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.”
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