I went to my first World Conference with an open heart and mind. I was grateful to know many friends from near and far who had attended before and would help guide me and ensure I had a well-rounded experience. I knew I was in for laughs, tears, hard conversations, and many hours of deliberation on important legislation that will impact the church locally and internationally.
I was privileged to offer the closing prayer after Thursday’s legislative meetings, and I freely admit that I was nervous. I wrote my prayer in pieces throughout the week, a novel practice for me, and was changing things up until we started singing the hymn right before my prayer. I wanted to get it right.
I chose to focus on what World Conference showed me most clearly: the expression of God in each of us. I am called to love, try to understand, and be accepting of those who are different from me. I always knew this meant I should never deny someone Christ-like love based on the shade of their skin, who they love, their worst choices in weak moments, or how much money they have. I have always found it hard to truly accept and appreciate those I don’t agree with, or who I think are just plain wrong about what matters most. This is a less obvious, but I think more insidious way we can be held back from achieving the best in our world.
My understanding of the endless and indiscriminate love God gives each of us continues to evolve. My time at World Conference opened my eyes fully to seeing every person as an expression of our Creator. Each of us shows a facet, a sliver of God’s infinite spectrum of presence. I am made better, more whole and closer to the Spirit when I choose to see the individuals who I contrast with as an important voice in the world, just as entitled to God’s unconditional love as I am. This is our modern-day call: to love the neighbour that you don’t agree with because they are an expression of the Divine, just as you are. God is in them too, just different pieces of the divine shimmer through them. This allows us to experience God’s truly indescribable and mercurial nature that humankind will never fully comprehend. My God is always bigger and more loving than I think they could possibly be, and I look forward to being reminded of this many, many more times in my life.
One of the primary purposes of the World Conference is to do the business of the church. Through a process of common consent, delegates to the World Conference discuss important issues and make decisions that are essential to the ongoing ministry of the church. Delegates are selected at the local level in congregational business meetings and are sent to Independence, Missouri to Community of Christ’s International Headquarters on behalf of their fellow congregants to represent their interests. Click here to learn more about World Conference.
This year’s World Conference experience was, for me, a first. Not that it was my first time attending a World Conference event – I have actually attended at least three to my knowledge – but rather that it was my first time really attending with responsibilities outside of being a delegate. I enjoyed the usual – yet unique – opportunities to experience raw, real, and vulnerable community with people from all around the world. I worked closely with other attending young adults from the USA and Europe to help plan meaningful activities for young adults throughout the week, resulting in incredible opportunities for learning and growth.
I also led co-led two Lunch & Learn sessions and was grateful to have the opportunity to share with eager crowds about issues I am passionate about, including virtual (online) ministries and building an online presence. Both sessions were well attended and not only provided relevant information about the topic at hand but also connected interested attendees with experts and veterans in their fields that can help to mentor them through projects, challenges, and more. Rich discussion flowed from these events and continued throughout the week.
I was extremely happy to attend with several other young adults from across Canada, each of whom took their role as delegate seriously, studying the materials, engaging in discussions outside of legislative sessions to influence amendments and holding responsibilities outside of delegate as well.
Outside of my role as delegate and church employee, I also volunteer as a supporter and board member of Harmony (formerly GALA, Gay and Lesbian Acceptance). Over the last six months, I project managed the re-branding effort following a legal merger with another organization (WCN, Welcoming Community Network), and we went public with the new name and brand on the first day of World Conference. Our mission is to provide advocacy, education, and resources for Queer voices* in Community of Christ with a shared vision of full participation.**
*The term Queer is being reclaimed by some who identify as LGBTQ+ and is used as an umbrella term for the LGBTQ+ community. We use the phrase “Queer voices” to describe all person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI), who have the courage to use their voice to speak for justice for the marginalized in the Queer community.
**Full participation in the life of the church pertains to all members, without exception, ensuring each person is fully eligible to participate in the sacraments, priesthood, all levels of church leadership, as well as any other benefits and responsibilities guaranteed to church membership according to the Membership Manual.
Harmony had a booth in the Village Expo area, and meaningful, deep, and even uncomfortable conversations ensued concerning the unique needs of the Queer/LGBTQ+ Community within – and outside – Community of Christ. Visit the Harmony website to learn more about the organization.
Community of Christ is not a denomination of standalone congregations; rather, we collaborate to further Christ’s mission throughout the world in meaningful and relevant ways locally, regionally, and internationally. World Conference is always such an uplifting and energizing experience that stands as a reminder of our global identity as members of this faith community. I can’t wait until 2022 for our next World Conference!
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.