By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – All Saints in Big Sky strives to be a place for everyone—all ages, ethnicities, economic backgrounds and belief systems—to find their spiritual home. The church’s roots 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 all.
Explore Big Sky spoke with the Rev. Miriam Schmidt who arrived in Big Sky to fill a pastor position in 2016 after working abroad for many years. Today she and her family are happy to call the community their 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 a little background information on you, how did you get to be in Big Sky?
Rev. Miriam Schmidt: I’m now in my fourteenth year as an ordained Lutheran pastor. Between 2008 and 2015, I served two different congregations: First Lutheran Church in Plains, MT, and Bratislava International Church in Bratislava, Slovakia. While we were living abroad, my spouse, Jeremy Blyth, suffered a freak playground (not ski!) accident. We had to return early to the states for medical care and at that time the Bishop of the Montana Synod let me know that All Saints in Big Sky was looking for a pastor. I sent in my paperwork and interviews began. I was happy to accept the call to become the Pastor/Priest of All Saints in Big Sky at the beginning of 2016. My family has now called Big Sky home for six years.
EBS: Tell me a little about the history of All Saints in Big Sky. How did it begin? How and when did you become involved?
M.S.: All Saints in Big Sky is a shared ministry of the Episcopal and Lutheran churches, which means we have a formal connection to two different Protestant denominations. We have an informal connection to many others because we have members with all kinds of faith backgrounds: Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Moravian, Roman Catholic, non-denominational, spiritual and not-so-sure-about-religion. All Saints has its roots in St. Christopher’s, a group of Episcopalians who began meeting in Big Sky for Morning Prayer back in the 1990’s. After remarkable, hard work on the part of some Episcopal and Lutheran participants at St. Christopher’s, an official shared ministry was born at the close of 2007. All Saints is a traditional liturgical church with a progressive stance in many social issues. We are single, married, divorced, sick, healthy, Republican, Democrat, retired, working, rich and struggling to make ends meet. Bottom line, our vision is this: Led by the Spirit, we strive to welcome all people by engaging and embracing our community, offering 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 profound gifts. It is an incredible honor to get to work with them in mutual ministry.”
The Rev. Miriam Schmidt, All Saints in Big Sky
EBS: How have you grown or changed with the community over the years?
M.S.: While we have many seasonal members, we also have full-time residents involved in the life of All Saints. Increasingly in our culture, it is a strange thing to make church a central (or even peripheral) part of one’s spiritual life. Yet, people come to our services, and they give their time, talents and treasure to keep All Saints going. Children serve as acolytes and take part in “Small Saints” with Ms. Domi on Sundays. Youth read the scripture. Adult members help usher, serve Communion, and take part in Bible and book studies. We all sing old and new songs together, helped by wonderful instrumentalists and cantors. We try to live out our mission—to celebrate God’s grace and share the love of Christ throughout the Big Sky community and beyond.
EBS: Tell me about the different services you offer the community?
M.S.: Besides weekly Eucharist (Holy Communion services) on Sunday, we offer a free bi-monthly afterschool program called Godly Play to children aged 5 to 10. For 6th-8th graders, there’s Journey in Faith where youth explore Christian faith and scripture. For adults, we offer a variety of study and discussion opportunities via Zoom and in person. When possible, we welcome folks to sing in a small choir on Sunday mornings. We have an active Outreach Committee that gives away money to local, national and international organizations throughout the year, and gets involved in local projects. We’ve joined the Gallatin River Task Force clean up, and tidy the Recycling Center one month of the year. Just last week, we collected items for Refugee Welcome Kits in collaboration with Soft Landings in Missoula and Gallatin Refugee Connections in Bozeman.
EBS: What is the most fulfilling aspect of your work?
M.S.: I believe in the power of communal worship, and leading worship is my high point of every week. I believe the Spirit really does “show up” when a community gathers to pray and sing together. It is a privilege to preach and to serve the bread and wine of Communion. There’s nothing like seeing a little child smile as I put “the bread of heaven” in their cupped hands. I also get the privilege of being a listener and companion to members of my congregation and community in times of great joy and deep grief. As the on-call Chaplain at Big Sky Medical Center, I walk beside people in times of trauma and try my best to support the amazing medical staff there.
EBS: What is the best business (or any type) of advice you have ever received?
M.S.: When I was in seminary, getting ready to go to Guyana, South America for a year-long pastoral internship, one of my professors—a black preacher in Philadelphia—told me this: “Just love the people, Miriam, just love the people.” Later when I headed off to my “first call” in Plains, MT, he told me again, “just love the people.” That is what the church tries to be about: Loving our neighbors in Jesus’ name. Sometimes we fail big time, but we keep trying.
EBS: Anything else you would like to add?
M.S.: All Saints in Big Sky is a congregation full of remarkable human beings: Human beings with complicated histories, great flaws, and profound gifts. It is an incredible honor to get to work with them in mutual ministry. All Saints is also thoroughly blessed by getting to use the ecumenical Big Sky Chapel as our sanctuary. Because we do not bear the burden of owning a building, we [are free] to use our resources in many other ways to positively affect our community and the larger world.