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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Friday, January 29, 2010


Yesterday I talked about our need to develop our collective imaginations if we’re going to be successful in meeting our goals--in fact, if we’re going to be successful in even creating our goals. Maybe it’s an area to think about building our skill.

We’re part of a culture that believes in and values education. From its beginnings the church established schools, including real intensive education of priesthood and leaders. We look at our history and note with pride such things as School of the Prophets, School of the Restoration, Temple School. We take tours of Kirtland Temple and point out the classrooms.

But I propose that we need to shift the attitude we moderns have about training, education and development. Too many of the requests that come to me as a Development Focus Minister (one of the hats I wear) are for me or some other knowledgeable person to come and talk. The assumption is that we’ll come and preach or lecture or give some information not known before. And the expectation is that the person who comes will have answers to whatever questions might be asked. In fact, the expectation might even be that they will also know what the questions are, because folks in the “audience” don’t want to ask them!

You may be getting tired of the word dialogue. But this is the way of the future. It’s the way we’re operating right now. For example, Mike Hewitt, CEM’s CFO and Bishop, is in the midst of a three-week long conversation in the Guelph congregation about Enduring Principles, Basic Beliefs, Counsel to the Church. All are welcome; Sunday nights from 7 o’clock to whenever. Two more sessions are announced for January 31 and February 7. What they’ll be doing is having a conversation about those things, and other items that come up. Folks who come along will be expected to participate, to ask questions and offer ideas. They don’t have to bring answers; they do need to bring a willingness to engage in the conversation.

Delegates to World Conference have already received notice that there will be lots more non-legislative dialogue sessions at the 2010 conference. We’re lucky in CEM to have had some practice with this at our Mission Conferences and cluster gatherings. But we still need to build up our dialogue skills. You can do this be being intentional and aware as you talk about things together in your congregation and in your small groups.

I’d be happy to report other places this kind of conversation practice is going on; I know it is. Let us hear from you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


How’s your imagination? Can you picture something that isn’t? or at least that isn’t yet?

Much of the conversation that’s going on in various places is really asking us to do that. We keep getting asked to discern or to vision a new future. Have you heard something like that before?

Our Merrie Bande of Bishops is working hard to come up with a strategy for accomplishing the 2020 Vision Goals that we as a mission and YOU as congregation members are going to work on for the coming decade. One of the things they’ve noticed in their travels is the struggle some folks are having to figure out what it is they’re called to be and to do. It’s hard work finding just the right balance between “what we’ve always done” and “where we’re called to go” in some unknown future.

It calls for imagination! You might want to look around your congregation for the creative, imaginative types who can help with this task.

Remember that saying “honour our past while creating our future”? Turns out we’ve got lots of skill and practice with the “honour your past” part of that and not so much with the “create your future” bit. I’m thinking it’s something we’ll be working on along with the many things we’re working on as we forge into our discernment, dialogue, vision/mission, planning, strategy sessions.

Fear not! Make ready to be surprised! Expect to work hard. This might just be the place the generations meet. ( Check out this for an interesting discussion of our diverse generations.)

Locate your most energetic and creative generation X and Y and let the Baby Boomers provide the backup song. Now, all together, let’s sing a chorus of “Imagine!” That should help.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

True Spirit

Here's Cheryl Brooks' report of the weekend we shared in Montreal. She acknowledges it's lengthy--but I'm going to give the whole thing to you. Enjoy her account of our visit with the Montreal congregation:


This past weekend I accompanied a good friend on a road trip to Montreal. Not only did we share wonderful “windshield time” as Marion called it, but I also received “blessing time” from a congregation that knows how to show their true spirit.

We arrived at the church (which is located directly on an intersection and is attached to a car wash) on Saturday afternoon where we met the pastor – Albert – vacuuming and preparing for the evening service. Instantly, we were greeted and welcomed and yes, an invitation was even extended for me to offer a prayer in the Sunday morning service. – which I accepted. (Marion was giving a morning message for them)

(You see Albert is very good at inviting – a few years ago he put a guitar outside their front door and a young man came in and asked if they needed a guitar player – he is still playing that guitar for their services)

That evening’s praise service was amazing as young people led with songs, prayers, chants and lots of thanksgiving. A message was shared from Matthew about the 10 bridesmaids and being ready when Christ returns. Very powerful service – truly upbeat and lively.
Sunday morning we arrived early to find many helping Albert to get ready – microphones tested, instruments warmed up, coats hung up (you see Albert insisted on this since he was expecting all seats to be filled), and amongst all this activity there were still greetings given by everyone. By 10:30 maybe 25 were there to worship when we began and then people gradually kept coming in until we probably had 100.

No hymn books are available here but a few praise/chant books are, which most do not need since songs are mainly memorized and repeated joyously with clapping and dancing. No bulletins are used but there is great order in the service with the worship planner leading the congregation and the presider, Albert, with a loving hand over the service and aware of what’s taking place. No offering plates here but decorated colourful cloth baskets are used because offering time is joyful, full of singing and praise which flows right into the service.

Bibles, however are brought by most (hmm, something we don’t see in majority of our congregations) so when the scripture is read they can turn to the verses and follow along – also, most usually stand at this time.

Marion’s message shared about the gifts everyone has to offer along with how we are all connected as a mission center within our many diverse congregations. Another preacher (from a different denomination) followed her with a great passion to share the word as we were basically leading into a “revival” type message calling all to show what it truly means to have the spirit within us and do what Christ leads us to do.

Music was great throughout the weekend with lots of microphones (used to fullest potential), electric guitars, drums & keyboards. Praise and thanksgiving for everything is something this congregation shows enthusiastically. This is a congregation who is mainly Haitian, and they know all too well about loved ones who are suffering from Haiti yet they continue to praise God for everything.

All ages shook hands, extended greetings, some translated & most said God Bless. Oh, and did I mention I do not speak their language? - it did not matter.

Invitation, welcoming, gathering, sharing about Jesus & living it, - sounds like some aspects of the Healthy Congregation and our 2020 visioning goals!!

Let’s share the excitement of having Jesus in our lives – Let’s show what it means to have the TRUE SPIRIT of Christ within us.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Some of you have asked for a report on my weekend trip to worship with the Montreal congregation. I know your thoughts and prayers have been with the Haitian church and the ties to our Montreal congregation are very close! (They and we are very grateful for all you've been doing to contribute to the relief efforts there.)

So you would likely not have been surprised to hear of a sad or sombre atmosphere in our worship there. You would have been wrong! This weekend was the tenth anniversary of the church's being able to purchase and occupy their facility. They feel truly blessed to have a place to worship. Every year they mark the date. They were in big-time celebration mode.

This is a people made for praise! Prayers are full of "Hallaluja!" and "Praise Jesus!" The energy and interaction in their gathering is high. Music and singing and movement and colour and flowers and everyone in their very best outfits mark the occasion. After the two and a half hour service we repaired to the lower room for feasting and conversation (and a spontaneous game of tag among the tables, played by children from just walking to teenagers).

Do they not care for the suffering of their compatriots? Absolutely! And they too are sending every bit of money they can. But they are not surprised, as we may be, by the singing in the rubble, because they are singing too.

No one knows the hour they will be called home; praise God we have Jesus in our hearts.
For this they will Celebrate!

Posted by Marion

Friday, January 22, 2010


Your CEM team is on the road this weekend. We'll be scattering in several directions and hoping to see many of you.

It's good to have this little on-line community too. Some of us are exploring how to best use our technology to stay connected. Expect to hear more about that too as we're trying our blogs, internet groups, skype calls, twitter. I confess I'm not totally "up" on all those, but love to hear your experiences and will be sharing as I can.

But "face to face" is important too. And for some folks it's the only way. (I don't agree with those "only way" opinions, by the way, as I'll be talking about in some future Blog posts.) But "face to face" is great!

So watch for us this week in Guelph, Kitchener, Montreal and California! Joining us will be friends from Corinth, Elora, Grand Valley, Cambridge, and who knows where.

I'd be happy to hear who else is on the road and where you're gathering this weekend. I've got an idea we're not the only ones.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


It probably won’t surprise many of you that I have several stacks of books on my desk, beside my armchair, on the filing cabinet…a few are even on the bookshelf! Yesterday I received a box with four more brand new ones, samples from a great publisher who sends me these freebies from time to time.

My problem is that several of these books are sitting there waiting to be read. The titles call to me; they promise great content. And I’ll be passing along recommendations as soon as I have dipped into them and have a good idea who else should be reading them with me.

Some of the titles I love: Know Your Story and Lead With It, Beyond Maintenance to Mission, The Answer to How is Yes, The Wisdom of the Seasons, a New Climate for Theology, Finding (Living, Teaching) Our Story. That last one is a three-volume series!

Most of these books are skinny little volumes that really shouldn’t take too long. In fact not one in that list is longer than 200 pages! And the authors are folks I already know and trust like Sally McFague and Peter Block.

I’d be so happy if someone out there would volunteer to read one or more off this stack of mine and help with the task of referring others. Who are the readers? Please identify yourselves to me.

I have been known to whine a little that people don’t read any more. Maybe that’s true. But if you’re willing to give me a hand with these stacks of mine, I’d gladly share. Or if you’re looking for something in particular, by all means let me know.

(I have several stacks that I have read, and I’d gladly share them too.)

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I read this statement in an essay about Martin Luther King a couple of days ago and haven't been able to get it out of my mind. I'm not sure if MLK said this, or if the essayist is interpreting.

I'm not going to say much about it; I'm just putting it out there for you to reflect upon. It resonated with me.

We are the people we have been waiting for.

(Posted by Marion)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I had a nice chat with Barb K who’s currently conducting a pre-baptismal class in Ottawa. The small group of children will be working with her over an extended time. They’re getting to know the church they’ll be joining from many perspectives.

Barb speaks, lovingly, of the learning and behavioural challenges of these particular children. And I use the word “challenges” not to suggest disability. In fact, sometimes a gifted child presents an even greater challenge to a parent or teacher or congregation. The secret, she shared with me, has been to invite a guest to the class to talk about something for which that person has a special passion, or some unusual insight, or additional experience. What a breakthrough!

Barb shares just how successful this has been. The children look forward with excitement to greet the guests. The guests have shared wonderful information and testimonies with the children. They’re glad to have the opportunity (and I suspect to have Barb there riding herd on the little beasts). With guests, the class is on best behaviour.

The children share what they’re learning at home with families and look forward and plan for the day they’ll be baptized to show the world they’re followers of Jesus and full-fledged members of the Community of Christ.

Then, of course, Barb the Seventy can’t resist reminding me that invite is such an essential word for all of us to remember, all the time. It’s how we reach out into the community to meet the needs of the lost and seeking, and to bring in the richness and diversity we need to grow our congregations and engage in God’s mission for the world.

So there you have today’s good word: Invite!

(Posted by Marion)

Monday, January 18, 2010


Here’s a word that has lots of implications, many uses depending on circumstances. After a bombardment of information or activity, it’s really nice to pause for bit of rest, a little reflection. Life can get rolling at such a pace we may want to yell out “Stop the world; I want to get off!” Or maybe we just need a little “pause that refreshes.”

I’m sure there are many people involved in some urgent search and rescue, not to mention those awaiting relief, who would gladly push a pause button for time to catch their breath; but that isn’t possible.

At the same time, many of us who do have the opportunity, in fact, who are urged to take breaks, wait a bit, spend time in quiet reflection before we jump, or act, or decide, seem reluctant to do that. We can’t wait to jump in and do something—fast!

Over the last two weeks Carman and I have been bringing you our thoughts on the 2020 Vision Goals for the decade. We hope you’re considering them and working out strategies to implement those that resonate for you and your congregation, as are we.

Just now, the church is being asked to reflect, to spend time in discernment on some very big and very challenging issues. We’ve been commended for doing just that, for taking time to think, to study and dialogue together on various questions before us. There is much to think about, and much to do. But for now, on this Monday morning, I’m focusing on this good word for the day: Pause.

(Posted by Marion)

Friday, January 15, 2010


Yesterday, Carman posed the question: is it reasonable to imagine we can do this?

This” has taken on whole new proportions as we watch the story of Haiti unfolding before us through various news media and social networks. And yet, individuals are stepping up in just so many ways to tackle this impossibly enormous challenge. All day yesterday we’ve been answering queries from individuals and congregations, about how to help.

Is this a “peace & justice” issue? Will what we contribute or not make one iota of difference to the number of bums in pews this Sunday, or next? Or ever? Many of those who do gather will offer special, heart-felt prayers for the suffering we’re all enduring together. Many will gather special, even sacrificial offerings to send to help the relief effort. Some will search out theological explanations for such catastrophes. And someday, some of us will look again at what we can really, really do to make our world more peaceful, more just!

As Neil Cole put it in his book Organic Church, "It is not enough to fill our churches; we must transform our world."

That’s it. That’s our fifth and final 2020 Vision Goal for the decade: Engage in effective peace ministries.

May God bless you in your efforts.

(Posted by Marion)

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Goal 5: Effective Peace Ministries

Is it reasonable to think that our little church with our 50 +/- small congregations and members scattered here and there across Eastern Canada can make a difference in the lives of people and communities? Is Effective Peace Ministries really a reasonable goal for us?

A few years ago when “the troubles” in Northern Ireland were at their peak, and bombings or shootings were in the news every single day, I could not see how that conflict would ever end. The hatred and mistrust was so strong that I could not see any end in sight. I often wondered, how will the country ever get past this? To believe peace was possible did not seem reasonable. And yet, the day came when a ceasefire was arranged and actually held! The country may still not yet have a totally reliable peace, but they are much closer than they were. The children can now go to school in peace, and there is hope.

The same could be said of numerous conflicts, either physical or ideological, around the world. Believing in peace between warring factions was not reasonable, but peace was possible. In my lifetime, many conflicts have ended, the Berlin wall has fallen, the Iron Curtain has come down, and numerous other victories for peace have occurred. In each case, to make this happen, someone had to believe in it and work towards that end.

In Canada East Mission, we have many people who believe in peace and work toward it on a variety of fronts. There are many examples, but here are a very few. I have watched our YPC (Young Peacemakers Club) leaders as they taught peace and conflict resolution to class after class of primary school children. Congregations give scholarships and peace awards to High School students to reward and encourage their peacemaking efforts. I have shared with a High Priest as he talked to a Jewish Business man, seeking to convince him that, "Not all Arabs are terrorists". I have heard the stories of everyday miracles that occur in the presence of our courageous volunteers for Encounter World Religions as they teach inter-religious peace to students and adults day after day. And I have seen lives transformed and redeemed from addiction and pain to hope and new life through the ministrations of members and ministers who care.

We are blessed to have such people. They believe peace is possible, even when the visible evidence does not appear to support that faith. These are people who have been touched by the generous grace of God, and who seek to share it with others. They go beyond what is reasonable, trusting that the impossible will probably just take a little longer. Thank God for peacemakers who, knowing their own blessedness, pray for and bless others with the touch of God’s generous grace!

Is our 5th goal reasonable? The answer is in the lives of our people. Their actions say that, reasonable or not, this is the work we are called to; the tasks we must do. As CEM Mission President, I believe it is nothing short of a privilege to support them.

Posted by Carman Thompson

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I have been living with the Healthy Congregation model for more than five years now. Congregations where there have been CPI conversations have seen the model and have begun to use its language. It takes some time for this language to be spoken; it takes longer for it to be understood; it takes even longer to internalize it.

I do understand Carman’s question: what was I thinking when I expressed this goal? Deploy the Healthy Congregation model in every CEM congregation!

I’m not sure if ten years will be enough to accomplish this one either. But having lived with it for five years, I do acknowledge that it is useful and I’m beginning to internalize its concepts. Elements of the Healthy Congregation model spring readily to my mind on lots of occasions, in lots of differing situations. It’s starting to be really helpful to me when some of the typical questions are posed, or when I want to explain what I mean.

I recently read an Interview with a Street Preacher here and was struck by this comment he made:
Jesus went to seek and save the lost, and I don't see him passing out flyers for the upper room meeting but healing, preaching, and ministering where people were. Many pray for seats to be filled by incoming sinners, while I often pray for them to be emptied by the outgoing saints.

Right there in that short paragraph I see elements of the three kinds of ministry the HC Model refers to! I think of the people, the saints gathered together in those seats, in that upper room. I imagine the going out in service to find the lost in the community in response to Jesus’ message, and I feel the invitation to be part of these ministries—the work of the healthy congregation.

All these ministries are part of the tradition, the foundation built on an understanding of God’s generous grace and in response to a great need in the world for the overarching values of peace, reconciliation and healing of the Spirit. Too often we imagine the “church” as living inside that box, that one in the middle of the drawing. But if there is a true Spirit there, we feel its pull—or its push—outside the box and into the world. That’s one message I get from this Model. There will be others. You may recognize others yourself.

What is your experience in hearing, understanding, internalizing the language of the Healthy Congregation Model?
(Posted by Marion)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Goal 4: The Healthy Congregation Model Effectively Deployed in Every Congregation

As a former pastor, I am quite familiar with the experience of not being able to see the congregational forest for the trees. Leading a congregation is a busy task, and it is easy to get so involved in the day-to-day issues and challenges that you can no longer clearly see the big picture. The metaphor that comes to mind is the saying that, “When you are up to your ears in alligators, it is hard to remember that you really came in here to drain the swamp!” A proliferation of alligators is not conducive to effective swamp draining or pastoring.

Add to this the fact that our pastors and leadership teams are all bi-vocational volunteers, and it is easy to see why a clear, simple model of operation is important. Among other benefits, it helps us remember exactly what we have to offer the world, and what our focus needs to be.

Community of Christ has been working with the Healthy Congregation Model for at least five years, but many people are still not familiar with it. The graphic at the top of this page may help us understand it.

A very quick explanation is that the Community of Christ is built from the bottom up on God’s Generous Grace, the Christian Tradition, and on Community of Christ Tradition. It is the Witness of Jesus Christ and the Building of Community that provides structure and supports Peace, Reconciliation, and Healing of the Spirit; the ministry the church offers the larger community. The diagram further says there are three types of ministry we engage in: Witnessing/Inviting, Gathering, and Sending/Serving. A healthy congregation will have a balance of all three. The model says that is what we do, and that is all we do.

This does not mean that every congregation will be the same. Every congregation will respond to God’s Generous Grace in a slightly different manner. They will live out the mission to which they are called according to God’s gifts to them and the leading of God’s Spirit in their midst. Each congregation will respond to the needs of the larger community in which they find themselves, and in that way, bring the Peace of Jesus Christ to those they meet. The fact that people need that peace is the very reason we need this goal.

Some days it feels to me that having the model effectively deployed in every one of our CEM congregations is an impossible task. “What was I thinking?” I ask myself. When I think that way, I realize I have gotten too close to the alligators again. I need to step back and look for ways we can do this. That is what we need to do, one congregation at a time.

Monday, January 11, 2010


2020 Vision Goal 3: Every Congregation in Relationship with CPI (Co-missioned Pastor Initiative).

“Russ preached a really great sermon last Sunday,” I was told. “The kids were really paying attention, and really ‘got it’.”

If you are a preacher or public speaker, wouldn’t you like to have that kind of ringing endorsement for your messages? Don’t you wish every sermon was so captivating? Can you imagine what that would do for your congregation? The possibilities are almost enough to take your breath away!

Russ, of course, is Russ Pirie; Pastor of Hamilton congregation, and if he is reading this, he is probably both surprised and blushing; surprised to find himself spot-lighted here, and blushing due to the praise that came from a member of his congregation. But how did this pastor get so skilled? Where did he learn to speak that way? At the risk of over simplifying, the answer may lie in the fact that Russ is a trained, CPI Pastor. Along with the other three CPI Alums in CEM, he is a better trained, more competent and confident, and a more effective pastor and speaker as a result of spending time every year for four years in training. That is the benefit we want for all our pastors and their congregations. Consequently, we have begun the CEM CPI program. As far as I know, we are the first mission centre to do so. So far we have twelve pastors from seven congregations involved in our first cohort. This is our pilot group. We are planning for more.

Earlier this year when first we met with this new cohort for team building and orientation, several of the pastors spoke about how they “just knew” this was what they had to do. There was something ‘calling’ them into this new program, even if they didn’t understand exactly what all might be involved. There was an eagerness in each person; an anxiousness to learn, a quiet excitement. I smiled, and knew they would not be disappointed.

This fall, we met with that group of twelve again, this time for a week of intense study with the Dean of the Community of Christ Seminary, Don Compier, and South America Mission President Arthur Smith. They came together in retreat to study theology and learn scriptural exegesis. In the weeks leading up to the retreat, and even at the beginning of the week itself, we heard a fair amount of groaning about the amount of reading, and whether they really had time to do this much work. Again, I smiled. I smiled because I knew of the benefits that would come to them as a result of this commitment of time. Despite their reservation, they began immediately to apply themselves faithfully to the task. One by one, around the room, the light dawned as each began to understand. And I know, without any testimonials, that their sermons are better, their confidence has improved, and their ministry is stronger as a result of that week together.

Our goal is to have every congregation in the CPI program. It won’t happen overnight. It does take work and costs money, but it is worth every minute and every penny. It is an investment in our congregations and in the future. I thank God for pastors who are willing to grow.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Goal #3: Every congregation in relationship to the CPI program

From the beginning of the World Church’s Co-Mission Pastor Initiative to equip congregational leaders for ministry, I’ve been associated with the pastors and the congregations in our Mission who are participating in this project. Corinth was the first CEM congregation to come on board, and I was there for many preliminary visits, explaining, answering questions, helping set goals, creating targets and then working with their pastor Cheryl Brooks, who was one of the first cohort of 25 pastors to receive the training and to implement that training in her congregation.

Since those early days, five years ago, there have been more visits to assess progress, to note achievements, to measure gains, to generate feedback and evaluate programs. In fact these are the key elements we’ve worked on in the other three congregations who participated in the program: Low Banks, Hamilton and Providence Bay. Pastors Marilyn Graham, Russ Pirie and Weston Leeson each has a story to tell about their CPi journey.

Now, at the “end” of the World Church project, we have launched our own Canada East program, coordinated by Doug Bolger. We currently have twelve pastors, representing seven CEM congregations participating. They too will have amazing stories to tell.

But my objective in sharing today is to tell you of the single benefit every single pastor and congregation has cited as we’ve evaluated their experience! They’ve all had many things to share about how they’ve been positively impacted by the program. But one item leads all their lists: they feel more connected than before.

This connection has several facets. They feel connected to each other. They feel connected to the Mission. They feel connected to a global church. They feel connected to church leaders and instructors they now realize are resources for them to call on. They feel connected to other congregations dealing with the same challenges and joys that they experience. They truly feel connected by one Spirit that unites and supports and upholds us all. They feel empowered by that sense of connection.

I never, never speak with any one of our CPI pastors, whether World Church or CEM participants without mention of this sense of a strong, spiritual bond of connection. And with it a sense that anything is possible!

This is the kind of power we want to tap into with this goal: ensure every congregation has an association with CPI.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


It’s about the people!

I can’t help but think of the man in the coffee shop, nervous about going to a funeral. At sixty years of age he had no experience with funerals, and certainly none with death and dying. He asked about funerals, but clearly needed to talk about other, deeper questions. I imagine the woman at McDonald’s who wanted an opinion about saying the Lord’s Prayer in school. Feeling it was somehow important to her, because she’d said it as a child, but with no church connection now to test her child mind’s opinions against. She’s lost a way to talk about a subject that she really, really does want to talk about.

We’re not so far from 9/11 with its ensuing emotional turmoil about Islam. Our fears of the “other” moving into our neighbourhoods grow unchecked without diversity education. We struggle with current questions about same sex marriage, or gun control or questions of young offenders and criminal punishment. People don’t know how to talk about their concepts of ethics and morality.

Every day things happen in communities that raise impossible questions for ordinary people. Accidents claim carfuls of teenagers. Children contract terrible illnesses. Whole communities are thrown out of work by an economic decision made in some distant country. Where is their good news?

What do these have to do with Goal #2? These people need a community. Some of them need a Community of Christ. It’s not because we need to ensure the survival of our particular institutional faith community. It’s that there are people living right here in my neighbourhood who need to have a way to think about life’s hard questions. People need to know God’s grace and presence in the world. They need a place and a way and a community to struggle with what that can mean to them in the things that impact on their own life every single day. They need to feel God’s love; and it needs to come in human form for them.
Maybe we can reach out from our current congregation. I know some of you who do that. But maybe my congregation is too set in its ways. Most of us feel just too comfortable or too tired or unwilling to embrace persons with unfamiliar “lifestyles.” It takes something new!

These are the circumstances that come to MY mind when I consider CEM’s Goal #2: Plant five congregations in the next ten years. What about you? What do YOU think of?

Posted by Marion

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Goal # 2: Plant (or re-plant) five new congregations in the next ten years.

Goal #2 was first spoken out loud at the Noronto reunion in August, 2009. The response was immediate! People began to come forward with expressions like, “Let me tell you about my community!” Or “ Have you considered planting a church in _____?” It was exciting!

We have not been idle on this goal since then. Despite our expressed intention to “go slow and learn with each new effort”, our people began rolling up their sleeves and working right away. The following is what we can report so far.

Fired Up Congregation was launched in September under the leadership of four enthusiastic young adults. The new congregation has had highs and lows, but we are learning and optimistic about this new plant.

Brantford congregation began the work of re-visioning and re-planting, and has gone from an average attendance of four people to between fifteen and twenty in just four months! They have already had a baptismal service.

The people of Sudbury congregation, who had not been meeting for perhaps two years, began to discuss their options. Getting together for fellowship and food, they decided not to close the congregation after all, but instead, to see what is possible. Now they meet from time to time, and bless each other with their love. The re-visioning has begun.

When it comes to fulfilling the call of God, the church does not have the luxury of simply marking time. Trying to stand still will inevitably lead to falling behind. There are people whose lives need to be blessed by the message of the gospel. There are communities of people everywhere we need to reach out to. These communities are not about towns, cities, or rural geography, they are about people. The potential to do something new exists wherever leaders of vision see and recognize a new opportunity. That may happen where we have only one member now, or where we already have a flourishing congregation. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we are reaching out to those whose lives we can bless.

In some cases, we have congregations that need to be re-planted. These are communities that may have existed for many years but are now in decline and in serious need of a new vision of greatness. Where we have people in those communities who want to try something new, we have hope. Given the choice, isn’t it better to re-plant than to close?

Some will no doubt say that we should strengthen our existing congregations before we plant something new. That is the stuff of goals three and four, and we will have more to share about that later. Today is about goal two.

Where else does the Gospel need to be planted? Barrie? Stittsville? Do you feel the stirring of a new plant in your community?

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Oh look, here's a little space.

You could use it to say something about Goal #1: Young Adult Leader Empowerment.

Or you could just use the time to think about YALE.

Check back tomorrow for Goal #2.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Not many years ago the church’s youngest appointee came from Canada East. I well recall feeling a sense of pride as one of our young people spoke with passion and eloquence in support of the World Conference resolution endorsing the UN statement on Rights of the Child. We’ve been proud of young adults who’ve directed our reunions and we rely on the hundreds (Yes, that’s the right word!) of young adults who make our camping program possible. Young adults are bringing us their traveling ministry; they’re integral parts of important boards and committees across the Mission and in their congregations.

Why then do we also collectively hold the certain awareness that senior high students will go away to school and never return to home congregations? Leadership positions come open, wise elders look around at empty pews and, yet again, step into those roles for the sake of the survival of the community. Everywhere we go we hear the question “where are our young people?” and we bemoan the future of the church.

Yet, young campers long for that single week in the distant next summer when they’ll reconnect with friends once again. Carman has shared his experience with Gracelanders who do long to serve the church they care deeply about. Have they really become invisible to us? Or have they truly gone missing?

Here is our paradox. We have many congregations with aging leaders and young adults who stay away, and young adults who want to serve but feel they will never have the chance. This paradox is what we in CEM want to address with our 2020 Vision Goal #1: Young Adult Leader Empowerment (YALE). We are determined to tackle the challenge to bring our passionate and capable young people into positions of genuine authority and opportunity.

We must get intentional about handing off and supporting the direction younger leaders want to go. We need to give them the training, the experience, the opportunity they need to truly lead our congregations of the future, the congregations of the present.
Maybe it’s time for you to examine your own ideas and attitudes toward the next generation around you. Can you see who the next leaders should be? What if those leaders do something or suggest a direction that isn’t what we’re used to? Are you ready to respond with a heartfelt “let’s give it a try”?

It’s time to take this goal seriously. We don’t even think it’s too late. But we need you to make this your goal too, whatever your age or generation. We need you to do some things, maybe even many things, differently. And we intend to help you.

We’d love to hear from you; how are you committing to Goal #1: Young Adult Leader Empowerment?

Posted by Marion

Sunday, January 3, 2010


In no particular order, let me share a few names with you.

Renee, Grant, Sarah, Andrew, Kevin, Heather, Annie, Joe, Derek, Keira, Alysa, Rachel, Bryce, Karen, Aaron, Kyle, Lija, Lauren, Lisa, Serenity, Duane, Christopher, Rebecca, Meredith, Marc, Jordan, Ryan, Robyn, Matthew, Irena, Taffia, Adam, Kristin, Scott, Dariq,
Tamara, Alfredo, Mark, Natasha, Rachel, Jon, Christine, Shawn…

These are but a few of the names of young adults we have observed leading, and wanting to lead, in Canada East Mission. The list is no where near a complete list. These young leaders are honing their skills, helping where they can, and looking for places they can fit in to offer their ministry. They are exceptional, outstanding young leaders. They do not know everything, but then again, who does? They have ideas, energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to try. You will, no doubt be able to think of more names when you put your mind to it.

(Young Adults, if you don’t find your name here, the fault is mine, not yours. We have not forgotten you!)

Young adult leaders also have frustration. Some have grown disillusioned, reporting not being listened to in their congregation, and sometimes not even being seen. Some have quit attending church, but will travel long distances to serve in our camping community, often at great personal sacrifice.

Still, they are here, they are willing, and they are able. They are the reason Young Adult Leader Empowerment (YALE) is the number one goal of Canada East Mission in the coming decade. It is number one in importance, not merely first on the list. We are blessed with a wealth of fine, young adult leaders. They may think, act, and dress a little differently than you (or not), but we definitely need their energy and ideas.

At Canada East Mission, we are looking hard for the young adults who will lead us into the next decade. We will be giving them important assignments, even if it seems they’re not really ready. Don’t be surprised. If you believe in this goal, we’ll need you to back us up. Out loud, and with real commitment.

We believe the future, under their leadership, will be amazing. Are you ready to give them a chance? Who are the young adults you are mentoring to fill your leadership roles?