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Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - June 10, 2021

 I am in several Clergy Facebook groups. We use them to resource for lots of things, including when we know someone is moving and hoping to find a church. It’s common to see a post like:

“I have a couple/person/family moving to _____________ looking for a church. They want progressive theology where they can ask lots of questions. They also have an LGBTQIA child/cousin/family member and are wanting an affirming church. Any recommendations?”

You might also find more specific requests like looking for a strong youth ministry, looking for a church where their kids are welcome in the worship space, looking for a healthy small group where they can connect, looking for some support with mental health or trauma recovery, must be inclusive and affirming of their multi-racial family.

You get the picture.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that should always be what the church is….welcoming, open, affirming, diverse, good at conversation around different perspectives. And if you are like me, you might be discouraged to read how many times that can’t be found. You can have a small progressive church that doesn’t offer program ministries (like children and youth) or you can have a big church with lots of programs but isn’t open and affirming.

I was recently the one asking for a friend who lives in Arizona with a non-binary child, working her way through a divorce. She’s a tattoo artist and has a lot of ink and some piercings. She said she’d go to my church if she lived close. I said I’d ask around and see what I could find for her in Kingman. I made my post around her particulars and got the norm of “you can have one but not the other..”

I started to feel like I was asking for a purple unicorn. It breaks my heart that more churches aren’t known for their welcome and diversity.

Friends, I don’t know who you will become as a church in the next few years, I look forward to hearing about the great things you do. But as you dream and imagine who you will be coming out of this pandemic and where you want to focus your time and attention, I hope you’ll aspire to purple unicorn status! I hope you’ll look even more intently at being what so many are looking for in a church and what stands out among the others—one that is welcoming, with intentional programs for lots of ages, and one who reflects the diversity of their community.

Now…a word of affirmation. I was recently catching up with my colleague and friend at the Unitarian Universalist congregation. We were talking about life and ministry and she shared “I send people to your church all the time!” She shared that she knows Moscow FUMC to be welcoming and progressive among the Christian churches and that we have a strong ministry for children and youth.

As a church, FUMC is doing so many things right. And we have more we can do, more ways to live into purple unicorn status. I am so proud to have served among you. I am so grateful to have shared in so many tender and wonderful moments. And I trust you will keep doing great things to grow the kin-dom of God here in Moscow and around the world.


In Christ
Pastor Debbie


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Pastor Debbie E-Spire - May 19, 2021

 It seems that the last few weeks have brought incredible learning (shared scientific studies and findings) and monumental changes in the expectations around the pandemic going forward. Our annual conference issued updated guidelines and options for churches. The CDC shared updated recommendations. And the City of Moscow updated its mandates.

I know many who have rejoiced and celebrated each of those changes. And I know some who are wary and concerned. As these changes affect the life of the church, I want to make sure we engage in the conversation.

In many ways, deciding what we do could seem simple—just follow the CDC recommendations. And that could be simple, if we were all on the same page, in the same stage, and part of the same tier. But the reality is we’re not. We have some folks (many even) who are fully vaccinated. We have some folks who are choosing not to vaccinate. We have some folks who aren’t eligible yet (namely children, but many who are just recently eligible and still in the vaccination process). And we have some folks who despite vaccination are still at risk due to underlying conditions or they are close to someone with underlying conditions. Additionally, singing collectively is still something that has not yet been proven as fully safe (even with a fully vaccinated crowd). That’s the long way of saying, “things aren’t perfectly clear yet”.

I have to take a deep breath there. This pandemic has been so trying and I know we are all ready to be past it. We don’t want to keep overthinking everything we do. I don’t want to deal with complications or added layers any more than the next person. And yet, if I really love my neighbor, if I really believe that every person is worth intentional care and decision-making, I have to.

I think about kids and the fact that so many are still ineligible. What does it mean for me to go sans mask but tell them they have to? What does it mean for any of us to set an example for kids in the church? What would it mean for someone who is choosing not to get the vaccine to be challenged or questioned on that when they come to worship? What does it mean for someone who has a comorbidity that they haven’t shared publicly to be told: “but you don’t need a mask” because they have been vaccinated but still feel incredibly vulnerable because of their other health concerns? Which are all questions that get at the larger question of “What does it mean to create a safe and welcoming space (in the midst of a pandemic)?”

For now, that means still asking people to mask if they are in our building with others. At outside worship, it means masking when we sing and when we are talking in close proximity to each other. Yes, arguably, for some the science says it’s not necessary. And, for the reasons above, we plan, at least for now, to keep masking when we gather as the church.

I know, for some, that’s not what you want to hear. And I’m sorry, not for saying it but for the ways we continue in the liminal space of the pandemic. I am sure there will be LOTS of conversations in the coming months about how we re-open safely and wisely and how we do our best to create safe space (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), how we hold our diversity with grace, and how we offer the best of ourselves to one another.

And in the meantime, I pray God fills us with grace upon grace. May we look with compassion and feel deep empathy for the questions, doubts, frustrations, and fears of others. And may we do our best to honor God by respecting one another in this crazy season of life and ministry.


In Christ,
Pastor Debbie



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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - May 12, 2021

A few years ago for one of my e-spires, I shared a lesson from one of my seminary friends. She would say “EGR” for situations that required extra patience, compassion, or understanding. It stood for Extra Grace Required.

This phase of the pandemic seems to be an EGR time. While none of the pandemic was easy, there were times where the standards and norms for most people and situations were similar. Now, with some folks vaccinated, and some folks waiting, and some folks not getting vaccinated, and children still ineligible we’re in a whole new land. And frankly, it’s challenging.

Extra grace is required. One thing that has been abundantly clear is that we need to be careful not to assume. We need to not assume what people have done or will do in terms of vaccination (including talking about those choices). Some people share details of their vaccination readily and others keep details of their healthcare close to the vest.

And we need to not assume we understand the why of those decisions. I know some folks who were at the front of the line ready to get vaccinated. Whether it was a trust in science and FDA standards or complete exhaustion with shelter in place orders—they were ready. I know other folks who have chosen to wait because of the continued evolution of knowledge about the virus and the vaccine. Others are waiting because of current medical conditions and treatments.

I know some whose vaccine meant they were ready to dine in restaurants again right away and others who continue to do take-out only. I know folks who are ready themselves to shift gears and restore some “normal” but are still very reluctant because they have young children who have no access to the same protections the vaccine offers.

It’s complicated and messy and despite our continued frustration with the pandemic and restrictions, we need to continue to practice patience. As some of us have months being fully vaccinated and others are still waiting, it’s important to keep checking in with each other. Assume the highest levels of precaution and ask others what feels safe. I know it requires extra intentionality and extra communication, and I believe those things serve to benefit our relationships on the whole. How wonderful if we regularly checked to make sure the people we spend time with feel safe and comfortable. How wonderful if we don’t assume that people are operating with the same standards and norms as we are. How wonderful if we communicated regularly to share our own needs and expectations.

May we each be blessed with an extra dose of the Spirit so that we might share the best of God’s fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.


In Christ
Pastor Debbie


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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - May 5, 2021

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 When I moved into my first parsonage my mom recommended I “not touch anything for the first year, just see what grows.” She was half right and half wrong. You see preceding pastors had had a variety of yard philosophies, one had a partner who loved to garden and she planted all kinds of flowers—a lot of which were bulb flowers that weren’t visible by the time I moved in late June but made for a glorious spring, and another had a philosophy of “natural yard”, which basically meant it wasn’t maintained so there was a lot of overgrowth and weeds to deal with. So I took a middle-of-the-road approach. There were some things that were obvious and needed to go and other things that would be a well-kept secret until the season where they bloomed.

Church work is a lot like that. Sometimes that are ministries that have been planted that will only reveal themselves in certain seasons, which is a gift—IF you know where they were planted and don’t rush into change too quickly. And, sometimes some things have simply been neglected or left alone in ways that allowed them to grow over other things or just become full of weeds. As a pastor, distinguishing what to do and when to do it in a new church can be an interesting challenge. Some things need immediate attention otherwise they will overrun and choke out other ministries, and some things need to be left alone so the beauty of what they offer can be revealed in due time. It’s a test of diligence, discernment, and patience. As church members, your role in helping your new pastor/ministry gardener is invaluable. Many of you have planted ministries here. Many of you have tended ministries. Some of you have done the incredibly hard work of weeding and pruning so that new life can happen. Pastor Kim will need you to help her know what is what, help her be patient for the things that are secretly buried underground but will reveal themselves in times, and help her see which things need immediate attention.

And with that encouragement….a word of caution…when I came to Moscow there was this weird plant along the stairs in the backyard. It had these spiny bean things growing and I couldn’t identify what they were. I asked a few people and they couldn’t help, so we weed-whacked them down when we did the lawn. It was late in the season and they were in a very shady spot, which meant there weren’t many others like them around town for me to compare to. But come the next spring I realized what they were—they were lupin, which happens to be one of my favorite flowers! I felt so silly about what we’d done the year before, but I simply hadn’t known. Ministry can be like that too—something that we’ve seen and admired from afar, but not really seen up close or in all its seasons can easily be mistaken for something else and destroyed—ruining its potential in the process.

Whether you’re a long term church-gardener, or you’re just getting started (meaning you’ve been in church leadership forever or you’re barely getting your feet wet) remember, there’s a lot to learn and many things in the life of the church take patience and discernment.


In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - March 15, 2021

This week marks one year. March 8th was our last normal worship service. The one where common reporting said SARS-COVID-19 was much like the flu and we were advised to cover our cough, stay home if we felt ill, and wash our hands.

We acknowledged that we care about each other and we didn’t want to make anyone sick—we agreed to use common sense.

We smiled, we hugged, we shook hands (though some had started refraining), and we had coffee fellowship.

Then everything changed.

More science became available. More people were hospitalized. And it felt like the whole world shifted. Schools closed. Lockdowns started. Playgrounds were cordoned off. And on March 13th our annual conference told all of our UMCs in our area that we had to close, effective immediately.

Our amazing team pivoted immediately. The choir had already rehearsed and spring break hadn’t yet started, so we felt safe having the choir sing that first Sunday. I watched a 20-minute video on videography for worship. Terry and Tony came in to set up and run sound—sharing their time, talents, and personal equipment. Andy prepared the choir. The choir faithfully came on Sunday morning to rehearse. Before the service, we talked through tripod and camera movements and who would do what parts. We prayed for this very new and pretty weird thing and we offered our first Facebook live service.

And then things changed all over Moscow. We were on Spring break and soon notices came that the schools would close for 2 weeks after. Then the shelter in place order came from the governor. Restaurants and coffee shops closed. Stores closed. Grocery stores went to modified schedules. Nursing homes refused visitors. Most people stocked up—on any number of things. Travel plans were canceled. And we all hunkered down for what we imagined would be a short period of time.

I won’t chronicle it all—but I do want to acknowledge these anniversaries. They’re important. And often, they hold emotions we might not even realize. Much like after the death of a loved one we find ourselves extra emotional or inexplicably tired on birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and other significant days, our grief over this pandemic year may be triggered by the significant anniversary days.

Which is the long way of saying—be gentle with yourself and with others in the coming weeks. If you find yourself more reactive, or extra tired, take time to reflect on what this month meant to you last year and the grief of the pandemic. Take time to pray for God’s healing.

And, like me, maybe take time to write it down. Remember what happened, how you felt, and what shifted.

And, know this, we’re on our way through this. We’ve already survived 100+ obstacles we never saw coming and we’ll make it through even more.

For now, may you feel the fullness of your emotions, and may it bring healing and peace.



In Christ,
Pastor Debbie


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Sunday morning parking at the church is available in the high school parking lot on Third Street across from the church and in the city lots west of the church. These lots are available only on Sunday mornings. A small lot for handicapped parking is available just off of Adams Street on the north side of the church, with an accessible entrance directly into the sanctuary. A lift operates between the Fellowship Hall (3rd Street level) and the Sanctuary. William Sound System Receivers and Headsets are available to assist with hearing problems.

322 East Third Street
Moscow, ID 83843


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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...

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