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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - June 23, 2021

When I lived in Costa Rica, I walked to and from school each day. In our neighborhood, there was a guard shack a block from my host family’s house. Each day when I passed (often with my American roommate) he would greet us. Only, instead of saying “Hola” (hello), he would say “Adios” (goodbye). It was so strange that instead of saludarse (a greeting of hello) he would despedirse ( a greeting of farewell). I don’t remember now who I asked, but the answer I was given was that “Adios” is really a contraction of “a Dios” or “go with God”. In essence, instead of farewell, he was offering a blessing—Godspeed.

As my time pastoring Moscow FUMC comes to a close, I’ve thought a lot about what to say. In many ways, words fall short. Our time in Moscow has been such a gift. We faced major changes before our move, in the move, and shortly after when my mother passed. And this church was a lovely place to land as a family. You welcomed us with open arms. There was food in our fridge as soon as we arrived into a freshly painted and recarpeted parsonage. Pastors often have to forge a path for nursery care and children’s ministry when their kids are the only ones in the church, but we didn’t face that obstacle. You all welcomed Steven into the nursery on our first Sunday and Ruth made fast friends with lots of peers. Rick has always had one of the hardest jobs in our transition as his work and community aren’t inherent like mine, but he soon found work and then found a new opportunity with the University of Idaho and completing his Bachelor’s and completing his Master’s—something I’m not sure he would have pursued had we stayed in southern California.

While I’m far from unconventional, I do tend to push in ministry—asking and encouraging congregations to branch out and try new ministries, look at the scriptures in new ways, and challenge their biases and habits. You all received that like pros! It was such a gift to offer new opportunities and see you rise to the occasion. Together we worked more intentionally in weaving ministries together and creating “hand-offs” from one ministry to the next. We developed more relationships within our community, extending our outreach ministries to do more with greater impact. We collected food, donated furniture, hosted a dinner and auction, gave funds, and learned more about the needs of those around us. We had regular visitors in worship and you greeted them, learned their names, invited them to meals and many of them became part of us as a congregation. You stepped out in faith as we offered new classes for adults, including all church studies. You sent (and some of you went) a mission team to Puerto Rico to help with Hurricane Relief.

When General Conference 2019 took a staunch stance against our LGBTQIA siblings, you wrestled with conversations we had not had together as a congregation and forged a path of discernment, conversation, and understanding to inform our continued work in ministry. Then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, you adapted and shifted with the restrictions of the lockdown and have remained consistent in your compassion and empathy facing tremendous loss and need. You have humbly sacrificed your own wants for the needs of others. You switched to online worship with ease. And you continued to give faithfully. While the pandemic isn’t officially over, we are looking at re-opening and I trust you will be intentional and compassionate as you think about the variety of concerns and possibilities.

In short (TL;DR for our millennials): you all are amazing!!!! I really hope you hear and receive that.

Moscow FUMC is a wonderful church and despite the pandemic, you are in a good place. It’s a primary reason I was willing to even be considered for another church this year. When the Superintendent called in February, he asked “How fiercely [he] need[ed] to protect [me] in Moscow?” In other words, he knew we wanted to stay in Moscow and he wanted to honor that, and…my name kept coming up, and he needed to know real reasons why I shouldn’t be considered. When I talked with Rick he confirmed that he would be done with classes and when I took inventory of the church, it was clear to me that things were good. There could certainly be more we could do as a church, but you didn’t *need* me to stay. In 2019, I didn’t think a pastoral change would bode well for the church. And in 2020, it seemed impossible on all sides. But in 2021, FUMC had shown how healthy you are as a church. You have been faithful, generous, compassionate, courageous in addressing challenging topics, and I could see clearly how God could use the time of re-opening under the leadership of a new pastor as a gift to the future of your ministries.

You are wonderful. Not because I’ve been your pastor, but because of who you are as faithful followers of Jesus. And even though it sometimes might seem like Moscow is the far-side of the annual conference, you are known, loved, and respected as a church. Conference leadership believes in you like I do. And they worked hard to find someone new to come and serve among you. I pray you welcome Pastor Kim with the same warmth, care, and intentionality that you offered me and my family.

Clearly, I’ve found lots of words. But the most important now are: thank you and adios.

Godspeed dear ones.

In Christ

Pastor Debbie


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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

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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


Church Mission

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...