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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?"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


In a previous post entitled Walk-Ins, we discussed the phenomenon of people coming to church unexpectedly and simply walking in off the street. We discussed the concept of brand loyalty in religion which now seems to be outdated. Since writing that article, I have hear of more of this activity and wonder if it might be a trend.  The following are some additional thoughts on the subject.

In our day, a person looking for a church is much less likely to ask if there is a local congregation like the one they grew up in. Instead the questions are likely to be based on their own desires or needs. The following are a few questions such a person might ask themselves, their neighbours or their co-workers.
  • Is this church friendly?
  • Will I be welcome there?
  • Will I find a spiritual home?
  • Will attending this church help me find and connect with God?
  • Will going to church here help me make sense of my life?
If the person is a parent, the questions become much more important.
  • Is this church child-friendly, or will my children be welcome here?
  • Is this place safe for my children?
  • If there is a nursery, is it clean, modern and well stocked with safe supplies?
  • Can I trust he people who staff the nursery?
  • Is there a Sunday School, and what will be taught to my child?

Are we ready for people to walk in off the street? How do we know if we are ready? How can we let people know that they are welcome to just walk in? If this topic interests you, watch for future posts to What's the Good Word. I may have a few more thoughts on the subject.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Several reports have reached me recently concerning folks who walked into church off the street. In each case, they were not church members but people who lived in the area, looking for a church. In one case, the visitor had been following the neighbourhood outreach activities of the congregation and thought a church that was interested in the neighbourhood might be one they would like to be part of. In a different city, the visiting couple had done some internet research and already knew something about Community of Christ world-wide; now they came to try out the local congregation.

In each case the people who "walked in" had no prior association with Community of Christ. Some had previous exposure to some brand of Christianity somewhere, perhaps through attending or visiting Sunday school as a child. Now, probably for reasons known only to God, the person or persons are wanting or needing more.

In previous decades, "brand loyalty" was an important concept in many people's lives. For example, a person who drove a Ford car or truck often loved that brand and was frequently a Ford customer for life. At the same time, there were others who would rather "push a Chevy than drive a Ford!" (Yes I know, them's fightin words!) Similarly, some folks always washed their clothes with Tide while other people swore by Cheer. A great example of the decline of brand loyalty comes from IBM. This company once owned the computer market, but now must compete with everyone else for a share of the business. As marketers are very much aware, there is little evidence of true brand loyalty any more.

Similarly, expectations have also changed in matters of faith. There was a time when people who were raised Methodist, for example, considered themselves Methodist for life. A Lutheran could be expected to always be a Lutheran, a Catholic to be a Catholic, and a Baptist would always be a Baptist. Now-a-days, however, brand loyalty in religion is almost a non-factor. Whereas in previous decades, a Presbyterian in one city might have been expected to look for a Presbyterian church when they moved, today no such assumption can be made. A member of Community of Christ who moves may find a local community church, whether Baptist, Mormon or Unitarian, or may choose to look for none at all.

In our day, a person looking for a church is much less likely to ask if there is a local congregation like the one they grew up in. Instead the questions are likely to be based on their own desires or needs. In days to come, I will have more to say on the subject of "walk-ins." Stay tuned!

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


On Monday of this week, What's the Good Word featured a report from Dorothy Burdette, co-pastor of Wiarton Community of Christ, concerning the response to their Easter Breakfast. Every good idea deserves and needs follow-up and this one is on exception. The following comments are from my email reply to Dorothy. They are offered here in hopes that they may contain something helpful to offer to your congregation as well.


Congratulations to Wiarton congregation on a successful Easter breakfast. My friend Jimmy Munson, a Seventy from Chattanooga TN always says, “Our Victory is in the Invitation.” I noted that President Veazey also used this same expression in his video series on Mission Initiatives.

Invitation is the critically important first step, and nothing is more important. Having said that, there are several more steps that are necessary. Here is my suggested short-list for follow up.

1. Even before the service happens, plan the next event or activity so visitors can hear it announced at the initial service. This information, along with guidance about when and where to register or appear, should be in the bulletin as well as on the announcement screen.

2. Communicate a “Thanks for coming” message to each guest who came to the activity or service. This should be done as soon as possible after the event, and preferably within 72 hours.

3. Build a communication list, whether by mail, email, twitter, newsletter subscription, or phone, so you can invite visitors to come for each subsequent event.

4. And finally, always thank and praise your volunteers (greeters, cooks, servers, ushers, decorators, tech-persons, participants, dishwashers and so on), letting them know how their contribution made a difference.

Once again, thank you for all you do. Your story is a powerful example of invitation at work. We will look forward to hearing more reports of future ventures in Wiarton.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mission Initiative # 1

The following post comes from Dorothy Burdette, co-pastor of Wiarton Community of Christ. It is a wonderfully encouraging report.


We (Wiarton congregation) had just selected “Invitation” as our mission initiative when I read the Good News report outlining the success Bridges St. congregation had with a community dinner. (You can find one of those reports by clicking here.) I thought there was a great opportunity in the Easter season, so in a week, we put together the plans. The following is the result.

The Wiarton congregation embarked on their Mission # 1 initiative; Invitation, by inviting friends to a special Easter breakfast before the Easter worship service. We planned a simple meal so that we could eat with our “guests”. Fruit cocktail, fruit plate,homemade quiche, homemade hot cross buns, fruit bread and cinnamon buns made a tasty menu.

Our average attendance is about 22 people. Easter Sunday we had 52 (every seat filled) in the basement for our breakfast, and 65 for the following worship service (every seat filled except open front pews). Eight children filled our small nursery. It was evident that our guests enjoyed the breakfast, fellowship and worship service and we were thrilled with the response. How blessed we were in this, our first endeavor. God’s promises are sure. HE goes before us and prepares the way. Alleluia!

Co pastor, Dorothy Burdette

Thank you Dorothy and the faithful folks of Wiarton. I love you guys!

Every great idea always requires follow-up, and this one is no exception. Stay tuned to What's the Good Word later this week if you would like to read my response to Dorothy's good news letter. It may have some ideas for you as well.


Thursday, April 12, 2012


Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff- they comfort me.
Your prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Somehow I have never thought of myself as a sheep. In all the years I have been reading the 23rd Psalm, the full impact of that simile always eluded me. At least that was true until recently when along with the CPI pastors I was invited to dwell in that word.

Perhaps it was listening to a farmer who raises these animals and his assertion that 'sheep are the dumbest creatures on God's green earth' that had made me blind to the psalmist's intention. Or, perhaps it is from being involved in ministry for the past 45 years that I have tended to see myself in the pastor/shepherd role rather than that of the sheep. Still, when you really look at it, this psalm makes clear the shepherd to sheep relationship, and identifies which side of that equation we are on. We are the sheep, or more specifically, I am the sheep.

The interesting thing about this realization is that it is okay, in fact it is downright wonderful. Aren't there times, probably a lot more than we care to admit, when we need to lie down in green pastures beside still waters until our souls are restored? Aren't there times, especially for people who are involved in caring for others, when we need to be fed and nourished? Don't each of us sometimes need the oil of blessings to be poured over our heads?

It is a privilege to be able to give ministry for the benefit of others, but there are also times when we need to be able (and willing) to receive. When our cup is empty, when our bodies are weary and our minds exhausted, we need to recognize that we are not and cannot be the shepherd of the world. In such times it is good to accept the role of sheep and have our own needs supplied.

Perhaps if more of us did that a little more frequently, we could do a better job of staying on the "right paths" and avoiding the dangerous and rocky road that leads to burnout gulch.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CASA - Gracias!

On January 30, What's the Good Word featured a story and pictures of a Casa (house) in Honduras belonging to Reyna and Pablo. The story was about an amazing lady who touched my heart with her wonderful spirit of gratitude and generosity. The post included pictures of their very humble home and invited those who might care to help to contribute to World Accord's Families for Families program in order to help build Reyna and Pablo a new one.
Side View of Reyna and Pablo's Old Casa

Some Neighbours at the Old House before Demolition

The response to that post was immediate and overwhelming. Several individuals promised to contribute personally, and at least two congregations went into fund-raising mode and gathered money for this cause. Consequently, since that time a nice, new little house has been built for Reyna and Pablo, one with a real floor and a roof that doesn't leak! Life has certainly changed for them.

Since that time, I have been aware that this story would not be complete until What's the Good Word had a chance to say thank you, but I needed to have pictures of the new house to show you what you accomplished. I now have those pictures and they speak eloquently so I will let them speak for themselves.

Volunteers Laying Blocks at the New House

Raising the Walls

A Nice New Home on the Hill

A Party to Celebrate

The Key to your new Home!

Pablo and Reyna with Al Wygood

On behalf of What's the Good Word, World Accord, and Reyna and Pablo, sincere thanks to all those who contributed to this effort, either physically or financially. You have made a difference in this world.

Posted by Carman

Friday, April 6, 2012


Depiction of the resurrection of Jesus
by Bernhard Plockhorst, 19th century

When we reach this week in the Christian calendar, somehow it always feels as we should have an Easter post in What’s the Good Word. It is not that our readers have ever indicated that expectation, yet how could we not comment on the most ____________ (fill in your own adjective: important, sacred, holy…) day of the Christian year? The preparation of such a post always takes some contemplation.

It is that spirit of contemplation that has me thinking about the words of the traditional Paschal greeting, “Christ is Risen!” Within various expressions of Christian tradition, there are a variety of appropriate responses to this salutation including, “Christ is Risen!” or “He is risen indeed!”

Christ is Risen! Think what a variety of emotions those words must have produced over the past 2,000 years! On that first Easter morning, the disciples must have reacted with skeptical doubt and perhaps even terror. What could this mean? Two or three generations later, the words would have been spoken quietly with reverence, and probably produced a sense of wonder and awe among Christ-followers. Following the conversion of Constantine, the same words must have accompanied by wonderful pageantry and joyous celebration.

What response does that phrase evoke in 2012? How do we react? It seems to me there is something incredibly important about the message of those words for our day. We spend our days running from here to there, busily multitasking as we try to get done all the things we have come to expect of ourselves. In the process, what really matters is often in danger of being buried under a mountain of busyness.

Buried. Christ is Buried! Family, friends, nature, our relationship with God, our sense of community...all buried under a pile of cultural and personal expectations. We need an Easter.

As this sacred and holy season progresses, may you take some time for personal reflection on the meaning of Easter in your own life. If you find that your life in Christ has somehow gotten buried, may your contemplation bring about a sense of resurrection within you.

And should you happen to attend church on Easter Sunday morning somewhere where the traditional Easter greeting, “Christ is Risen!” is spoken, may you respond with heart-felt, personal conviction and renewal, “Christ is Risen Indeed!”

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Lift up your eyes and fix them on the place beyond the horizon to which you are sent. Journey in trust, assured that the great and marvelous work is for this time and for all time.

Claim your unique and sacred place within the circle of those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ. Be faithful to the spirit of the Restoration, mindful that it is a spirit of adventure, openness, and searching. Walk proudly and with a quickened step. Be a joyful people. Laugh and play and sing, embodying the hope and freedom of the gospel. (Doctrine and Covenants 161:1)

One of the wonderful things about scripture is that it can speak to us in so many different ways. It may speak in one voice on one occasion, but bring a quite different understanding at a later time. The prophetic books in the Hebrew Scriptures, for instance, were written for one group of people, set in their culture with their particular set of problems, issues and circumstance, and yet the same text can often speak to us today. We contemplate the ideas expressed by the prophets with an eye to understanding their issues, but also listen to how the words may speak to us in our day and time.

Similarly, the concepts within a particular text may speak to an individual, a congregation, the entire church, or the global population!

In recent years we have learned to appreciate the insights that can be gleaned from the scriptures through the spiritual practice of Dwelling in the Word. During one of the worship times at the recent CPI retreat, we were invited to dwell in D.&C. 161:1 shown above. I have understood this passage as being addressed to the entire Community of Christ. See this way, verse 1b of the text challenges the church to claim its unique and sacred place within the circle of those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ. During those moments of contemplation, I began to consider the challenge in this text from a slightly different direction.

What if we applied those words on a personal level? What if the words were addressed, not to the corporate body but to you or me? What if we are individually challenged to claim our unique and sacred place within the circle? The suggestion would be that there is a unique place, a sacred place in the circle just for you, or for me. It would be a place that nobody else could fill. Yours would be a voice within the circle with which no one else could speak. The circle would be stronger because you were there, or weaker without you.

Similarly, how would it be if we were to challenge members or friends to step up and claim their own unique and sacred place in the circle? Are there post-congregational persons, perhaps youth or young adults who are passionate about peace and justice that need to be invited to participate in the Canadian National Conference? Are there people who care about feeding the hungry who should be invited to participate in or lead congregational efforts to abolish poverty and end suffering? Are there members and friends who work for peace that need to be nominated for the Canadian National Conference Peace Award? (Note: its not too late; we are still accepting nominations even though the website says the deadline is March 1, 2012.)

It is worth thinking about. Is there someone you need to invite to claim their unique and sacred place in the circle? Have you claimed your place?

Posted by Carman

Monday, April 2, 2012


On two separate occasions in the past two weeks I was called upon to lead a discussion concerning Christology. Specifically the issue is how we understand Jesus. This is one of many issues on which there is certainly a polarity of understanding. At one pole is the understanding of Jesus as fully divine, and at the other is an understanding of Jesus as fully human. The official position of the church is that Jesus is, at the same time, fully human and fully divine. You may think this is something of an impossible contradiction, however it may help you if you read the Statement on Christology on the world church website.

Polarity is not a word we use every day, nor is Christology a subject I regularly teach. I was surprised therefore (Why am I still surprised?) to open a new book entitled Scattering Seeds: Cultivating Church Vitality, turn to the forward and read the following words.

I think it was the Danish theologian Kierkegaard who said faith is, “Holding the tension of polarity.”

The Christian faith is rich in polarities to be held in tension. A core one is the paradoxical claim that Jesus Christ is “fully human” and “fully God.” How can anyone be fully this and fully that? Because its tough to hold these two together, different traditions and preachers tend to come down on one side or the other. They emphasize Christ’s humanity or Christ’s divinity. But the trick, so to speak, is holding the two together. Looking at a baby born in a manger out back and seeing the Lord of history and eternity. Its like a battery. Without poles, there’s no charge. - Anthony B. Robinson in the Foreword to Scattering Seeds

Robinson then goes on to discuss the polarity inherent in church life between “going and doing” versus “being”, which is another way of expressing that age old tension between faith and works. Of course the two need to be held together. It is not one or the other, it is both.

Scattering Seeds is not specifically about polarity, nor is it directly about Christology. It is the testimony of the authors, Stephen Chapin Garner, the pastor of the United Church of Christ in Norwell, Massachusetts, and Jerry Thornell, a 30 year member and the church’s financial administrator. It is the story of the Norwell church’s journey. (I may reflect on the book’s ideas further assuming I ever get time to actually read it!)

In the meantime, this post is dedicated to the participants of the two classes: the Seventy of Canada East Mission and our CPI Pastors. May these additional thought help you continue thinking, bless your understanding and help you faithfully "hold the tension" inherent in differing ideas.

Posted by Carman