pic: decorating at Big Timber First Congregational
“Tell me your story; I’ve got time and want to hear.” These might be the most precious words a person can say to another person, other than “I love you.” In my experiences, it has happened between strangers catching up to each other on the el Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, as well as between two people who have just met as they sit next to each other on a train or plane. It is also what happens in the best search committee interviews when a church is looking for a new pastor. Sometimes it takes more relational energy than it should, to do this with our closest acquaintances. Offering the best of ourselves by taking time to listen to someone is a gift that gives back relationship.
News from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory this week heralded the scientific achievement of this same dynamic of getting out more than was put it in. A nuclear fusion test for the first time produced more energy than the laser used to create it. Listening to another person can create more relationship than what it takes to get a conversation started. While I don’t claim a tritium isotope’s amount of understanding about nuclear fusion, and at times wonder if I have any more understanding about human relationships, I do know that making time is key. Nuclear fusion calls it “confinement time” and for relationships it might best be called “gift time.” Occasionally, some confinement times, like a snow day, can be a gift time for our relationships.
I see a lot of activity this Advent season in preparation for Christmas. While I was in Atlanta for a meeting last week at a convention hotel across from a significant shopping mall I saw a constant traffic jam in and out of the area’s parking lots. It seemed everyone was getting out. The CoVid pandemic did confine us in many ways and also showed us how to slow down. Perhaps the gift-shopping of this season reflects the deep appreciation we have gained for people who have become all the more important to us over the past few years. For all we are moved to give in appreciation, may we find even more ways to give time to listen.
When Listening Happens
There has been time for deep listening in the Conference that is resuting in the gift of new leadership. See the announcement below from Moderator Hank Branom. The discernment of the search committee and many candidates shows how much more comes in taking time to listen.
Greetings this Advent season. It is with great joy that I write to let you know that the board of directors has unanimously accepted the recommendation of the search committee and joined in covenant with the Rev. Anthony Clark as our Transitional Conference Minister. Tony will begin March 1, 2023 in a mentee relationship with Marc Stewart. Tony will fully assume his duties April 1, 2023. Rev. Clark has served the United Church of Christ in a wide variety of roles. He has served as local church pastor in Missouri, Minnesota and California, as chaplain, as teacher and as member of the national staff for Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA). In that role, he was instrumental in developing the new Manual on Ministry. One of his references described Tony as " a thoughtful, conscientious, organized, grounded, spirited, kind, committed, studious, and focused leader. Additionally, He is also an exceptional writer, a passionate preacher, justice-minded, and proud of his UCC heritage and identity."
Tony describes his ministry as formed by his desire for "Strategically creating the future of God's church". We look forward to journeying with Rev. Clark into the future of our conference. Tony is a graduate of Eden Theological Seminary. He has a B.S. and D.V.M. from the Ohio State University and practiced veterinary medicine prior to seminary. He plans to relocate to Billings by February. I wish you a Merry Christmas and look forward to our exciting New Year.
The MT-NWy Conference participates in the Montana VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters). During the first months following the last summer's flooding, the MT VOAD met twice weekly to coordinate participating agencies' responses. VOAD otherwise meets monthly. Our Conference Disaster Response Team is co-chaired by Rev. Dr. Pam Peterson and Pastor Joshua Rau.
Prayers and Advocacy
Where? Washington, D.C. in late March
Helena in January or February
With whom? With Green Team members
Why? We want to share our concern and prayers for the planet
What? We will deliver to U.S. Senators and to Montana legislators beaded hanging paper cranes filled with prayers for the planet
This Advent, may you remember that you belong—to a story etched into the wrinkles of time, to generations that have come before and will come after, to a love that won’t let you go. Maybe you have a tie that belonged to your grandfather, mom's scarf, or a piece of a baby blanket? These items can all be woven into the weaving structure at the tree's center.
There are clips on the branches to hold pictures, recipe cards, or a letter, and spots from which to hang ornaments, or place an old clip-on earring.
We hope to see this tree full of the pictures and pieces of the people who helped shape you and brought you to where you are today, and hear the stories behind each one, from the people that make up our church family.
Billings Mayflower UCC with Billings First Congregational UCC
Rev. Amy Carter reminds us when Billings organized against hate
Almost 30 years ago, Billings First Congregational Church, other religious and civic leaders, and the City of Billings took a stand against hate when a cinder block aimed at a window decorated with the Star of David and a menorah was thrown into the bedroom of a 5-year-old boy named Isaac Schnitzer.
Shortly thereafter, leaders of our sister church, Billings First Congregational Church, Margie MacDonald and Rev. Keith Torney, lit up with an idea to have the children and youth draw and color menorahs and then invite folks to post them in their windows. That week hundreds of menorahs appeared in the windows of Christian homes. On December 7th of that year, the Billings Gazette published a full-page picture of a menorah to cut out and tape up. It is estimated that over 6,000 menorahs were taped to windows, churches, and local businesses.
Friends, we will not be silent in the face of hate, in the rise of anti-Semitism, in the proliferation of violent rhetoric that leads to real-world violence against God’s beloved children.
Let us join together with the people of our sister church in solidarity for this event by meeting in front of Billings First Church at 5 pm, and then walk over to the Billings Gazette for this event.
Church member, Bruce Smith, offers some wisdom about change on the Pilgrim UCC blog:
"We need to be aware of what others are going through. With busy, often over committed lives, we may not always be as sensitive as we might. Cultivating that awareness may be a beneficial practice in response to others’ difficult changes."
The Director of Children’s Ministry is an hourly, 9-month position for 13-15 hr/week from September – June. Clink on pic for more information.
Intermountain Children's Home
Intermountain Children's Home ministers throughout the region, and is one of our historically related missions. We need a rep for the IMCH board. Learn about the excellent ministries of IMCH here, and consider how you can support this important mission.
There is a serious lack of trained clergy available for rural or part-time positions. Some churches may not receive any inquiries after a year of looking. Keep our vacant churches in your care and prayer. Look within your congregations, too, considering who may be open to leading people in worship and in pastoral care.
Broadus Powder River UCC, searching with ELCA to share a pastor; no profiles have been surfaced yet from either UCC or ELCA
Baker UCC has a new church profile especially developed for rural churches. but has received less than one profile a year since becoming vacant in 2013