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.
Leader – noun; one that leads or guides. Leadership – noun; the capacity or ability to lead. Our world today calls for leaders—good leaders with strength of character and integrity. For almost 50 years SPECTACULAR has guided youth, developing their leadership potential and encouraging them as they are called to serve with character and integrity.
The mission of SPECTACULAR is to create a safe, Christ-centered community that encourages young women and men to discover God, their inherent worth, and cultivate and express their giftedness. SPECTACULAR has grown from that first relatively small gathering in the late 1960s on The Campus in Independence, Missouri to over 1,200 campers and leaders at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, every summer. It is the largest annual gathering of youth in the Community of Christ. SPECTACULAR affords opportunities for campers to develop skills of leadership and discipleship, and ways to express themselves artistically, musically, and athletically.
A star high school athlete and friend of the church expressed that before attending SPECTACULAR she had never played on a team or been involved in a tournament where you felt good about yourself and truly enjoyed the competition of the game regardless of whether you won or lost. She also said that even though she did not belong to this church, she felt at home and was comfortable with the ideals and principles shared.
Through gathering informal demographic information, it is estimated that nearly forty percent of campers are friends of the Community of Christ. Many delegation and program staff are also friends of the church. SPEC strives to follow its mission to create a safe, Christ-centered community where exploration of many ideas are encouraged to happen and in that, campers are comfortable inviting their friends to join them in this week of learning, fellowship and fun.
The theme for this year’s SPECTACULAR, July 23-30, is “Connect.” It offers a challenge to SPECTACULAR participants to explore ways within ourselves to better connect with each other and the world around us; keeping in mind that in doing so, we better connect with God. “…God is revealing divine nature through sacred communities of love, oneness and equality…” (2013 Words of Counsel).
Leadership (SPEC TODAY) classes at SPECTACULAR will provide an overview and exploration of our theme. Discipleship, music, and art classes will allow for in-depth exploration of specific sub-topics. For example, there might be a leadership session exploring the idea of authenticity. More in-depth exploration might occur through classes regarding meditation, scripture study, personal spirituality, individual arts, or music.
“Connect” will be a prominent part of every aspect of SPECTACULAR: the volleyball courts, the Extravaganza stage production, soccer fields, delegation devotions, afternoon activities on the Quad, individual and group discussions, as well as personal meditation and community worship. The athletic tournaments uphold the following statement, “Willful Christian interaction is the norm for all facets of SPECTACULAR. The sports program will function with that objective as the guiding principle for the actions of all participants, officials, coaches, and spectators. While we may not always agree with one another we will always appreciate and honor each other.”
We know lives are challenged and changed by this unique week, whether the change is apparent immediately or twenty years from now, we know SPEC is influencing thousands and thousands of lives. Through the diversity of individuals and cultures from across North America, SPECTACULAR finds the common denominator of connection through Jesus Christ. Youth finishing 9th through 12th grades are invited to enjoy SPECTACULAR as part of a delegation. SPECTACULAR 2016 is July 23-30.
More information and registration forms are available through your delegation or at www.CofChrist.org/spec or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join us on Facebook too! www.facebook.com/SPEC.CofChrist/
There are moments when it can appear that there is nothing but bad news that comes from World Church, especially when it comes to finances. However, for this month’s testimony I want to to share with you another perspective, the other side of the story, the good news about generosity in the church and the impact we are making. Here are three generosity facts for each Mission Initiative from the past 12 months:
Invite People To Christ
Abolish Poverty and End Suffering
Develop Disciples to Serve
What is the message we should take from the past 12 months in the life of the church?
I want to suggest that the message is: Membership is growing, generosity is increasing and the church is making an impact. Thank you!
Generosity Team Leader
Find out more about Richard by clicking here.
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
We all have a story to share. Mosaic is a collection of our stories.