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

Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - August 21, 2020

 Hello Moscow Family!
I wanted to check in and let you know how things have gone this summer in terms of our ministries and re-opening.

First, thank you to all who filled out the survey we sent about re-opening. Knowing your inclinations has been helpful in thinking about ministries this summer and into the Fall.

We are currently in the orange zone of re-opening (aka Phase 2 of the GNW reopening plan). It allows us up to 10 for worship recording, up to 10 for small groups (though online is still preferred), pastoral visits, outdoor worship with safety precautions (which we will do Saturday 8/22 at 7 pm--please contact me asap if you haven't yet received that information), and continued work with essential ministries like AA and Family Promise.

We have created and submitted a plan for the yellow zone/Phase 3 of re-opening. We will not be allowed to move into that until local COVID cases decrease dramatically. A standard marker for consideration, though not an automatic green light is 25 cases/100,000. That number can be found here. Today's number for Latah county is 120/100,000. As you can see we are well above the indicator. Without general population testing and more consistent contact tracing for our area, it is likely we will continue to see a rise in cases over the next few weeks. The DS and bishop also look at Whitman county numbers when considering re-opening since there is so much cross over in our communities.

That is the long way of saying we are likely to stay in the orange zone for the foreseeable future, though we do have plans for how to safely move into the next phase when we are allowed. That plan includes limiting the capacity of each room, disinfecting practices, and contact tracing information for when people enter and use the building.

That's all hard to share. I wish I had different news. I wish we had been able to keep our numbers low so we could do more together.

But we do still have an incredible team for our virtual services and would love to continue including more people. We can work to include you at a full-service recording, or record you separately during the week and plug in your recording where it fits. You could pray, share a testimony, read a scripture, dance, read a poem, share with the children, or share a musical piece. If you would like to participate in one of those ways, please let me know.

We also are planning small groups for the Fall (Starting after Labor Day). We are looking for leaders who would be willing to do a class on zoom, and potentially those who could do something in person (following our restrictions on numbers and public safety). If you are interested in a small group (leading or participating), please contact Crystal at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We will also see how the outdoor service goes and see if we might offer more of those. Please stay tuned as we keep planning and working on what is possible.

Thank you for your faithfulness in all of this. I miss seeing you on Sundays and relish when I happen upon you at the store or on the street.

If I can be praying specifically for you, please feel free to reach out at any time. I'm always happy to pray privately and treat requests as private unless you give me permission to share them with others.


In Christ,
Pastor Debbie



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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - July 31, 2020


 When I first tried meditation in college, the facilitator told us to close our eyes and imagine a peaceful place. I readily called Lake Mary to mind. It was the place my father had spent his summers growing up. And because his parents later bought a cabin near the lake, it was also a place we spent time as a family each year. There wasn’t a TV, and it was before the internet or laptop computers, so when you went to the cabin you really got away from things. We read books, we played cards and board games, we’d sit on the porch and listen to the birds and the wind rustling through the pine trees, and we went on lots of hikes. As a child, I wasn’t a real fan of the hikes. I was the youngest and the slowest, and always brought up the rear. It felt as though every time I caught up the others would start again, so I was perpetually behind. My whole family reports that I complained easily and regularly. Despite everyone’s recollections of my whining, Lake Mary was a favorite place. As an adult, I looked forward to our time back at the cabin.


In 2015, Rick, Ruth, and I made the trek up the hill (it’s about 6 hours from Los Angeles—in the highest mountains in the contiguous US) and had a family trip anticipating Steven’s arrival in our family. We had a fun family photoshoot at the lake, which was very low that year and allowed us to walk in what would normally be covered by water. This year is the first year we’ve been able to come back to visit. We waffled on whether we should make the trip—was it safe with COVID and could we properly keep our family safe? Those were not easy decisions, but we’ve tried to be very cautious in the Pandemic and believed the family time together would be important. And, it was amazing. The familiarity of the sights and sounds was so good for me in mind, body, and Spirit. We did many of the hikes I did as a child, but this time I didn’t whine. Instead, I looked around and appreciated the changing vistas, the amazing diversity of God’s creation, even in such a small (relative) area, and I relished making memories with my kids. The porch still offers the same sweet solace—the smell of pine warmed by the sun, the chipmunks racing around outside (which our kids LOVED and named and chased all day every day!), the sterling jays dropping by for a visit, and the forced disconnect—there’s a TV now…but only with a DVD player, still no internet or cable.
This truly was Sabbath time—a chance for rest and restoration, renewal, and nurturing of my whole self.
As you know, living in the pandemic has been hard. It’s been hard to adapt, and then adapt again, and then adapt some more. While I think we are out of “crisis mode”, it’s been hard to settle in and imagine life and ministry for the long view. Stopping for extended Sabbath has helped me reset and hopefully will help me settle into more of our new norms in terms of planning and imagining life as a church in the foreseeable future.
I’m very grateful we get to go home to Moscow. July is the anniversary month, so to speak, for United Methodists, it marks the beginning of the appointment year and while it goes fairly unnoticed when we are reappointed (meaning sent back to the same church instead of sent to a new one), it’s still pretty cool to think we are starting year 5 together at Moscow First. I love doing church with all of you. And despite the pandemic, I’m excited for another year together.
We are traveling home this weekend and I covet your prayers for safe travels. I’ll be sheltering at home this next week to help ensure we haven’t picked up the virus while we were away, and I’m excited to be reading for and studying for our next worship series on grace. I’ll be available by phone and email if there’s anything you’d like to discuss.


In Christ,
Pastor Debbie


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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - July 13, 2020

As part of our work in the church, we want to hear from YOU. We have created a survey to help us know how you have been and want to be engaging in our ministries going forward. It should take less than 5 minutes and can be done by one person in your household answering for all, or multiple, but may require the second user to work from a different IP address. Please take a few minutes to answer and help us plan more appropriately. Your answers will not be shared in any person-specific way.


Last week, someone asked: What responsibility does the church have in societal behavior modification during a pandemic?

I wrote out my answer to him and thought it might be helpful to share with all of you too. Please know I'm always happy to have a conversation and answer any questions you have about what we are doing or why we are doing it. Here's what I said:

I don't have a great/perfect/right answer. I believe we (UMC in general, plus most mainline folks) have tried to live faithfully in closing and then re-opening slowly and intentionally. There are many ministries that we have learned to do online and it is both burdensome and a blessing. AND, many ministries simply cannot happen online...often crisis care and deeply emotional care (related to illness, death, abuse, mental health, and more).

Trying to find a balance in caring for the whole person and reaching the varied needs of people while also slowing the spread and protecting public health is incredibly challenging.

The people I know and do ministry with genuinely care about the health of *their* people and the welfare of the community. It is hard to feed the hungry when you can't be in the kitchen to cook or serve a meal. It is hard to minister to the lost and the lonely when they only find our doors closed. Ministry is primarily the work of and with and for the people. It's hard to do that work virtually. I'm not saying there shouldn't be extreme care and caution, but there is such a large messy picture to work on.

Locally, you know we have stayed virtual for most everything. We are working on a plan to take the next step in re-opening, which would allow for in-person worship with fewer than 50 persons (including masking, distancing, disinfecting, and more) and trying to make those plans wisely. You may also have noted, we are seeing a significant community spread in our county and we don't take those cases lightly.

On the macro level, I think the church takes responsibility by modeling *good* behavior...taking seriously the risks and local numbers, creating plans for the what-ifs....what if we have to shelter in place again? What if someone with COVID comes to our worship space and we have to do contact tracing? What if someone from our congregation gets the virus and falls seriously ill? How do we come alongside (while protecting individuals) to offer support and care for them or their families?

As a general practice, we mask. We ask others to mask. We use fresh air where it's available. We open windows and doors if we need to be inside for our gathering (while recognizing that won't be feasible in the winter months...) We wash religiously. We distance. We stay extra mindful of the most vulnerable within our reach. And we pray for those who are sick, those who are working the frontlines, those who are researching to find a cure, and those in office who should be offering leadership in all of this.

We also continue to work at being the church in significant ways. We have a fund to help those with financial needs. Throughout the pandemic, we have been able to pay for gas, buy groceries, stock the little pantry, provide emergency shelter at a hotel, and help pay bills for individuals. We are looking into ways we might potentially help our local schools for the Fall. We are getting creative about how to support our local ministry partners in their work as we know all have been impacted financially.

Though our doors have been closed, we are still very much a church and are committed to sharing the Good News of Jesus in as many ways as possible.

And I want to add, I am so grateful for all of you! You are amazing and have been so gracious about our adaptations and changes, including the sacrifices you have made in how we do worship, small groups, and meetings. Your generosity has helped brighten spirits, nurture to those who are struggling, and strengthen the work we are doing in this strange and unpredictable times.

Again, I encourage you to take the survey. And I ask you to pray for our community that we can slow the current spread and help our area stay safe and healthy.

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie


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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - June 18, 2020


In seminary, after a powerful and charismatic trip to Cuba, a few friends and I formed a prayer group. We would meet weekly, share any specific requests we had, and then pray and sing as the Spirit-led. Those friendships were primary for me then and have sustained me in the 14 years since.

We regularly engaged in prayer with and for one another. One friend in particular would text, "please pray. EGR." EGR stood for extra grace required. It was code for "dealing with a hard person" (or situation).

These weeks feel like we all need to be praying and acknowledging "EGR". I first thought about writing about Extra Grace Required as Idaho began re-opening. Navigating the waters of what was normal or acceptable for each person or household is tricky. Many times it seemed we didn't know what we weren't ok with until it was staring us in the face and we had this sense of "oh, we're doing that again already?!?" Extra grace required. We're not all in the same place in terms of what should and should not be happening with the reopening. We need compassion, patience, and kindness for one another in this process. We need that which we haven't earned and don't deserve. We need grace.

And then came the reports about Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Tayler, and George Floyd, followed by the protests and a resurgence of voice for the Black Lives Matter movement. Our understandings of racism and sensitivities around the protests are different. Extra Grace Required.

These are not easy and clear cut topics and conversations. Again we need that which we haven't earned and don't deserve: more grace. We need grace so we can slow down and listen so that we might truly hear the perspective of the other. We need grace to find the words to articulate or own views and questions. We need grace for all the ways we fail to understand, and grace for the ways we fail to live faithfully as disciples of Jesus.

God's agape love is at the heart of the Gospel. Helping others live in the fullness of health, justice, and community that God desires is core to who we are as Christians. And doing those things can take many forms, both in the midst of a pandemic and in confronting racism. We won't all necessarily be on the same page of how we live our calling, but I hope and pray we are all aiming in the same direction--God's kingdom here on earth.

Getting there is likely going to be a little rocky, so please pray, for me and one another, for there's extra grace required.

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie



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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - June 10, 2020

It has been an incredible couple of weeks. I know there are lots of positions on racism, race-based violence, and how we address it in our society. And I know we are not all on the same page. I've thought a lot about how I might address it with our congregation and admit I am still winding my way through it. I'm sure at some point I will share some of my personal stories and ways I've had to confront racism in my own thoughts and life. But, for starters, I thought I would share a bit about the UMC and its history and stance.

First, the UMC has clear positions about racism (as well as just about every other societal and global issue). Some of those can be found in the Social Principles of the Book of Discipline, some are expressed more explicitly with a call to action or change found in the Book of Resolutions. Many of those can be searched easily online, others can be found in the books themselves (which I'm always happy to loan out).

And...despite our current positions, we have a messy history in race relations. Long before we were the UMC, we were simply the Methodist Church. And in the Methodist Church of the 1800s, we had bishops who owned slaves and churches that required black folks to sit separately in the balcony. There were a variety of issues that came to a head around the Civil War, but part of what we saw in the church was divisions about those injustices. Some of which led to new denominations. The UMC has many "cousins" including the AME, AME Zion, and CME churches all of which broke off at different times for somewhat different reasons mostly relating to race relations. Later the UMC split into UMC North (Union supported) and UMC South (confederate support) only to come back together decades later.

That's the long way (though abbreviated in all the details) of saying, we are part of an imperfect church with an imperfect history, including racial exclusion and unjust policy and practices. We are also not new to different views being held within the same church.

We have tried to be intentional about how we do the work of the church in ways that do value all persons equally, though we certainly still have a long way to go. The structure of the denomination was originally designed for the US. Even though the church has grown to be a global denomination (and one of the largest), our structure didn't change with our global expansion. So we still have issues with figuring out how to be a global church with integrity. This includes valuing different cultures, values, and ways of being equal with what you find in the US (even recognizing that we don't have one single way of doing church).

One of our General Commissions (aka big committees with a particular focus) is the General Commission on Race and Religion (GCORR). This group helps identify racial injustices and help us move forward. They have some great studies and resources for growing in faith and knowledge in these areas. We are considering using one of their studies this summer for anyone interested. The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) works a lot on issues related to policy. They are housed in the only religious building on Capitol Hill and lobby to change policy to be more just across the nation and around the world. If you search "race" on their site, you'll see articles past and present related to racial justice. This is not a new issue for our denomination.

As a denomination, we don't require ascription to our church's positions--not in theology or social issues. If you aren't 100% in agreement with what you find here, please know that's ok. We are all on a journey. But I do hope you know that our denomination has been working on issues of equality and justice for centuries. These are not new priorities. Many of the reasons I choose to be a part of the UMC is because of its commitment to changing the world to be more representative of the kingdom of God here on earth--one where everyone has access to clean water, food, and education, one where people are given the opportunity to be their best selves without constantly battling discrimination and mistreatment.

The church is still working toward justice. Our Council of Bishops put out a statement this week denouncing racism and asking for us to work toward a better future. Various annual conferences have been speaking out and hosting webinars and discussions to help us all hear from our siblings of color. One thing I hope we can see is that racism is not something that will be cured with just a few simple actions. It must become a commitment of social health for the long haul if we truly want things to be different in the future.

I hope you know that I am always open to dialogue. And I am a work in progress myself. I am still learning. I still fail, and still, have to try and redeem myself when I do.

I do believe in the God of redemption. I believe God can help us change our ways so that we are better as a community and as a country. So as I keep learning, I also keep praying, and I hope you will too.

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

p.s. Miles Sutton has put together an online piano recital as a blessing to our church as he prepares to move to Chicago. We pre-recorded worship for the next two Sundays, so he'll still be with us for those Sundays. It will post at 4 pm today. To watch/listen to the recital, please visit It is recorded, so you can watch/listen at any time that is convenient.


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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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