We were so blessed at Mission Conference by the ordination of Linda Klughart to the office of Seventy and by the way this event inspired Apostle Art Smith’s Sunday message. It has been ringing in my heart ever since, and we wanted to bring you this excerpt to feed your soul, so that you can return to it again and again. This is what matters most for us right now.
Mission Centre President Team
The stories are absurd sounding.
What woman having lost one of her ten coins wouldn’t light a lamp and search for it all night long? Well, no woman would do this. In the story, she would have spent more on oil burning in her lamp than the lost coin was even worth. And then, when the coin is found, she calls a celebration. By the time she had purchased a cake from Costco, she’d have spent way more than that little coin was ever worth.
And no self-respecting shepherd would ever abandon the 99 sheep, risking everything, to find one that had wandered off.
But the story continues similarly. The sheep is recovered and there’s a celebration.
What would the party look like? Roasted sheep! I imagine.
But the stories are told to help the grumblers understand that from God’s perspective, when anyone is missing, or excluded, whether it’s just one in a hundred, or one in ten, or one half, it’s profoundly wrong in Heaven.
So when we talk about growing together, growing in knowledge of God’s will and ways, we need to be careful.
We’re a little religious community in decline.
We might be tempted to circle the wagons and to focus in on each other.
After all, maybe if we can strengthen ourselves, get better at what we do, then others might want to join us.
After all, surely one of our greatest strengths is the way we love one another, the way we can count on each other to always make other members of our community feel at home.
But what I take from this 15th chapter, at the heart of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel according to Luke (which is by the way the kind of content so much at the heart of the gospel that I know people who have Luke 15 tattooed on their forearm), what I take from this chapter is that growing together for us means growing in our capacity to notice the ones who are missing.
As we grow, we become keenly aware of those who are not here.
Later in chapter 15 it’s one of the two sons who's gone off with half of the inheritance.
It was obvious he had gone.
With the woman, it was one tenth of what she had that went missing.
With the shepherd, it was one out of a hundred.
We grow in our awareness and sensitivity towards the lost. We prioritize them, not us, and we celebrate when we get to be together again.
The paradox is that our growing together isn’t really focused on those who are here.
We grow together in our ability to notice those who are missing and in our ability to focus on them without religious or righteous grumbling.
Linda will be ordained today as a minister for noticing who’s missing.
The scriptures talk about the dangers that the seventy will face because of the places they will go. But today I’m thinking about the risks that will be generated back at home as the seventy do their work. They risk provoking grumbling among the religiously faithful.
The seventy, like the angels in heaven, recognize how profoundly wrong it is that people are being left out, forgotten, ignored or excluded.
They are passionate for the lost.
But it’s risky work. All around the church, in our little communities, getting smaller all the time, we can ill afford, it would seem, to have some of our best ministers off focusing elsewhere.
Focusing on those who aren’t even religious.
Running after immigrants, visiting prisons, working with special needs people, paying attention to the LGBTQ community.
They aren’t the ones paying the bills.
We’re not too sure we really want our little community to be dominated by those people anyway.
It is risky work to which you are called Linda. If you’re doing it right, there may be grumbling.
But today, it seems a little bit clear.
And my dream is that we’ll grow together, not necessarily to become more religious, more spiritually pure, but to be more sensitive to the ones who’re not here, those we’ve lost along the way, and maybe we can also grow to be a little less grumbly.
Written by Kat Goheen
Canada West Mission Centre Co-President
Change is on my mind lately. The change in weather is forefront, and the resultant change in schedule for our family – back to school, back to teaching, end of camps and trips for now. It seems that I’m daily surprised by friends’ changes in jobs and unexpected changes in personnel at our girls’ schools. Reading the new World Church appointments showed change on a larger scale – seeing the legacy of service provided and the new faces stepping into bishopric and apostolic roles. The phrase that keeps coming to my mind is, “Well you didn’t expect things to stay the same, did you?”
Change can be stimulating as well as intimidating. I do best with change when I don’t chain it to the past and constantly rehearse comparisons from my limited viewpoint. While listening to a First Nations Okanagan story-teller this summer, I learned that in their wisdom tradition it’s the young people who adopt and promote change quickly, while the elders are more likely to dig in their heels and value the long view. Where am I on this spectrum of interaction with change? Where do I long to be?
We have our Mission Conference this weekend, and it’s new in some ways and familiar in others. We hope that above all we can do the business of our conference while taking pleasure in being together, whether on screen or in one of the sites that will host gatherings. I picture us like a satellite’s view of Western Canada at night: bright splashes of light that push against the darkness, connected by heart instead of highways. Please join us this weekend and make room in your heart for change – for new possibilities to be born!
As the summer heats up I've realized that we are now just 40 days away from Mission Centre Conference! Wow! How time flies. To think that this time last year the three of us were beginning to discern and understand a calling to this work of being a volunteer Mission Centre President team.
This year's Mission Centre Conference, like the conferences in the past two years, will look different as we continue to think carefully about how to use everyone's time, talents, and treasure in the best way possible. If you haven't heard, we decided to leverage our team of three to do something previously not done, which is to have your Mission Centre President be in multiple places at the same time! Gwyn will spend the weekend in Regina, Shannon in Calgary, and Kat in Vancouver. We encourage you to plan on joining us in one of these locations as we still have so many of you to meet and get to know better.
Our main purpose for this gathering is to conduct the business of our Mission Centre, but it is also the way we are able to reconnect with those we don't see all the time. The world of online events has changed this, and I suspect many of you have seen a variety of faces from across the mission centre more often in the last two years than you may have before. I know I have, and what a joy that has been. But what a delight it will be to see many of you in person! I'm very excited.
In preparation for conference I was reviewing the documents from the creation of our mission centre in 2004. Did you realize we are fast approaching our 20th anniversary of being a mission centre? I didn't! What a journey these last 18 years have been of stretching our hearts across four provinces to create a new grouping of faithful disciples, supporting one another in following Christ's call. I remember those first few conferences being almost like starting at a new school, so many new faces, and a few vaguely familiar ones. Now those new faces are familiar faces, and so beloved. I can't imagine this discipleship journey without all of you.
While our conference is September 9th-11th, we will have opportunities in the week leading up for you to engage early. We will have two options for virtual pre-legislative sessions on September 4th in the afternoon and 7th in the evening for you to learn about our business agenda and ask questions in a more relaxed setting. There will also be a "coffee and conversation" virtual gathering on the evening of Thursday September 8th with Debra to explore questions around our theme of Growing Together.
So, I hope you are able to join us online in the week leading up to conference, and then many of you in-person (or online) the 9th-11th. Even if you are not a delegate this year, you are invited to listen to the meetings, join in the worships, and celebrate with us how we are continually Growing Together.
I was so blessed to spend the weekend at Hills of Peace for the Spiritual Retreat three weeks ago. The lake, the hills, the food, the poplar trees all whispered peace to me. Two of us were there for the first time, and the campground seemed happy for our group presence after almost three years of no camps there.
We gathered from three provinces and shared deeply about our response to God’s movement in our lives, guided by the stories of Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus in the New Testament. Everyone was full of insights from their lives and from the texts. I am amazed by how much growth we saw in those biblical figures within a few short paragraphs, and how we were able to identify those rhythms and movements of Spirit in our own lives. I saw myself in each of our biblical friends and was able to touch into some places within that can still use love and healing. It was brave of us to go through grief and resurrection together and I am so happy that we practiced leaning on the heart of God in community.
May our service be blessed with spaciousness. May our contemplation lead us to action. May we always willingly receive the gift of new life!
From our guiding poem by Joyce Rupp:
It is enough for me to know
the heart of God is with me,
Full of mercy and compassion,
tending to the wounds I bear.
Written by Kat Goheen
Canada West Mission Centre Co-President
Father’s Day seems to be summed up in barbeque and crafts made from macaroni and glue, especially with puns about fishing (“Dad, you’re a great catch!”). On this day, we celebrate the qualities of nurturing, strength, and challenge that we seek from fathers, knowing that we may not have experienced those qualities as fully as we may have wished in our holding environments. I think of grandfathers on this day as well, with the extra layer of perspective and unconditional love that they are often able to offer. When I lived with my grandparents as a student as Graceland University, my Grampie could not help but jump in the car and run to the store if there was anything I needed! His love showed me the truth of God’s love.
The connection that Jesus had with his heavenly father is especially touching to me. I grew up praying, “Dear Heavenly Father” in my prayers, which had a grand yet distant ring to it. When Jesus says “Abba,” meaning “Daddy,” it is sweet in a humbling sort of way. Its intimacy draws God close, without barriers or resistance.
God is a mystery that transcends race and gender. Still, I wonder: could I pray to God in this way? We can have many kinds of unitive experiences with God and Spirit, but I feel that this language is a special manifestation of a soul at peace with God. I pray for that peace in myself and for you!
May you find sheltering in this celebration. May you find love. May you find the peace that passes all understanding and know yourself as a beloved child of God.
Written by Kat Goheen
Canada West Mission Centre Co-President
Last week in the column we looked at membership and belonging. Today we’ll flip that coin and look within. Our humanity is hardwired for connection and at the same time tuned for meaning. Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What is a good life?
We all grow older, if we’re lucky, but we don’t necessarily grow up. It’s the time we spend in study, self-reflection, prayer, and meditation that feeds our inner life and helps us transition from milk to solid food, as Paul says in I Corinthians 3. We have many ways to distract ourselves from real, burning-bush experiences with God, and our intellect is one of the big ones!
At the Spiritual Retreat at Hills of Peace (June 24-26), we will be opening ourselves to spiritual growth in a safe container at a beautiful campground. We will examine the stories of Mary, Martha, Jesus, and Lazarus for those moments of spiritual connection that show us ways to grow. We will use all of our senses to experience and appreciate the Holy. We will slip behind our figuring-out minds and listen to our hearts and bodies; to the still, small voice that longs to be one with us.
As you clear your vision about where you belong and who you long to be, make room in your heart for the One who knows you best!
community of christ
355 Elmira Road North, Unit 129
Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
Canada West Mission: 877-411-2632
Canada East Mission: 888-411-7537