All Saints Day in Big Sky – Explore Big Sky
By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – All Saints in Big Sky strives to be a place where everyone – all ages, ethnicities, economic backgrounds and belief systems – can find their spiritual home. The roots of the church date back to the 1990s when a group of Episcopalians began meeting in Big Sky for morning prayer. It has since evolved into a shared ministry and today All Saints is a traditional liturgical church with a progressive stance, welcoming to all.
Explore Big Sky spoke with Reverend Miriam Schmidt who came to Big Sky to take up the post of pastor in 2016 after working overseas for many years. Today, she and her family are happy to call the community home.
This series is part of a paid partnership with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. The following answers have been edited for brevity.
Explore Big Sky: Let’s start with some general information about you, how did you come to Big Sky?
Reverend Miriam Schmidt: I am now in my fourteenth year as an ordained Lutheran pastor. Between 2008 and 2015, I served two different congregations: First Lutheran Church in Plains, Montana, and Bratislava International Church in Bratislava, Slovakia. While we were living overseas, my partner, Jeremy Blyth, had a playground accident (no skiing!). We had to return early to the United States for medical attention and at that time the Bishop of the Synod of Montana let me know that All Saints in Big Sky was looking for a pastor. I sent in my papers and the interviews started. I was happy to accept the call to become an All Saints pastor/priest in Big Sky in early 2016. My family has now lived in Big Sky for six years.
EBS: Tell me a bit about the history of All Saints in Big Sky. How did it start? How and when did you get involved?
MRS: All Saints in Big Sky is a shared ministry of the Episcopal and Lutheran churches, which means that we have a formal connection with two different Protestant denominations. We have an informal connection with many others because we have members of all kinds of denominations: Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Moravian, Roman Catholic, non-denominational, spiritual and not so sure of religion. All Saints has its roots in St. Christopher’s, a group of Episcopalians who began meeting in Big Sky for morning prayer in the 1990s. After remarkable hard work by some Episcopal and Lutheran participants in St. Christopher’s, an official shared ministry was born in late 2007. All Saints is a traditional liturgical church with a progressive stance on many social issues. We are single, married, divorced, sick, healthy, Republicans, Democrats, retired, active, wealthy and struggling to make ends meet. Ultimately, our vision is:: Guided by the Spirit, we strive to welcome everyone by engaging and embracing our community, providing a vibrant, prayerful and spiritual home.
“All Saints in Big Sky is a congregation full of remarkable human beings: human beings with complicated histories, great flaws and deep gifts. It is an incredible honor to be able to work with them in mutual ministry.
Reverend Miriam Schmidt, All Saints in Big Sky
EBS: How have you grown or changed with the community over the years?
MRS: While we have many seasonal members, we also have full-time residents involved in the life of Toussaint. Increasingly in our culture, it is a strange thing to make the church a central (or even peripheral) part of one’s spiritual life. However, people come to our services, and they give their time, their talents and their treasures to make All Saints’ Day come alive. The children serve as acolytes and participate in “Little Saints” with Mrs. Domi on Sundays. Young people read scripture. Adult members help inaugurate, serve communion, and participate in Bible and literary studies. We all sing old and new songs together, aided by wonderful instrumentalists and singers. We try to live our mission: to celebrate the grace of God and share the love of Christ throughout the Big Sky community and beyond.
EBS: Tell me about the different services you offer to the community?
MRS: In addition to the weekly Eucharist (Holy Communion services) on Sundays, we offer a free fortnightly after-school program called Godly Play for children ages 5-10. For 6and-8and students, there is Journey in Faith where young people explore the Christian faith and the Scriptures. For adults, we offer a variety of study and discussion opportunities via Zoom and in person. When possible, we invite people to sing in a small choir on Sunday mornings. We have an active outreach committee that donates money to local, national and international organizations throughout the year and gets involved in local projects. We joined the Gallatin River Task Force to clean and tidy the recycling center one month a year. Just last week, we collected items for refugee welcome kits in conjunction with Soft Landings in Missoula and Gallatin Refugee Connections in Bozeman.
EBS: What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
MRS: I believe in the power of communal worship, and leading worship is my highlight each week. I believe that the Spirit truly “appears” when a community comes together to pray and sing together. It is a privilege to preach and serve the bread and wine of Communion. There’s nothing quite like seeing a little child smile as I place “bread from heaven” in his clasped hands. I also have the privilege of listening and accompanying members of my congregation and my community in times of great joy and deep sorrow. As a duty chaplain at Big Sky Medical Center, I walk alongside people in times of trauma and do my best to support the incredible medical staff there.
EBS: What is the best advice (or any kind) of advice you have ever received?
MRS: When I was in seminary preparing to go to Guyana, South America, for a year-long pastoral internship, one of my teachers – a black preacher in Philadelphia – told me this: “Just love people, Miriam, just loves people.” Later, when I left for my “first calling” in Plains, Montana, he told me again, “I just love people.” That’s what the church tries to be: Love our neighbors in the name of Jesus. Sometimes we fail a lot, but we keep on trying.
EBS: Would you like to add anything?
MRS: All Saints in Big Sky is a congregation full of remarkable human beings: human beings with complicated histories, great flaws, and deep gifts. It is an incredible honor to work with them in mutual ministry. All Saints are also blessed to use the Big Sky Ecumenical Chapel as their sanctuary. Because we don’t carry the weight of ownership of a building, we [are free] to use our resources in many other ways to positively affect our community and the rest of the world.