Devotionals
Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

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

Friends,
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 www.facebook.com/moscowfirstumc It is recorded, so you can watch/listen at any time that is convenient.

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - May 20, 2020

 Last week I received word from my supervisor that it was likely our area (Greater Northwest—Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon) churches would be limited from in-person singing.  I shared an article on the risks of singing in the midst of the pandemic in last week’s e-spire.  This week, the conference put out guidelines to help churches create a safe and intentional re-opening process and included was that we are not allowed to sing in worship together, or even do vocal or woodwind recordings in the church.  (We can sing at home and we can record from home and we will work on those options). 

I’ll be honest, the news of these restrictions felt like a gut-punch.  Singing is so much a part of my faith life that I can hardly imagine worship without it.  No singing does not mean no music, but it does mean no singing.  As I thought about this I felt a lot of grief.  I didn’t want to lose another thing in this pandemic, let alone this thing.  And I’ve been needing to give myself permission to grieve.  

And I want to give you that permission too.  You may have immense grief over the loss of singing in worship.  That’s ok.  You may not, and that's ok too.  You may have grief over the countless other losses you’re facing. Loss of “normal”. Loss of routine. Loss of choices. Loss of hugs and time with people you care about.  Loss of vacation time. Loss of family time.  Loss after loss could be named for each of us.  And it’s important that we grieve.  

And it remains true that grief takes many forms. There are phases of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  We will each grieve differently. And there is no set way or order to grieve.  Grief will also manifest in us in different ways. Some of us will have trouble concentrating, some will be tired, some may be angry or irritable.  

Be gracious with yourself.  And try and do some active grieving.  That means, talk about it, journal about it, create art, go for a walk. 

We will get through this. And worship will still be beautiful and meaningful. And, it's ok to grieve. 

 

May God bless you,
Pastor Debbie

 

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

Greetings in the name of Christ,
As Idaho begins their stages of opening, our church leadership has started to imagine what that might mean for our congregation. At the same time, our Bishop extended our church closure through May 30th, with the hope that we might be able to gather for Pentecost on May 31st. Today, she issued a new order that we will remain closed until at least June 15th. (To read that email, click here). Then later in the morning, she hosted a webinar with various pastors from her episcopal area to discuss what values have been part of the discussions on re-opening. In that time she said that she chose June 15 with a hope that maybe those pastors who are retiring or moving this year might be able to say goodbye in person to their congregations before they go. She followed that by saying she was doubtful it would actually happen.

As part of the webinar, she shared various factors that she takes into account when she is making her decisions on behalf of all the churches in her area. I want you to know that the decisions to re-open are complex, and the opinions are varied. Our church council has been reviewing perspectives and information to help us work on a plan to protect the health and safety of our congregation and community while continuing to engage in meaningful ministries.

It feels as though there are a 1000 things to think about before coming back. (This article suggests at least 24) I thought it would be helpful for you to know some of the things we are considering:

• Knowing that re-opening will probably be done in phases (both at the state level and in terms of those who choose to isolate to protect themselves or others due to vulnerabilities), how do we offer in-person ministry and online options?
o If not all people can gather because of health and vulnerabilities, is it fair for some to be invited while others are discouraged from attending?
• One requirement for gatherings is to follow CDC guidelines including 6’ distancing, face masks, and sanitizing. With those things in mind, how do we create intentional space in the sanctuary for 6’ distancing? How do we make or collect sufficient masks for all who attend? How do we ensure sanitizing efforts between groups or services?
• There is research suggesting that singing is more likely to share infection than regular speech, how will we worship if we are prohibited from singing hymns or limited in shared spoken liturgy? (additional article re: singing herere:additional article re: singing here)
• Without data on how wide-spread the infection is in our area, how do we work to prevent the spread of infection in our building or at our ministries? Once data is available, at what level of total population infection (on our way to "herd immunity") is it safe to gather? How many can gather safely?
• Recognizing that isolation has left many lonely and depressed, how do we care for the whole person—emotionally, physically, and spiritually while also seeking to keep people safe from COVID-19?
• Some places (churches, annual conferences, etc) are allowing for gatherings, but not children’s ministries specifically—we know our kids are struggling too, how do we support and love them in the midst of this?
-if we were to do an outdoor worship service, how do we arrange for sound and record for our Livestream service? How do we work with city permits and avoid noise pollution (even a breeze can cause challenges for microphones and recording)?
There are other concerns and questions too. As I said before, these decisions are not simple. We want to be intentional, supportive, loving, and faithful in all of this and we may discern and want to decide how that is done in different ways. So we will engage in compassionate listening and seek God’s wisdom in our decision making.

Honestly, I wish this were easier and more straightforward. Life, including church, is not the same these days. And it is hard. I continue to believe God is good and you all are loved, and we are better in a relationship together (even as we navigate foreign waters of physical distancing). If you have ideas about how we can *do* church (fellowship, mission, worship, small groups, etc) together yet separate, please share with us!

I’m always happy to answer questions and if you would like to share your thoughts about re-opening with the church council as a whole, please email Jason Johnston, church council chair. His email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Peace and health,
Pastor Debbie

p.s. we have various opportunities for an online connection. In case you missed any:
Sunday worship posts at 10:30 at www.facebook.com/moscowfirstumc
Adult Sunday school is at 9:00 on Zoom. To join, contact Rose Prather or Rebecca Haley
Kids & Youth Sunday school 10:00 on Zoom. To join contact pastor Debbie or Crystal Tibbals
Thursday prayer time on Facebook live at 9:00 am

**for Facebook live events, you do NOT need a Facebook account to access them.

 

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