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

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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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - March 9, 2021

 As a pastor, I’ve worked hard to reach out to people who visit the church. If someone leaves their email or phone number on the pew pads, I try to welcome them and offer to meet and answer any questions they have. Most folks appreciate the offer and I’ve shared more than a few cups of coffee over the years. Generally, when folks visit who aren’t familiar with the UMC, one of the half-questions half statements they have is, “They say you move a lot…?”

And so I’d do my best to explain. Itinerancy is foreign to most folks. They recognize that pastors change over the years. But most churches operate with a “call system” which resembles the secular world where a church who is hiring posts their position and candidates who are looking to apply. That isn’t the case in the UMC. We have an “itinerant system” where clergy who are fully ordained have a “guaranteed appointment”, which includes full-time work, with housing, health care, and a pension. (In secular terms, we have tenure). And part of that guaranteed appointment is the pastor’s promise to the bishop and the annual conference to go where we are sent.

Technically, we are eligible to move every single year (July-June). Though moving every single year is much less common. However, there are still retired clergy at Annual Conference who remember the days they came to the annual conference with their belongings packed in a trailer, awaiting the bishop’s appointment (not knowing until the end of June where they would start July 1!). The stories told to me make it sound like many pastors moved every 2-3 years through the 70s and into the 80s. It wasn’t until the 90s that staying 5-7 years became somewhat normative, and the late 90s into the 2000s when pastors were known to stay 12-15 years (20+ is still extra rare). Despite the longer tenure at a given appointment, all United Methodist clergy know we can be moved any year.

Every year in the Fall clergy and churches are given the chance to share their wishes. They can each say “stay, go, or open” and list their reasons why. The pastor speaks for herself and the Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) speaks on behalf of the church. SPRC is the HR committee of the church (so to speak), they work directly with the pastor month in and month out and also work with all staff, which is why they are given the authority to speak on behalf of the church.

The superintendent takes that information back to the bishop and the cabinet (the group of superintendents) for discernment for the coming year’s appointments. From there, there are multiple layers for what is needed. Bishop Woodie White told our polity class in seminary that appointments are made based on three things. First, what is best for the pastor, second, what is best for the church, and third, what is best for the conference—and not always in that order and all three won’t necessarily line up. That doesn’t mean the cabinet doesn’t care about pastors or churches, but it does mean that in the big picture, priorities may align in ways we don’t see from a single perspective.

This year, the cabinet knew there was a clear opening at Wenatchee First UMC where John Coleman Campbell would be retiring, and Sheila Marie would go on to serve as Assistant to Connectional Ministries for both the Inland and Seven Rivers districts. And they were tasked with identifying the pastor to step into that ministry. After more than a month of conversation, prayer, and discernment, the cabinet asked me to discern if that is a church where I could see myself serving well.

That’s the abbreviated version. I really knew very little about the church in Wenatchee, but I did know that I trust our Superintendent, Gregg Sealey, to attend to what is best for Moscow First, for me, and for my family. I also knew that Moscow FUMC is a healthy and vibrant church. I know that the pandemic year has been exceedingly hard, and yet despite that, we have continued to have active and relevant ministries. We have continued to serve others in a variety of ways. And I knew that looking ahead we needed to be asking “What do we want to do as a church, why do we want to do it, and how does it help us grow in faithfulness?” Those are good questions to be asked under any circumstances, but maybe even better when beginning a new season of ministry with a new pastor. I told Gregg I trusted him, and that I would be very happy to stay at Moscow for another 10 years.

Honestly, I love doing life and ministry here and with all of you. I have seen God do so much among us and through us. You inspire me and encourage me. You have loved my family well and we have loved going on adventures, exploring, and being part of such an intentional community. This news is hard for us too. We’re still processing it all and figuring out what needs to happen next. And, I know the cabinet cares about this church—about you—and will work just as hard to find the best pastor for the next chapter of ministry in Moscow.

Please know, I see the Holy Spirit at work in this process. And, I don’t think there’s ever a perfect year for a move (even retirement brings grief). Itinerancy isn’t a perfect system, but it does allow for collegiality, and development of more well-rounded ministries (since each pastor brings different gifts, they also help the church grow in unique ways, shaping the community to develop more holistically). And please know that I am still your pastor for the coming months. I’m here to pray with you, share God’s word with you, and do life together. If you need a listening ear, some biblical counsel, a shoulder to lean on, someone to pray for you, or just a friendly face, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Here's to new things!
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - February 3, 2021

When I was in seminary, I got connected with the United Methodist Women (UMW) of the North Georgia Conference. I was invited to help with their Mission U (a conference on missions in the UMC), teach kids, lead workshops, and speak at retreats. I have a variety of stories I could tell from those times, but the one that keeps coming to mind is from a worship service at a retreat. I had been asked to preach for the weekend, and as a student, I had only preached one other time. So, I worked with my preaching professor, and then the other preaching professor, and shaped and formed my sermons until they were as good as I could get them. That Saturday night came (the big preaching event of the weekend) and we were in this big room of a lodge with a nice fire behind the pulpit and the women around the room. I don’t remember the numbers well, but I’d say there were probably about 75 people there. And as I started to preach, the smoke from the fire burned my eyes. My eyes started to water and I took a minute to try and clear them. Only they just kept burning and my eyes kept watering. I could barely open them it was so bad. Now, the room wasn’t particularly smokey. I don’t remember coughing or any of the women coughing or anyone getting up to tend the fire. I just had this strong reaction to the smoke. But I also had a sermon to read and preach. Only I couldn’t see it with my eyes watering so badly. So, I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time---I kept preaching. I had labored on that sermon for hours. Talked about it to both professors. Gone in and edited it again. While I didn’t have it memorized, I did know what I planned to say. I simply had to rely on my preparation and hope for the best. I preached the rest of the sermon, basically blinded by the smoke, and then went and sat down. Oddly enough, no one seemed bothered by my watering eyes or my hindered preaching. After I sat down (I don’t remember how long it took) things cleared up and my eyes stopped burning, and hence stopped watering and I was fine the rest of the night.

I had a couple of take-aways from that evening. One was that if I prepared well, I could rely on my preparation if I had to. Even if every detail didn’t go according to plan, I could use the planning I had done. I also learned that sometimes we are forced to walk (or preach) blind. Not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and move forward.

Twelve months into the pandemic and I think we’ve all been walking blind for a bit. (If only I had this story on my heart back at the start of this!) In many ways, we haven’t and don’t know what the future will hold. We have hopes, but we hardly know when exactly it will happen. So, we have to keep relying on our preparation—trusting that what we know from the past will be enough for now, and in many ways taking little steps of faith in order to just keep going. It’s really hard to see the future right now. It’s hard to plan for particulars for April, or May, let alone June, July, or August. So, we have to take a breath and do the best we can.

 

Peace and grace,
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - February 16, 2021

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the season of Lent (the 40 days, plus Sundays) of preparation before Easter. Traditionally it’s a time of sacrifice and fasting….spiritual cleansing of sorts to then fully embrace the goodness and grace of Easter.

And, over the centuries, the practices of fasting have sometimes felt more punitive than purifying. For some, Lent is only about the things they can’t have—meat, alcohol, coffee, chocolate, dessert, and less about opening their hearts to the movement of God. In the decades I’ve been alive, I’ve seen significant movement within the church for folks to find things to embrace, and not just sacrifices to make. I’ve been invited to add in a practice of prayer, a Bible study, journaling, meditation, music, and time in an intentional relationship.

This year, when asked, I’ve heard a chorus of clergy say “I’m not giving anything else up, I’ve sacrificed enough this year!” Which I totally get. AND, I know many folks have allowed “coping mechanisms” of alcohol, comfort food, and other vices to take hold in the pandemic and haven’t turned to God as they might have otherwise. If that rings true for you, I’d invite you to think about setting something aside this Lent. Personally, I’ve allowed Facebook to be a numbing agent. When I need a diversion, I scroll and it’s not always (often?) life-giving. So, one of my Lenten fasts is regularly scrolling social media. I will allow myself just one time a day to check-in, post for myself and the church page, and check-in with friends, and then off again.

The other side of the season is to add in practices…find things that nurture your relationship with God. Maybe that’s a dedicated time of prayer, maybe it’s reading a book on faith, studying a book of the Bible, singing from the hymnal or with your favorite praise songs, or sending care cards to family and friends. There are lots of options.

You can always choose multiple things. Whatever you do, I do hope you will think about what you can do intentionally to nurture your relationship with God. Maybe you’ll give up something so you can be more mindful and ask God to fill the needs in your heart and mind, or maybe you’ll add in a practice to establish a more regular rhythm in your discipleship.

For all of us, I pray that we receive the gifts of the season.

Through the church, we do have a few special offerings for Lent. We hope you’ll take advantage of the ways that feel right to you.

We are using the Ash Wednesday service created and offered by the District office. The service is about 45 minutes long and will post on our Facebook page at 6 am tomorrow. It will then be available any time after. I invite you to take time to worship, to focus on the themes of repentance for Ash Wednesday, and start Lent intentionally.

Small group book study on “The Sermon on the Mount” by Amy Jill Levine. We have multiple days and times that are possibilities. Many started this week, but it’s not too late to join. For class times you can use this link, or you can email Jenny at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We are making prayer flags. We have swatches of fabric for you to write your prayers and we will string them together to make a prayer banner. They can be specific prayers or general ones. You’re invited to use the open sanctuary times (listed below) to come to do a swatch (or two or three) or to email me and I can do a door-drop delivery.

We are taking a special offering to help the World Health Organization and the United Nations deliver and administer COVID-19 vaccines in the developing world. To donate, send a check or make a Paypal donation and use “vaccines” in the memo line.

We are offering various ministry opportunities for children and youth. This includes a small group study at 9 am online on Sundays for teens. “Take 10” (at 10:10 on Sunday mornings for elementary and Junior High aged kids) and a “Chopped Challenge” on a Sunday afternoon. If you have a kiddo or youth who would like to participate, please contact Jenny at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We are opening the sanctuary for prayer on Sunday mornings from 9:30-10:30 (starting 2/21) and Wednesday afternoons from 4:00-5:00 pm (starting 2/24). You may enter the sanctuary from the main door or the accessible entrance. There will be a host to greet you and answer questions if you have them. You must mask and distance when in the building.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Debbie

 

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Read more: Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - February 16, 2021

Pastor Debbie E-Spire- - February 10, 2021

In Sunday's service, I talked about the call of the disciples and hope that you (like I) found some more humanity in their relationship...Jesus building rapport and getting to know the fishermen before inviting them to follow him. At the end of the sermon, I share some questions for reflection. I offer them here in case you need to see them, or a little nudge to pray about them. As I said on Sunday, if you are willing to share where you are in your journey, I'd love to hear from you.

If you have a prayer journal—even if you don’t, I hope that you’ll write these down—ask:
Where am I as a disciple of Jesus?
Am I a disciple? Am I a follower?
Or am I still waiting for this guy to mean something?
When you think about Jesus, does it feel like he’s some random dude asking weird questions?
Or is he someone who’s curious and listening to you, starting to know you?
Or does it feel like he’s someone who’s inviting you to live differently?
Or does it feel like those things have already happened and you’re in it…following him and watching him and learning from him as part of a deep friendship?

 

Peace and health,
Pastor Debbie

 

 

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Read more: Pastor Debbie E-Spire- - February 10, 2021

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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.

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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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