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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Proclaim & Promote....

I have attended like many of you numerous corporate strategic planning events, marketing rollouts, sales meetings, training and product knowledge workshops. We hear of a phrase that often the "sizzle is what is promoted and not the steak", which is the actual product. This is to say that where the sizzle is promoted then often the product is mostly fluff and the marketing creatively makes more of the product than it actually is. There is some deception.

In Community of Christ, we know the reality of the Living Christ in our lives. If there is fluff, we have failed our customer and the intent of the product designer. In reality there is a real danger of our product being called fluff if we individually do not believe in and apply the product we are marketing. In fact, if I do not believe in it, I become a source of doubt to the customer that contrasts with the product's credibility and reduces its saleability. My lack of belief impacts the perception of validity of our whole community and its acceptance, value and trustworthiness to the customer. 

To live what we say, to be believable to our customer, we need to demonstrate what our product is with "knowing confidence." Only then will customers be prepared to invest their lives in the product we offer. Only then will our customers discover fulfillment in the product they acquire from us. Only then will these words be made flesh in us and them.....

       “We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love and peace!”

That short, easily memorized statement summarizes our Identity, our Mission, our Message and our Belief. The "we" as the first word, depicts what the user of the product receives! In looking at us, the customer knows if the product is worthwhile acquiring. The statement says exactly who we are! We, are the embodiment of this proclamation. When people encounter you, that's you.... the joy you exude expresses the eternal. A vision of contagious Hope resides within you. Love for others shows in your caring, compassionate, sensitive listening and giving of self.  Peace that surpasses logical understanding, enables you to be present, mindful, setting others at ease and providing confident leadership in difficult situations. Then, sacred community extends, blesses and enfolds others in a fuller reality of our proclamation. We are the sizzle of the product we promote! But there is no fluff! We together are Community of Christ and we express through our lives the validity of these words.

     “We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love and peace!"

The source of such inner joy, hope, love and peace is not from knowledge about our faith or our product, but from the moments of eternity experienced and made real within us. Time with Divine impels us to be the essence of our proclamation which is our identity as Community of Christ Christians.

Then, beyond this sacred statement, enduring principles, beliefs and mission speak to the substance, character, virtues and actions of our evident life expressions of grace and generosity with and towards others. We are believable because we intentionally care, because we discerningly search out and respond, because we empathetically are compassionate to and with the hurting and dismissed of society about us.

Communities that create joy out of ashes, hope out of despair, love out of rejection, and peace out of blind reaction, are only possible through the indwelling presence of Christ who we proclaim as “Lord and God”. We know the product; we know the envisioned outcome is made real in the life of sacred community. Our role, our calling is to embody joy, hope, love and peace within and without our person. Discover and continue to embrace Christ in your life and those expressions will live abundantly in you and the product will be credible, believable and saleable!

Submitted by Kerry Richards

Monday, April 21, 2014

Faithful Diversity

I have been sharing my thoughts about diversity. We need diversity to become exposed to the latent richness of new ideas and creativity within people who have experienced life differently from ourselves. Innovation emerges through the interaction of people in dialogue one with another. Innovation is about change, not for the sake of change but for relevance within the context of cultures, multi-generations and yet unknown factors. Did you know there are 4 stages to change we pass through called “The Change Cycle”?  This is how we each relate to change.

The Change Cycle
1.    Objection, denial, rejection…..”This change can’t be a good thing”
2.    Indifference, resistance, delay tactics ….. “I really don’t want to deal with this”
3.    Exploration, openness, vulnerability…… “How can I make this change work for me”
4.    Commitment, buy-in, catalyst …… “I understand the emergent transformation and will personally work to make it a reality

Let’s take an example of change such as our recent introduction of the “new” hymnal we use for worship…..

In Stage 1, some individuals who may be established in their theology may not be accepting of the inclusiveness of language, the notions of the hard living of society being loved unconditionally, of ourselves being called to forgive the “abusers”, of words and tunes in familiar hymns being changed, of multi-languages being used or repetitive chanting considered a hymn. I want what I had, not this heavier book with all new numbers for even the hymns I knew. I will vote to keep the original hymnal.

In Stage 2, some people will just sing the hymns they know. They will no longer sing in the choir. They might not play the piano using the new hymnal. They might even stop attending or decrease their financial giving due to this change.

In Stage 3, many who listen to those knowledgeable about the new hymnal and how and why it came into being, receive a new perspective not just about the new tunes, some of which are really likeable, but why the words are more inclusive, why our enduring principles of belief need to be sung to instill an enduring identity within us as a people. The hymnal helps us become comfortable with, to be blessed by and open to inspiring diversity.

In Stage 4, our thinking, our dialogue, our actions are changed in accordance with the newness we have experienced in singing the new hymns. We recognize their relevancy to life as we know it. We are challenged by the call to Mission. Our new spiritual centering compels us to exercise greater capacity in our lives to respond to needs about us that have been opened to our eyes through the words we sing. We understand anew our identity in Community of Christ, we participate in the spiritual formation resident within the pages of the hymnal that resonate with our search for meaning. We become sacred community with those we sing with and together understand what is ingrained in our hearts. Yes, “We proclaim Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love and peace” in song, in spirit, side by side in “knowing” community. 

Diversity fosters change. This beauty of change is as exhilarating as a newborn child, as a rainbow after a thunderstorm, a newly emerged butterfly, as spring’s welcome following a harsh winter. Let us be mindful that that which we know now is life only partially revealed. May we be open to the blessings of change through the diversity of those we daily encounter in openness and faith. 

Submitted by Kerry Richards    

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Prep Work for Passion

I am thinking about my new Church role engaging me in full-time Mission. There are some corporate dimensions to the role I plan to explore; however, the prime area of my role will be working with congregations and yourselves. So what can you expect when I approach your congregation and you individually?

As Steve Veazey has emphasized, the foundation of our motivation to participate in Mission instead of the normal life activities we typically do, is spiritual formation. How can this alter your day from what it is now, to caring more, affirming others more, being more compassionate, more sensitive, changing your focus from me to “be”? “Being” is not about me or you………. it is about our eternal soul surfacing from the background in the living of our lives. It is listening, centering, discerning the Divine and being mindful of that described in the Words of Counsel, “opportunities abound if we are willing to see them”. For that type of daily sensitivity we need mindful discernment.

I personally know it is hard to discipline oneself to a daily routine of “spiritual practices” like we would go for a run or walk the dog. But that is what it takes. The best way to complete a goal, like anything in life, is to partner up with someone that you naturally can share hopes and plans with and they with you. Then by voicing with each other your goals……… you affirm, encourage and daily talk, text or? one another,  to fulfill your plan every day. You are jointly accountable to one another and along with the deepening of your mutual friendship will emerge an impelling spiritual sensitivity and passion in your lives that will bless you and others in ways that will amaze you as you fulfill your ministry plan and respond to the abounding opportunities unseen to you today.

Each of us has this capacity within us to “know God” After all, one of the best known scriptures is precisely that. “Be still and know that I am God” I want to be a catalyst to make this real in your life and everyone willing in your congregation and beyond. That is what you can expect. I want to be upfront and personal on this one daily baseline act in your life. Nothing else counts if you do not enter into God’s space in your life. Please expect this conversation from me and even now begin thinking who that compatible partner will be in your life. That will be the person who when you ask them will say to you, “Hey, I was going to ask you too!”  

Then with the emerging passion in your life, we are ready for congregational mission.
Submitted by Kerry Richards

Friday, April 11, 2014

Come Home with your Diversity

We are all familiar with the phrase, “I am a spiritual person, not a religious person. There are mega adherents to this philosophy in society. Many of these good folks are our children, siblings, friends and people who we interact with every day. From their perspective, organized religion is church and it is hard to break free of that label for indeed that is who we are in Community of Christ. There are systemic attitudes held towards the institution of church. There is politics, $$, perceived restrictions, exclusivity, time and place schedules that oblige one to attendance, boring rituals within spectator like settings. Church competes with alluring life activities that families greatly value. Even though major transitions have already been actively implemented within leadership and programming offerings of our church the communication channels to the grass roots have many hurdles in connecting with people. To begin with, there are time constraints and unwillingness of peripheral members to read, listen, attend and involve themselves due to perceptions of having been there, done that, so why bother even looking into or investing time and energy into something which is trying to displace what my life is fully enjoying now. Further most of those I knew are no longer there as well so the social dynamics are weak too......... The above applies to those who are both spiritually inclined and those who are just busy with life.

How do we as a church break free of these perceptions and reconnect with those who mean so much to us?   

I attended an extra-curricular expression of our church the other night that has appeal to those primarily on the periphery of the more liberal spiritual persuasion. I invited my son who has a growing spirituality, yet is not a religious person. On our ride home, my son posed a question to me following a spirited discussion about the changing nature of Community of Christ. He was intrigued by the new directions of the church, but, “why after one has explored other spiritual avenues which are found to be meaningful, would one go back to the church which they had found to be irrelevant with their life and interests?

We discussed diversity specifically within Community of Christ, as I wanted the conversation to be personal as this was the church of our own heritage. I expressed I hoped that to begin with, there might be a sense of loyalty to heritage and family. Then, to see oneself as a valued “family” contributor of worthful diversity to enhance the church beyond where it is in creating relevancy. I expressed that all authors and leaders with followings and organizations, even the ones he reads about and likes, go through transitions as do the people within them. Change is imminent. They just happen to appeal to him at this point in his life in their point on their journey. Why not invest in our family journey together and explore the diverse in our community and introduce newness to the expressions of our “heritage” church. We are a church that has even taken the radical step to change its name to create a new identity, signifying a willingness to embark upon a new journey of discovery that involves us all together.

Of course a church needs to be spiritually attuning itself, accepting, hospitable, progressive, open, inclusive and dialogical for this institutional “conversion” and open conversation to take place. This phrase does describe the "journeying" Community of Christ. We also need new inviting settings of intersection with the larger community of ideas and spiritual awareness beyond our doors or we continue to be homogeneous. As the coming together of diverse people, ideas and innovations create tension; we need multiple gathering expressions of our community to nurture safe places of dialogue. These unique models would enable diversity under the umbrella of a unified and accepting Body of Christ, exemplifying blessing and order in our distinctiveness. Small group ministry is a perfect vehicle for enabling diversity. Cluster gatherings of our numerous expressions of the church where all equally participate together, allow the church to be more completely relevant. In these gatherings, in the presence of the Divine, our social interaction creates meaningful sacred community. I believe Community of Christ has entered this pathway of transition to become more relevant and is open to and exploring ways to offer more innovative and diverse expressions of the church.

In our Mission area, one expression that brings together many spiritual folks who may not find the traditional format of the church meaningful in their lives, is our “Freeing and Healing of the Spirit” reunion. For those who attend, this is a genuine sacred expression of Community of Christ. May we embrace its intersection with those who bring diversity to enrich the whole. The church is trying to birth new expressions of being relevant. Diversity is a blessing we need.

May we invite those of our heritage who have journeyed beyond the familiar to re-engage with us in new expressions of our family and “Come Home” to bless us and be blessed. What joy could exceed this experience of finding one another in the embracing of our souls.

Submitted by Kerry

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Innovative Mission

 In the book Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, the term “connector” is used to describe individuals who have many ties to different stratas of social interaction in their lives that broadens their horizons for idea generation. Leading thinkers in progressive companies today recognize that diversity is a source of the “new” that already exists latently in people and can be “mined” so to speak as “connector” leaders proactively search out the “diverse” primarily external to their own industries, knowledge base, cultures and generation. Connectors become curators of diversity and have the ability to link people, ideas, and resources that wouldn’t ordinarily bump into one another. Connecting the “outside” to people inside companies is critical to new idea generation. Diversity in a workforce is seen to be one of its competitive advantages. These are the firms that are destined for growth through this creative enterprise.

This concept shines a light on our scriptural principle in the church of affirming diversity and enabling unity amongst the whole. Our primary focus is really on the value and blessing of diversity in our midst and beyond. “Unity” is more about the integration of our differences in peaceful harmony.

As I pondered the Words of Counsel, the following phrase connected with me.

“Additional innovative approaches to coordinating congregational life and supporting groups of disciples and seekers are needed to address mission opportunities in a changing world.”

The likelihood for new idea generation is much greater when we connect with people of diverse experience and backgrounds. The norm in industry and congregations is for leaders and people to choose to collaborate with others they know well or who have similar backgrounds or ways of thinking. This homogenization of thinking and operations is deadly for innovation and relevance in a dynamic and changing society.

Collaborative leadership is key to managing the diversity in our midst as conflict can be inherent in new ways of thinking. “Unity in diversity” is one of our enduring principles. Embracing diversity has become front and centre within Community of Christ on my levels of interaction from inclusivity to theology to formation to hymnody to mission to congregational styles of worship. A pastoral blending of spiritual sensitivity and collaborative leadership is required to guide diverse thought groups into a unified body. Dialogue and teamwork are the hallmarks of cooperative innovation in our missional pursuits.

Although we accept, promote and struggle with diversity in the broader sense of societal issues, the reality is that most of our congregations are very homogeneous. We need the invitation for diversity to be heralded beyond the doors of our churches. Even within our own membership, the invitation for diversity to our missing generations and those on the periphery seeking spiritual relevance in their lives but not finding it in our current congregational cultures, need to be found for our own sakes. We desperately need diversity in our midst to answer the call to innovative mission. Our journey now takes us from accepting diversity to embracing it, welcoming it, searching for it and recognizing the blessing it can be in our midst. As progressive companies are pursuing the latency of newness in the broad spectrum of society’s people offerings, so the church is called to recognize, affirm, invite and engage “the worth of persons.” The tendency over the years since this scriptural counsel to value all persons was received, has been to think of the church as bringing wholeness to the less accepted in society. Today the call is to see them as blessing us and that we find our welfare in their equal assimilation into our community, bringing their diverse gifts to enhance the whole church. I can’t help but be awed by the relevance of scripture from age to age as we dwell with the Spirit in its meaning for today. May God bless us on our journey into his envisioned Mission.

Submitted by Kerry

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

President Veazey and Spiritual Practice

With so many of you I have listened and then read and re-read President Veazey’s address from Sunday evening. This morning my personal time of spiritual reflection was upon these words.

I recalled my scripture for a sermon on Sunday using Mark 8 where Jesus was striving with challenging questions, with the healing of a blind man; first partially healing him so his vision was still blurry and then fully restoring his vision in a 2 part healing; and then openly sharing a direct description of his path to the cross and resurrection with his Disciples. In this dialogue exchange Jesus said to his disciples, “Do you not understand, do you have eyes but fail to see, do you have ears and fail to hear?"

In discussion with some folks it seemed like the address was somewhat that which we have heard before. I am sure Jesus’ disciples heard the repetition of his message often to the multitudes, yet he took the time to reinforce their understanding of his own life’s eternal purpose. They weren’t getting it. Their perceptions were a human take from the immediate context of their lives, the Roman occupation and preconceived notions. They were not listening.

May I ask of you to re-listen to the broadcast and to spiritually dwell upon the text of the address, both found here….   and really listen to the theme that threads its way through the entire message.

Steve emphasizes the centering theme of one of our new hymns.....May we be blessed by putting into  practice the words of hymn 151….

“Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead, find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed; clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see all the things that really matter, be at peace and simply be.”

Steve shares, “Through spiritual practices of quietness, prayerful attention, and listening, we experience divine-human encounters that transform our lives. We cannot effectively participate in Christ’s mission without regular spiritual-formation activities that open our lives to the Spirit’s ministry and guidance. Whenever we talk about a “divine vision” set before us, it is important to emphasize that we are not talking about a human creation. The vision for mission is God’s! Jesus’ inner spiritual life with God was the source of his evident capacity to discern and demonstrate God’s nature and purposes in the world. Only through continuous spiritual awakening, discernment, and transformation can we effectively engage in Christ’s mission. That is why the words of counsel say, As a spiritual venture, boldly follow the [mission] initiatives into the heart of God’s vision for the church and for creation.”

The heart of the message Steve has re-emphasized, is that we as a prophetic people cannot see, hear and understand without engaging in spiritual practices that attune us to the movement of the spirit in our lives, to one another and Christ’s divine mission. As Jesus’ expressed to Peter in Mark 8, “You are setting your mind not on Divine things but on human things.” Let us use both the Words of Counsel and this present address by Steve in personal spiritual practice. May we prayerfully and deeply ponder these words with open eyes and ears to hear and understand the eternal and not our human preconceptions. Community of Christ exists to serve Christ’s mission, not a human creation, but a “divine vision” set before us. This vision for mission is God’s!

Submitted by Kerry

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Community Needs Humility

The virtue of humility is a complex notion. As we engage our lives in community, interacting with one another, diversity becomes apparent in a magnitude of ways. Each of us is unique and therefore there is a natural tendency to think independently. We see each other through the lens of our context in our own life experiences. Often this is reinforced by others of like mind who harbour similar attitudes and perspectives as ourselves in some common areas of our association. In a community setting when we all come together, our differences emerge. It is within community where humility must grace our lives and thrive in our interactions one with another. Humility is a heart attitude, a choice on our part as a disciple, whereby we intentionally choose to set aside our choices and seek God’s demeanor of love, grace and peace. It is a posture of emptying ourselves and opening ourselves to the other. In this frame of mind our aggressive defensiveness is replaced by a spirit nurtured willingness for harmony. 

Society’s “me” culture fosters a defensive mechanism for creating barriers, protecting my interests and forming alliances to safeguard our norms. These notions result in separation, detachment and opinion camps in our midst. Each person, group, entity has good intentions, valuable ideas and are honourable people. But each thinks in terms of exclusivity, ownership and with fear of the unknown in the other. The easiest course of action is to be critical of each other without engaging in conversation about the differences that exist. What we might think of as “faithful criticism” from a defensive standpoint of perceived rightness creates inner turmoil within ourselves and denies the emergence of the “sacred” in community.

In the context of a congregational setting where change, power, inadequate communication and lack of dialogue exists, unity dissolves into factional disarray. In these times of divisiveness whether it be personal or collective in nature, we need to step back and practice what we know as enduring principles and promote as communities of joy, hope, love and peace. To have unity in our diversity we need to draw upon the grace we have received in Christ and humbly offer it to the other. Mindfully praying the Lord ’s Prayer lifts up forgiveness for self and others and places us in a position to “be with” others; accepting their inestimable worth in personhood and inviting their voiced viewpoints in discussion. Let us dialogue together. Let us explore new ways of seeing, of questioning, of formulating solutions. Dialogue is not easy. The heart of its working structure is an attitude of humility, of emptying oneself, of knowing the spirit leads us beyond what we think we know to a blending of our diversity into a unified whole.

Mission does not happen in a vacuum. It erupts from within when we encounter the sacred in our lives. When divisiveness exists we become indifferent and detached. Our sense of mission disappears. Let us journey upon a pilgrimage of the heart to rediscover the source of life and grace that makes us whole. May the sacred in community be experienced in love for one another. May this impel us to live in Mission as Christ alongside our diverse brothers and sisters in a common cause, united in one body. This is my prayer.   

submitted by Kerry

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Is This Your Time?

I have heard many of you say over the last several years that you would really like to attend Encounter World Religions’ summer program…sometime.  Normally by April the July week-long experience is already fully booked, however, perhaps fortunately for you, this year that is not the case.  Maybe this year is your opportunity.

To find a link to Encounter’s website click here.   You will also find a short radio interview featuring Brian Carwana from last summer.   At the bottom you will also find this year’s flyer, schedule and registration form.

Joan and I have taken this amazing journey and we highly recommend it.  In a sense, it is like a one week trip around the world without leaving the safety and security of your home country. Without a doubt, it will be the most enjoyable and memorable thing you do all summer, guaranteed!

Is this your year?  I hope so.  Whether you go or not, why not pass this information along to friends or others you know who could benefit from this incredible experience?  They will be so glad you did.

Posted by Carman

If You Give a Church a Mission

The following post is from Tami Perriman from the Vista/Carlsbad, California congregation of Community of Christ.  I came across her article and liked it so requested her permission to re-post it here.  Her story mirrors the experience of her congregation in following Christ into mission.


Carman Thompson

I must be inspired by an impending visit from my 18 month old granddaughter. One of our favorite books is If You Give s Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff.  I was thinking about the domino effect of mission in Community of Christ and feeling amazed, overwhelmed and blessed all at the same time.

If you give a church a mission, then the church might sell everything it possesses so that it can follow Jesus Christ. And if it sells everything, then it will need to find a new place to worship. If it finds a new place to worship, then the church is going to encounter new friends. If the church finds new friends, some of those new friends are going to be hungry and the church will want to feed them. If the church provides food, more friends will come. With more friends, come more needs, so the church will start giving away clothing, blankets, sleeping bags and personal hygiene supplies. If the church starts giving away stuff, they will need more stuff to give away. If they need more stuff, God will provide by calling on the community and other churches to help. If the community and other churches help, more people can be served!

This may seem a little simplified, but the truth is, the first step in mission is always divine encounter, and the willingness to allow yourself to be used by God. Leading Congregations in Mission encourages us to pray these words everyday, “God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.”

It sounds similar to another prayer doesn’t it? "Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!" We are told that God blessed Jabez after he prayed this simple prayer. The Vista Community of Christ has seen God’s response to our prayer as well. In the children’s story, the author cautions against giving a mouse a cookie because of the never-ending cycle of events that happen. If you give a church a mission, prepare yourself for the same blossoming effects, and a never-ending cycle of blessings, for the church, the community, and for you personally as you respond to the call to be God’s hands, feet and heart in this kingdom.

Doctrine and Covenants 162:7a. There are many lives waiting to hear the redeeming words of the gospel, or to be lifted from hopelessness by the hands of loving servants. But they will be lost to you without the generous response of disciples who share from their own bounty that others may know the joys of the kingdom. 

Give a church a mission, share from your bounty.

Tami Perriman
Vista/Carlsbad Community of Christ