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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?"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sacred Words, Sacred Community

A word.....the stringing together of a few letters, then the coupling of words into a phrase, the grouping of a collection of phrases into a paragraph and a series of these into a story that holds the heart and soul with vivid expressions of meaning. How wondrous to be able to share yourself through words or to receive a heartfelt array of words from another to see through their eyes. Sometimes I catch myself writing without being mindful. It is easy to write Happy Birthday on a card and leave it at that. The gesture will be received with gratitude. But then I think, what if......I shared a bit of my soul, what if......I listened within to what might touch that person and create a phrase they will read once more or twice because it connects with them, where they recognize those words were painted upon the page like it was an easel to express the inner depth of friendship or love or hope or joy that dwells within and between us.

Your words are there to be crafted and shared. They can be taken for granted or chosen with care. They can be hurtful, cruel and demeaning or blessed, affirming and uplifting. They are the web that binds us together yet frees us. They are the glue of relationships.

As we reflect upon the past week and the social media flurry of words that I and others have publicly displayed on a tapestry of feelings, let us pause and know that that which we phrase reflects our soul. Have we shared from our heart, have we edified one another in our exchanges of words. Let us discover the sacred in our words. Let them be empowered with sacramental meaning. As we so speak may we also flesh out those words with actions that make them real beyond utterance, lived out in dynamic acts of humility, acceptance, empathy, forgiveness and willingness to be sacred community, not just community.

What matters most in CEM community right now is the sacred in our midst. Let us use our words borne out of thoughtful inner struggle to become lifelines of love, banners of joy, vistas of hope and doves of peace. We need each other to continue the experiences and expressions of sacred community. Let us be a blessing to one another. May the Peace of Christ become flesh through our words and actions.

submitted by Kerry

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Make History or Be History

The expression, "You don't know what you have until it is gone" is a truism so many of us have experienced. In hind sight we are sorrowful for the losses of people, places and things we never knew at the time were as precious as the memories we now have . We might think, if I could do it all over again I would do it differently, knowing what we know now. Perhaps, we might get down on ourselves for the choices we made, tracing that moment of decision of letting go. I have personally been there.....many times. Usually there is no going back.

Let me share a brief story. In 1918, a dynamic RLDS Bishop by the name of RC Evans started a new breakaway church in Toronto that increased to a few thousand members in several congregations across Ontario and Michigan. One primary "cathedral" centre was in the current location of the Sick Kid's Hospital, Although the total number of congregations was smaller, the actual attendance base was larger than our current combined CEM weekly numbers. In the 1960's, the last congregation closed and the building was sold to our Willowdale congregation. The last Bishop of the church died around 1985 and there is one remaining original attendee who is currently an active member of our church. Would these folks have thought such an ending could befall their original vibrant faith community?....... and that now their church exists solely as a page on Wikipedia.

A week ago I was talking with our retired Ontario Bishop from 18 yrs ago. Today, we only have 65% of the number of congregations remaining since the time of his leadership. In the Toronto area as an example, our attendance has declined by 75%. The losses today are in fact accelerating as the lack of social stratas, the glue that "binds" us together in meaningful fellowship have declined or barely exist. Our weakest link is social dynamics across most age groups, most pronounced in the under 40's. Are we repeating the declining realities of our sister Restoration denomination. Will it be told to our great grandchildren that we never knew what we had in the Community of Christ? Will a perceptive future historian/prophet hold forth our enduring principles and peace proclamations and pen the words that Community of Christ was a faith movement that now speaks to the generations of that day with our inclusive  theology as a "light from the dust" as it were? Will a new future generation of prophetic people be inspired by today's Words of Counsel?

Passing into the historical abyss is not a new trend. How many times does history use the phrase, "the rise and fall" of a people, a nation, a culture, a faith or philosophy. Today, I am appealing to you, our 40+ age group. How much does your heritage, your spiritual roots mean to you that make you the person you are today. How meaningful is your faith identity. Is our message redundant in the vastness of Christendom? I think not! Should we allow our faith movement to pass with peace into the palliative end of life stages of finality?

We have to decide if our Community of Christ journey is a light on the pathway the world needs? This is not a decision made by President Steve Veazey or the Council of Twelve, the Bishopric or CEM leadership or a Pastor. They hold forth the vision. This is a decision that comes face to face with you !!!  and me !!!  Do your children and grandchildren need our inclusive, worth affirming blessing of joy, hope, love and peace? Is there a prophetic people really there within our midst .....or is it just a hopeful musing?  Is our prophetic calling one of listening to, responding to and actioning the inspired words we already have, to in fact live them out....or are we waiting for someone else, some other people to bring forth with God that which we already know. If so, how sad that we cannot take ownership over our own day and time.

As I meet with, talk with and minister with many of you, I am hopeful, I am inspired by the possibility that we can reverse the trend of closing congregations and declining numbers.
Perhaps it is possible to only exist in small groups, but evidence does not support this as with the denominational example cited above. There needs to be a combination of a community of responding people and local gathering places of sacred meaning. I challenge you to look within yourself. How precious is what we have in this church? Are you taking it for granted? Are you willing to let it fade into history? If not, then Ask the question, "What is the next step for me to answer the call I feel passionately within, to live prophetically? The first step is always heartfelt prayer, the 2nd is initiating meaningful dialogue with others about "what matters most". The third is actually doing what you envision together. Do not feel you are alone. You and I are not prophets, we are a prophetic people. We need one another. The church, the Body of Christ, is a symbiotic model of the whole relating together, becoming greater than the sum of our individual parts. Community of Christ empowers us if we choose to open up our lives to Christ and let the Spirit and each other in.

So, let us be mindful of the things we take for granted and the visible signs that remind us and call to us, that are the writing on the wall, so to speak. The trends of decline of which I speak are evident to us all. History starkly reveals the outcome. It takes a people with courage and conviction to step out and change the course of direction and lead the way. Is that you!? Is that me? Is that us?

submitted by Kerry

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Thanksgiving Yearnings

Blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving. I would encourage each of us to bow with me and reflect upon how even on our most discouraging and helpless days there are blessings we can be thankful for. This is a day to put aside that which weighs us down and thank God for even the smallest awareness of life's gifts and bounties. We are, for God has graced our being. This is also a day, inherent in the word Thanksgiving itself, of giving, of ourselves, our bounties, in thankfulness for our blessings. Even if we can offer no more than a smile, let us graciously warm another's heart with our gift of blessing this one day of the year set aside for thoughtfully expressing thanks in the spirit of gratitude. Open your hearts to one another. May your humanity reflect divine attributes in your loving actions one towards another.

As you read these words, open your arm's wide in the spirit of gratitude and symbolically open yourself to the lives of others and draw them into your heart. Take time and visualize individually those in your life and those who come to mind as you reach outward and embrace them and feel and breathe in the connection between you. Hold them in your heart, even those who are passed on, for in this one moment they are as real to you as those you will physically encounter again. This moment is a blessing for the clouds of people past and present who are even in this brief interlude, a blessing in your life and who you can be a blessing for. Carry on the love of those who have gone before you and those who are with you still.

Know deeply that you are blessed and that as deeply as you have felt the presence of one another, God embraces you, blesses you moment by moment and goes before you in blessing to others. Let us read with new eyes the words of D&C 163 and understand how our personal thanksgiving is a moment of awareness that calls us to compassion with God towards all.....none are excluded.

"God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare."

It is difficult to read these words. It is exceedingly difficult to dwell upon those images, those sounds that come to mind. How, O Lord, do I answer the tug on my heart now that it is open? My friend, that is what Mission is all about! Together in community we can better answer that call we inwardly feel. With your heart open, in the spirit of sensed thanksgiving and your experience of blessing towards others, become a catalyst of grace and hope that opens others hearts to respond with you.

May you find peace, the peace of Christ, that dispels the burden of thanksgiving accountability through your compassionate response in Mission.  May abounding grace and fervent thanksgiving erupt with passionate self-giving from your

submitted by Kerry

Friday, October 11, 2013

Church at the Zoo

Why do so many people think that church has to be held within four walls of a church building? Or that inviting someone to church can be a scary thing? Why not think of something you like doing and take church there?? That's exactly what we recently did in the Canada East Mission, we held "Church at the Zoo" and it was an event enjoyed by all who came! 

What a fun event to invite people to experience Christ and the sacredness of creation together! Some who came, attend their local congregations on a regular basis, others had only set foot in a church one or two times in their lives, so what a perfect time it was to introduce our Enduring Principles to them and share examples of using them in everyday life, outside the walls of the church. 

Matt Swain created an exciting scavenger hunt that touched on each enduring principle and made people think about how they can truly live Christ's mission. By the end of the day many new friends where made, many strangers lives had been touched by simple things like thanking them for holding a door, and plenty of pictures were taken! You can even watch the video by clicking on this link.

This will most definitely become an annual event! Hopefully we will see you there next year!

Emily Whitworth
Canada East Mission
Young Adult Leader

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mental Health Awareness Week

Right now we are in the midst of the National Mental Health Awareness Week.

If I close my eyes momentarily and envision the many many people I know who unwantingly face the rigors of mental health fluctuations in their lives, I am overcome by their courage and fortitude. Their lives are hard to live. At a funeral I attended yesterday, the speaker said, "Life is good until it isn't." Perhaps a simple statement, but it describes so well the experience of a person encountering the unpredictable winds and waves of what you might call "mind storms". It is like the weather patterns that all are so familiar with. Even the experienced weatherperson can't seem to predict the ebb and flow of sun and cloud or precipitation or temperatures. The severity of storms are beyond knowing, until they shake and pound and cause you to run for cover. The person with mental health storms likewise, are pummeled by the unpredictable trauma of inner torment or anxiety or depression or fear or sounds and sights and grief and despair that overwhelm the circuitry of their operational control panel. Naturally occurring chemical imbalances temporarily stabilized by medications hold back the tides until their bodily chemistry like our immune systems evolve to reduce the benefit of their treatment. The quest to start again with new dosages or new medications interact differently with each patient, some good, some bad. In the meantime those dear folk try to live and function with their lives in turmoil and upheaval in expected normalcy. Most of us barely function with a cold or flu that hits us with short term symptoms for a few days once in a while. The contagious nature of these known ailments are cause or us to take time off from work with the sympathy and thankfulness of our fellow staff. Those with emerging mental health storms that outwardly are pretty much invisible to others are at a disadvantage in being understood by their peers and colleagues. They simply are misunderstood. They are marginalized because society as a whole is far from empathetic; operating on efficiency, productivity and expectations of normalcy.

Some are unable to function within society. Yesterday, I was touring a new Board member through the church owned Bill McMurray residence in Toronto. We house and provide compassionate care for 84 residents, all marginalized members of society. A very high % of these individuals are encountering mental health trauma in their lives which has impacted them for decades with untold losses. How proud I am of this program reflecting Mission at its best, in the unending 24/7 care provided to these dear folks. Mission is not easy. There are many challenges and hurdles in managing a residence of care for those marginalized in society. I would encourage everyone to become familiar with this program at Bill McMurray which falls under the umbrella of our non-profit Sionito Corporation which has 3 other buildings in Toronto and London all managed by church volunteer Boards. Our website is 

Compassion, empathy, love and acceptance of different ways of life expressions in people we meet, live and work with is what we need to build awareness of this week. We all live in the bounties of grace whether we acknowledge its presence in our lives or not. Relating to others as we want to experience acceptance, love and understanding is the golden rule of compassion. Let us remember the imagery of storms as the unpredictable reality of mental heath fluctuations. May we become one measure of peaceful  loving stability in the lives of those who encounter these extended unknown periods of breakdown in the circuitry of their lives.

submitted by Kerry

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Superficiality and Community

For years now I have read the news on-line vs a newspaper even though in the Toronto market many are free. What I enjoy about the on-line Globe or Star are the comments following the articles. Invariably there are contrary and divergent viewpoints that expand my understanding of issues. Some comments are reactive, some affirmative and some bring brilliant dialogue to the topic which becomes a catalyst for testing the validity of the points expressed. One such interactive dialogue I found so intriguing from the viewpoints posted on all sides (many more than 2 sides to the story) that I copied and pasted the entire 200+ comments onto a word document to enable me to be more informed about the Israeli / Palestine issue which is confusing for me.

There are countless blogs and unlimited dialogue forums on-line about meaningful and diverse subjects. For yourselves, within Facebook there are perhaps a dozen dialogue groups openly discussing any and all topics about our heritage, our theology, our practices, our validity. These forums for me provide insight to the breadth of viewpoints related to our Community of Christ body of people. These forums help me to understand my own faith better as I consider my response to questions posed or perspectives cited. It is not just about protecting my positions of faith. I learn, I grow, I research to verify claims, I am stretched with the new and am enriched. I also always am mindful of our heritage standard to learn by both study and (prayerful) faith.  I would encourage each one to expand your horizons of exposure to faith dialogue. It will also necessitate you knowing your own heritage beliefs with Community of Christ. To know the fundamentals of our faith read the booklet, "We Share" which encapsulates our current enduring principles of faith. If you do not have the booklet, just read it on-line here:

To give you a taste of thoughts out there about churches that are being discussed that hold back no punches try these following blurbs people have posted.

"when we are a part of the church, many of us assume that because we are surrounded by people our loneliness will be remedied. Not!  We wonder how genuine the friendships were there in the first place. We were lonely surrounded by people."

I understand the sense of isolation that seems pervasive in church culture. I have spent many hours this past year as a 66 year old trying to determine why this seems to be a characteristic of church community, even in the church that I have been a member of for 35 years and in which I have held leadership positions. When I recently went through a personal crisis, it was my longtime friends and neighbors outside the church community that rushed to inquire about my well being and support me. Interestingly enough, it was not my church "family." I haven't quite figured out the paradox of this situation, but I am working at it.

"going to church could give people the opportunity to mingle with diverse people that are quite different from themselves. In practice, though, many churches tend to attract congregations that tend to be somewhat "the same" and many church communities fear diversity and "the other". In a diverse world when certain communities fear diversity, these "sameness bubbles" will tend to get smaller and smaller. I think that if churches could change their inner psychology and embrace diversity, they could grow their numbers."

"I've never gone to a church where there was ethnic diversity. I have always gone to churches where there was economic diversity. Like you said, the ethnic diversity should have been there, and would have been a great way to get to know and relate to people of other cultural backgrounds. But it didn't work out that way, unfortunately."

"actually, I think the internet is one of the biggest reason for a fall in church numbers.
The internet does two important things:

(1) Community: as related to the post -- it allows community of like minded folks without having to give up 1/4 of your time off each week, drive across town or get dressed up only to have perfunctory nice talks with lots of fake smiles. Well, that is only how church is for some folks.
(2) Knowledge: evidence exposing the foibles of religion are now readily available.
While true that face to face community is important, I think it's important to emphasize a third option on why the Internet may have altered religious practice:
(3) freedom to explore ideas And no topic is considered off-limits. You can share and there will always be someone who can relate, chime in, etc. In the Church, there's too much concern about something being taboo, thus leading to artificial relationships. And our group is not perfect. People say things that offend others, but we're generally quick to make amends without sweeping it under the rug. That doesn't often happen in church. Quite the opposite: the offense is swept under the rug hoping to never be dealt with again. Nothing gets resolved. I'll take real and flawed any day over superficial parading as real and genuine.

Comments like the above challenge us to be relevant, to be real, to explore what needs to change. A full 75% of our total CEM membership is now peripheral to our attending ranks. That says something. Numbers speak volumes. In the sales profession, poor measurables determine the discontinuation of a product or the immediate and critical necessity to change it. Corporate survival is based upon listening, market research, competition, perceived customer benefits, and the cost to acquire that product in comparison to the alternatives. I say it that way as there is a cost to you to attend church in your measurably precious time, your personal inner investment for meaningful intersection with the Divine, courage to engage yourself in social relationships and actual $$ expenditures in gas, contributions etc. Knowing your customer and your customers needs in business creates product loyalty. Loyalty is fading. The comments above about churches are just a small slice of reality in people's thoughts who choose not to attend church.

We need "to be with" those in the periphery or those who are "alone" in our congregations to know them. "With" means personal time, $, courage, prayer and life investment in their lives. Many just fade away otherwise. We are superficial friends if we allow that to happen? Were they lonely in our midst because of superficiality. Is our community of joy, hope, love and peace a future image in our minds or a present reality in our midst. Are we community? These questions are for each of us to ask, to feel deeply within, to have tears over, to take us to our knees and pray for ourselves to change, as we are ultimately that product that needs changing.

I challenge myself and you to be honest, to know there is a cost, to know we need to change things in our lives such as praying intently, having an envisioned plan that compels us, increasing our capacity of time to nurture the reality of community where we are and becoming a catalyst by partnering with others to do the same. It is not easy. I open this blog site's stats and pray for everyone on this blog subscription list every day. May I, may the Spirit be a catalyst in yours and my life!!

submitted by Kerry

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

"Well, I had good intentions" is a well meaning expression of woulda, coulda, shoulda dimensions

We all aspire to in our better moments, to do, to be, to give, to call, to visit, to help........

Intentions often are mind games that never get realized, never get legs, never get started......

In our sacred community, word becomes flesh when our feet hit the ground, when the rubber hits the road. All these idioms get the message across that what we envision is only a pipe dream until we act upon what we visualized and said we were going to do.

The notion of intention becomes "intentional", when shared with another person. I have previously blogged about participating in a 2x2 partnership to actualize your idea which now becomes a plan. In our church heritage, missionaries went out in pairs. (2x2) We need to reactivate this approach which enables us to both become a catalyst for another and to accomplish the task you envisioned. 

In the 90's, I was dealing with stress at work and walking was one means to release the tension. I found it so difficult to motivate myself to get out there and go for a walk every day. John Morgan lived in the neighbourhood. Before 6am we would meet to walk together and our time became one of my favourite times of the day. Our discussions opened our minds and generated numerous ideas, events and resources. The reality was, that which I was unable to do for myself was actualized as John offered to partner with me in walking. This 2x2 partnership became a blessing in our lives in multiple ways that even extended into the lives of others. 

Ideas and programs at Church so often stall or completely fade away when life happens to our schedules, time and energy. Believe me, it takes an extremely compelled person to "bring to pass" as the Bible says, ideas at church. Even when we take training and Temple School courses and good causes are at stake, we often get caught up in sports, evening TV, books, shopping, almost anything that slides in higher on the priority list than a church function or participatory activity that might stretch you somewhat. We all need a 2x2 partner. This one step in our lives will transform our capability to be intentional. Our "capacity" to become that person we want to be happens before our very eyes.

I challenge everyone without exception, as we can all enhance our lives through this model, to find a 2x2 partner that will take you the next mile, the next stage in your life, in your discipleship. When we make that companionship a sacred relationship that deepens in meaningful ways, our lives will change. In the process of changing our lives the church will change right before our eyes as well. Don't allow the woulda, coulda, shoulda mentality to stop you from doing this one critical thing! It doesn't need to be a person who lives close by. Phone, email, Skype will start the ball rolling. Just make sure you both know it is a 2x2 relationship and you want to achieve a mutual plan that you follow through with. Schedule the times together to work your plan. Be a catalyst for others to do the same. If there are multiple partnerships in place then you all become follow-up motivators affirming one another.

In the picture above, Jesus is recruiting partners. He was an inclusive recruiter. I am sure he could have fulfilled his Divine purposes on his own, but.....he called others to participate with him. Discipleship is a covenant partnership that is not a solo activity or it either burns out or never gets started. Pray about this right now and write a possible partner's name on a piece of paper and stick it on your keyboard so you don't forget. Direct them to this blog and get started. I just did it myself.

In the internet world some ideas, videos, happenings go viral. If there is one thing I would like to see multiply in that manner it is this. It just takes you to launch it now!

God Bless your intentions into reality!

submitted by Kerry