By Kerry Richards
Canada East Mission Centre President
When I first met Christine at our Coffee Cultures Conversation Group she arrived late. We were having a lively discussion about how we can individually and collectively contribute to the “common good”. We shared a brief introduction and launched back into meaningful dialogue. There was a chemistry present. Not one of the eight of us wanted to conclude our sharing. Following our time together, Christine and Barb hung around. Christine was direct. Who are we and what is our objective? Barb who was with us for just her second meetup said, “I don’t want to get into something I have to get out of.” We understand their caution, their expressed distrust of religion. We affirmed that Creating Connection which is our Meetup profile and Community of Christ our sponsoring faith community are respectful, affirming and open to examination. Our community interactions are based upon value statements called Enduring Principles that guide our groups. As our name implies we are creating connection and community. That alongside their experience with us was acceptable. Christine and Barb both sent us email follow-ups to their experience with us.
"I arrived late, and I felt very welcomed to your group. I wasn't sure what to expect, what would happen or what we would talk about. I was pleasantly surprised, I enjoyed myself. Thank you. In fact, the topic of discussion stayed with me for several hours, it did broaden my mind. Great morning." -Christine G.
"It was so fulfilling and gratifying to meet up with a such wonderful bunch of like minded people in the morning and evening. I loved all the connecting, the conversing, the sharing of thoughts, feelings and ideas and of course all the tasty food! Thanks for working to make connections happen." -Barb M.
Our social media profile on Meetup.com is matched to people looking for kindred groups whose profile matches theirs. Meetup draws us together. It takes courage for each new person to take a seat at our table. They are warmly greeted. These good folks are looking for meaning, trusted friendships and a sense of belonging. Those are the ingredients we strive to bring to each gathering.
Two months later I attended the monthly community meal hosted by this same group. There was Christine, greeting us as we walked into the house. I was now the visitor and graciously welcomed. Barb was their too. The group had doubled in size and as the evening progressed natural spontaneous conversations about spirituality and community happened all across the room. Not one person beyond the facilitator was of Community of Christ faith, yet they upheld our church as a progressive and leading edge movement that in drawing the circle wider was relevant to the diversity of seekers in society. Several stated they would be attending our upcoming Connection Retreat in the coming months. They sense belonging.
Our Mission Centre has setup 4 very unique “New Expression” storefront sites of our faith community. The emerging group of Seekers that I’ve just described, our “friends of faith” who sense belonging with Community of Christ want their group to establish a Community of Christ centreplace in their city that has no current church presence. Their attendance numbers are as large as our average congregation. They are meeting as regularly as a congregation. They do not come from a churched mould, their spiritual practices are diverse, their inter-faith inclusivity welcomes an exchange of blessing from those of diverse faiths. And yet, they sense that they are one with us.
Our Mission Centre has several such emerging faith communities. Each story, each context is slightly different but the common feature is that Community of Christ is honoured and followed for our willingness to pilot “New Expressions” and meet poised Seekers where they are and accept them as they are. We are mutually blessed. We have discovered that New Expressions emerge from “the outside in.”
By Caitlin d'Esterre
As a Community of Christ member, I believe that we are all called, compelled even, to approach our lives in a critical way. We are urged to look at the world around us and see opportunities for growth, change, betterment and empowerment. We are then driven to think outside the four walls of our church, and be innovators to help our communities.
As a nurse in one of the busiest Newborn Intensive Care Units (NICU) in Canada, I see families from all walks of life facing their worst nightmare: a sick newborn baby. One day I was working with a particularly small baby who had never gotten any breastmilk, even though her mother said she was pumping regularly. I asked this mother about the pump she was using. It turned out she couldn’t afford a hospital grade pump rental, which is essential to the milk supply of a NICU mom.
I called every resource in the city looking for an affordable option for this mother. I was startled to learn that most mothers without employer benefits do not qualify for any sort of cost relief. The most vulnerable mothers in our province are denied the opportunity to give their babies breast milk because of finances.
This situation plagued me for months, until I realised that I was being called to invent a solution. My congregation could initiate the kind of service these women needed. After several weeks of work with my pastor and other supporters, The Mother’s Own Milk (MOM) Project was born. The Calgary congregation purchased six hospital grade breast pumps to be rented to mothers at a low monthly cost. We can abolish poverty and end suffering by simply allowing mothers to feed their children the way nature intended.
This was my calling.
By Debra Donohue
Samish Island Campground (Washington, USA)
Our first BC (British Columbia) Friends and Family Weekend was June 1-3, 2018 at Samish Island. It is an opportunity for you to introduce your non-churched friends to the beauty of our west coast campground, meet our great people, and connect in a setting without classes or religious context. We held a contemporary worship service on the Sunday morning, but anything else religious will come from questions or discussions prompted by our guests. The intention is to provide an easy introduction to Community of Christ and its members. It was so well attended by friends and family, that we will be decided to make it an annual event!
Experience Congregations in Mission
By Kerry Richards
Canada East Mission Centre President
We are piloting new models of sacred space to optimize our community presence. Is it possible to transform a facility from being invisible to the surrounding community to being a place of passerby curiosity, purposeful interaction and everyday gathering. Wholeheartedly YES!! But you likely need to move to a new streetscape location. The Barrie congregation rented a storefront space just 3 months ago. Our curb appeal presents through our picture window a Products for Purpose sales area, a Conversation Lounge and a comfortable learning space with a SMART 65” TV all within an affordable 1300 sq ft area. Our typical traditional Sunday attendance is 15 persons. This is magnified greatly through weekly community invitational programming. Through our experienced marketing using social media, meetup group networking, walking the neighbourhood hospitality, safe signage and an invitational enthusiasm we welcomed 80 people to our Open House. We literally had standing room only with sidewalk ministers sharing with passersby who stopped to see and hear what was happening in their neighbourhood.
For a facility to exude mission, the dynamic visibility of your place, your safe name profile, the magnetism of your interior setup, the signage promoting your daily relevant activities, are the eye candy that draws the curious in your door. If you supplement this with marketing which exposes your welcoming space and endearing programs to the vast numbers of poised Seekers, you have the tools to be radically missional. Seekers comprise 30% of your community and their on-line search to fill the yearning within, to find community belonging, spiritual meaning and the means to make a difference with their lives; all lead to what you have created expressly for them. Mission is not about us. Mission in action is when the space for Seekers is safe, comfortable and inviting. Then every day numerous new people will drop in, every day social media draws those in life transitions into your space for conversation groups, Ted Talks, meditation, crafts, yoga, streamed lectures and movies that matter. Their lives are transformed by the space that carries an aura of difference from traditional faith based settings. Facilities matter in Mission. Renting vs ownership doesn’t matter, but if a congregation is trapped in financial constraints through ownership that limits their missional reality, then renting is a critical transformative step that also amounts to a survival strategy in this era of church decline. It is a no turning back decision to reframe $$ assets, to engage in covenant ministry in hands-on Seeker based modes not traditional approaches. The sometimes surprising reality in this adventure in faith is that the end result is so incredibly and radically fulfilling on so many transformative levels that you will discover that truly our welfare as a faith community, as disciples, is found in the welfare of those who newly enter our sacred space.
So why rent? Our present congregations are almost invisible. They project religious institutional red flags and are typically only used by commuting congregants. Assets from the sale of a building invested in a rental space opens the door to vast new possibilities you never envisioned before. One facility with new missional creativity becomes two or more locations local to clusters of commuting members. These become new plants. Local literally means GROWTH!! The neighbourhood where you live, work and shop becomes an intentional interactive Mission space with your local friends. A safe space with new signage profiles, opens the door for comfortable invitation. Local proximity means the space is used for relevant activities every day and felt meaning within will bring friends in faith back week after week.
Barrie congregation hosts events almost daily. The number of community participants outnumbers members. Our activities become our intentionally introductory platform to present the identity of Community of Christ. We created what we call “Identity Walls” which are filled with posters, graphics, pictures and resources that portray the life of our faith community, our Enduring Principles, Mission Initiatives, our inclusivity, our community engagement, camping programs and youth happenings. These become our talking points for safely relating who we are, what we value and what we do. This wall, our stories won’t be shared unless facilities are transformed into places of missional possibility.
Let us become free of facility constraints in $$, facility designs that meet yesteryears needs, locations that are illusively invisible, proximity that is distant from our own daily lives. Let us be free to discern Mission from the eyes of those on the outside looking in, from the needs of the vast solo Seeker population in their search for sacred community they don’t yet perceive they need. Renting space allows experimentation and new models to be envisioned and piloted. The Mission Prayer daily inspires new courage and accompanying blessing. Let us be free to be is the call to be missional facilitators vs managers of facilities.
Develop Disciples to Serve
By Shannon McAdam
Imagine it’s a grey, cool day, and you are feeling a bit nervous about the work you left undone and whether you packed everything you need, but the autumn tree leaves are on fire, you smell garlic roasting, and your warm cabin is waiting for you.
This is how we arrived at Samish for our Nurturing Silence retreat on October 26th. Everyone was a bit nervous about how the weekend would go, since this was something new. Even those who had been to silent retreats before had never been to one quite like this. And those of us who were “in charge” had never done something quite like this before. So, while there was nervousness, there was also lots of excitement and anticipation for what lay ahead.
We transformed the large multi-use “CFC” into a warm and holy meditation space, transformed a classroom into a cozy listening post, and transformed the usually plain dining hall into a candle-lit space for eating mindfully. It’s amazing how just a few candles, some fabric, and a few found items can make the old seem new.
Our cooks treated us to lots of delicious sights, tastes, and smells in their creative, mostly vegetarian cooking. I enjoyed the notion of treating myself to romantic, candle-lit meals with the Holy Spirit! Such a delight!
Silence turned out to sometimes be easier than we thought it would be, and sometimes be harder. I surprised myself when walking back to my cabin one night, I encountered a deer and immediately said “Oh! Hello there!” I wondered if it was ok to talk to animals at a silent retreat! The deer silently ate apples and stared back at me occasionally while I sat quietly and watched. Watching that deer was one of the ways I took “a long, loving look at the real”. This was one of the ways to look at contemplation that I particularly enjoyed.
Most of the time things just easily moved along without need for words. Meal ingredients were explained on post-it notes, cleanup was done in a meditative and calm way, and there were friends available to give a listening ear if folks needed help getting back into silence.
It was a wonderful time to feel connected to the Spirit more deeply and connect in community. Please come join us next year! Our Nurturing Spirit retreat is a great place to start if you’re nervous about a whole weekend of silence, and then when you’re ready, join us for the full Nurturing Silence experience.
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