March 27, 2016 Easter Pastor’s Corner

Easter Blessings to all the Friends and Members of St. Paul’s!
Early in March, I wrote an Easter letter which many of you received. Today, in the Pastor’s Corner, I want to share some highlights from that message.
Last year, on Easter, we began our Jubilee, celebrating 150 years of ministry in Helena. Since then, we have remembered various parts of our history. On June 21, our Bishop was with us for a grand worship service and picnic on our patio. That was a great way to celebrate our past. We unveiled a Jubilee booklet (there are copies available today in our foyer if you would like one).
Then, in the fall, we turned our attention deliberately toward our future, choosing to work with Intermountain to make an impact for good in our community. After all, it was the Methodist preacher Brother Van, whose vision started Intermountain as a ministry of healing and hope for hurting children. And it was the Methodist Deaconesses who kept it all going, handing the ministry over eventually to a staff whose continuing vision for how to help hurting children and families today has blossomed into the ministry we know as Intermountain. And throughout that time, St. Paul’s provided financial and hands-on support. So, building on our history and our long partnership with Intermountain, we chose to help raise awareness about ACES . . . ‘adverse childhood experiences’ . . . as part of our Jubilee year celebration. You perhaps attended the talk last fall on the evening of the Art Walk. Or, perhaps, you saw the Challenge Helena presentation about ACES. Or perhaps you attended the screening of Paper Tigers in January. There is another Paper Tigers screening right here in our sanctuary on Tuesday, April 19 at 6 PM.
The point is, when we began our Jubilee year, we didn’t want it to be only about the past (though we have lots to celebrate). We wanted to celebrate the past and move into the next 150 years by taking deliberate steps to make a difference. We have done that for sure.
Our Easter offering this year will again focus on our relationship with Intermountain. It will support the remodeling project that will provide a chapel at the Helena Intermountain campus on Lamborn. Today, the chaplain’s program serves children of many faith backgrounds. The chapel has been a long hoped for vision that is finally taking shape and nearing completion. It is planned as a flexible space for reflection and spiritual growth for the many and varied needs of the children Intermountain currently serves. Brother Van and the Deaconesses would be thrilled! To contribute to that offering, just use the Easter envelope or mark your check ‘Easter offering.’
Yesterday, on March 26, 2016, we officially began our 151st year! As we move into our future, be assured that the celebrating continues through our ongoing ministry and outreach for good. We are still going strong, moving forward into our future with joy and a continued commitment to make a difference. Congratulations St. Paul’s . . . and may the story continue!

Pastor Marianne Niesen

March 20 2016 Pastor’s Corner

Today, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of the week Christians call ‘Holy Week.’ Before Christians celebrated anything else . . . even Christmas . . . they recalled the last week of Jesus’ life. They recalled Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (which we will talk about today). They remembered the acclamations of the people who saw in Jesus one who led them in paths of peace and justice
From the praise of the crowds, the early believers remembered the last supper Jesus ate with his friends at the Upper Room. It was a meal of love – as well as a time of farewell for, when Jesus left the meal to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was arrested and taken away. For Catholics, that day is called ‘Holy Thursday.’ Protestants know that same day as Maundy Thursday. ‘Maundy’ is a shortened form of ‘mandatum’ – Latin for ‘commandment.’ At that meal on that day, according to John’s gospel (John 15:12), Jesus gave his followers a new commandment (or mandatum) to love one another. Holy or Maundy Thursday reminds us that at the heart of Jesus’ teaching – even at the moment of his greatest suffering – is his commandment to love.
And then the remembering turns to the crucifixion. On a day that, in retrospect, Christians called ‘good,’ Jesus was condemned to the ultimate Roman form of capital punishment: death by crucifixion. The traditional ‘time’ of his crucifixion and death was noon – 3 p.m. (which is why many Good Friday services are during that time). However, of course, while that is tradition, we have no idea of the actual time.
Holy Saturday was remembered as a time of loss and waiting. The male disciples fled in fear. We are told the women – like Mary Magdalene – stayed to the end, accompanied his body to burial, and stayed to mourn.
And then came Easter . . . the magnificence and wonder of Resurrection upended the mourning and the morning! Over the years, as the early believers pondered what had happened, they proclaimed every Sunday as a ‘mini’ Easter. But, once a year, during a week called ‘holy’ they recalled the whole story.
Years later, a longer period of preparation got attached to Holy Week. It was called ‘Lent.’ And years after that, the tradition of Christmas took root. But first, there was a Holy Week.
So, today we begin the oldest remembrance of Christianity. I encourage you to attend our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Thursday will be a communion service, ending with the old custom of ‘stripping the altar’ of everything on it, recalling the desolation of those who saw their beloved friend arrested and taken away. Friday’s service will be a Tenebrae (Latin for ‘shadow’) service. After music and reflections, we will gradually extinguish candles as we remember Jesus’ seven ‘last words.’ The exuberance of Easter will follow on Sunday . . . and, for me, the joy of Easter is more vibrant after sharing in the solemn remembrances of the week.
Join us in celebrating Holy Week at St. Paul’s!

March 13, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

You’ve probably noticed that over the past two weeks, I have been taking some time away from the office. When I returned from the trip to the Holy Land, I realized that I simply needed to have some time with Lyle. We both needed time to learn our ‘new normal’ and I in particular had a lot to learn to help him with some of his new medical requirements. So, working with Tyler and the Staff Parish Relations Committee, I have taken some ‘medical leave.’ I will likely take a bit more time over the next month or so as we adjust and learn.
In January, Lyle had surgery to remove his bladder. It was the only way for them to remove the cancer which had unexpectedly been found on the bladder. It was not as simple as removing a tumor. That means that Lyle has a urostomy and now wears an ostomy bag. Some folks have asked me if this is permanent – and yes, it is. This kind of surgery is, as you might imagine, life changing. Others of you have been through it. And, while the ostomoy protocol after this kind of surgery is well known and relatively similar for most people, each person responds differently and so part of our learning is through trial and error. Some things that work for others don’t work for us. We simply need to work to find the protocol that is right for Lyle and that we can maintain. Frankly, it is exhausting and far more time consuming than either of us were aware at the beginning.
As Lyle and I discussed this over the past few weeks, we made a decision to share this with you. We thought it might help you understand the fact that I am not quite as available as I have been in the past. It also helps us to not need to explain such things over and over.
Having said all of that, please know that we are doing well. We both have appreciated all of the offers of help. Your generosity – of time, presence and food – has been a true gift to us both. If we haven’t called on you, it is not because we don’t appreciate the offers. In the end, there are simply some things only we can do . . . like learning ostomy care and making visits to the cancer center and hospital for out-patient help.
The final thing we wanted you to know is that the medical care we have received here in Helena through St. Peter’s – at the medical clinic, hospital and the Cancer Center – has been outstanding. Lyle’s surgery was in Missoula because that kind of surgery is not done in Helena. But all of the follow-up and his continuing care is being handled by people here. We truly feel blessed by the competence and genuine caring of the people with whom we have worked.
So, thanks so much for being the community of caring you are!

March 6, 2016 Pastor’s Corner

What do people say about St. Paul’s in our community?

When I introduce myself as a pastor at St. Paul’s to members of our Helena community I get mixed responses, “Oh…that big gray building just down from the Cathedral.” “That is the church that does so many efforts in our community to serve the poor.” “Which church is that again?” “That church has been so welcoming to our community group.” “Love that church, they speak out on important issues.” “Oh…THAT church.”

I am guessing many in our church community struggle to know when to talk about our faith community, unsure of the response you will get. What has your experience been? Talking about church and how faith is important to your life can be challenging in the current time. As a pastor even I struggle to talk about our community and navigating an engagement with someone to make sure they know I am not always on a recruiting venture. This navigation of non-recruitment is especially true now that I wear a collar while working. However, I also find that people really want to know what churches are doing and are intrigued when they run into a person of faith at a science conversation, in a community conversation about justice issues, or sitting next to them at the local hangout. Many want to learn more about the church living in the world.

A part of our Lenten discipleship series is exploring how we might find ways to invite others into a life of faith. Perhaps there is someone in your life who is really seeking something like our church, but asking him or her to join us brings about a fear of what that might lead to. Will everyone think you are out recruiting for Jesus? One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard on this is, “Build a relationship before you ever invite someone to church.” Get to know people in our community like you already do. Then when the topic of our church comes up or we get excited about a church event don’t shy away from sharing about it. Remember not everyone likes sports, but no one is afraid to talk about how much they love their team. Our church is your team and if this faith experience means something to you then it probably can mean something to others out there that are curious about faith practices in their life.

Blessings on your Discipleship journey,

Pastor Tyler