World Conference was, for me, a very positive and uplifting experience. To be with the Saints from all over the world is truly an amazing experience. To hear the prayers and even sermons in other languages translated into English from French or Spanish or Tahitian (or any number of other languages) reminds us that we are a global community and a world-wide church. Our mission in Tahiti or Hawaii or Dominican Republic or Haiti or even suburban Chicago is all the same. The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most in all the world. I hope those of us who were blessed to be able to attend can somehow share the excitement of the experience to all the Saints in Oklahoma Mission Center.
In the spirit of global community, enjoy the Flag Ceremony from World Conference 2016 below.
The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning
The time had come. The bags were packed. No turning back now. We hugged our pets, thanked our house sitters, threw our luggage in the trunk, and waved to our neighbors as we headed north out of Tulsa. Nervous excitement filled the car as we left our familiar scenery behind. The small towns dotting highway 169 blurred past as we headed toward Kansas City. We had recently resigned from the Pastoral team of a mainline Protestant congregation. He was the pianist and I was the Associate Pastor. But that was behind us now. We weren’t quite sure what to expect. We had no clue about what lay ahead, but we had the feeling we were being called, led somewhere, somehow. So we turned up the tunes and tuned out the uncertainties and sped onward and upward toward our first World Conference.
I met with the Pastoral Team of Tulsa Central Community of Christ just days before our departure. My confirmation was set for the first weekend in July. It was years in the making. I was ready. Yet I needed one more thing…a bigger picture, a wider view perhaps. I was curious. How does this peculiar faith tradition reverberate in the life and witness of diverse populations around the globe? Looking back I realize I needed one more affirmation, one final burning bush. I needed to know that God really was still speaking, still moving, still shaping the world in the Divine Image. I needed to find myself in the vast mosaic that is Community of Christ. We had found our church home at Tulsa Central for sure, but was there really a seat at the table for us in the global Church? There was only one way to find out.
What we experienced at World Conference was beyond what we expected or could have even imagined. We felt God’s Spirit at work in that holy place. We saw God in the outpouring of love and support evidenced by each rainbow button and lanyard. We heard God in each thundering hymn as a chorus of voices in myriad languages echoed the clarion call to praise the Living God, a God that still speaks through prophets, priests and scriptures, a God that empowers each one through the grace of community to work for the building up of Zion in this time and place, not just in some ethereal heaven light years away, here and now! We were caught up, changed in the twinkling of an eye. We went in search of a burning bush and were met there by a God who had set the whole church ablaze with divine mercy, love and truth.
As we headed home on Sunday evening we did so with a song in our hearts. "God's whose Spirit like a fire is burning." I was changed by our holy time in Independence. Something clicked for me in that sacred place. It might have been during the John Whitmer Historical Associate banquet or the Prayer for Peace in our beautiful Temple. Perhaps I received my personal revelation during the Roll Call of the Nations or when I received communion with thousands of my RLDS brothers and sisters from around the globe. I am unsure of the exact moment it all clicked for me, but that doesn’t matter much. What matters is that though I was already remarkably excited to continue my journey of faith with Community of Christ, #WC2016 (World Conference 2016) made me proud beyond measure to call myself a Latter Day Saint. For that, I am thankful.
Tulsa Central Congregation
World Conference is a time for us to come together as an international community to discuss important issues facing our faith tradition and our world today. Each geographic area of Community of Christ sends delegates to Independence who will represent their unique spiritual/cultural perspectives. The Assembly is made up of 3 - 5,000 delegates from 52+ nations from around the world, each conferring and striving to reach consensus with other delegates using Robert’s Rules of Order. (Imagine the United Nations with delegates able to speak at a microphone in order to ask questions/raise concerns/speak in favor or against.)
I had the privilege of being an Oklahoma Delegate this year, and I enjoyed my experience immensely! Some of the highlights for me?
I’ll share a few of my favorite lines…
6 a. Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.
b. As Christ’s body, lovingly and patiently bear the weight of criticism from those who hesitate to respond to the divine vision of human worth and equality in Christ. This burden and blessing is yours for divine purposes.
Thank you for allowing me to be an Oklahoma Delegate this year. I was blessed because of it!
Church Mission & Young Adult Ministry Specialist
Enjoy this audio recording of The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning from the June 4, 2016, service in The Auditorium. (I recorded it myself!)
Throughout the 8 days at conference, my thoughts kept coming back to the same statement:
We are bound together.
My sister, Becky Brinlee, and I spent a good amount of time together this week. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever been on such a long road trip with JUST my sister. We chattered and laughed on the way up and fell quite silent by the time we got home. I loved getting to know her better as a sister and friend at this stage in our lives.
I was so blessed to watch my son, Parker Johnson, work the crowd there. Because he’s who he is, he knows a lot of people from all over the world. He treasures his relationships and friendships and kindles each one. He is bound by the relationships and perspectives he has gathered as he’s grown up in our church.
We are bound together as a community of believers...
...When we sang “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning” with the huge gathering of saints at Sunday morning communion service with such vigor and enthusiasm and HOPE.
...When we gathered together each day to sit, side by side, in delegations from all over the world, working to achieve common consent on issues where all perspectives needed to be voiced in order to completely understand.
We attended a garage sale or two (or was it 25?). At a particular church sale, we noticed after pulling out of the parking lot that it was a restoration branch of our church. I began to notice more congregations like that one as we drove from here to there. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed to see so many who had left our church to take a stand in another direction. I was unclear of the beliefs of the restoration and remnant churches. I soon realized it’s not who we AREN'T, it’s who we ARE. And that’s what I believe ties Community of Christ together in the most important way. Community of Christ is bound by the belief that stands for the worth of all persons.
We are bound together with a common cause.
The new tithing policy is something I am quite appreciative of, thus challenged by.
A testimony was given one day about the first conference in Independence, more than 100 years ago. When the offering was taken there, money was gathered, but things like diamonds, pearls and rubies were also in the baskets. The members felt compelled to give the treasures they were wearing to support the cause of Zion.
Steve Veazey’s words at the final Saturday morning service spoke to me. “The only way that there will be no poor or oppressed is for the rest of us to change our ways.”
I heard those words. They rang true to me.
He also said these words, “Generosity is spiritually liberating for those who are caught in excessive consumerism and self-indulgence."
I would like to align my time, talents and budget with the church’s new tithing policy. I plan to make more purposeful, responsible purchases, budgeting more carefully, so there is more money to contribute to the work of the church and the needs of others.
We all have a story to share. Mosaic is a collection of our stories.