Search This Blog

Subscribe By Email

Get Blog Posts Sent by Email

About This Blog

How to Comment on Blog Posts

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?"

Thursday, March 29, 2012


CPI Pastors and Instructors, Fall 2011

Three years ago, a group of twelve pastors from seven congregations in Canada East Mission came together for the first time. The twelve were enrolled in CEM's pilot of the Co-missioned Pastor Initiative, or CPI for short. They met that first weekend at Crieff Hills, a retreat centre owned by the Presbyterian Church just East of Cambridge, ON. Also present as guest instructor was Apostle Mary Jacks Dynes along with program leaders Marion Smith and Doug Bolger, plus MCFO Mike Hewitt and (then) MCP Carman Thompson. It was the beginning of a remarkable journey.

Since that time, the group has met together on six additional occasions for a weekend study each spring and a week long session each fall. They have had opportunity to meet and learn from a wonderful group of instructors including Becky Savage of the 1st Presidency, Jim Poirier now of the Presiding Bishopric, (then) Dean of the Seminary Don Compier, Field Apostolic Assistant for Central and South America Mission Field Arthur Smith, Evangelist and Spiritual Director Marvin Rice and many more. Together they have studied theology, personal spiritual practice, Biblical exegesis, Congregational management and approaches to congregational mission just to name a few of their subjects. They have learned together, supported one another, and challenged each other to succeed.

This past weekend the group returned to Crieff Hills where it all began. This time their instructors were Apostle Susan Skoor and President of Seventy Kris Judd, along with Carman Thompson, now Field Apostolic Assistant to Susan Skoor. Also present were CEM president Tim Stanlick, MCFO Mike Hewitt, and program leaders Doug Bolger and Marion Smith. The topic was mission. It seemed a fitting lesson on which to graduate.

Then, all of a sudden it was over! The pilot program has been completed, and this group of twelve join four others in the CEM CPI alumni. The mission centre is blessed to have them, but where did that three years go?

The group learned a lot, of course, and we know they are better pastors and ministers as a result. The mission centre has also learned a lot, and will apply that learning to future endeavors already in the planning stage. You can expect to see and hear more information on that at some future time, but not now. Now is the time to savour this moment of accomplishment for our twelve graduates. They have worked hard. They have studied many books, and were sent away with another one tucked into their bulging cases. For the pastors, it is one more day in a lifetime of learning.

Congratulations CPI graduates. We are proud of you, and look forward to years of ministry that will be all the richer for this remarkable time together.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The weekend of March 16-18, 2012 saw the Seventy of Canada East Mission of Community of Christ come together along with other friends for a special retreat in Barrie, ON. No, this was not a gathering of Senior Citizens. The Seventy are a group of Community of Christ Elders with a calling to be “special witnesses.” This is a band of ministers who have particular skills in witnessing and inviting, something the church could use a lot more of in our current day.

This gathering was the first of its kind in CEM for several years. The weekend saw 5 of our 7 Seventy come together, along with several other people who demonstrate similar skills. Many conversations occurred as those gathered shared testimonies of hope and witness as well as their challenges and frustrations. The gathering was a special blessing to these individuals who have often felt somewhat alone in their unique and special calling. As they talked together, they strengthened each other in their desire to share the Peace of Jesus Christ with others.

The weekend also included some St. Patrick's Day fun as several members of the group demonstrated their Irish Spirit!

The weekend was rich in Spirit as the group met together for shared in worship, study and fellowship. Guest ministry for the weekend included Apostle Susan Skoor, and Kris Judd who is the leader/president of the 9th quorum of Seventy. Under the guidance of Apostle Skoor, the group discussed three primary needs that guide and motivate people in their lives: the need for love, safety, and importance which is often expressed as the need to make a difference in our world. The Seventy came to understand that while our community can provide an outlet for each of these needs, it is helpful to understand where people are coming from before we invite them to participate.

On Saturday evening the team gathered with folks from the Barrie Community of Christ, sharing faith and testimonies, and encouraging this fledgling congregation in their journey. On Sunday morning, the two groups gathered at a Community Centre for worship, the first Sunday a.m. gathering of its kind for the young Barrie group.

The weekend culminated with several of the Seventy participating in Steam, the Christian Coffee house that happens one Sunday night a month at the TLC Café and Bistro in the city’s downtown core. It was a great evening and the end of a wonderful weekend.

This busy weekend was a blessing to the Seventy and all those who participated. Look for renewed efforts on the part of the Seventy as they seek to respond faithfully to their calling. May their ministry always be bathed in prayer and empowered by the courage of faithful witness.

Posted by Carman Thompson

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


The last article in the March Herald is a testimony by Apostle Andrew Bolton entitled Why I Follow Jesus. In this one-page story, Andrew seeks to distill his experience down to the simplest truth, and ends with the following conclusion.

Why do I follow Jesus? The ones who have loved me the most have been followers of Jesus. Zion is the mission of Jesus. I encountered the reality of the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Jesus.

You can also see and hear Apostle Bolton share his response to this question by clicking here. (Click on the 2011 tab, then on "Witness the Word Apostolic Testimony".)

Apostle Bolton's story has me thinking; how would I answer the same question? I could mention several elements: the people who loved and encouraged me as a child, the spiritual leaders I met at youth camps, the patience of congregation members who loved me even when I was an angry youth and behaving in an unlovable way. Yet, the greatest truth and most important reason I follow Jesus is because of an unexpected encounter with the Holy Spirit I experienced when I was eighteen years old. That unseen Presence asked me to give my heart, my very life, and I promised to do so. It is a promise I am still learning how to keep, but from that moment to this, life has been a remarkable journey.

How about you? How would you answer the question? Why do you follow Jesus? If a friend asked you that question, what would you say? Have you thought about it? 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (NIV)

At a recent Seventy and Friends retreat, Kris Judd challenged us to respond with the essence of our answer in one minute or less. We need not share all the details, in fact it is probably better if we don’t, since that give people the chance to inquire further. And yet we should be ready to “give a reason for the hope we have” as 1 Peter counsels.

So are you ready? Why do you follow Jesus?

Posted by Carman

Friday, March 16, 2012


Collectively and individually you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened. Do not turn away in pride, fear or guilt from the One who seeks only the best for you and your loved ones. Come before your Eternal Creator with open minds and hearts and discover the blessings of the gospel anew. Be vulnerable to Divine grace.”—Doctrine and Covenants 163:10a,

A couple of people have asked me when I was going to write something about Simon again. Apparently the post in relation to “Joy” struck a bit of a chord with some people!

Simon really likes meatloaf. Last Sunday evening, the Sunday dinner crowd at our home was graced with meatloaf. Whether or not you like it, folks around our table were heard to say “I was really hoping you would have meatloaf tonight” and “Wow, my favourite meal and my favourite singer!” And Simon? Well he sat patiently on the floor watching and hoping that there may be a spare piece hit the floor, or maybe some“leftovers” to grace his kibble.

We all “hope” don’t we? What are some of the things that we hope for? Good food; good friends; good times? Gracious hospitality; gracious generosity; God’s generous grace? Hope for blessings; hope for a good book in front of a warm fire; hope for peace? Hope for wholeness and healing; hope for strength; hope that our lives will be fulfilling? What is it that you hope for?

I recently ran across this video from the “We Share”series that was shown at the 2010 Community of Christ World Conference. Watching it again I was graced by its captivating simplicity and beauty. The video is called “Vulnerable to Hope” and you can find it here

For me, I hope for all those things I have listed and I hope for all the things I found in the video and I hope that we, our Community of Christ, can be vulnerable to hope and vulnerable to divine Grace and find our way into a certain future as we work to explore our mission and embrace the Mission Initiatives ) and follow the paths that Jesus has first trod.

Will you join in this journey? I know that God, who loves us collectively and individually, will be with us on each step.

Simon? Vulnerable to Grace and equally as vulnerable to hope, as we all are, he sat patiently (although I think I saw Steve Northey “accidentally drop” a piece of meatloaf on the floor). His reward? A hearty helping of meatloaf mixed with kibble, a full stomach and an ear rub. As we explore God’s possibilities and take our own faltering steps, just how great a reward might we find? Are you ready?

Poster is John Nichols

Thursday, March 15, 2012


The following article by President David Schaal originally appeared on the Community of Christ Evangelist's blog, March 1, 2012. It is re-posted here with the generous permission of the author.

In recent years I’ve been paying attention to congregations that are engaged in outreach and invitation in a “sustained” way. “Sustained”, in this sense, refers to efforts that are perpetuated with energy and joy, rather than other efforts that seem to just wear themselves out after a year or so.

One of the common characteristics of congregations that sustain mission, appears to be that their engagement in mission is not motivated by some program emphasis that someone tried to import or muscle along. Instead, their engagement in mission grew out of sustained spiritual practice that ultimately birthed a stirring of the Spirit in someone’s soul who was willing to make themselves available as God nudged them into the community.

I’ve spent years of my life trying to motivate congregations into mission, and have watched as good people experienced success for a while, then either burned out or simply “let it go” after I was no longer there to support them. I’ve decided now that my time would have been much better spent if I had helped them learn how to build sacred community grounded in spiritual practice, with an eye on discerning God’s missional call.

In some ways, what I had been doing was a form of unintentional idolatry. Idolatry is taking anything and putting in the place where God rightfully belongs. In my case, I was exercising my own attempts at missional motivation, in places where I should have helped create space for God’s Spirit to breath. I didn’t mean to do that. I didn’t even know I was doing that. It’s just that promoting programs and trying to motivate people into them was the only model I knew—and it was all for good purposes. Nevertheless, there is a HUGE difference between people “agreeing” to engage in programs, as opposed to people responding faithfully to a mission born of the Spirit’s promptings.

I now think that congregations are best served if we can hold up missional vision, then help create environments wherein the Spirit can move, rather than simply pressing people to implement the latest resource or hottest idea. I’m not suggesting for a moment that programs are undesirable, or that we should simply wait around for God to direct us before we launch out in mission.

I’m simply suggesting that congregational mission is not just about pushing programs that we hope will work. Instead, congregational mission is about building a community of disciples who are grounded in spiritual practice, attempting to discern what God is doing in their community, and how they might be called to join God in those efforts.

Evangelists can be invaluable in this regard, as they help congregational leaders create sacred community wherein people are loved, disciples are grown, and efforts are made to discern how God is calling us.

by David D. Schaal, First Presidency
Community of Christ


Today's post was inspired by Linda Booth's thought provoking article in the March 2012 Herald entitled Signal Communities...Reflect Christ's Peace. (You can read the entire article by clicking here.)

Apostle Booth draws to our attention Jesus' efforts to create a signal community with his disciples and followers. Acts 2 then tells how the first-century church attempted to follow Jesus' example and teaching by living that community model. Apostle Booth points out that throughout our history, Community of Christ has steadfastly believed that it is also called to create signal communities. Before the church was even established the following guidance was given.

"Seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion." (Doctrine and Covenants 6:3a, given April, 1829)

Apostle Booth then makes the following statement.

Over the years, some Community of Christ congregations have developed a form of Christian amnesia, forgetting what congregations are to signal. They have focused on themselves rather than Christ’s mission of evangelism or invitation, compassionate ministries, and justice and peacemaking for all. Discipleship often has focused on events and programs in the church building, rather than extending Christ’s mission in our neighborhoods, families, and communities.

I am not sure I would have characterized our congregations this way, but do you think this is true? It is at least an idea that is worth exploring. Seen in light of Sister Linda's observation, recent revelations to the church take on fresh meaning and call us to renew our understanding of both the global and local church's purpose. Perhaps Doctrine and Covenants 163:3a should be read, not as new counsel to the church but as an urgent reminder of what has always been our call.

You are called to create pathways in the world for peace in Christ to be relationally and culturally incarnate. The hope of Zion is realized when the vision of Christ is embodied in communities of generosity, justice, and peacefulness.

"Thankfully," says Sister Booth, "God continues to be patient with us, reminding us that we are to be signal communities that reflect Christ’s peace and live Christ’s mission." She does not let us off the hook with that statement however, reminding us that God's Spirit is already at work in our communities and there are people who are searching for our community's signal of hope.

My Spirit is reaching out to numerous souls even now and there are many who will respond if you, my people, will bear affirmative testimony of my love and my desires for all to come unto me. —Doctrine and Covenants 153:9

There is a certain urgency here. That same urgency can be seen in the closing passages of Doctrine and Covenants 164.

If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ. The challenges and opportunities are momentous. Will you remain hesitant in the shadows of your fears, insecurities, and competing loyalties? Or will you move forward in the light of your divinely instilled call and vision? The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead. (Doctrine and Covenants 164: 9d-f)

If we have developed "a form of Christian amnesia" it is clear we need to recover.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


By our usual objectives for this blog, doomed would not be considered a good word. Generally we try to tell positive, encouraging, good news stories that will inspire people to want their lives or congregations to achieve their purpose. And yet, perhaps that is exactly what this "good word" may do for some.

The inspiration for using doomed as a good word comes from Jan Edmiston in her blog A Church for Starving Artists. I encourage you to click on the link and read what she has to say. It would also be worth your while to subscribe and follow her blog. For those who will not or cannot follow the link, the following is how Pastor Jan used the word "Doomed."
Churches that love their (fill in the blank) more than they love Jesus are doomed. Some of them know they are doomed and don’t care. Some of them pretend like it’s okay to love their windows, organs, communion tables, strawberry festival more than God.
I must admit that I was a little shocked by Pastor Jan's candor, not only in this statement but in several of those that follow. I would not argue with anything she said, but it is unusual to have anyone speak with such frankness and honesty. Most of us try to be diplomatic in our observations. Still, that approach seldom results in the dramatic changes that are needed, does it?

Churches that love their ____________ (fill in: routines, history, practices, beliefs, traditions, preferences, peace and quite, etc.) more than they love Jesus ARE doomed. Jesus did not sit around the synagogue in his day gently teaching and hoping the congregation would one day "get it." Instead, he left there and went out into the cities, towns and villages where the common people were, and sought to bring the hope of the Kingdom of God to them.

Similarly today, God's Spirit is not idly sitting around the churches hoping the congregations will "get it." God's Spirit is out in the homes and streets of the neighbourhoods in response to people's needs and prayers. Churches that will not understand that, or are not prepared to follow the Spirit there, are doomed to be left behind. As Alan Roxburgh would say, we need to get outside the walls of the church and see what God is up to in the towns and cities where we live, then ask how we can help.

Not everyone is ready to learn about Jesus, but some people certainly are. Many people do not know what it is they long for, and they would be very unlikely to go into a church to look for it. Such people are what Jesus refers to as his lost sheep. As we are taught in the parables, people that love Jesus need to be willing to go out and find them.

Posted by Carman

Monday, March 12, 2012


The following quote is from Lovett H. Weems Jr., a United Methodist Church Minister and director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. If his name sounds familiar, it may be because Weems has occasionally been a guest speaker at the Temple and is a good friend of Community of Christ. In a recent article entitled Time to Invite, Weems made the following observation.
In the last year, several friends who live in different parts of the country have returned to church after a number of years of inactivity. This is encouraging and counter to the national trend since 2002 of fewer people attending church. There are two striking characteristics among these church returners.
  • None returned to a church of their former denomination.
  • All returned because they were invited by a friend.
Lovett's story reminds us of the importance of always inviting people to Christ. It also reminded me of the following.
A number of years ago, I was sharing with Brydges Street Community of Christ in London, ON. This congregation was, and still is, being intentional about reaching out to their surrounding community. As Easter approached, a group of leaders met to plan the annual Good Friday breakfast and program, as well as the Easter worship. A great deal of creative effort went into the planning, and it was clear that the ministry offered would be outstanding. The question was asked, How can we convince people to invite their family and friends to this important service?
Consequently, we designed a little pocket or purse-sized folder that was imprinted with the words, “Inside this folder are the means to bring your family and friends to church.” Inside the folder we placed six colourful tickets, resembling the tickets you might get at the movie theatre or the hockey arena. On one side of each ticket was information about the Good Friday breakfast, and on the other side was an invitation to the Easter Sunday service.
About a month before Easter, one folder was given to each person at church. Some were skeptical when they received their folder, but I remember how excited I was when one sister said with indignation, “Is that all I get; six tickets?” You can be sure we quickly gave her some more!
The good news was that people used the tickets and invited their friends. The Good Friday breakfast was full for two sittings, and people stayed for the Good Friday program following. Several people came for the Easter service on Sunday morning, which was their first time attending that church. For some, it was their first time attending any church in many years. Congregation members followed up with them, extending the invitation to come again, and many did. Several came back regularly and at least five eventually asked for baptism. Why did they do that? Because they were invited!
Easter, 2012 is just four weeks away. Is there someone you could invite to come to church and experience resurrection and renewal? What a Happy Easter that would be for them and for you.
Posted by Carman

Friday, March 9, 2012


I have been a regular advocate for people being deliberate about their personal spiritual practice. In fact it is not uncommon for this topic to appear in What’s the Good Word, like this piece from December 30.

The need for deliberate and regular spiritual formation seems obvious for any disciple, however that importance is multiplied for anyone in a church leadership position. How can leaders lead unless we are seeking to be in touch with the one whose name and Spirit the church bears? Having served as pastor in more than one congregation, I can personally attest to the foolishness and futility of trying to lead any other way.

Despite this rather obvious understanding, there is a related observation that is so equally clear that I am embarrassed to admit it has totally eluded me until now. In a book entitled Missional Small Groups: Becoming a Community that Makes a Difference In the World, M. Scott Boren writes about the importance of sharing our spiritual practice with our community. In small groups, this involves the group (or at least the group leaders) sharing that journey of prayer and discernment together as they seek to understand God’s will for their group.

What about congregations? Would it not be equally important for congregational leaders to share together in the process of discerning where God would like their congregation to go? Especially now with so many churches being led by pastoral or leadership teams, would it not be a blessing for them to be joined together in prayer and discernment for the direction of their congregation?

What if the leadership team were to meet together regularly for prayer and conversation about their church; weekly if possible? It could be a prayer breakfast, or a weekly gathering before church on Sunday morning. With modern electronic communication, it could even be a virtual meeting on a convenient weeknight. Perhaps the team might choose a certain scripture and each commit to dwell in that word daily, then share their experience when they are together. What if each member of the team were to commit to continuing this daily practice of study and prayer knowing that the other members of the team were also seeking the Spirit’s guidance? Can anyone doubt that this would produce a powerful effect upon the congregation? Would it not be a blessing?

I have already noted that this idea seems embarrassingly obvious. And yet, I wonder how many of our congregational leaders meet together in this way. Are you part of such a team? If so, perhaps it is time we tried sharing our spiritual journey together.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

International Women's Day

Today, March 8, is International Women's day. In honour of that, we would like to draw your attention to a blog entitled "March 8 is International Women's Day! What will YOU do?" written by David Barth, the Executive Director of World Accord. You can find David's post by clicking here. Please read it. It is well worth your time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Plans Interupted

(A reflection on Mark 6: 30-44, 52)

The wording of a particular incident recorded in Mark 6 is peculiar and has caught my attention. It is the familiar story of the feeding of the 5,000, sometimes called the story of the loaves and fishes, however it is another aspect of the story that has drawn my eye today.
In Mark’s version of this event, Jesus’ disciples have just returned from a big mission trip. They are excited but tired, and Jesus starts to take them on retreat to rest. When they get to the place of retreat, they discover a big crowd there. Rather than going someplace else or sending these unexpected people away, Jesus recognizes this as an opportunity to share the message of God’s caring, and begins to interact with these strangers. His attitude is one of welcome and kindly compassion. It is clear that he likes these people and begins talking with them, thereby showing the spirit of God’s gracious and generous love to them.
As the day wears on, the disciples get impatient and, under the guise of concern, suggest to Jesus that he send the people away to “buy something for themselves to eat.” Jesus has assumed the role of a caring and gracious host, however, and says no, “You give them something to eat.” The disappointed disciples are clearly not excited about this idea, but Jesus takes charge and organizes the situation. He invites the people to sit down and has the disciples serve them their bread.
The phrase that really caught my attention in this reading is, “and he divided the two fish among them.” This hands-on image of Jesus personally preparing the food for this unexpected crowd is a little astonishing, and shows the extent he will go to live out his caring for them. This is in stark contrast to the disciples who wanted to send them away. Instead, it is the disciples Jesus sends away while he says farewell to his new friends.
Mark’s contrast of the difference between Jesus’ attitude and that of the disciples is clearly intentional. The final notation on the matter occurs a few verses later as this writer leaves us with something to reflect on. He says, “They (the disciples) were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”
Which attitude do we reflect towards the people who interrupt our plans? Do we see them as the heart of our purpose for being on this earth or an annoying interruption? Do we see these people as p--God’s beloved children, or as a distraction and an annoying interference? In my agenda driven, objective oriented world, I’m afraid my attitude has too often been the latter. Like the disciples in Mark's story, this seems to be a hard lesson for me to learn, but when I stop to think about it, what could possibly matter more?
Posted by Carman

Friday, March 2, 2012

Missional (again!)

Ever since coming back to Canada East Mission in 2009, I have felt an urgency for our congregations to be proactive in their mission. For three years I have probably wearied our congregational leaders with my constant questions about mission and being involved in the life of the surrounding communities. To that end, the number one goal of the Mission Advocate support network is to help congregations discern/be about their mission. Similarly, the intent of What Matters Most workshops is to help congregations determine what they feel God is calling them to do, and help them structure to do that effectively. Despite all of this preparatory work, with a few notable exceptions, not much seems to have changed and many congregations continue to decline. Despite this, I am not discouraged and still believe our congregations need to clarify their purpose and be on task.

This is the context for what I want to say about a book I have recently read. The book is entitled Introducing The Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How To Become One, written by Alan J. Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren. I had read Roxburgh’s earlier book, The Missional Leader, which personally I found rather dry and academic. Despite having attended a workshop with Alan, I did not recommend that book to very many people. This one, however, is different. This book is very readable and helpful. Examples of churches that are actively working at the process of becoming missional are included. Even more important is that Roxburgh and Boren recognize and acknowledge how difficult it is for congregations to change, and outline a process that will help. It will take about five years, they say.

The authors encourage congregations to start slow and small, having deliberate conversations among the members about what has changed in the world around us, admitting that the old methods no longer seem to produce the desired results. Churches are not encouraged to change overnight, but to gradually start some small experiments, reaching out into the neighbourhoods where the congregation members live. Starting small will produce confidence that “we can do this”, and will eventually change the church culture from an inward and protective stance to one that wants to reach out.

Perhaps most helpful is a warning to outside leaders (like me) who see the need for congregations to be about their mission, not to try to hurry or short-circuit this process. To do so is to endanger the entire effort and probably derail it. In other words, be patient, Carman, be patient!

I heartily recommend Introducing the Missional Church to all those who want to better understand what it means to be about their mission, and how to get there. The book is especially recommended to Mission Advocates and Pastors.

Posted by Carman