be working hard to manage office duties and determine our ongoing needs during this time of transition.  We are of course working to determine our additional staffing needs as we move into the fall and we will share more information about that soon.

This next week, we are once again welcoming the Annual Conference meeting of our Yellowstone Conference.  Our Bishop will be here as will 200+ delegates from churches throughout Montana and northern Wyoming. We will be doing ‘the work of the Annual Conference’ which includes reviewing petitions, approving a budget, hearing about General Conference and, perhaps most significantly, deciding on the future of our Conference.  There is a proposal that we merge with the Rocky Mountain Conference (Colorado, Southern Wyoming, Utah). We already share a bishop.   As you might imagine, there are lots of ‘pros and cons’ in this proposal and the delegates to the conference will spend time hearing from and discussing the possibilities and problems with the proposal. 

Annual Conference is an open event. You are welcome to stop in for all or part of the meeting.  However, even if you are not interested in attending a meeting you don’t have to be at (!), you might still want to come down to the Cokesbury Bookstore which will be set up in the west end of the Fellowship Hall.  This is literally our own Conference bookstore and you’ll find great books and great buys!  A visit to the bookstore is often my favorite part of Annual Conference!

Whatever you do this week . . . enjoy the wonderful beginnings of summer in Montana!

Grace and peace,


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