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My great-great grandfather was a circuit riding United Brethren pastor in Kansas, so it seemed very appropriate to make a circuit tour of my most northwestern churches this summer. Actually it is my goal to visit every pastor and congregation before the snow flies. Brother Van accompanies me to remind Montana of our historic past.
Each year, every district superintendent (DS) holds a “one-on-one” conversation with every pastor in their district. These conversations allow us to better understand each pastor’s hopes, goals, growing edges and how their gifts are fitting with their ministry location. From mountains to plains, cities to farming communities, each district is unique. So, each DS holds their one-on-one conversations in the modality that works best. Sometimes we ask pastors to come to centralized locations where we can visit with several in a day. Other times we use Zoom or other online meeting formats. Some of us have the time in our schedule to travel to each church. As a part of these meetings and in response to the current issues in The United Methodist Church, a brochure was created to help explain the way the Mountain Sky Conference can continue to live in the spirit of a church that welcomes all.
How each DS uses the brochure and their time with pastors and churches is as unique as the churches and pastors themselves. Yet, one of the goals of using this brochure was to begin to speak in shared language about how the Mountain Sky Conference can move forward. The brochure presents our goals and aspirations, much like those found in the petitions that were passed at the Annual Conference in June. It also includes specifics, to help answer the questions posed by both pastors and churches. The language of the brochure extends the work of the post-General Conference teams that were formed in the spring.
In my 12 days of travel, and visits to 15 churches I have tried to tailor my conversations to meet the questions and concerns of the pastors and congregations. Because we are such a vast and varied conference, we must always be mindful of the context we are in. Responses to the material in the brochure have been quite varied; some have been extremely concerned some surprised, and others ready to take the next step.
These past 12 days have been wonderful. In my short tenure of being a DS, getting to know and better understand the churches of the Hi Line and Havre Districts has been an enriching and heartwarming experience for me. The hospitality and the deep commitment to The United Methodist Church I have encountered support my belief that the Spirit is alive, well and moving forward in Montana and the entire Mountain Sky Conference.