Community of Christ organizes its congregations into regional groups known as mission centres. Some mission centres cover a vast territory, as in Africa or Australia, and others embrace a smaller area more densely packed with congregations, as is the case in the central United States. Boundaries are often drawn across lines of geographic or cultural significance, as these areas serve as vital support systems for the congregations within them. The mission centre is made up of congregations holding some sort of cultural, linguistic, regional, national, or even international commonalities. In Canada we have two large mission centres, one including all of the western provinces, and one centered in the eastern half of the country. Not only do mission centres provide pastoral and administrative services to church members and congregational leaders throughout the region, they also provide a point of connection between church members who may live far apart.
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 concerning the mission centre.
Connections Across Congregations
While a member's local congregation is their primary point of contact with the church, they also build and maintain relationships with other members across their mission centre through regular activities like reunions, retreats, and mission centre conferences. Organizationally, Community of Christ congregations are not viewed as standalone community churches; rather, they function as representatives of a larger network of members and of the larger denominational body. As such, it is common to have congregations within driving distance collaborating to provide guest ministry opportunities wherein one minister will travel to provide a neighbouring congregation with fresh ideas, perspectives, and the gift of presence. In today’s world, there is a growing movement of connecting members, congregations, and mission centres to one another via web conferencing software to build community, share the message of Christ, and even to worship together.
Mission Centre Leadership
Each mission centre is led by a Mission Centre President and a Mission Centre Financial Officer. The Mission Centre President is the head of administrative and pastoral ministries, and provides oversight of all Mission Centre staff, congregational leadership, and priesthood within the region. It is a multifaceted role that covers most of the non-financial aspects of church leadership for all members and programs in the Mission Centre.
The Mission Centre Financial Officer oversees management and maintenance of church properties, funding for mission activities, and recruits and supervises the congregational financial officers and recorders. This important ministry also includes teaching stewardship and generosity to members throughout the Mission Centre.
Community of Christ is incorporated under Canadian law as a nationwide non-profit organization, and as a result the church in Canada has a distinct institutional existence separate from each mission centre. The Bishop of Canada is the director of the Canadian corporation and oversees church finances and corporate affairs, including that of both Canadian mission centres.
Mission Centre Services
As mission centres must respond to the unique needs and opportunities present in their respective geographic regions, the services provided by mission centres around the world can take on a variety of forms and are virtually limitless. Members, congregations, and staff collaborate to respond to the distinct needs of their area, and as such, mission centres around the world often communicate to learn more about new programs and to exchange best practices.
In Canada, our two mission centres provide a variety of administrative services (tax receipts, human resources, communications, accounting, etc.) as well as missional and pastoral services (resource development, camp and/or event planning, training(s), ministry, etc.). Staff and volunteers continually coordinate to seek out the giftedness of members and friends through volunteerism in order to further the mission of the church in Canada.
Mission Centre Conference
One of the primary purposes of the mission centre conference (mission conference) is to conduct the business of the church. Delegates to the Mission Conference discuss important issues and make decisions that are essential to the ongoing ministry of the church. Delegates are selected at the local level in congregational business meetings and are sent on behalf of their fellow congregants to represent their interests. Mission conferences are procedurally guided by Robert’s Rules of Order, similar to that of World Conference. Lecterns are provided to allow delegates the opportunity to speak to the conference body and leaders as others listen and discern what the best path forward might be. Mission Centre staff and leaders are present and available to respond to delegate questions as needed.
Resolutions, legislation, and budgetary items are often distributed ahead of time and discussed in pre-legislative sessions at the local level. This ensures delegates more fully understand the issues prior to travelling to the conference where they will use their voice to effect change.
In recent years, technology has been introduced to allow for greater participation from delegates by way of web conferencing and online polling solutions. This has proven to be not only more equitable (ensuring more people have an opportunity to use their voice without the expense of travel) but also has increased efficiencies by allowing mission centres to address more business items each year by hosting eConferences midyear between face-to-face conferences.
Campgrounds & Reunions
Camping has historically been an important part of our faith tradition. From the early days of revivals on the American frontier to today, Community of Christ offers spiritual camps and retreats for all ages - including families. Each summer, members and friends of Community of Christ across Canada gather at our six campgrounds for Junior Camp, Youth Camp, and Family Camp (also referred to as Reunion). Other retreats are offered throughout the year, such as the Nurturing Spirit Retreat, Men's Retreat, Women's Retreat, Youth Retreat, and Young Adult Retreat. These events not only provide members and friends of the church with spiritual retreats centred on renewal, continuing education, and worship, but also with a strong sense of connectedness to others who may not live close together. It is not unusual for attendees to drive distances exceeding five hours to attend these meaningful events, as these events are culturally significant in the life of members.
The Lived Experience: The World Church
As a widespread international Christian denomination, Community of Christ members find a connection with their peers around the world through the World Church. The shared institutions and experiences provided by the World Church are an important component of the lived experience of Community of Christ.