But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! Lamentations 3:21-23, The Message
In 1969, Edward de Bono wroteThe Mechanism of the Mind about how the brain works. Here is what de Bono says about memory: “A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.”
Some memories are so scarred, like by trauma, they only come to light as they cause something to blurt out of us, like when we wonder, ”Where did that come from?” It can be like something from the past is still affecting us, still happening in a way, and we didn’t even realize it til now. Or, we might recognize this in ourselves when we say things, like “This always happens,” and “Why I am not surprised?”
We can be so conditioned by the past, that as some things are so predictable to us, “Yup, that’s going to be same old, same old.” Sometimes, we don’t want it to turn out different because that would unsettle what we have been comfortable with, even if when our comfortable response is depression or heroics or a giddy laughing it off. There are a lot of ways memories may not completely unhappen for us. Some of what keeps on happening can be insidious, and some of what keeps on happening can be blessed.
Why am I speaking of memories in this Eastertide season of looking forward?
-- a time when we proclaim, “The past is over and gone”
-- a day of celebrating what new has come into existence?
-- a moment of committing ourselves to a new creation?
All too often, memories of the past are haunting, so awful that what keeps on happening is insidious. Easter started out like this for the women at the tomb, and for the disciples when they heard, and for those escaping Jerusalem on the Road to Emmaus. Then something completely new happened; a new memory took hold.
New life keeps happening in the One known as the Word, whose life does not return empty.
There is this promise, attested by the women at the tomb, "Jesus is risen!"
There is this acceptance, as true as when Peter remembers what Jesus had foretold about these events, that we are on a way of faith that is so much beyond our control.
There is this assurance, as sure as when the risen Jesus invited Thomas to touch where the nails went through, that God graciously touches us with blessing as our human doubts spin.
There is this recognition, as revealing as the life the disciples recognized in breaking bread with a stranger in Emmaus, that companionship through God in the communion meal shared a few days earlier in the upper room has been let loose to the world to all who would receive it.
God started something that is still happening among us. We are not ever held back from something happening among us.
Rev, Lynne Spencer Smith
Conference Moderator update
Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference Seeks a Treasurer
The Board of Directors is seeking a treasurer! Read on and see if this might be something that would be up your alley or that of someone you know.
The position of Treasurer is an officer of the Conference and, therefore, must be a member in good standing of any of the Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference Churches.
The Treasurer will work closely with the Conference office staff so it would be helpful (but not required) that they live somewhere near Billings.
Responsibilities (in a nutshell) include: Reconcile the checking account utilizing existing conference accounting system (Aplos) Ensure that all financial accounts have the appropriate signatures and access. We currently have accounts with First Interstate Bank, Vanguard, and United Church Funds Become familiar with the rules and conditions of all financial accounts and help manage funds to ensure adequate cash on hand for conference use Participate in all Board and Executive Committee meetings and provide financial reports and interpretation to the Board and Executive Committee. The Board is currently meeting monthly on the 4th Wednesday of the month at 6 pm via Zoom.
To celebrate May as Mental Health Month, church members are encouraged to join in some wider community activities, such as the BBQ at Sheepherder Square on Monday May 23rd. This event will also be a informational fair for all of the various services available.
Billings First Congregational UCC and Mayflower UCC
In 1977, Mayflower and First Church launched a housing project for the needy. It still thrives; some residents have lived much of their lives with us. Recently a resident of 20 years passed. Today we have 225 people at Prairie Tower and Big Sky. Who? Elderly, handicapped and families, HUD subsidized housing with grants from Section 8. Financial strength includes large endowments and healthy budgets. Projects for Prairie Tower include solar energy and new elevators for the 7-story building, The project for Big Sky is a new central water heating system. Our emphasis is security for residents, cleanliness of facilities, and providing modern housing. There is a low vacancy on the 187 apartments. The future energy improvement project for the Prairie Tower 1977 building wiil usher it into the current century. Our Board includes six people from Mayflower and six from First Congregational. We are here to serve and help our communities and you.
Folk at Mayflower UCC work on their Song Bird Habitat. Also, there is a community food garden on the church grounds. As part of its "greening" ministries, the Mayflower Weekly also tells about a community seed library at the downtown Billings library where people can get free seeds for their gardens.
Great Falls First Congregational UCC
Master of Divinity grad
Congratulations to Member in Discernment, Sara Branom, a Master of Divinity graduate from Chicago Theological Seminary as of May 13. Sara will be the supply pastor while Rev. Lynne Spencer Smith is on sabbatical this summer. Sara is also working on her ordination papers in anticipation of a fall 2022 ecclesiastical council.
Among the activities for which we requested assistance was a Helena Community Garden plot located in Plymouth’s north field. We will use funds to rent a plot, purchase organic mulch, tools, plants, watering systems and gardening toys for the children. At this point, we are not certain whether or not the Afghan families in Helena will be able to utilize the garden because of distance and other limitations. We are certain that later in the summer, the Afghan families will enjoy the produce that will come from the efforts of volunteers working on their behalf.
Blue Jean Sunday
For Blue Jeans and Bluegrass on May 22, the youth will cook up hamburgers and hotdogs. Folks are invited to add potluck dishes to their BBQ. We have invited our Bluegrass friends to join us following the BBQ for a jam. This will be the end of Moit UCC's spring schedule, though there will be some occasional summer activities.
Order copies of Intermountain's 30-day devotional called "Hope for Healing" which tells unique stories from the ministry of the chaplain's program and weds it with scriptural insight and prayer. These devotionals can be used in small group settings or as a companion to a mission month focus on Intermountain.
Red Lodge Community UCC
Congratulations to Dr. Pam Peterson
Rev. Dr. Pam Peterson graduated with a Doctor of Ministry from Hartford International University for Religion and Peace on May 13.
The early registration deadline is this Sunday, May 15. The registration will remain open into June, but the price goes up after May 15.
If you have interested campers, please have them register before Sunday. If you have folks who are interested, please let me know by email prior to Sunday, and I will hold the early registration amount for them for a couple of days. We have wonderful scholarship help available to send folks to Camp. The Carlee Downer Fund is for all ages of campers and will supplement the cost of leadership and counselors. The Margaret Ping Grant is for youth and families impacted by poverty. Billings First Church is also offering assistance for Campers. Our goal is to get everyone who wants to go to Camp to Camp.
Camp is a mission of the Conference. We urge you to look out into your communities to find youth who could benefit from the camp experience, but who cannot afford to go to Camp. Find those youth and give them the gift of the summer camp experience this summer. A pastor or Church Camp Leader would be the sponsor for these campers to receive a camp scholarship
Greetings friends in the Montana - Northern Wyoming Conference.
I'm in the PNW conference, where our first cohort of the new online Justice Leadership Program is underway, getting more individuals involved in justice work and leading justice efforts within their congregations. Many people of faith want to do more to address systemic injustice but aren't sure how or where to start. We built this program to provide the knowledge, tools and support to get people started and are recruiting for our next cohort to start in the fall. The Jubilee program is affiliated with both the PNW Conference and National UCC.
Thank you for helping us get more people of faith involved in justice work!
Justice Leadership Program – next program starting this fall
The Justice Leadership Program is wrapping up its first online 6-month Jubilee program (with five participants, four from UCC) and now is the time to apply for the autumn program. Jubilee is an online program for adults of any age who want to integrate faith and justice work in their lives in a meaningful and transformational way. Program associates meet monthly to deepen their faith within a community of their peers while learning skills for systemic change-making.
Join us for the fall program to be informed, equipped, and empowered to act for justice!
Jubilee is a booster grant recipient of Volunteer Ministries of the National UCC, supported by GLOBAL H.O.P.E.
Conference Green Team
Earth Week Poem Beth Taylor Wilson submitted this poem to the University UCC Missoula eBlast during the church's Lenten Carbon Fast.
Nine Things/Jackson Hole
Starting a fire in the wood-burning stove on a cold, hard-frost autumn morning, crystalline sunlight hitting the bricks, the bushes and mountain ash in the yard blazing fiery oranges and reds, the scent of wood smoke.
Summer mornings on a family camping trip, sunlight filtering through the pungent sage and the sibilant murmurs of the creek, as it whispers to the boulders on its quicksilver journey downstream.
Catching a rainbow trout on a dry fly, and then releasing it back into the gin-clear stream`s electric, blue-green riffles.
The shape of the forest grove on Snow King Mountain, out our front windows, a forest shape my son Peter likened to a Tyrannosaurus Rex eating the nearby, neighboring, lodgepole pine trees.
The crunch of snow after a big snow fall, especially walking on a clear, frosty, winter night, condensation rising from the earth like steam, the stars brilliant and hard and crystallized, the endless, dazzling roof of the heavens.
Swimming to the "Rock" at String Lake, the Tetons majestically watching over us as we shiver in the sunlight, and pretend our rocky patio is a comfortable place to sunbathe.
Summer evenings when it is finally warm enough to linger outside in the dusk, enjoying the radiant, rose-hued sunsets above Teton Pass to the west.
Golden quaking aspen in the fall, their spindle shaped leaves giving credence to their name, trembling in rhythm, as if to an inaudible siren song, their leafy driver the capricious wind, barely there.
The magnificent mother moose and her yearling, after devouring the tips of our discarded Christmas Tree out in the front-yard snow, looking through the kitchen window, me watching with trepidation, her enormous nose mere inches away through the glass, my two "yearlings", Heidi and Peter, sitting on the kitchen counter, entranced.
Sometimes you need to ask the difficult question. Deep down inside, you may already know the answer. But it’s not until you actually take the time to assess and realistically address the situation that you decide to act on the solution. While this scenario applies to a variety of issues in life, the topic at hand is the condition of your church property.
Is your congregation considering making improvements on your building to expand ministry or increase revenue? Is it finally addressing deferred maintenance items that worsen every year? Are you ready to reduce your building’s carbon footprint and save money on utilities in the process? Can you enhance digital capabilities to maintain and grow your online community?
If any of these questions apply to you, then now is a good time to talk with the Cornerstone Fund about low-cost loan options that will directly improve your facility and potentially strengthen your congregation.
Maria Coyne, President & CEO of Cornerstone Fund, explains how her organization can help. “The United Church of Christ Cornerstone Fund helps local churches and non-profit organizations improve their facilities and create change within their communities. We do this by offering a variety of transformative lending products and investment options that not only empower these communities, but also help clients earn more on their investment.”
Many building issues, such as facility additions, major infrastructure improvements, technology upgrades and use of space enhancements, may be addressed by Cornerstone Fund products like mortgages, bridge loans, and lines of credit. States Coyne, “Many churches and organizations find that the Cornerstone Fund offers better financing packaging than a local bank. Plus, since the Cornerstone Fund only works with churches and nonprofit organizations, the Fund understands your unique needs and can offer both lending expertise and flexibility – along with great interest rates – that you won’t find anywhere else.”
“For congregations looking to reduce their carbon footprint, the Creation Care Loan Program is specifically dedicated to environmental justice efforts and allows us to offer lower subsidized loan rates to UCC affiliates,” says Coyne. This Creation Care loan product, a new product developed in 2021, may be used for renewable energy installments, building efficiency improvements and other environmental care projects.
Congregations and UCC-affiliated organizations across the country have taken advantage of Cornerstone Fund offerings. Regardless of your church or organization needs, the United Church of Christ Cornerstone Fund may be able to assist. Visit www.CornerstoneFund.org to learn more or contact a lending specialist at 888-UCC-FUND (822-3863) or email@example.com.
We keep Rev. Anne Knighten, of Buffalo Union UCC, and her husband in our prayers as he has critical health issues and weight loss that the doctors have not been able to diagnose.
We keep Rev. Dr. Jennifer Yocum in our prayers of celebration as she recently announced her retirement to University UCC in Missoula.
We keep Rev. Dr. Jim Smith in our prayers as he has faced amputation of toes due to diabetes.
We keep Pastor Robert Shy (Bethlehem UCC Worden) in our prayers as he keeps wait on a prostate cancer diagnosis.