Search Committee News

Over the years St. Andrew’s and St. John’s have become fraternal twins in the best of Episcopal traditions: love, friendship and welcoming warmth engendered by two congregations nurtured by one rector. As the current rector retires on Aug. 1, the doors are open to applicants excited by the opportunities of serving two churches, one in Livingston, Montana, and the other in Emigrant a few miles to the south. While the congregants are of widely varied backgrounds and ages, they are committed to living and hearing the message of Christ. The successful applicant will understand and express the values of Progressive Christianity and the writings of theologians such as Marcus Borg, as well as be familiar with and respectful of our Anglican roots in the Celtic traditions. A rector who confidently expresses the teachings of Jesus for our time while being adept at framing them in the cultural and historical implications of Jesus’ times will understand how our two parishes have grown spiritually. The profiles of each church will appeal to those who also feel such a commitment and who will appreciate the bonus of living in the beautiful Paradise Valley, which offers fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, camping, hunting, rafting and skiing, with Yellowstone National Park nearby.

Profile of Saint John’s Episcopal Church

Nestled in the four-corner town of Emigrant, Montana, a stone’s throw from the Yellowstone River and 35 miles from Yellowstone National Park, is Saint John’s Episcopal Church. The chapel was built i 1901 by hardworking people who shared a vision bringing God and community together in the aptly named Paradise Valley. That vision’s legacy continues to this day.

An average of 34 congregants gather for 8 a.m. services, and during the summer and fall, the parish is blessed with additional members who choose to winter elsewhere.  Summer months often see pews filled with 50 or more people. June marks the first of the returns of these long-time friends to the church, allowing the snow birds and regulars to reconnect and share welcomes and stories of past months.

The year round congregation includes ranchers, farmers, teachers, writers, retirees, singles and married couples. While the average age of the congregation is above 50 several young families with young children and teens have found Saint John’s a warm and welcoming place. Blessed with the recent addition of young families, kind-hearted volunteers provide Sunday School to the youngest members during the readings and sermon. The children return from class to participate in the Eucharist, which is open to all who come to the rail. There is no litmus test at Saint John’s to take the bread and wine, “for at God’s table, everyone is welcome.”

Saint John’s, situated in the middle of the 38-mile long Paradise Valley, has been enriched by generations of families dedicated to ensuring that the history and legacy of service to the community beyond the congregation is imparted to all its members. This is a hands-on church with emphasis on openness, friendliness, and ready volunteers when there is need. The love that is so often spoken of in churches is more than talk at Saint Johns. Newcomers often share that they feel the warmth upon walking in the door. This caring atmosphere is the reason many visitors return and stay. Saint John’s is a safe place where ideas and questions are welcome and encouraged.

Saint John’s is blessed with an array of talented people to help run the church on day to day business.

Perhaps the most successful and important volunteer service is the “Come to the Table” breakfast. Every Sunday, cooks and bakers share homemade food with their church family. Volunteers sign up to bring egg dishes, meats, fresh fruits, and home baked breads. (Pancakes with homemade chokecherry syrup are always a treat!) This breakfast feeds bodies and souls and has brought a personal closeness to the congregation. Many lifetime friendships have risen from St. John’s yeast by sharing bread at the Eucharist and at the breakfast table. The value of this breakfast tradition can’t be overstated.

In line with this faith and food tradition, the church also collects several hundred pounds of food annually, (all donated by church members,) for a local food bank.

At Saint John’s, there is a strong emphasis on congregants participating beyond Sunday services. This is not regarded as a burden. Some examples of our community minded ministries include a Care Committee that provides visits to anyone in the area in times of need, no matter their faith or lack of faith. In addition, the Friendship Fund makes money available anonymously, (raised by pancake suppers, etc. and supplemented by the church budget) for people in emergencies, such as fires, illness, or the loss of a family member.

It is always a special Sunday service to witness the blessing of beautifully crafted shawls made by loving hands and sent locally and throughout the nation to those who need comfort. The heartfelt thank you notes we hear during Sunday announcements tell us that we are making a difference.

Other committees include: the Altar Guild and Finance Committee (an amazing panel of respected individuals who oversee professional management of the church’s investment in order to assure long-term continued outreach for the greater Paradise Valley community.) Sunday music is provided by a pianist and organist, both volunteers. Minor repair and maintenance is volunteer-driven. The Church acreage is kept mowed and groomed by volunteers as well.

 

A part time paid administrator, who is a member of the congregation as well, takes care of mailings, records, correspondence with the diocese, vestry minutes, and Sunday bulletins.   As with any volunteer in the church, this minimal description hardly begins to describe all of the love and extra attention our administrator brings to the table. Personalized cards are printed to be signed by parishioners and sent to those we know, whether celebrating or grieving. Additionally our administrator sends an email weekly to members, with current events, upcoming special events, and usually a personally written, inspiring essay to keep congregants actively exploring their relationships with Christ.  Currently the church is preparing to expand its social media outreach reflecting the times of communications technology.

The church treasurer, cleaning services, and kitchen supervisor are all handled by volunteers from the congregation and are paid a small stipend.

The Vestry is comprised of five members, including a retired rancher who leads as Senior Warden; a retired postmaster who is Junior Warden; a National Park Service archivist; an owner of an outfitting business, and a retired journalist.

Saint John’s congregation has been patiently guided and reminded each Sunday to go forward in love as taught by Jesus. The message is simple; the work on-going.

Peace be with you-

Twelve Key Issues

What moment do we recognize as one of success and fulfillment? – The “moment” came more than two years ago when a nearby restaurant closed and the small group of parishioners who had regularly met there for after-service breakfast decided that perhaps the church itself should have an after-service breakfast. It was organized and continues to this day and the foreseeable future. It has been a success beyond imagination with volunteers signing up each week to bring meat, eggs, fruit or bread. Nearly everyone stays, eats, and helps clean up. Visitors are amazed and are immediately welcomed to join. The congregation has grown closer and the cooperation and exchange of information regarding families and the larger community has led to warm outreach.

 

How are we preparing for the future? –  The core of our congregation is elderly and has long been in leadership positions. Recently, a few younger people have joined us and we are encouraging them to participate beyond attendance. The most significant step is the launching of a Facebook page administered  by one of those younger members. It promises great benefits as out “telephone” congregants become more familiar with social media.  We are confident this will reach younger people in our area, resulting in closer contacts if not new congregants.

 

What words or phrases describe essential skills for the church’s future leaders? –  Intellectual curiosity; strong Progressive Christian character; Cheerful disposition; Love of community.

 

What is St. John’s liturgical style and worship practice? – We encourage respect for the traditions and canons of the Episcopal Church while also understanding the need for sermons and teachings that put into perspective the political and social situations that surrounded biblical characters and their words, then putting those perspectives into usable practices in the modern world. Old and honored teachings thus become better understood and more accessible on a practical level.

 

How does St. John’s serve the wider community? — This is not a difficult practice at St. John’s, where members for decades have kept touch with the entire community in Paradise Valley and make sure that when needs arise members of the congregation strive to meet those needs, often with food, money, messages of support and simple friendly contact. This tradition is almost taken for granted; that’s who we are; that’s what we do.

 

What is the focus of teaching within the church? – Our rector holds evening classes a few times a year that result in exchanges of ideas on prayer, the need for contemplation and reading books that others have found helpful. Such exchanges of ideas and information spread beyond these classes and are regular topics when members meet in other situations. All activities of the church are underpinned by an understanding that Christ’s chief message was simple: Love.

 

How does St. John’s respond to calls for pastoral care? — Our rector is on call for meeting with parishioners in need and it is not unusual for him to counsel nonmembers who are brought to his attention. Our current rector has an exceptional talent for such care and counsel. Many of our parishioners also respond to such needs.

 

What is the outreach beyond St. John’s? — Previous answers address this question quite well but, in addition, our church is aware of the need to support the Diocese and makes contributions to ERD, especially in times of disaster. A local food bank gets regular donations of food, as there is no shortage of food-deficient families in the area.

 

How does St. John’s reach younger people? – As mentioned before, we have launched a social media outreach and will be updating our website to make it more usable and accessible. Younger adults in our congregation have volunteered to oversee this effort and initial results are quite encouraging.

 

What is St. John’s view of stewardship? – We take stewardship literally, with volunteers from the congregation caring for the kitchen, grounds, routine maintenance and general upkeep of the building, plus support for local projects that arise. For example, this past year our congregation responded to a need to take over the organization and presentation of the annual fund-raiser for Emigrant Hall, a community building where many types of meetings, celebrations  and memorials are held. We also make our grounds available in fair weather and our building twice a year to a group of local artists and crafters, many of whom need the income from the sale of their wares. Basically,we try to instill in our members the need to be an important part of the glue that holds all of us together. And of course we stress the need to do the best we can for the annual stewardship drive to fund our church and its programs. We have been fortunate in keeping expenses pretty much in tune with income, and we had 18 pledges last year in a congregation that averages 39 in attendance.

 

How do we resolve conflicts? — We have very little conflict that is worth mentioning. Interpersonal difficulties almost never reach a critical point. We did have an incident with an outside group that was using our dining hall for monthly meetings and that had become increasingly hostile, with language unsuited for a church facility. The Vestry addressed this and the rector sent a well-phrased letter to the group underscoring the need to recognize that the church must be respected. The group decided it should meet somewhere else. There was no animosity of any significant degree.

 

How does St. John’s deal with change? – St. John’s is in a transition of great importance. Our longtime wise and humble senior warden has resigned due to poor health, our rector of 12 years is retiring and our expenses will grow as we become two parishes supporting a rector instead of the previous three. The challenges are obvious. Time will tell, but our traditions and our history bode well. Whomever our new rector is, St. John’s recognizes that the congregation is equally responsible for the well being of the church and its support of a rector who will be in a new and challenging position.

St. Andrew’s Parish Profile

The mission of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is to recognize that we are called, as followers of Jesus, to become authentically human in communion with God, with creation, and with each other and to cultivate this within ourselves through the disciplines of prayer, worship, study, and service that we might become a people of inquiring and discerning hearts, courageous to will and to persevere in what we are called to do, filled with the knowledge and love of God, and blessed with the gift of joy and wonder at the mystery of creation.

St. Andrew’s is first and foremost an inclusive community encompassing a spectrum of beliefs where all are respected and honored; a community that Richard Hooker, 16th century founder of the Anglican theology of comprehensiveness and tolerance, would rejoice to find flourishing in the 21st century.  We are a vital, thriving, multigenerational parish, embracing the healthy traditions of our Anglican heritage while looking to the future and the fruits of continuing spiritual and intellectual growth.  We are a loving community, a place of connectedness, acceptance, support and safety.  And our community is on the cusp of expansion, with children and their families leading the way in their thirst for music and a spiritual life.

Our excitement about the St. Andrew’s community stems from many sources.  In our worship together, we thrive on the relevance of the sermons:  they are inspiring, intellectual, wise, loving and help us to apply biblical teachings to today’s world.  Music also inspires us, with a lively and growing program for children, an evolving and strengthening adult choir, a superb organist/pianist, and a mix of both stimulating new and cherished old service settings and hymns for the entire congregation.  The deep sense of loving community sustains us:  the open-minded acceptance of diverse opinions, traditions, and backgrounds; the knowledge that this is a safe place to ask questions and discuss new ideas; the exploration of interfaith connections; and the welcoming of children and commitment to the programs they need.

Our hopes and dreams for the future are an expansion of all that excites us about our community, especially in the area of new families and their children.  We are convinced that the future of St. Andrew’s lies with a burgeoning children’s/youth/family ministry and we hope for our parish priest to be actively, energetically involved, especially in guidance for our youth program.  While we hope for continued and sustained growth here, we also recognize the challenges:  as with tilling a field, working too quickly tears up the ground and wrecks the machinery, while working too slowly simply digs a hole.  Growth will require both solid program leadership and a joint parish/rector commitment to creating an environment that encourages young families to invest in church involvement.   We look forward to increased interaction and collaboration with our sister parish, St. John’s, Emigrant, particularly in the area of educational programs.  We also hope for new ways of communicating with and learning about each other.  These might include expanded use of social media, a St. Andrew’s blog, and a catalog of skills and talents within the St. Andrew’s community.

Our parish life is rich indeed.  We worship together in joyful gratitude for all we’ve been given.  We meet and work together as members of the Altar Guild, the ECW, the Vestry, the Finance Committee; as Sunday school teachers, coffee hour hosts, choristers, and ushers; as volunteers for Meals on Wheels and for Livingston’s soup kitchen, Loaves and Fishes.  We organize food, comfort and care for our home bound.  We place a high value on teaching and learning together, treasuring the opportunities for spiritual formation in our adult, youth and children’s education programs, as exemplified in our collaboratively lay/clergy-developed Church School curriculum, our past interfaith forums and Celtic spirituality presentations and our upcoming series on children’s/youth spiritual growth.  And during our much-loved coffee hour, both new and long-time parishioners, as well as younger and older members of the community, feel welcome to sit down with each other and share ideas, experiences, recipes, aggravations, laughter, and frustration, knowing all will be heard in the spirit of family.

Pastoral care of our new members and of our home bound, ill, troubled, and bereaved or dying parishioners is crucial to the health of our St. Andrew’s community.   We are sustained by our rector’s attention, support and counsel, but also recognize our responsibilities to assist in this ministry.  We commission lay ministers to bring the Eucharist to those who cannot attend services, we organize ways to care for our ill and home bound members and we ensure that those who need prayers and/or pastoral care come to the attention of our rector, our parish administrator, and our lay ministers.  We will shortly be adding an enclosure in our service bulletin to provide yet another way of making requests for pastoral care available to our congregation.

Our community involvement is of long standing and takes many forms.  St. Andrew’s parishioners volunteer with Livingston organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Loaves and Fishes, the Food Resources Center and many others.  We make space available for concerts and other community events.  Our educational programs are widely advertised and available to all who are interested.  And most recently, we have formed the Friends of St. Andrew’s, a 501 (c) (3) whose purpose is to extend our reach to make a difference in the spiritual health of our wider community.

St. Andrew’s is a parish that is growing; our membership has increased since 2010 from 123 to 196, our average Sunday attendance from 46 to 65, and our pledging families from 34 to 42.  We are located in Livingston, Montana, in what was formerly a railroad and agricultural center but is now increasingly identified with both the arts and with outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing.  We continue to have roots in the local ranching community but we also have strong ties to Livingston’s artists, writers, musicians, and actors.  We come from diverse spiritual backgrounds; some of us are cradle Episcopalians, and some of us are taking a fresh look at the beauty and richness of traditional liturgical worship and exploring new ways of thinking about the faith of the Christian tradition.  We celebrate the many different ways that people experience the presence of God in their lives and we hope to represent the best of Christian hospitality in welcoming all who come through our doors, no matter where they are on their faith journey.

 

Categories Search | Tags: | Posted on November 11, 2016

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Service Times & Directions

Sunday Worship: 8:00 AM

Reverend David Gunderson, Rector

8 Story Road • Emigrant, MT • (406) 823-0463

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