"Through the power of Christ, we are learning to live in simplicity, thankfulness, contentment and
generosity in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana."


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Beyond New Year’s resolutions — make ‘faithful intentions’

New Year’s Resolutions have always been a very pass/fail sort of test for me. I set myself up to forgo chocolate and lo and behold, two weeks into the New Year, I find myself munching nonchalantly on fudge. In the immortal words of comedian Steve Martin, “I forgot.” But worse, one slip up and I feel like I have failed. I can’t go back to “the day before the fudge” so what’s the point? My record is no longer perfect.

But that is the whole point from a spiritual perspective. We’re not perfect. But we are improving.

Resolving to be more spiritual is not a hard date to keep or a hard bar to leap over. It’s a daily resetting of your mind and soul. It’s trying again when you “fail” and knowing that you can never fail if you’re trying. It is…grace. Here a few ideas for growing spiritually and for spurring you to think of your own.

Read more at this link.

The Wild Hope

To look at the last great self-portraits of Rembrandt or to read Pascal or hear Bach's B-minor Mass is to know beyond the need for further evidence that if God is anywhere, he is with them, as he is also with the man behind the meat counter, the woman who scrubs floors at Roosevelt Memorial, the high-school math teacher who explains fractions to the bewildered child. And the step from "God with them" to Emmanuel, "God with us," may not be as great as it seems. 

What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us and our own snowbound, snowblind longing for him.

-Originally published in A Room Called Remember by
Frederick Buechner

New Year’s Eve Prayer

A new year coming and God is with us
In loving, in caring, in hoping and expecting,
God is with us and never lets us go
God live in us, God live with us, God live through us

God keep us faithful through the days that lie ahead
God keep us caring as we see the pain that fills Your world
God keep us serving as we seek to do Your will
God live in us, God live with us, God live through us

God keep us loving toward neighbours near and far
God keep us trusting through the uncertainties of life
God keep us sharing from Your generous abundance
God live in us, God live with us, God live through us

— Christine Sine, on her website Godspace.  

"Twelve Days of Christmas Giving" - Day 7

The Advance
On the seventh day of Christmas,
My true love encouraged folks
To go a-gleaning,
Scholarships for students,
Big cleaning buckets,
Kind tutors teaching,
Clean water pumping,
Two rabbits breeding and
A heifer for a hungry family.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Year in review (July - December)

Summer music from Sunrise in July
July: Annual UMW picnic; The Western Jurisdiction elects a new bishop; Ben & Bev celebrate 60th anniversary;
Pokémon Go craze comes to SUMC; Roaring Lion fire fills the Valley with smoke; The "Apple Dumpling Gang" rides again.

The float crew in August

August: SUMC Creamery Picnic parade entry takes 2nd place; Church picnic @ Larry Creek Campground;
Children's ministry in September
September: Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto installed as Yellowstone Conference bishop; Worship on Wednesday returns; Christianity & World Religions study; Launch of the UMW Saturday Morning Circle.

"Something to Crow About" in October
October: "Stevi UMC has something to crow about" @ the Scarecrow Festival; Yellowstone Conference UMW meets in Missoula; Celebration Sunday; Christianity's Family Tree study; UMW bazaar; Trunk-or-Treat fun.

Finishing the 87 BUMP shoe boxes in November
November: Games Night fun; 87 Christmas shoe boxes sent to BUMP; USA elections; 17th annual Thank Offering; church conference.

Cookie plates delivery by the children in December
December: 59th Hanging of the Greens service; Lively Christmas program from the children; UMW Christmas gathering; Dozens of cookie plates are prepared and delivered by the children; Christmas Eve worship; Worship on Christmas morning & a Christmas afternoon prayer service.

Year in review (January - June)

Children/youth ministry discussion in January
January: Charge conference is held to discuss children/youth work @ Stevi UMC; UMW officers are installed.
Valentine's Dinner fun in February
February: UMM sponsors the 3rd annual Valentine's Dinner; Ash Wednesday begins our Lenten journey with a soup supper; Leap Day!

Easter sunrise service in March
March: One Great Hour of Sharing; Holy Week @ Stevi UMC:  Palm Sunday procession... Maundy Thursday communion... Good Friday led by Rev. Lois Hansen, Easter Sunrise @ Dr. Linda's; Easter breakfast... Easter egg hunt... Celebration Easter worship.
Three baptisms in April!
April: UMW members clean the kitchen; Church yard cleanup day; Trustees lead the bathroom renovations; Ed & Patty Spencer are married; Three baptisms on one Sunday; Worship on Wednesday wraps up (until September).
General Conference in May (Portland)
May: Pastor Charles attends UMC General Conference in Portland; Movie Night; UMW Sunday.

VBS in June
June: Yellowstone Conference in Helena; Church picnic & sing-a-long at the church; UMW prepares dozens of layette kits for UMCOR; Church rummage sale; A great VBS program.

"Twelve Days of Christmas Giving" - Day 6

The Advance
On the sixth day of Christmas,
My true love opened doors
With scholarships for students,
Big cleaning buckets,
Kind tutors teaching,
Clean water pumping,
Two rabbits breeding and
A heifer for a hungry family.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Exciting new study starts January 8th

As a precursor to the study, Methodism & You: A journey from our roots to our future, we'll be watching the movie, Wesley (2009) next week. 

There will be two opportunities to see this film, Wednesday morning at 10:00 am and again on Friday at 6:00 pm.

The study will be offered twice each week: Sundays at 9:00 am (9 am) and again on Wednesdays at 10:00 am. We'll begin the study on the 8th and repeat it again on 11th.

"Twelve Days of Christmas Giving" - Day 5

The Advance
On the fifth day of Christmas,
My true love scrubbed and scrubbed
With big cleaning buckets,
Kind tutors teaching,
Clean water pumping,
Two rabbits breeding and
A heifer for a hungry family.

Help wanted

We're ready to get a New Year underway at Stevi UMC and we need your help to get the year off to a great start.

We have no one signed up to be a liturgist in January (or the rest of 2017) and no one signed up to be either a greeter or an usher in January. 

Please consider calling the church at (406) 777-5443 or send an email to the church office to express your interest.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Twelve Days of Christmas Giving" - Day 4

The Advance
On the fourth day of Christmas,
My true love fueled knowledge
With kind tutors teaching,
Clean water pumping,
Two rabbits breeding and
A heifer for a hungry family.


Peter Paul Rubens
"The Holy Innocents" (Matthew 2:13-18)
(on this day of the “Feast of the Holy Innocents”)

Why, O God,
must we remember
the words
of the slaughter
of the Holy Innocents

Just days ago,
we sought the Christ-child.

The heavens exploded
with joy
and proclamation
and we raised our candles
as if they were
the soft twinkling
of stars in the
Bethlehem night sky.

We heard once again
the story
of shepherds running
from their flocks,
to the very place
where Love was born
and our hearts
were filled with their

We are now looking East,
toward the horizon
for magi
bearing gifts
and we wonder
what gifts
might we also bring.

Why, O God …
Why must we remember
these Holy Innocents now
when we have knelt
at a manger
to witness Love

It is
less painful
and sorrowful
for us
to close
our eyes
to all of this.

Is it because
there are still
Innocents today?

In South Sudan or Aleppo ...
or in our own streets?
Nameless and named?

Is it because
there are still
Innocents today ?
and cold?
Nameless and named? 

Is it because
there are still
Holy Innocents today?
Battered and bruised
in the very place
they call home?
Nameless and named? 

Why, O God,
must we remember
the Holy Innocents?

"Because, my child,
there are Innocents
in this world today,
weeping and
refusing to be
There are still
Herods who
have both
great power and
great fear
within them."

"You must not forget
and you must not
look away."

(c) 2016 revised anna murdock, used by permission

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Twelve Days of Christmas Giving" - Day 3

The Advance.
On the third day of Christmas,
My true love helped quench thirst
With clean water pumping,
Two rabbits breeding and
A heifer for a hungry family.

232rd Anniversary of the Christmas Conference

 The Ordination of Bishop Francis Asbury and Organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church, December 27, 1784, at the Christmas Conference at Lovely Lane Chapel, Baltimore. Engraving by A. Gilchrist Campbell, 1882.

Each time The United Methodist Church elects bishops, the church adds a new chapter to its history.

Let's start with 1784 and the Christmas Conference in Baltimore. What happened there set a precedent for election that continues today.

John Wesley had granted to Dr. Thomas Coke ordaining power as a general superintendent in September of that year and authorized him to go to America to ordain Francis Asbury as a deacon, elder and bishop on successive days.

Asbury refused the office of general superintendent unless the conference elected him. Appointment by Wesley seemed contrary, Asbury thought, to the democratic impulses of a newly independent country.

Read the rest of the story at this link.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Scripture lessons for January 1st

Herod and the Wise Men - Jacob de Wet
The scripture lesson for January 1st, the Epiphany of the Lord Sunday, comes to us from Matthew 2:1-12.

It isn't over yet!

Epiphany of the Lord - January 6th

Remembering the first Martyr

Today is the Feast Day of St. Stephen, Martyr.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"12 Days of Christmas Giving" - Day 2

The Advance.
On the second day of Christmas,
My true love offered income
By giving two chicks a-breeding
And a heifer for a hungry family.

The work of Christmas begins...

This week @ Stevi UMC

7:00 pm, Living Clean


7:00 pm, Choir

8:00 am, WIC

10:00, Drop-in Bible Study (lesson 5)


Sunday: New Year's Day
10:15 am, Praise singing
10:30 am, Worship

11:30 am, Fellowship 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas vespers at Stevi UMC

 "Welcome all wonders in one sight! Eternity shut in a span. Summer in winter, day in night, heaven in earth, and God in man. Great little one whose all-embracing birth brings earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.
- from the Order for Christmas Vespers, Book of Common Prayer

A small band of disciples gathered in the sanctuary late this afternoon, leaving the festivities of home, family, and general merriment to gather as have generations before us, for a service of evening prayer. This service comes from the Book of Common Prayer, the prayer book that ordered the lives of the Wesleys and continues to do so in the churches of the Anglican Communion.

Tonight's service included scripture lessons, prayers of confession and intercession, the Nicene Creed, and communion.

Christmas morning @ SUMC

With a light snow continuing to fall in the Bitterroot Valley this morning, the stalwart faithful gathered for a worship on the occasion of Christmas Day on a Sunday!

The choir celebrated the Lord's birthday with "What a Wonderful Child." Pastor Charles' sermon came from John 1:1-14, the coming of the Light into the world.

Thanks to Ben Longbottom for ensuring that the sidewalks were cleared following the overnight snow.

"12 Days of Christmas Giving" - Day 1

A UMNS Feature By Kathy L. Gilbert*

I have a love/hate relationship with the popular Christmas song, "12 Days of Christmas." I admit it is mostly a hate relationship. However, there were many things about the song that I didn't know.
Did you know, for example, "true love" refers to God and "eight maids a-milking" refer to the eight beatitudes? The lyrics are stuffed with religious symbolism.

Also, it is not 12 days before Christmas, but 12 days after. December 25 is the first day of Christmas and Jan. 6, Epiphany, is the 12th. Maybe you knew that, but it was a revelation to me.

Anyway, I have shamelessly borrowed from the "real" lyrics and changed it into a song about some of the wonderful projects supported by The United Methodist Church, including projects funded by The Advance. While the song only allows for 12 examples, the church has many, many other opportunities for giving.

Try singing this to the original tune. It might not work out as musically harmonious, but I like it better.

"12 Days of Christmas Giving"

On the first day of Christmas,
My true love sent Haiti
A heifer for a hungry family.

Prayer for the Modern Christmas

Father, our complex industrial society looks for a word from You, and finds this simple pastoral scene of shepherds and a stable.  Show Your Church whether it's any good our going on telling the world this particular story.

We love it, of course.  We've loved it since the Church first told it to us, when we were children.  But it hasn't particularly helped us to grow up in wisdom as fast as we grew up in stature.

We thank You for the nostalgia we feel when we hear the Christmas story: but please, our Father, don't let us enjoy the nostalgia too much, in case it encourages us to let our whole religion be an anachronism - something that belongs to a different time in our lives from the time we're now living in, so that we have to waste precious time thinking how to bring it back into the present again.


Teach us that Your Son is here, not there.  Remind us that the gospel is in the fact of Christ, not in His setting; and that the story about His birth does not add up to very much without the story of His claims, His deeds, His death, and His disciples.

Father, You have brought each of us here together on the strength of some vision of Your glory already seen; and in this we are not so unlike the shepherds.  Help us, then, so to approach Bethlehem that our vision may be verified for us, as theirs was for them.  May we, too, become part of the story of Christ's life.  For His sake. Amen.

-Contemporary Prayers for Public Worship, ed. Caryl Micklem (London: SCM Press, 1971), 113-114.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve - pt2

The Star of Bethlehem
Hazel Smith
Christmas Eve offering
"What Child Is This" - the Lewis trio
Candle lighting instructions
What a blessing tonight was! With two worship services on Christmas Day, this promises to be a weekend to remember at Stevi UMC!

Christmas Eve - pt1

The light is with us
Ollie & Rollie bring the Light into the sanctuary
Mickey Boykin lighting the Christ Candle
"Almost There"
Paul Ludington is our liturgist
What a night! With a steady snow falling throughout the day, Christmas Eve at Stevensville UMC looked to be a challenging proposition for many. But the faithful didn't let a few inches of snow deter them as they made their way to the church and shared in the celebration that is the Nativity of the Lord.

The service may be seen on our Youtube Channel.

Thanks to the following for making tonight's worship so meaningful: Brenda Bolton, choir; Mickey Boykin, Advent wreath; Ollie & Rollie Fisher, acolytes;  Donna, Kalyn, & Margaret Lewis, vocal trio; Rev. Lois Hansen, preacher; Julie Ludington, piano; Paul Ludington, liturgist, Dave & Julie McGarvey, ushers; and Hazel Smith, organ. And a thanks to all the choir members who came out on this special night.

A special thanks goes to Tom Bishop, Ben Longbottom, and Paul Ludington for helping to ensure that the sidewalks were cleared!