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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?"

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sensitive Issues

I thought I would provide a discourse below which is real life and gives us pause for thought on the discussion of sensitive issues. (The opinion of the one posing the question may not be shared by others)

Comment from Facebook - Regarding your response to the Senior High concerns on Facebook, you responded with respectful words and asking those involved to hold to our values and be patient with the process.

I was hoping you could discuss this with us, and share with us what aspects may be valuable to think about in similar situations where discussion has become hostile, and what called you to act/speak out to impose patience and understanding (and perhaps even how you managed to remain a moderator and voice with a certain sense of neutrality).

My Response - Hindsight always offers a new look beyond what might have been the reality at the time I wrote what I did. Initially I was reacting, in my way, perhaps not much differently than many of us; I tend to speak my mind. That being said I also invite others to have their say. I am a believer in dialogue. I learn from the exchange of viewpoints. I have found over the years how limited my view is alone. If I have been perceived to garner some neutrality it is perhaps due to my trying to listen. When I invited the youth/YA to share at the CEM conference, their input changed me. Subsequent meetings with the Sr High Directors and individual conversations with others in that community added insight. I still share my thoughts as well. The primary goal for me was to allow discussion although to me Facebook is not the appropriate venue. Facebook to me is a non-friendly, naturally hurtful and often a demeaning forum for airing sensitive issues. There are great aspects to Facebook, but this is not one. There is a permanency to remarks made and the forum is vastly public. A comment is forever sealed in time even if later one was to alter or soften their stance. Hurtful statements continue to hurt with longevity. Comments broadcast out beyond the intended circle of participants to family, friends and casual acquaintances that then witness ugly discord permanently colouring their perception of your faith community and any future chance of sharing our precepts of peace etc.

Dialogue is sacred. An example; in small groups where people share together in a "safe place" where there is an expectation of respectful exchange, confidentiality and openness which this environment fosters; trust, learning and person to person caring bring you together instead of alienating one another and creating sides. We desperately need dialogue, but the setting is all important. Our goal is not to just espouse a viewpoint no matter should be to listen, empathize, get the facts, see the big picture, but hear the person.

Let's think about the outcome we want with the person(s) in our relationships and how the dialogue can best be fostered to heal or enhance it. Let's also include prayerful openness in the process. Hearts are softened through prayer.

submitted by Kerry

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Generosity Ministries

I changed the title on my email signature and business cards to Generosity Ministries from Financial Officer.  I made this change primarily because of how I identify with my role. First, I view what I do as ministry. As an ordained High Priest my work, even the administrative and financial tasks are an extension of this ministry. Secondly, generosity portrays the nature of my ministry. I strive to be a minister of grace and to be a catalyst of grace in the lives of people. Generosity flows both directions…….from my work as an advocate of grace and generosity on behalf of the Mission Centre and as one who receives the generous gifts of others.

In the IV of Genesis, Abram upon victoriously saving his nephew Lot and his family from captivity, humbly celebrated by paying homage to God’s High Priest, a prince of Peace in the city of Salem whose name was Melchezideck. This emphasis upon peace is significant in a warring land of tribal conflict. Melchezideck was a minister of peace. To be a bearer of peace is to be a bridge linking vulnerabilities disguised within egos; a catalyst creating encounters of healing grace with the Divine. When Abram came to Melchezideck, Abram received a blessing of grace in a moment sanctified by Melchezideck sharing bread and wine which was blessed and then given to Abram. Further, in response to this blessing Abram offered his gifts to Melchezideck. Even as Melchezideck had given a blessing of grace he was also a receiver of Abram’s generosity.

The full scope of the generosity ministries of a High Priest includes receiving the gifts of persons. I, in my role am called to see persons as gifted and to find ways for those gifts to be offered up and to be received with graciousness and joy. Giftedness may exist as potential and possibility, or it can be nurtured and actualized. Giftedness is not a gift until it is offered up. Our gifts have a potential of abundant capacity. Discovering the full capacity of our giftedness within our lives is a blessing. We are called to give of our true capacity in response to God’s grace in our lives. That is giving our best.

Generosity ministries engage lives, intersect and intertwine people. Where one is gifted another is needful. Where capacity is unrealized, grace is nurtured in order that compelling generosity may be joyously offered up. The Spirit abounds in generosity. I have shared numerous times in this blog how grace has touched my life which enables me to proclaim, “how can I keep from giving” My prayer is that I may minister in your lives to draw out your giftedness, to engage your giftedness, to bless the lives our sacred community with your giftedness. May your giftedness build bridges of peace.

Submitted by Kerry

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mystical or Reality

Last year I was crawling along in rush hour traffic and saw a man lying on the boulevard a couple lanes over. The thought crossed my mind…..stop and see if he is OK….but that would back up perhaps hundreds of cars behind me. You know how it is. People get annoyed. So I continued on thinking he was just catching some sun lying on the grass. Perhaps 20 minutes later I came back that way after picking up a package at the post office and long before I got there I could see flashing lights in the location and sure enough it was an ambulance. For sure, not my proudest moment. One of shame in my books.

While following the proceedings of this year’s World Conference I noted for the 1st time, something called the practice of “spiritual formation.” Throughout the period since then I have participated in a number of “dwelling in the word” practices which acquainted me with a deeper reflection of scripture, the words of counsel and meaningful readings. This is one of many spiritual formation exercises. Although, I personally felt the spirit and gained new insights into each dwelling in the word reading as I perceived each word intently and prayerfully, not taking for granted what I might have considered the reading to say at first glance; I am not sure I understood the whole notion of spiritual formation. I’m kind of a get busy with things type of personality and even when I pray I generally have a pen and paper handy. This past weekend at a workshop the big picture of spiritual formation finally began to sink in. It’s not that it is so different from my approach but now I understand if I am not emptying myself and refilling everyday then the results of my actions are my results, not Gods. 

We live our lives making countless choices and decisions each day, interacting with untold numbers of people, observing many more situations and circumstances than we can even remember; as we drift along sidewalks and hallways and aisles taking for granted the lifeless faces, the signs of need and struggles that abound.

Also, we often think well of ourselves as we feel we might have nailed a presentation, designed an excellent prototype, created a dynamic strategic plan or stated remarks that others admired. There is pride and ego that we sense in our learned skills, our eloquence, our abilities, our relationships…… Particularly in these moments of supposed excellence, we need to ask ourselves the question, “to what extent have I just allowed my best thinking, my logic, and my plans to obscure or totally reduce what the Spirit is seeking to reveal and do through me.” Are you catching what I am saying? More often than not, it ends up being about me/us and not about the other.

In most industries today, the term “Best Practices” denotes the optimum way to do something to achieve the best outcome. To truly be a prophetic people, spiritual formation is the “best practices” principle that guides our moment by moment awareness of life about us into the opportunities we would not otherwise see. The current words of Counsel before us state, “Opportunities abound in your daily lives if you choose to see them.”

So seriously, what does this mean for you and me? I could just launch into my day thinking I am doing just fine, thank you. The Spiritual Formation principle says on the contrary, I can do better. Just when I think that which I say is brilliant (ego time) in a conversation, the Spirit if I had listened would have had me phrase it more pastorally, or more compassionately or positively or humourously or just plain differently. As I walked along the street admiring that sharp looking car, my awareness could have picked up on the elderly woman carrying a heavy package. As I was worried about getting my point across in a conversation I missed the opportunity to notice the pain in the other person’s eyes.

Spiritual formation practices nurture a mindfulness and awareness that both empties me of my own clutter and creates space for the Spirit to indwell me. That allows me to see with new eyes; people and situations, words and promptings of the Spirit that answer the needs that are around me. Am I venturing into a mystical realm of make-believe or is there really a new reality that evidences itself with positive reinforcement each moment of prompted response? 

I know the latter is real! Our sacred community exists on this foundational premise that spiritual formation makes me/us vulnerable to the Spirit, nurturing moment by moment a new reality of sensitivity that is felt piercingly, that is scarily intuitive, that is situationally unnerving, that is life disrupting, that transforms doubt into knowing. If you desire to change your Sunday’s from spectating to a reality adventure with an unknown script but enticingly meaningful to the core of your being, then pray like your life depended on it. Empty yourself, let grace sweep over you and become vulnerable to the Spirit. You will be forgiven, empowered and prompted to respond in ways that will make real the songs you sing and the scriptures you read, for in them your life will be revealed.

Submitted by Kerry

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Virtuous Dialogue

I, with many of you have reflected greatly and daily upon our recent experience of discord within the CEM. What have we learned from this experience? Please bear with me as I attempt to describe a profound, positive, collective, coming of age in our midst.

Even as the Community of Christ has transitioned over the years in our understandings and openness towards our heritage, theology and inclusiveness; our journey has other dimensions we are still encountering. At World Conference we implemented new processes for Common Consent and consensus building. This is not just a change in the mechanics of discussing legislation; it evidences deep-rooted participatory engagement in our church life and decision making. This reflects the expectation of our membership to be informed, to research, to dialogue, to express diverse opinions, to be heard, to listen, to challenge, to collaborate. In a sense the phrase “prophetic people” has taken on greater meaning in a deliberatory sense. Our present “Words of Counsel”, are before the church for a period of 3 years for prayerful and participatory deliberation. We as a community are presently internalizing the meaning of the counsel to us. This extended period of literally “dwelling in the word” engages our collective prophetic prowess, so that in unison in 2016, having lived out these words, fleshed out these words, we can joyfully proclaim them as scripture. 

What does this mean to us in CEM? Outside of conferences, we do not turn off our participatory spirit and our resolve to engage in self-determination in our home congregations or church related activities. We continue to express…… Indeed, our use of social media as a forum for expression is also a mysterious organism that typically reflects polite public exchanges, until group dynamics are challenged and then emotional waves rally support with accelerated intensity that complicates communication and eventual reconciliation.

Again, what does this mean to us in CEM? I think it means, we expect and feel we have a right to engage in dialogue and that out of that collective dialogue, decisions are made. Our experience with nurturing and facilitating dialogue in decision making is quite rudimentary. We have much to learn. It is much easier in all organizations to operate within a mode of top down decision making. That traditionally is the way it has been. Transitioning away from this protocol is another dimension of our faith journey I made reference to above. It happens by way of natural grass roots processes rather than a conscious decision to push a dialogue button. We find ourselves today in a new model of decision making involving dialogue linked with an unpredictable and relentless social media backbone.

But we are also a sacred community. How does that govern our exchanges? Dialogue can be an eruptive force of contention without internalized virtues guiding our discussions. Dialogue can be secular in nature or sacred. We see the secular modeled in our houses of parliament. Sacred dialogue is mindful, prayerful; exhibiting grace and vulnerability to allow compromise and consensus to emerge out of divergent viewpoints. This mode of dialogue takes practice and intentional self-awareness by all to truly happen.

Our church has recently introduced spiritual formation moments within our conference sessions. I participated in these short reflective moments last week in our Canadian staff meetings. These moments nurture the sacred within. Perhaps we should also practice dialogue moments to teach us virtuous exchanges of discussion. Let us not mistake virtues for weakness. They are on the contrary, strong, persistent, even-spirited, mindful exchanges not based upon black and white outcomes but negotiated consensus.  We need advanced tools for dialogue. Temple School does encourage in the new Instructor course creative dialogue techniques. We practiced group dialogue sessions last week. Dialogue is something you just don’t read about. It is participatory and learned in dynamic exchanges. It is more than debating. The virtuous element governs our person to person awareness. How needed also is this self-regulating, virtuous sharing in social media.

Ultimately, dialogue is sacred if we allow it to be. That to me is what we have learned. That is the pathway forward. We have an incredible opportunity now to participate in virtuous dialogue, stumbling at first as we have, but worth the effort to continue and nurture collaborative outcomes through our collective dialogue. I am hopeful. I look forward to engaging in the next step together.

Submitted by Kerry

Monday, November 4, 2013

Be Vulnerable to Divine Grace

Today was communion Sunday. I partook in the La Salle congregation with the wonderful folks there. Each congregation has slightly different traditions in their presentation and protocols of serving the bread and wine, but the prayers of blessing and serving by priesthood harmonize this sacred sacrament throughout Community of Christ. Wherever I attend I am blessed around this table in the Spirit of our Lord.

The Lord’s Supper experience inwardly happens within our hearts, minds and souls and outwardly with one another in sacred community. The moment is sanctified with reverent thought, reaffirmation of covenant and a sense of oneness. Grace permeates our being as we consciously empty our lives of those habits, discordant thoughts and injurious words and acts both received and given that have separated us from one another.

I was particularly mindful today while the prayers were shared, of the current discord within the CEM congregations. There are so many scriptures we could elicit to reveal the necessity to cease contention and ….. but to me the most relevant scripture may be today’s theme scripture from D&C 163:10b, “Be vulnerable to Divine Grace.” These profound words speak to the heart of our condition. In the stead of our posturing with attitudes of rightness and aligning ourselves in clusters of division, the Lord calls us to be vulnerable to Divine grace. I visualize this in my mind’s eye as an act of kneeling before God and one another; offering my life, my hurts, my anger, my reactions, my all, without reservation to God to accept in return…..a community of joy, hope, love and peace.

May we each seek peace and allow our discussion processes to go forward in faith that a win/win solution may result. Let us forgive one another, let us learn love for one another which may only be possible through becoming vulnerable to God’s grace. As I shared with the LaSalle congregation today both in word and in prayer, vulnerability to God’s grace has changed my life and hurts and positions of rightness have given way to what matters most…..Christ’s peace.

I invite all to kneel in this act of reverent vulnerability, even as we humbly do so in communion to bring peace to and within our sacred community.  

Submitted by Kerry