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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?"

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kids Crave Camp & Families Live for Reunion

Getting You to Camps & Reunions

Community of Christ is known for our youth camps and family gatherings. For those who have ventured to these annual summer events the experience is treasured for a lifetime and imprints the presence of sacred community upon the lives of each one that even decades later is recalled with meaning and fondness. In CEM we own 4 campgrounds managed by superb Boards of dedicated volunteers to ensure your comfort, safety and enjoyment is excellent. Then our team of camp and reunion directors create the programs that bring a wealth of worshipful meaning, community presence and joyful recreation to all generations. I applaud all who engage in the organization of bringing blessing to our lives.

Now, the reality is that perhaps only 20% of our congregants actually attend reunions and camps. There are some congregations where not one person goes to reunion. Some of our challenge is affordability. Some is proactively saving $$ throughout the year. For some, our spouse would not be comfortable. Then, who looks after our pets. We have no camping equipment. Lastly, there is a need to actively promote the reunion experience through video and person to person invitation.

Let's look at these challenges.....

Congregational Reunion Goal

Every congregation, ideally over the next couple of weeks should set a goal of inviting every attendee and also be thinking of those on the periphery who used to attend reunion or camp to consider it for next year. If any family raises the $$ factor then tell them the congregation will fund raise throughout the year to match the amount they can personally contribute. Some families and individuals may donate generously through their weekly receiptable contributions to assist others.

Generously Invest In Families
Affordability is a combination of truly not having the $$ for any holiday as a family. These individuals need our investment in their lives. This can happen through receiptable donations and through proactive congregational fundraisers throughout the year. The key is that we need to be thinking about this right NOW!!!

Setup Your Reunion/Camp Savings Account
Many families have setup automatic transfers in their bank that puts say $50/mo or pay into a savings account for a vacation. When the anticipated vacation day arrives the cost is not a burden on them as the pre-planning enabled the financing of their vacation. Try the same approach for reunion. Setup your reunion or camp automatic transfer savings account right now. Talk about this with your family; generate anticipation. They will know that we might be foregoing some consumer wants to allow reunion for us to happen. Perhaps the kids may want to invite friends as well. Talk about it with that family, the cost, that they could help with the fundraising as well and show them the camp and reunion videos. Perhaps their whole family will come.

Hospitality and Diverse Reunion Activities

To allow a spouse to feel at home but not overwhelmed, to engage as they feel comfortable in the choices of the reunion schedule, we need to hospitable, sensitive and provide them with some off-ground space to play golf, go fishing etc. Perhaps we also introduce some on-site golf classes, I-Pad instruction, software navigation sessions, wellness cooking etc that all may enjoy.

Reunion Housing
Most reunions have some available dorms, however, if we have a CEM wide push on reunions we will need alternatives such as tents, tent trailers etc. Each congregation may have to look at the housing options, but there is time if we start the process now and include the costs into our fund raising target.

Pet Care
Preplanning is the key. Family, friends, kennels are the usual. Try the....if you look after ours we will do the same for you when you go away. Where there is a will there is a way.

Promoting Reunions and Camps
Dynamic videos today are the norm to envisioning and engaging our senses and emotions in telling and experiencing a story! How can we do less in promoting our reunions and camps. I call upon all reunion attendees to gather up their photos and videos and forward them to me at the CEM office. and we will work with our teams to provide your congregation with promotional tools to excite families and friends about camps and reunions.

Here is a sample of the CEM "Church at the Zoo" day. We have some creative people. 

OK...The bottom line is......Every person, including your children, every congregation needs to be promoting reunion right now! Starting Sept 1st means every hurdle before every family is eliminated through pre-planning.  JUST DO IT!

We will be blessed with such a grass roots engagement of families, friends and kids that for years to come we will talk about the year 2014 as the turning point in Community of Christ mission in the CEM !!

It takes a community to make this happen. Talk this up. I am counting on you! Everybody...Repost this on Facebook. Thanks.

Submitted by Kerry

Friday, August 30, 2013



I am currently reading a book by N. Graham Standish, the pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, entitled In God's Presence.  The book is subtitled Encountering, Experiencing, and Embracing the Holy in Worship.  At this point I am only half way through this title, so blogging about it may be premature, however it has me thinking about the question, "How do we connect with God in worship?" 

Standish discusses the difference between functional and spiritual worship.  He defines functional worship as that which is "more concerned with worshiping in a right or accepted way than a transforming way."  The author then identifies three ways in which worship can become merely functional, through intellectual, traditional, and programmatic emphasis which he defines as follows. 
  • Intellectual functionalism stresses human thinking over spiritual inspiration in preaching, praying, and practice.  (Standish offers that this is a particular temptation of the Presbyterian or Reformed tradition.)
  • Traditional functionalism values maintaining established practices in worship. (Sound familiar to anyone?)
  • Programmatic functionalism focuses more on what attracts people to church, or what grabs, stimulates, or entertains them.
I have certainly experienced all three of these approaches in worship, and so have you.  Sermons are sometimes intellectual because the speaker is, and sometimes to avoid any expression of emotionalism.  Worship planners often prepare worship that is traditional because "we have always done it that way" or because that is what the worship helps suggest.  We want to attract people to worship, and there is nothing wrong with that, however programmatic approaches can lead to gimmicks and formula that seldom produce the desired deep connection with the Sacred.

The truth is that every worship planner may have, at times, approached planning worship in each of these three ways. At times I have taken the easy way in planning a service the way we each know and understand.  This is not necessarily bad, but can also be an expression of spiritual laziness.  It is faster and easier than doing the hard work of discerning what may actually help people connect with the Divine.  I further confess I have gone through periods where I was more concerned with "what works" to attract people to church rather than helping them form a deep connection with God when they got there. This approach is not so much wrong as it is incomplete.

In contrast to functional worship, Standish believes  our task is to create what he calls "intentionally spiritual worship."  Much of this has to do with the prayerful intention and discernment of the worship planner, worship leaders, or speaker. A lot of thought and prayer, and perhaps a lifetime of preparation goes into understanding and discerning people's needs and what really helps them connect with Divinity.  This is not taking the easy way out, and certainly Standish would not support an approach that leads to mere emotionalism. 

In my own experience, the most profound, break through moments of connection with the Divine have been unexpected, and not at my initiative.  Let me offer one example.  I recall many years ago presiding at a communion service with a migraine pounding in my temples, and all I wanted was for the service to be over so I could go home and bury my head under a pillow.  In those moments I began to sense the unexpected promptings of what I have come to know as the Holy Spirit.  Reluctantly and in some surprise, I turned over the Sunday bulletin and began to write down the thoughts that came unbidden.  It seemed that divine Presence wanted to offer words of encouragement and guidance to the congregation concerning a particular situation of need and opportunity.  It was a moment I have never forgotten, and despite my firm belief in careful, prayerful, thoughtful worship planning, an occurrence no worship planner could ever have anticipated.

So here is my question: What helps you connect with the Divine in worship?  What leads you to more fully experience a connection with God?  It need not be dramatic.  Do symbols and rituals help: a cross on the mantle, flowers or candles, the communion emblems?  Does music help you connect?  If so, what kind of music?  What about prayer, sermons, etc?  Does the physical architecture around you make a difference, or preparation of the sanctuary?  What helps you connect? 

Will you click on the comments button and share your experience?  You can do so anonymously if you wish, but your thoughts may help us all as we seek a healthy, deep and satisfying connection with God in worship.

Posted by Carman

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Your Mission Bucket List

Sunday is Sept 1st. In many people's minds after the summer, this date is a parallel to the New Year. We are returning to work, school, family realities in our day to day routines and hopefully our church roles. One way to convert that hope into action is for us to put pen to paper or keyboard to tablet, laptop etc and intentionally plan your time and tasks for ministry. I personally work from the premise that "IF YOU DON'T, YOU WON'T". If you visit my office at CEM you will see my walls are papered with a huge map of Ontario and numerous 3M poster sheets with my job priorities and a breakdown of the specific tasks to actualize those goals. If you visit me I will walk you through the outcomes I envision. I want to partner with each of you in the accomplishment of lofty goals, yours and mine. If you want to know what mine are email me at and I will email you photos of those sheets. My goals can't be realized without engaging you. I have already made several calls to church participants and shared my hopes for now and how we can work together. We are a team!

I invite you to both envision and write out your own life stretching goals. Even if you can do no more this very moment, and I mean now, than write a heading on a piece of paper and place it where you can't miss it, that says, "Mission - My Bucket List Goals"  in large letters so you can begin your draft a little later, without fail! Remember "IF YOU DON'T, YOU WON'T".

What motivates you, to give you a reason to participate? That's what you really want on your Mission bucket list. Sure there are things you can put on the list you think a church going person might do, but the big question is ........ is that going to motivate you, provide meaning for you, connect you with those you would dearly like to be on a bucket list adventure with?

I want to start a new small group somewhere in the CEM area in September. Who will take me up on that? I have experience in this. Don't think it can't happen where you live. We will make it happen..... in September. If you are retirees, currently unemployed, work shiftwork or....try a daytime option. Small groups can be as creative as you conceive requirement for what you might think of as "ordinary". Think "extraordinary". Going once, going twice.....

We are limited only by ourselves. How many of us watch less than 12 hours a week of TV ....probably not many. You may be surprised to know that when you miss a season of Survivor or Mike Holmes or Leafs or Jays, life goes on through life-changing bucket list empowerment choices you would have never otherwise known. I would not be writing this blog now if I had watched the Jays lose 7-2 to the Yankees tonight! I want to be a catalyst in your lives. In our consumer driven, entertainment driven, somewhat self-absorbed lives (I have been and am there often) it is difficult to be in Mission, to envision and execute bucket list goals with the limitless distractions about us.

So.....Sept 1st.....Do It! Partner with and be a catalyst for another, to challenge one another, affirm one another, succeed with one another. You create the plan, make it yours and live it! If you have a desire but aren't quite sure how to go about it, email me and expect your life to get recharged! You're on my bucket by one!  1-888-411-7537 x28

Friday, August 23, 2013

Community Balance

Community balance is a phrase I have been using to describe the coming together of people with diverse viewpoints into a community of trust between them that nurtures peace. I hold up to you the Community of Christ church seal. It shows the contrasting image of the lion, lamb and little boy together. This reflects diversity in what we would consider extreme circumstances. Certainly a ferocious lion with a meek lamb and an innocent and unaware child would never be considered compatible circumstances the world around. How incredible that this imagery from Isaiah adopted as our visible brand identity at our inception as a church speaks so completely to today's prophetic call for peace simultaneously with a recognition that diversity is good.

In this portrayal of peace, the lion in all its majestic beauty is affirmed, and we are awed by its pronounced differences that make the lion that which it was created to be. The lamb too is affirmed as it always was and in its vulnerability punctuates the incomprehensible vastness of peace to span creation. The child, perhaps the portrayal of our protected self identity (what would be more protected than our child) in the midst of diversity, is offered up to lie together in peace with that which is different from ourselves. That image is held before us as our ultimate portrayal of God's will on earth as it is in heaven. It is our prophetic calling as a church to be instruments of peace to bring this reality to pass. We are inching our way towards that envisioned time. Can it be now? Our recent words of counsel from conference speak of the diversity of creation and really how we are still naive in our understanding of creation's diversity application in our own world of relationships and interactions one with another. Diversity is good. We know God in Genesis looked upon his creation and exclaimed almost with surprising awe..... That creation was good! affirming the inherent worth and value and distinctiveness of each created entity within the spheres of  our created existence. What joy God sensed fully in the birthing of this marvellous reality he beheld.

Our vast array of differences is a mosaic of beauty that perceived in the light of God's created intent is a blessed and sacred and peaceful sacrament of life. Created life in all its breadth of forms and variations interacting with unconditional love becomes the sacrament of peace in our midst.

So what does this mean? Every one of us is different in more ways than we can possibly conceive. We can choose conflict or peace as those differences are recognized in one another! When we encounter another, in that moment, that very moment, in the blink of an eye is precisely the instant when we each can choose to be be virtuous, meaning we choose to embody compassion and love. Our hope becomes fulfilled, our souls are filled with joy and peace is the name that defines life lived as it was created to be. A balanced community is a peaceful community.

Submitted by Kerry

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stirring Compassion

In the winter season there isn't a person amongst us who isn't awed by the intricate, delicate, distinct uniqueness of a single snow flake. If we were to catch one on our fingertip, in the very moment we try to observe its beauty, it melts into a droplet imprinting a momentary memory of majesty upon our minds. A snowflake can stir our souls with wonder!

Compassion is an equally miraculous experience. It does not exist without our senses and souls being stirred. It is the gift of God indwelling us that enables the dovetailing of human lives together where need exists. It makes us both humane and divine in a single act. It blesses both the receiver and the giver.

Twenty years ago John Morgan & I as Seventies, volunteered in downtown Toronto at the Anishnawbe Health Centre once a week. From 8pm to 2am we would travel in a van throughout the city searching out the homeless to provide them with coffee, sandwiches, socks and such. One of those nights another Seventy, Steve Veazey, traveled the route with us. It was always a time of newness for us. You saw yourself in each person, heard your story in their story, felt their presence intertwined with yours. Perhaps these special people opened one further compassionate window of discernment in Steve's soul. They were touched by and themselves touched the life of a man who today leads our church in proclaiming to the world, "poverty must be abolished and needless suffering must end." Wolfman, one of our regular special recipients of need is one of many who have themselves brought blessing to others in his poverty and suffering to stir compassion mysteriously and miraculously in one who makes a difference.   

The prayer and act of compassion teaches us discernment. Our eyes are opened as if the veil is lifted and we begin to become aware of the person behind the masks which people wear, the feelings projected in one's body language; in the slump of a shoulder, the squint of an anguished eye, in the walk of the burdened soul, in the teardrop upon one's cheek. The awe of a snowflake is mirrored in a single teardrop. To hold a tear on your fingertip, is to touch another, to gain the trust of another, to be present to another. Imagine that teardrop poised on your fingertip as a transparent globe likened to a fortune tellers' magical ball. Envision as you look upon this globe, that the images of the person's life floats within this sphere, revealing the source of their anguish, the pain of their suffering, all mysteriously combining to create the very teardrop which rests upon your fingertip. That tear is often met with a tear by the compassionate person.

Discerning the need for compassion challenges us to be a person of compassion. Being compassionate engages our lives in the giving of self to bring solace, to offer hope, to befriend, to humbly be for the other the means to bring sparkling clear light to the other's teardrop. Let us pray and act to become a people of compassion transforming teardrops into the most joyful of expressions.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I am a person who is different to the other. I have traits that rub some people the wrong way. I sometimes speak when I should listen. In my life I have hurt people mostly unknowingly but occasionally my actions have been knowingly disrespectful or demeaning. I also somehow in conversation, seem to perceive what was said differently than was intended by the speaker. Sometimes I find myself a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. My theology and principles of faithful practice are honed through my life experience and like all of us unique from others. I am different.

As our community of faith is trying to be inclusive, we become a people of diversity reflecting the uniqueness of each individual. Within this setting of interaction by people who are naturally different in myriad ways, meaningful dialogue is a necessary virtue of our church. Indeed, it becomes the "practice" of our diverse community that nurtures community balance within our midst.

Our diversity is not just a word or label. It names and defines our collective reality. We live community one with another in dialogue that engages the richness of our human virtues to enable us to love our neighbours as ourselves, acknowledging our inherent differences as simply differences. To the "other" we reflect differences reciprocally and equally, mirroring diversity. We are the other. Our mosaic is a blessing of understanding through meaningful dialogue; the medium of discourse of seeing through each others eyes. Our dialogue is sacred. It is the constant, the practice, the means that enables progress in our becoming a people who hold up peace to the world. Our dialogue is a transition catalyst that transforms our me/you, we/they mindset into neighbourly community where peace names and defines our relationships.

As we intentionally and prayerfully participate together in conversation each different to the other, our dialogue becomes sacred and then through the grace of God, from the outside looking in, the world about us can see and say, "Look they live:

·         Unity in Diversity

·         Peace within Diversity

·         Mission in Diversity

Let us recognize sacred community cannot and does not exist without diversity or dialogue. Let our daily dialogue bless our coming together to create a harmonious blending of our differences.

Posted by Kerry

Thursday, August 8, 2013


The more I spend time with the Words of Counsel presented at the 2013 World Conference, the more I see.  Of course that is exactly the reason President Stephen Veazey asked us to dwell in those words, isn't it?  What I observe now is that the document is a blend of direction and instruction or education, all of which is intended for our active guidance.  This writing is focused on direction.

Have you noticed how this document is full of action words and phrases?  Here is a partial list.
be not consumed
be passionately concerned
live, love and share

Each of the above words or phrases undoubtedly could rate its own post in this blog, however for today, let us at least note that this document calls us to action.  While there is a true need for us to contemplate this counsel spiritually, if we are to be faithful to its guidance we must do more than that.  These are not words of encouragement to keep on keeping on, or continue with business as usual.  This is a call to "be about our Father's business," actively, passionately, seriously.

What call are you sensing as you dwell in these words?  Which words call you to action?

Posted by Carman

Monday, August 5, 2013


In his earthly ministry, Jesus appears to have had a thing for the down and out people; the ones nobody else knew what to do with.  He regularly hung out with people who wore nasty little labels like sinner, and helped people who were often feared and even despised.  This second group of folks wore labels like leper, adulterer, and demon possessed.  Because Christianity understands Jesus to be the living reflection of the Divine Presence of God, we can clearly say that God still has a thing for these folks.  Further, if Christians are called to be the presence of Christ on earth, that means we need to have a thing for such people too.

In our day and society, one group of people who wear a label most of us don’t know what to do with are those who suffer from any one of several forms of mental illness.  There are many such people, and many different labels.  Perhaps the most common is depression.  Others may be identified as bi-polar.  Still others may be called delusional, addicted, neurotic or wear still more labels.   Often this leads to misunderstanding, unemployment, poverty and frequently homelessness.  Some people reading this post know this reality all too well because you wear these labels yourself, either publicly or hidden away deep inside where you hope no one sees.

The fact that most of us do not know how to help or what to say to people who struggle may make us prefer to avoid such folks.  Yet that is not the response we would expect from Jesus our mentor, is it?  In one of our congregations we recently came to realize that every new person we had come in contact with over the past year was suffering from some form of mental illness.  What can we do?  How do we respond?  One of our new friends had already been asked to leave his former church because of his illness.  That does not sound much like Jesus, does it?

The first thing we must recognize is that we do not know all the answers, and the second is that we can learn.  We already know how to listen to others without offering platitudes or advice.  We know how to express caring, and we know how to pray for or with others.  We can be a friend.  That, it seems to me, is a pretty good start.  Beyond that, we know how to ask for support from a pastor or minister whose sensitivity and caring we respect.  further, we know how to make referrals when needed.  Perhaps we are not so helpless after all.

The following is an excellent Ted Talk from a very articulate young person who suffers from depression.  It takes 11 minutes and 18 seconds to watch it. It is worth every second and I urge you to click here.  Then I invite you to come back to What's the Good Word and add your thoughts to the comments section of this post.

God bless.

Posted by Carman

Estate Dollars: Reality Check

I recently came across an estate that was almost settled. Here are the numbers from the estate wind up: The gross estate value was $56,000. The estate was covered by a “will” only and not a revocable living trust.

The estate wind up costs and distribution is broken down as follows:
Physical asset $10,500.
Executor fee $3,000.
Funeral expense $15,500.
Other expenses $3,000.
Beneficiary receives $24,500.

Put another way, 57% of the estate went to various expenses and funeral costs and the beneficiary received 43%, clearly less than half.   The physical asset was given to someone not in the will and not the beneficiary under the will. The gift was arranged separately and was well known in advance. There is absolutely nothing illegal or unethical in this gift distribution.

It is interesting to see how a modest estate of $56,500. could be eroded with various costs with so little being left for the beneficiary and might make a person wonder why.  Why did the executor arrange for such an elaborate funeral? Why did the executor (spouse) take such a large fee when money is not an issue for them? Why was an asset worth 19% of the estate given to a non- family member and not sold and the benefit given to the sole beneficiary (not the spouse) under the will?

It is the prerogative of the testator or testatrix to do as they wish with their estate. I have no problem with this ”testamentary right” and it is certainly a benefit and blessing of the country we live in. In some circumstances, there are legal necessities which must be taken into account which can change the distribution under a will or trust if these issues are not taken into account when drafting the documents. We have the time now, to consider how our estate is to be distributed and all arrangements made with costs relating to those items.

I urge you to do a couple of things. First, take some time to review your estate plan and related arrangements to ensure it is what you want and it makes sense from a financial, ethical, and moral perspective. This is a good time to enlist the aid of a professional to review your plans and add a different perspective to your situation. Secondly, look at the estate numbers from above the estate wind up. Is this what you want for your estate and beneficiaries? What are your thoughts on this wind up? I would be interested in your analysis on this estate wind up and your perspective. Differing viewpoints can add insight for all of us to learn from.

Feel free to contact me at or 1-800-884-7526 ext.  5 and I would be pleased to assist with your estate plan.

Kenneth J. McGowan, B.A., STI, MTI. PFP, FMA, CFP®, CEP®, MCEP®
Estate and Gift Planning

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Light in the Darkness

On Sunday along with another elder I participated in the laying on of hands for the health/life of 2 people in our congregation. The needs of the 2 individuals were entirely different but both very real. My personal role in sharing of myself in prayer for these dear persons impacted me deeply. Throughout the week I reflected upon this encounter with God several times, each time sensing once more the recurring spirit of confirmation received during the sacrament. Ministry is very relational. In the act of praying for another, opening up oneself, becoming receptive to the Spirit, listening to what is sensed within one’s soul is life changing. There is a bond created with that person that continues the inner prayer long after the Amen is said.

This coming weekend at the “Freeing and Healing of the Spirit” reunion located at Ziontario there is a “Health Fair”. I have asked to have an exhibit table along with the other alternative health modalities to talk to folks about the sacraments of the church as tangible expressions of God’s presence and reality. As my thoughts in preparation have dwelt upon the meaning of the sacraments I found for myself a personal analogy. I have over the past month visited every reunion in Ontario. I find that the reunion experience of sacred community is the living expression of what we talk about in church. For a week of our lives we have the blessed opportunity to form community in our midst; to be with, share deeply with, dialogue with, engage in collective living one with another in a setting where we each prayerfully are guided by our intimately personal God. We glimpse the Zionic ideal, the “on earth as it is in heaven” hope that yearns from within us. Our lives are changed and imprinted by God’s presence and we understand the meaning of the phrase “sacred community”. Likewise with the sacraments, understanding and encounter with God becomes real and the sacred becomes present to us. The ordinary uses of hands, oil and caring touch as symbols become precious means of grace by which God empowers lives.

No sacrament is more closely entwined in our human condition than laying on of hands for the health and life of another. God meets us in the broken moments of life wherever they might be encountered and whatever they might be; desperate times, spiritual despair, endings and beginnings, suffering or renewal. This God given sacrament blesses and affirms the most intimate of all promises; that nothing, shall separate us from the love of God. In this sacrament the church is saying that Jesus who blessed lives then, is present now, still blessing, amongst us and through us. Celebrating this sacrament we affirm that our world is never hopeless even in the midst of our darkest moments. This sacrament excludes no one. All may receive of this sacred and personal touch of the Divine.

Kerry Richards
Incoming MCFO for CEM