What a devastatingly difficult time in the life of Community of Christ!
We just lived through a frightening year of budget reductions and staff layoffs. With such sadness barely behind us, how could this be happening AGAIN?!?!
Several days have gone by now, since the news began going out to the church. In a way, it hasn’t gotten any easier. But the Holy Spirit is so very persistent.
Words from Doctrine and Covenants 164: 9a keep asserting themselves in my mind.
9 a. Beloved children of the Restoration, your continuing faith adventure with God has been divinely led, eventful, challenging, and sometimes surprising to you. By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church.
Challenges abound! That’s sure an understatement!
Poised to fulfill God's ultimate vision for the church?!? What might that be? Is that message to us a mistake?
What’s really wild is that everywhere I go in the church I see opportunity as never before. At no time in my lifetime, have I had so much hope for the church I love.
Self-sustaining leaders of all ages are stepping up with renewed energy and determination to engage in Christ's mission, offering invitation, peace and refuge.
People are experimenting with exciting new ministries, creating entry points for people into the church, to be embraced by the Holy Spirit and to find a loving community. We've got Meetups on Meetup.com, Coffee and Conversation groups at local coffee houses, Community Place creatively using the internet to keep people connected, Congregation Revitalization at world church and in mission centres, the Leading Congregations in Mission Program, innovative ministries, campus ministries, volunteer teams leading mission centres, Developing Disciples to Serve Retreats and other similar leadership classes deepening our discipleship, community gardens, community meals, campgrounds, new congregations springing up and heritage congregations rediscovering pride in a sacred identity worth sharing.
Thousands of people, Latter-day Seekers and others, every year, are checking out the Community of Christ. Many are finding it to be a good place of sanctuary, openness, authenticity and a spiritual home through which to engage in mission.
So much financial stress and strain and so much hope, all at the same time! I so hope we haven’t really reached the limits of our generosity! I’m really hoping that we’ve not yet achieved our true capacity, so that we can ramp up our giving to be able to pursue all these opportunities.
Our heritage of faith is filled with stories of God choosing to work with the one who others might dismiss. (David, the shepherd boy, Mary, the unwed young mother, Saul, the hateful persecutor, Joseph, a poor boy seeking answers.)
We must not give up!
Don't miss out on the opportunity to be part of what God has in store for us.
These are not just words. It is time to faithfully apply all the work we’ve done together over these last years, to discern God's call to us as a church for this day and age.
We must share our basic beliefs, our enduring principles, our mission initiatives and the wonderful spirit of the Restoration with others.
Share about our Children’s Peace Pavilion! Invite friends into the great story of this fabulous ministry that’s not just a museum in Independence, but a program that can be established in a variety of ways in your very own community.
Share about Outreach International! Invite friends to know of this life saving ministry!
Share about Encounter World Religions! Invite friends to thrill in learning and building new relationships across cultures! Did you know that this unique program of Community of Christ has been honored as a gift to the world by the Parliament of the World’s Religions?
Share about the work of our church Peace and Justice Team, or the Human Rights Team! Invite your friends to make a difference!
Share our sacred story with a Latter-day Seeker! Prepare yourself through studying materials on the Latter-day Seeker website. Become a living sanctuary of God’s grace with those searching. Mentor someone in person or on-line.
Share our beautiful new hymnal! Consider having extra copies to give to interested friends. This is a wonderful witness for sharing our message of God’s love for all with the world.
Share the sacred story of our church, the adventure, the way it has made a difference in your life and in the lives of others around the world! Read Community of Christ, an Illustrated History, and then share it with a friend. Then share another copy with someone else.
Share an invitation to a camp or a reunion!
Share an invitation to a silent retreat or to another opportunity to grow spiritually!
Share an invitation to build relationships through conversation that matters!
Share an invitation with a brother or sister, someone from Community of Christ, who has been neglected or ignored, or who we've struggled with, to sit down for a chat. Listen to them.
Pray the Mission Prayer every day, or multiple times every day. Share and invite as you feel led.
Prepare to be astonished at what is going to happen as we respond. Can you almost catch a glimpse of it (God's ultimate vision for the church)?
Friends, God's not done with us yet! This wonderful Community of Christ is about to burst with all the potential inside. Let's let it out!
I am deeply honoured to be one of your apostles in this exciting time!
In Christ's peace,
Council of Twelve
"A kaleidoscope is a cylinder with mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass. As the viewer looks into one end, light entering the other end creates a colorful pattern, due to the reflection of the mirrors. Coined in 1817 by Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster, kaleidoscope is derived from the Ancient Greek kalos, ‘beautiful, beauty’, eidos, ‘that which is seen: form, shape’ and skopeō, ‘to look to, to examine’, hence ‘observation of beautiful forms’.” - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaleidoscope
I’ve spent many hours looking through a kaleidoscope over the years; entertained and intrigued by the numerous (seemingly infinite) patterns created as I held it to the light and slowly turned. As it turned, the pieces moved and fell in an intricate dance; sometimes lingering for a while, sometimes only touching for moments, then drifting away to connect with another piece in a magical puzzle that reflects even the smallest amount of light.
One of the best kaleidoscopes I’ve ever seen was a beautiful one made of wood. It had one end that was able to be opened so you could place whatever you wanted inside; a red rubberband, a piece of quartz, a tiny pebble, an eyeglass screw; anything small enough to fit. Seemingly ordinary items became beautiful when placed together in the kaleidoscope and held up to the light. It’s as if something new had been born. What started out as random items, tossed and turned together in the framework of light-reflecting mirrors, became an intricately beautiful and balanced structure. What a wonderful metaphor for life!
Just as seemingly ordinary items become beautiful when placed together in a kaleidoscope, seemingly ordinary people become beautiful when placed together in a community that reflects the light of Christ.
Each one of us is a piece in the kaleidoscope that is “the body of Christ”. We are each uniquely gifted, marvelously created people, whose lives can reflect the love of God in a way that displays the multi-faceted God we believe in and the One we pray others will come to know and love.
Kaleidoscopes are never made with only one or two items inside. It is impossible to create the intricate splendor without the benefit of a variety of pieces. Diverse shapes and colors are necessary to create the beautiful patterns. This is equally true with communities. Everyone benefits when there is variety in giftedness. Diverse ideas, viewpoints and experiences are necessary if we are going to come even remotely close to sharing the love of Christ through human interaction.
The optics in a kaleidoscope are used to enhance our vision. Community can be an instrument to enhance our vision as well. Community blesses us with a reflection of God in ourselves and each other. Seeing God in you helps me see God in myself and in those who aren’t a part of our community. Community reveals who we really are to ourselves and to others, enabling us to see a true beauty that only exists as we take part in community.
When ordinary people are willing to join in true community, the light of Christ touches them and transforms ordinary into extraordinary.
It was in the kaleidoscope of community that I first discovered God. In addition to what my family taught me, there were nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, choir directors, Skylark and Oriole leaders, camp directors and counselors, testimony givers, church cleaners, bulletin typers, Bible school workers and countless others who made up the community of my childhood; each one enabling me to begin to see my vision of God. As a youth I moved to Oklahoma and beheld a new community, just as intricately beautiful as the first. Like a kaleidoscope turning to make a new design, my community slowly changed and with that change came a different understanding of God. I was broadening my knowledge as well as my experience.
I came to see that God was not only a crucial part of the community kaleidoscope, but at the same time, an entire kaleidoscope all of His own. Each time the community moved and changed they helped me to see and understand a new facet of God.
Sometimes we enjoy the view we have of God’s kaleidoscope so much that we don’t want it to change. It appears to be beautifully perfect and knowing the delicate balance of all the pieces, we dare not move the kaleidoscope for fear we will destroy the structure that we have grown so fond of. I was looking at God without turning the object chamber, enjoying the beauty of this view, never even thinking there could be another just as beautiful, just as remarkable. But this view of God is incomplete and the beauty isn’t destroyed when we dare to turn, it is enhanced and multiplied.
It was during a time when I saw a new facet of God that I needed my community the most. I hadn’t willingly turned the kaleidoscope, something had bumped into me and the pieces had fallen into an arrangement that was not only unfamiliar, but one I didn’t find particularly attractive. I became discontent, which eventually turned to bitterness as I struggled to keep the former vision of God I had been so comfortable with.
True community dares to love the discontent and bitter. True community dares to love the wounded, suffering and broken-hearted. True community dares to love what it doesn’t understand; accepting brokenness as a part of the journey toward a greater understanding of God.
There have been times when living in community has been painful. One day in particular I remember feeling that I was at the end of my rope. I had done all I could to try to demonstrate patient love, but I felt that my heart was just about dried up. All of a sudden thoughts and feelings became so painful that I could hardly keep myself from running out the door that very moment, and I couldn’t envision myself maintaining my membership beyond the length of that service. The only thing keeping me in my seat was the fact that I was up front to assist with serving the communion. A myriad of thoughts and feelings swirled around in me and I’m certain my heart was racing. Sadly, I just did what was expected and went through the motions, serving the bread while I was full of distractions, until I reached the back of the room. As I approached Jerry to give him my communion tray, he held up a key, looked me in the eye and told me that Autumn was in the Pastor’s office. I was immediately confused and several questions ran through my mind. Was he telling me that Autumn was locked in and he needed me to unlock the door? How could that have happened and why hadn’t he just let her out himself? He must have recognized my confusion because then he told me that he thought that she was “feeding”.
In a split second I was overcome with the sweetness of community and tears came to my eyes. You see, Autumn is my daughter who has a baby daughter herself and Jerry was sensitively and attentively sharing his love and respect for our community. Noticing her leaving the service with the baby, he either helped her to the pastor’s office or paid attention to where she went. Then, to ensure their privacy and comfort, he specifically gave me the key so that I might slip in without disturbing them, to serve her communion while she nursed her baby. It may seem like a small thing, but it spoke volumes to me of how special our community is. Our small congregations may be a problem for some people, but the fact that we are small in number enables us to have the opportunity to know a great deal about each other and knowing each other better leads to greater opportunities to love, support, and serve each other.
The blessing of community was revealed to me in a different way just recently. Each Sunday, during the offertory, the young children walk through the congregation looking for those holding out coins. They enthusiastically take the coins down to the front where a green vase waits to collect money for Outreach International. You frequently hear people in the congregation calling the names of the children, trying to get their attention so they can distribute the coins among them as equitably as possible. On this particular Sunday, there were a few more children than normal, so it was cheerfully chaotic. The speaker and I were on the podium, doing our best to catch their attention. I called out several times to Eliot, but in the chaos he didn’t hear or see me. I’m pretty sure it was Dave that was able to get the attention of one-year-old Titus who came up on the podium and then engaged in an offertory dance! The children's actions and the smiles of the adults were such a joy to watch! Then my eyes met Eliot’s and I could tell he was wondering if I had money for him. I showed my open hands, indicating I had no more money while I mouthed, “I called your name but you didn’t hear me”. I’ll never know if he actually understood what I was trying to show him, but at that instant his eyes lit up, his face broke into a smile and he ran up to give me a big hug! The surprise hug from an exuberant Eliot, the spontaneous dance from Titus and the joyful participation from his cousins was an absolute gift for the congregation!
As the music ministry began, I realized that I had just witnessed one of the greatest gifts of community. Each child who brought us joy that morning had one parent who had grown up in our congregation. In an instant I was flooded with an indescribable love and feeling of immense gratitude as I remembered the small part I had played in the lives of their parents. I’m having a hard time putting it into words even now. There was a feeling of being literally blessed by God at that moment. It was as if He had momentarily opened up a window to give me a glimpse of the kingdom as each child is finding their own unique place in the beautiful design of God’s community.
We usually see the broken and fragmented bits and pieces of our kaleidoscope; catching only glimpses of the grand design. That day God helped me see a part of His magnificent mosaic!
We all have a story to share. Mosaic is a collection of our stories.