Pastor's Monthly Perspective

Greetings brothers and sisters in Christ,

When I was a child I enjoyed walking along narrow things and balancing, things like curbs,  the tops of stone fences, and fallen trees on the beach or in the woods.  This year at Sandpoint I am finding it more difficult to walk along difficult realities in my world and maintain my balance. 

One of these difficult realities in my world is one we chose, and that is living a long way away from my husband for a while.  He and I considered the options, and chose to do this for a limited time.  We have ways of dealing with it.   We talk on the phone daily, and use a variety of video call options to even be able to see each other sometimes.  Texting and e-mail with him, and all three of our sons, helps keep us up to date. We physically get together an average of every two weeks.  This is not easy, but we have ways to help us live with this.  It is working, and an end is in sight – not yet a date, but at least an end to the separation.

Another of the difficult realities in my world is Covid-19  This pandemic that is so unpredictable, and for too many, fatal.  Throughout the dark of spring and the continual rain, it was easier to stay at home isolated, and the cool, rainy weather continued through May and early June.  But now the days are long, we have beautiful weather and the lake is full.  In Idaho Gov. Little has allowed us to open up our businesses and live life more normally.   We are getting out into community more and more.

But as we do this, the number of cases of this virus are rising quickly, including here in Bonner County. And also in Boundary County.  And that is true, also, around the nation and around the world.  This virus is very opportunistic, and the more people are out and about, and traveling from town to town, the more this invisible virus tags along and spreads yet farther.

But our United Methodist Bishop, as do the Lutheran and Episcopal regional leadership, is encouraging us to maintain caution in our efforts to keep ourselves safe, and to love our neighbors and do no harm.  We are to wash hands regularly, sanitize often, maintain distance, wear mask.   And if in-person community comes before the virus is eradicated, don’t sing together, don’t serve in-person communion,  and don’t have coffee hours and potlucks. 

Bishop Stanovsky and her Cabinet have put together a document for all UM Churches in the area – Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, two churches in Montana, and 2 churches in British Columbia.  This Reimagining Church document sets up guidelines by which we can safely resume being together.  Although this document speaks similarly language as states do, Stage 1, 2, 3, 4;  most governors including Gov Little put a lot of emphasis on Economics, and getting businesses open and people back at work;  but Bishop Stanovsky has put an emphasis on prioritizing the health of all people, especially those who are most vulnerable, and working to reduce the amount of spread of this virus while we wait for a safer time to be in community.

A group of people in the church are communicating together about the Reimagining document and trying to figure the best way we at Sandpoint UMC can proceed through the difficulties of being together as church and staying safe during this Covid-19 Season.

Yes, we want to get together as church.  Yes, we want people to stay healthy.  Yes, we are tired of being cooped up alone.  Yes , we need to improve and find more ways to effectively communicate with each other.  Yes, this is a hard path to walk and maintain our balance.

This third major difficulty in my world is Racism.  Yes, even in North Idaho.   This 400 year old problem has been making big headlines in the national news.  Even here there are Native people living here, in Montana and in Washington, and they have been here longer than white people have.  I am in a ZOOM book study with some clergy in the conference, reading the book “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo.  This book is one of the easier introductions to the study of Racism for white people.  It is very eye opening. 

The Council of UM Bishops and Bishop Stanovsky are asking churches through our connection to take this year – yes, in the midst of dealing with Covid-19 – and study racism.  This sounds like one more burden, doing something that really doesn’t touch us.  But it does touch us.  North America was filled with Native peoples before Europeans arrived here.  For most of us that was many generations ago, but we need to know that history, and need to learn how it still affects the ways we live today. 

I am finding my ignorance in this area through reading and listening about this sinful way of living.  The Bishops are calling us to study and learn about this.  This is a real problem that makes the news often in our lives.  I will be talking about this other ways, in the weeks and months ahead.  And I find this uncomfortable, confusing, enlightening, and necessary.  There are more people of color in the world than there are white people.  This is another path in my world that I am finding difficult to walk and maintain balance.

My prayer is that we, individually and together, may continue to walk and balance these difficult times in the grace and love of Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Blessings.  Pastor Jo Dene

  June 2021  
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