There is a reason we are called Community of Christ. Church members are not only part of a tight-knit local community that meets every week, but also a mission centre of nearby congregations who come together regularly for conferences and reunions, and a worldwide church where we have brothers and sisters animated by the same Christian spirit in more than 60 countries all around the globe.
The lived experience of Community of Christ is unique for our members and friends. As a community nearly 200 years old, we have developed a distinctive culture and established institutions that are woven into the fabric of our daily lives and annual traditions as Community of Christ members. This section gives a brief introduction to that lived experience.
The Sunday Service
The foundation of a member’s church life is the local congregation, and as in most Christian churches, the Sunday worship service is the core congregational activity. The nature of a Sunday service can vary widely between congregations and even from week to week within the same congregation, encompassing a wide range of styles from traditional to contemporary.
Although each congregation has a designated pastor or team of pastors, Sunday services are a collaborative effort among the local members, and many voices and perspectives can be heard during local services.
Each congregation has its own worship schedule, but typically it meets every Sunday morning for about an hour, often with Sunday school and fellowship time as well. Traditionally, the first Sunday of each month is a communion service, where the congregation shares in the longstanding Christian tradition of the Lord’s Supper.
Through the shared experience of weekly worship, many members form close, familial relationships that enrich their lives and provide a network of support for and celebration of life’s events.
As schedules vary, and some congregations observe seasonal or holiday closures, please check your local congregation’s directory page for meeting times. We encourage you to contact one of the listed congregational leaders to verify their schedule before attending.
Deeply embedded in Community of Christ culture is a commitment to spreading Christ’s mission to our communities beyond the walls of the church. Congregations feel the call to take concrete action to help establish communities of joy, hope, love, and peace, and tailor their programs to the particular talents and energies of the congregation’s members. Mission activities can range from a small scale, one-time canned food drive, to building and supporting large programs over decades that can touch the lives of thousands. See the Mission in Action page for many examples of such programs that can be found across Canada. We’ll update these frequently to highlight the work of congregations, partners, programs, and centre places across Canada.
Individually, we may feel the desire to help create a more peaceful and just society, but together in a local congregation, we can bring together the energy and diverse skills of the group to accomplish so much more than we could on our own.
By putting in time and effort together to achieve the congregation’s mission goals, members put Christ’s message into practice.
One exciting new mission program that has arisen here in Canada is Creating Connection. With an increasing proportion of the population that does not participate in organized religious life – often those who identify as “spiritual but not religious” – there are many people for whom the social and supportive aspects of congregational life are missing from their lives. Creating Connection provides a framework for establishing local connection groups built around an array of spiritual practices, conversations about the important questions in life, self-improvement, community engagement, and forging groups with common interests whose connections can become as strong and meaningful as those among congregation members.
Across Canada, Community of Christ members with particular skills and interests have created local connection groups in areas as diverse as meditation, coffee & conversation, group drumming, and philosophy lecture series. And several times a year these groups come together for weekend retreats that have proved to be deeply meaningful experiences for many.
As the Creating Connection program grows, it has become a part of the lived experience of more and more Community of Christ members, and a signal example of innovative ministry to an often-overlooked population.
Each Community of Christ congregation in Canada is governed by its own members. While day-to-day operations and finances are handled by the elected congregational officers, important decisions about congregational budgets, major expenditures, and mission programs are decided in congregational business meetings run by parliamentary procedure by members of the organization. Officers of the congregation are also elected by the members, usually on an annual basis. This includes the pastor or pastorate team, the financial officer, the secretary, and various other roles as defined by the congregation’s needs and traditions.
While every congregation across Canada runs many of its own local affairs, each is part of either the Canada East or Canada West Mission Centre, which provides administrative and support services and church policy guidance, as well as offering programs to support all associated congregations. See “The Mission Centre” for more information.
Community of Christ bylaws define the minimum requirements for an organized congregation. There must be at least six members and at least one Elder to form a congregation. Once a congregation is formed, the members must elect a pastor (or pastorate team), a congregational financial officer, and a secretary. These roles also fulfill the requirements for the congregation to be registered as a non-profit under Canadian law. The pastor functions as both the spiritual and temporal leader of the congregation. The pastor has primary responsibility for attending to the spiritual needs of members and friends of the congregation and generally manages day-to-day operations, other than those duties performed by the financial officer. Because of the wide range of responsibilities incumbent on volunteer pastors, some congregations divide the role among co-pastors or pastorate teams.
In addition to the pastor, a typical Community of Christ congregation has several other priesthood holders, who share in certain sacramental authority and will often participate in the rotation of delivering Sunday sermons, as well as offer ministerial support for members.
Congregational financial officers have responsibility for the local budget, collecting contributions, paying for expenses, filing the annual tax return with the Canada Revenue Agency, and coordinating with the Mission Centre Financial Officer and the Bishop of Canada to maintain the financial health of the congregation, the mission centre, and the church in Canada.
Outside these designated roles, many members and friends of each congregation feel called to provide leadership in a wide variety of areas, such as leading mission programs or connection groups, providing ministry to members in need, organizing fellowship events, or helping maintain church property. Local congregations provide an arena where all can apply their energies and particular talents together to promote the mission of Jesus Christ.
Each Community of Christ congregation in Canada manages its own local finances, including holding bank accounts, making and approving annual budgets, and providing an annual internal audit. Each congregation is organized as a distinct non-profit entity under the Canada Revenue Agency, while retaining a legal relationship with the Canadian church corporation. As such, each congregation files its own annual tax return.
The congregational financial officer provides an annual report to the membership in a business meeting, which votes to approve budgets and special expenses. The membership also elects an auditor to review the congregation’s books each year.
Each congregational financial officer operates under the supervision of the Bishop of Canada, who provides uniform church financial policy for all Canadian congregations. Specialist staff at Community of Christ Canadian Headquarters in Guelph, Ontario, offer congregational financial officers assistance with many aspects of their role.
The Lived Experience: The Mission Centre
The lived experience of Community of Christ extends beyond the walls of a member's local congregation. Find out the role that the mission centre plays in the life of a typical church member.