Bookmark and Share
Monday, July 16th, 2018

Our Pastor

Pastor Burke Owens 

March 2018


Dear friends,

Long ago, Caroline and I lived at the Abode

of the Message, a Sufi community in upstate

New York, just across the state line from

Massachusetts, in the Berkshire


It is a beautiful area of rolling hills,

sugar maples, old colonial farmhouses and

many small, country towns, a bustling

region much of the year,  popular with weekender visitors.  Though all of the year

is beautiful in theBerkshires, it is wintertime that is the hardest season. It tends

to be so long, so cold, typically filled with snow and ice for months on end.

At the Abode, located within an old Shaker colony from the late

18th and early 19th centuries, we enjoyed electricity but no
central heating. Only wood heating
was available, with big furnaces in the
large buildings and smaller woodstoves in the smaller houses.

No thermal floors or insulated pane windows, and numerous cracks in the
exterior two board siding
and also the original horsehair plaster walls, allowing
heat to escape and cold air to come in.

Lovely Shaker architecture, but pretty damned cold each year from November
thru March!  Each morning, and again each evening, a
worship meditation was held for about 20 minutes, with a longer
hour plus worship on Sunday morning. Here we would pray and
sing and even dance, which was a great help during the winter months
as it helped to get the blood moving. As I recall, the sanctuary did
not have any heat at all, no fireplace or stove. We would sing Shaker
hymns at times, and one of my favorites, it still is, was ‘Simple Gifts’.
We might sing it while sitting quietly in worship but sometimes we
would get up, join hands and dance while we sang this joyous song
of praise. Even now, when I think back, I can see the group, circling
around the meditation hall, moving in time to the rhythm, weaving
back and forth, singing and stepping as the spirit united us.


‘Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free,

Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,

 and when we have come down in the place just right,

it will be in the valley of love and delight.

When the true simplicity is gained,

to bow and to bend, we shan’t be ashamed.

To turn and turn it will be our delight,

till by turning and turning we come round right.’


This season of Lent is a time to give ourselves a spiritual check-up, to ask are we heeding
the divine call? Not just by reading scripture and praying but by taking extra steps to build
our faith, to make it richer, fuller and more spirit filled. It is a time to give up foolish pursuits
and pleasures, for a few weeks anyway, and instead, look within to the deeper requirements
of the soul and the gifts of the spirit. This period of close to seven weeks is one of reflection,
to reconsider our daily lives and actions, evaluate our relationship with God and look closely
at how well and how charitably we interact with the world at large. Of course, its also a perfect
time to consider the path blazed by our teacher, our founder, and friend, Jesus of Nazareth.
And in so doing, through our own prayerful actions, questioning attitude and humble manner,
we hope to become transformed by the spirit so that we too are renewed, redeemed, and
reborn into a life of joy, love, and wisdom. 

For Lent/Easter is the great season in Christianity, when we check in with God to ask for
guidance and to see if we measure up to the task given us. God’s gift to us is life and with it the responsibility to be stewards of this planet and for all of creation, to maintain and honor this most remarkable world and all the beings in it.

These are big requirements and not easily accomplished, perhaps never truly accomplished
in one life. But this season we make the effort to try again, and do our best to live up to the
standard that God, through Jesus, set for us. Can we be good, conscientious, righteous people
who trust in faith, act in love and rejoice in the gifts and graces of the spirit? I believe we can and,
God willing, we each will in our own way and time.

The Shakers created communities where they lived the credo, ‘Hands to work, Hearts to God’.
Their music and design and farming and community structures were revolutionary for the time
and very practical too. If it weren’t for their vow of celibacy, they might still be around today.
Though I never met a Shaker, I learned much from them and their fervor and dedication is still
an example to me. It warms my heart to know that their gifts were passed down, in ways they
would not have imagined, and are still being shared today. Lent reminds each of us that we are
part of a big circle, a circle of faith and connection and grace, singing to God, to each other,
with voices raised into the future.


‘To turn and turn it will be our delight,

till by turning and turning we come round right.’


 A powerful way to practice this is, as Jesus taught us, by loving God with all your heart and
loving your neighbors as yourself, or as we Methodists like to say,


Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors


Blessings to you and may God continue to bring you a grace filled season of Lent,


Pastor Burke




Pastor Burke Owens

Saint Helena United Methodist Church
1310 Adams Street
St. Helena, Ca. 94574
707 339 0766


Office hours-

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9am-noon

at the SHUMC office.

other times by appointment. 



           ~ St Helena United Methodist Church
St Helena, California, USA