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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?"

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Assumptions for Growth

Tonight I sat with the leadership of a congregation about a renovation project that should have been over the top exciting. The reality is that they are so concerned about the future of the congregation that the project was no more than a pipe dream. Perhaps rightly so! They are few in numbers and older attendees which is a typical story throughout our CEM geography. I also attended a church dinner tonight at a different congregation. It was extremely well attended but the age demographics was 50+ as well. I was in 2 other congregations the past 2 Sundays and the 50+ trend is prevalent everywhere.

My response to the project congregation tonight was to look beyond the current situation and change their outlook. If I was a church planter moving into a new city to launch a new church, expecting to find even 1 person to share my story with would be great. If I was told there were already 25 people there and  that I did not have to start from scratch, I would be elated. When we compare to yesteryear, a different time and need, there is never a hopeful comparison. Our look forward has to be a clean sheet of paper. Often in this exercise we may start with some assumptions to shape our look forward. Let's try a few.....

  • From our database of members noting birth years, group the ages into categories
  • Highlight attendees in yellow
  • For those not highlighted, list who knows them reasonably well, even if it is someone in another congregation
  • Assume you will be coached, mentored and supported by CEM in the how-to approach to reconnect with periphery members.
  • Assume your revitalization will be through personal phone calls and person to person visits, invites and come with me shared time....not emails and letters
  • Assume you will be initiating 1-2 small groups within your congregation revolving around the commonalities of the group not geography
  • Assume you will be introducing multimedia in your sanctuary (large screen, projector, speakers, WiFi)
  • Assume you will need a laptop computer and a 20" inch monitor for your small group meeting
  • Assume you will be planning monthly recreation
  • Assume you will be having a guest speaker and a potluck lunch once a month
  • Assume each member of the Cong Re-engagement team will have written an in-depth envisionment story of what your changed congregation looks like in 1 year from today
  • Assume you will make your story a reality
  • Assume each of you will be engaging in daily personal prayer that compels you
  • Assume your r-engagement team members will be partnering 2x2 with one another for joint ministry
  • Assume you will meet monthly to evaluate your revitalization progress
  • Assume you will have a congregational Facebook page and diligently add to it weekly for marketing your dynamic  congregational life
  • Assume your congregation will start to share programming with other congregations in your geographical cluster area to increase social dynamics
  • Assume you will align your Older Youth with Community Place
  • Assume you will become elated with others that momentum will flourish, that your compulsion to pray will change your life
  • Assume if you do not do the above, you are guaranteed to be closing your congregation doors as 20 others have in the past 15 yrs.
  • Assume you are not alone. You will not be the first congregation to make a turnaround.
  • Assume the time to decide to change is shorter than you think. With weak social linkages in most congregations the glue holding you together is gone.
I look forward to talking with you, sharing with you, working with you to bring about change. I don't know who becomes intrigued, challenged and decisive from reading this blog. You have to call, email, respond to this blog below to let us know in the CEM that you are ready for change.

On an exciting note...... This coming Sunday I am speaking in the Montreal congregation. This is the largest congregation in the CEM with attendance from 120-200 on Sundays. I understand there are 4 choirs and a band to accompany them. We are confirming 3 new members. The dynamics of worship have been described to me as exhilarating. I can hardly wait to be part of this experience. The demographics are almost all below the 50 age mark. If anyone wants to drive down with me, let me know. There is room for 3, perhaps 4. Assume you will be awed!

Now think about why the picture above is an empty tomb. Think congregational resurrection.

Submitted by Kerry

Monday, September 23, 2013


What does it take to effect change in a congregation? The first thing I would say is a compelling personal commitment. We can state we are committed, however the driver to make it compelling is the key. With our careers, personal time choices, social schedules and TV, unless our engagement in church is compelling, we will falter in completing what we started out to do. The motivation starts within. Look through my past blogs on the CEM website for the one on Providence Principles as a guide. Simply, if you aren't praying deeply daily then the compelling connection won't happen in your life. 

I remember recently the Pastor of a congregation saying to me when I completed a project which I said I would tackle. "I am not used to someone saying they would do something and then following through." I thought it must be an anomaly. This comment quite surprised me and would be a sad commentary if this is true within congregations.

I am accustomed in the corporate world to people following direction, of managers following up on staff for updates on projects they are engaged in or reports being given to recap the progress. There is accountability for assignments, expectations to complete tasks, reliance on one another to do your part in the whole. It is noticeable when someone does not contribute adequately. Within a church setting what rules of accountability apply to our reality of being volunteers who ultimately are only accountable to ourselves. 

My sense is that the greatest change required at congregations today is not even something that happens within the church building. If church in your life revolves around the Sunday service, if your priesthood role is about you taking your turn on Sundays, then the "compelling" nature is at a low ebb in your life. I recognize for many of us we simply just don't know what to do when we leave those church doors on Sundays. Life happens and our schedules take over. It's not that we aren't doing good things throughout the week? It is likely random acts of kindness to use that as an example not proactive, planned acts of kindness. If a sales rep was to just spontaneously and randomly visit customers without first planning out an itinerary or reviewing past calls and working an objective for each visit, then the unprepared results they end up with are generally wasting the customer's and their own time. Intentional dates and times in your calendar, prepared plans to guide you, resources to support your effectiveness, all magnify your success and thereby pump up the momentum which builds the compelling feeling within.

"Generosity Capacity" which we talk about as a church isn't about finances. Financial giving is generally a response of generosity. What I want you to remember is that we all can expand our capacity to be generous. Our capacity to be motivated, our capacity to be compelled, our capacity to free up more time, our capacity to envision possibilities, our capacity to enact what we envision with a plan, our capacity to be more successful, all lead to our increased capacity to be more generous, our capacity to bless others and our capacity to effect change. It starts with daily deep prayer and a desire to align our lives with the Divine. The inward, impelling surge of motivation that arises from that daily encounter becomes the ongoing driver of change in our own lives and in our congregations.

Commitment works best in a team. Our church has a heritage of partner ministry. Early ministers went out 2x2. The power of 2x2 has a magnifying and stabilizing impact on motivation. Mutual envisionment, mutual prayer, mutual goals, plans and team ministry keep you on track together. Confidence in your prayerful reliance on one another to be present to/for one another, to listen and fill in the gaps in your collaborative ministry; empowers you beyond the intimidating, non-starter perceptions that bar you from getting out there to just do it! Discover your 2x2 ministry partner and become the dream team of ministry exploring new ways to become a blessing in people's lives. If you are looking for ideas connect with me and I will get you started in some exciting ministry options.

We all are called, our mission as Christ's very own expressed mission, is clearly stated. We have to decide individually, or 2x2 with a ministry partner, if Mission really Matters Most to Us or not! The choice is always before us. If you need a stronger vision of possibility, or you need to see the glass 1/2 full in the midst of what seems to be a totally empty glass, give me a call. I will help you to engage because you are compelled!

submitted by Kerry

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Apple Orchard

Apple Orchard

this ain’t a walk
in an apple orchard
stumbling through sunlight here
only warms the mantle
of a damp chill air
that gripped him
in the lyrical wee small hours
this morninglit bridge to and from
daytime’s sun-drenched monotony
against such waylayed sleep
grave dead chill
concrete pillow
and hard wood cold steel bench
bitter stone cranny
offers no creature comfort promise
no whimsical waltz
through fields or meadows
redolent with a hint of springtime

hand gropes through debris
through newspapers
holds fast to a lifetime’s trove
on shopping cart’s quiver
feasted remnants
purchased piece-meal
with foraged generosity
clings tight to futile dreams of lazing
in this apple orchard
craving a world apart
craving some succulent sweetness
of rubescent fruit
hanging high and
out of reach
 changes to green
as street-lit
diesel stench rumble
rattle and hum of days
of the other side in motion
and that once-enticing red orb
signals again
the halt of traffic
his orchard bed still recalls
this soul-cold sidewalk reality

ã2008 Bill Ashwell

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Faith Transitions

A few years ago I felt an instantaneous wave of nausea sweep over me as I momentarily experienced the effects of a minor earthquake. I did not know what it was but the person I was talking to on the phone 100 km away felt the same feeling at the same moment. We surmised it was an earthquake, in Ontario no less.

In my life I have experienced 3 life changing transitions in my faith and beliefs. The first of these "lifequakes" in the 70's was about Truth. I was a faithful adherent to the truth that the RLDS church was the restored church of Jesus Christ following 15 centuries of Christian apostasy. I was taking religious courses at U of T in New Testament studies, Liberation Theology and scriptural exegesis (the source, dating, authorship of scripture). I found my roots shaken with new understandings. Here I had been presenting our church through the "Go Ye & Teach" slides to numerous seekers, had baptized some through these truths and now I was recognizing Christ was universally present and calling all Christians into Mission. My identity and sense of surety was fragile for perhaps a year as I worked through this new personal revelation. During this time I also discovered the church was also moving through this same journey. I found others who I could discuss this with and through community, study and prayerfulness I actually experienced freedom from the restrictive exclusivity of my prior beliefs.

The 2nd faith transition was about Inclusiveness. This new understanding occurred in many layers of my thinking. I expanded my perception of God's engagement in human religious experience to include other faith groups such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and so on. The principles of their faith precepts and encounters with God espoused virtues that reflected commonalities with my faith. I was also transitioning from "written in stone" truths to enduring principles in the framework of my beliefs. Equality logic meshed with my thinking altering my previous views towards, women, gender relations and broader issues of justice. Again as I journeyed through these stages of understanding my identity and sense of self linked to the old was sifting beneath my feet.

My 3rd faith transition occurred approx 15 mo ago. This one was about Grace. I thought throughout my life that I knew what grace was all about. I had preached about grace, leaning more towards works than grace in my preferences. The adage, If not for the grace of God I could have been born in Rwanda or......was a real thought of mine. Then, I encountered things in my life during a decade of absence from the church that caused me despair, sorrow and grief that I could not shake from my life. I returned to church where we had moved to in Hamilton but the reality of lives that had been impacted by my inactivity caused me great guilt. Only through prayer and an encounter with Divine grace was I able to move beyond my past and sense wholeness. In that deep moment of knowing despair turned to peace the words of our Community of Christ Mission statement became real to me. "I proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love and peace." Those words meant something to me as I experienced Christ's grace and was filled with joy, hope and peace in a community of love. In essence for me those words, which when had I first read them, I thought of as shallow, became meaningful and "flesh" in my life experience! My life was changed once again.

I expect my life will continue to move through transitions of faith and new understandings. We live in a dynamic and diverse world. We engage in a prophetic church that keeps us in synch with enduring principles that guide our journey into tomorrow. If you find the faith transitions you are experiencing need discussion with someone who has been there, please give me a call. Let's journey together.

Submitted by Kerry

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Church Leaders are People who Love People

I am discovering that leadership in a church is vastly different than with the corporate world which by comparison is very simple. I recently read an e-book called Body Politics. The title reflects politics within the Body of Christ. This is not in reference to the church participating as a body to influence political parties or process in society, (which plays out in our mission initiatives) it is about politics in the person to person relationships, functions and policies within the daily lives of our membership. I am finding as stated in the book that these political complexities are far more prevalent than in the corporate world.

In business, typically, you can go home to escape it. Your life is separate from the office. By far, the majority of your friendships and certainly your family are distinct from the work environment. Not so in the lives of church leadership. There is almost no escape from the prevalence and pervasiveness of life within the "Body". We function as ministers of presence to the entire mission field, striving to be prayerfully mindful of the thousands of names, each a valued life, the dozens of congregations, the vast spectrum of diverse viewpoints that comprise the mission or world Church areas. In addition we are referees of divisive matters that arise from facility issues to debated risk management applications, to congregational disputes, to membership values, to personal morals and lifestyles. Did I mention we function as any business with incoming revenue, banking, outgoing expenses, employee management, audits and  taxation, marketing, program administration, facilitation of extensive training of members and an array of communications.

Somewhere in this mix, ministry is seen by all as the leadership priority, for this is the necessary visible and felt dimension of "Church Leadership" presence that nurtures other leaders, that is the catalyst for vision and motivation throughout the broad field of geographical responsibility.

Always in every organization, there is some degree of dissatisfaction with the corporate administration. Because religion is so emotionally close to the heart of each of us, is linked to our personal identities, our interpretation of life's purposes, our social values, daily choices in financial expenditures, inclusiveness, theology of marriage, generosity and the interpretation of myriad life circumstances...... the pressures of membership expectations to bring perfect wisdom to each challenge large and small brought before us, is daunting.

In a recent discussion forum amongst Canadian leaders it was stated that the Mission personnel exist to reduce and relieve the day to day administration functions for our laity leadership and can't be expected to also be ministers of presence. This is a quandary for me and all of us. The more I interact with our people everyday, one by one, the more my heart yearns to be a catalyst, a source of blessing where needs and opportunities exist.

Perhaps today's blog is more than you might want to hear and view inside the internal workings of the Mission Centre or World Church. For each of us, this is not a job. This is a ministry. I personally do not like the title of Financial Officer..... I minister. You are on my heart and mind. As we pray for you, as we administer and minister, I ask for your prayers for us that we may be blessed with extraordinary wisdom, with insightful empathy, with envisioned hope that does not get mired in the negatives, with heart-warming joy in your successes, and abiding awareness of grace in our lives. Most especially please pray for our families who bear the burdens of the Body politics. Thank you for your graciousness in our lives.
Submitted by Kerry

Monday, September 9, 2013

Through the Grace of God, I am Not My Past

Our encounter with Divine Grace is transforming and to me personally is the sweet essence of the meaning of Christ in our lives. Yesterday, I officiated at a wedding where I had been asked to limit the religious content of the service. This thinking is not just a generational trend but is pervasive in much of society today. Studies show that vast numbers of people who do not attend any church still consider themselves to be spiritual, but have little or no understanding of what and how that is personalized in their lives. For a community of faith that proclaims Jesus Christ how do we bring relevance to the Divine and personalize the reality of Christ beyond the mystical?

I have a website I created last year upon my return to engagement in the church called This site is about my personal journey of grace and an attempt to connect with those in society who needed grace in their lives. I could not have written the content of these pages 15 yrs ago when I was highly involved in the church as the Toronto Metropole President. The ensuing 15 yrs of being on the outside looking in at the church and living as if life was complete, considering myself spiritual still, was itself an illusion I never comprehended. I believe, for me and many others that when it comes to grace, we don't know what we don't know.

My experience was that upon visiting a Community of Christ church in the new town we had moved to, Hamilton, my soul was touched, not dramatically, but the Spirit was undeniably real and this launched me on a personal journey of embracing grace in ways I had never before encountered. I had often preached about grace, taught about grace but never knew the depths of grace in my life. Further, in my re-examination of the church I was awed at the transition in beliefs and the recognition of diversity, equality and spiritual practices that were emerging. As I read our Enduring Principles, the words inspired my understanding of the envisioned mission of our church. But still, deep in my soul beyond the words I read and the missional cause I could relate to, there remained an ache, a sorrowfulness, a yearning to be right with God.

Below, I am sharing some excerpts of what I wrote about grace on this website that perhaps you may find meaningful in your life.

"There are moments in all of our lives when we become overwhelmed by helplessness, hopelessness, woundedness, guilt, pain and sorrow. We are lost in the depths of despair and we intensely sense the aloneness of our soul. The cause of our grief, devastation and pain may emerge from so many possible actions, tragedies, senseless happenings, words, rejection, hate, failures and addictiveness.
Our lives become broken, distracted and depressed. We burrow into ourselves desperate for release from the anguish which we bear, unable to untangle the knots that crush our spirit.

At times, to those about us we are .....non-communicative, non-responsive, non-loving, non-giving, non-feeling. Our woundedness needs healing. Our guilt needs forgiveness, Our grief and sorrow needs to be held. Our despair needs hope. Our failures need new vision. The overwhelming needs release. Our aloneness needs genuine care. Our brokenness needs peace.

Where can we unburden ourselves from the heavy weight that holds us down. Where can we unload the deep pain within our heart and soul. Where do we begin to pick up the pieces of our brokenness. Where do we begin to open the door to our lives again. Where do we go for such healing, forgiveness, release and reconciling hope.

My website proposed that we at Community of Christ, but represented as "The Meaning Place", to lessen the religious connotations that so many perceive as negative; could empathetically walk with people in these moments...... I have had many many conversations, emails and visits with truly hurting people I have dialogued with, prayed with and provided some measure of hope to......

At the Meaning Place we are a people of grace. Truly, if not for the grace of God who knows what befalls each of us. We are humbled by grace that has touched our lives. Within our community, we sense that we are all wounded healers each in our own way, trying to be caring, to be sensitive to your needs and your pain. By God's grace we are there for you and with you, here and now.

There are unspeakable depths of life trauma that we bury within. No person, however well meaning, however gifted, however caring, can ever bring peace to the tortured soul needing release, forgiveness and new eyes to see beyond such pain of guilt or trauma. Only the grace of God reconciles us in those moments. Only the peace of His spirit can cleanse the darkness within. Only our prayer of surrender will heal our scars and make us whole. "Lord, help me to desire to desire to have you in my life." Utter those words from the depths of your soul and begin your journey of healing.

The amazing thing is that we, no matter who we are, are always, always, always worth that much to God, that His invitation is ever-present to come to him and become whole. In that moment true meaning envelops your life. You begin on the journey to wholeness. You begin to see life through new eyes. A transformation begins.

Then, you will recognize you have not been alone on your journey, for our community of wounded healers walks with you. Then, your woundedness resonates with others in need. We all become recipients of and are blessed by your giftedness as you are and as you will become.

The Meaning Place brings rich transformation within each of our lives. May the grace of God be with you even as it has touched our own lives with meaning.

My story is that my personal life has journeyed in grace which has transformed my life to where I have peace with my past. Through the grace of God I am not my past.

Submitted by Kerry