Jamie Varvaro, SPEC Director
Leader – noun; one that leads or guides. Leadership – noun; the capacity or ability to lead. Our world today calls for leaders—good leaders with strength of character and integrity. For almost 50 years SPECTACULAR has guided youth, developing their leadership potential and encouraging them as they are called to serve with character and integrity.
The mission of SPECTACULAR is to create a safe, Christ-centered community that encourages young women and men to discover God, their inherent worth, and cultivate and express their giftedness. SPECTACULAR has grown from that first relatively small gathering in the late 1960s on The Campus in Independence, Missouri to over 1,200 campers and leaders at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, every summer. It is the largest annual gathering of youth in the Community of Christ. SPECTACULAR affords opportunities for campers to develop skills of leadership and discipleship, and ways to express themselves artistically, musically, and athletically.
A star high school athlete and friend of the church expressed that before attending SPECTACULAR she had never played on a team or been involved in a tournament where you felt good about yourself and truly enjoyed the competition of the game regardless of whether you won or lost. She also said that even though she did not belong to this church, she felt at home and was comfortable with the ideals and principles shared.
Through gathering informal demographic information, it is estimated that nearly forty percent of campers are friends of the Community of Christ. Many delegation and program staff are also friends of the church. SPEC strives to follow its mission to create a safe, Christ-centered community where exploration of many ideas are encouraged to happen and in that, campers are comfortable inviting their friends to join them in this week of learning, fellowship and fun.
The theme for this year’s SPECTACULAR, July 23-30, is “Connect.” It offers a challenge to SPECTACULAR participants to explore ways within ourselves to better connect with each other and the world around us; keeping in mind that in doing so, we better connect with God. “…God is revealing divine nature through sacred communities of love, oneness and equality…” (2013 Words of Counsel).
Leadership (SPEC TODAY) classes at SPECTACULAR will provide an overview and exploration of our theme. Discipleship, music, and art classes will allow for in-depth exploration of specific sub-topics. For example, there might be a leadership session exploring the idea of authenticity. More in-depth exploration might occur through classes regarding meditation, scripture study, personal spirituality, individual arts, or music.
“Connect” will be a prominent part of every aspect of SPECTACULAR: the volleyball courts, the Extravaganza stage production, soccer fields, delegation devotions, afternoon activities on the Quad, individual and group discussions, as well as personal meditation and community worship. The athletic tournaments uphold the following statement, “Willful Christian interaction is the norm for all facets of SPECTACULAR. The sports program will function with that objective as the guiding principle for the actions of all participants, officials, coaches, and spectators. While we may not always agree with one another we will always appreciate and honor each other.”
We know lives are challenged and changed by this unique week, whether the change is apparent immediately or twenty years from now, we know SPEC is influencing thousands and thousands of lives. Through the diversity of individuals and cultures from across North America, SPECTACULAR finds the common denominator of connection through Jesus Christ. Youth finishing 9th through 12th grades are invited to enjoy SPECTACULAR as part of a delegation. SPECTACULAR 2016 is July 23-30.
More information and registration forms are available through your delegation or at www.CofChrist.org/spec or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join us on Facebook too! www.facebook.com/SPEC.CofChrist/
John Hamer's "There's More than One Kind of Mormon: A History of Schism in the Latter Day Saint Movement" in Review
On Friday evening, November 18, John Hamer, Pastor of the Toronto Community of Christ congregation gave a presentation entitled, "There's More than One Kind of Mormon: A History of Schism in the Latter Day Saint Movement" in Calgary. The event was free and open to the public.
When I walked in to the Friday evening presentation I was delighted to see so many new faces of folks from across the Restoration Movement and beyond. More still, I was fascinated by the unique perspectives informed by the respective faith backgrounds in the room (Mormons, Community of Christ, Evangelicals, and more). The rich sense of curiosity was exciting, and it was wonderful to connect with - and learn more about - individuals interested in our narrative and/or heritage.
Many in attendance knew and/or recognized John's name (or his voice) from the countless podcasts he has appeared on, including: Mormon Stories, Project Zion, Rational Faith, Mormon Expression, Feminist Mormon Housewives, and Infants on Thrones. Equipped with evocative slides, John's presentation was loaded with eye-opening information, and those in attendance easily followed John's overview of the schism within the Latter Day Saint Movement.
As the event organizer, I was thrilled to see so many interested in this topic, and in talking with many of the attendees, most seemed quite invigorated by the dialogue. As our congregation continues to identify methods of meaningful outreach, I am convinced that by hosting events focused on education, we will emerge as a trusted leader many can count on as we seek to fill a need for many seeking answers.
The Calgary Community of Christ congregation is grateful to John Hamer for continuing to be invested in our success and for his willingness to share his ministry.
Below is the full recorded presentation from Friday evening. Feel free to share.
When I reflect on the current political climate around the world, the passage from Mark 12:29-31 comes to me. It's through this teaching that we are challenged to remember the other, and that even though we may see things differently, we are called to love each other.
Love thy neighbour
Blood beats through every chamber, filling our bodies with hope and vision for a changed world.
Who is that anyway?
It’s not the face behind the fence, or a lovely philosophical pretense, rather, it’s the heart behind the wall or maybe the woman under the shawl.
Do we have the gall to break down the division of endless imaginary difference?
Skin difference, thought difference, word difference; raised differently, but not all that differently. Same air, same blood, same ground, same love; same idea of a life so near, without fear, we cry the same tears of joy!
The only difference is our lens. Our eyes are how we train ourselves to despise, to act unwise and to compromise our birth given value of love. Our best selves, hidden under societal mud.
When we talk to each other, we transform, removing the danger, now friend from stranger. The outsider is much easier to denigrate, form a kind of hate and eventually reverse the idea that we can’t be together as one.
All is not lost.
When we realise that it’s time to synchronise our minds for the better, that when we are together we are no longer in demise but to our surprise we are blessed with some kind of enduring sunrise moment. The day when we join hand in hand, making pacts that disband the hatred filled plans of those whose thirst for power; when that day is trumped by those who search for life’s meaning and continue to uplift with smiles beaming, that…that will be the day we know our neighbour.
That day, when we as Community of Christ embrace our name and become profane to stereotypical Christian claims that deny the truth of Jesus words, that will be the day we re-train our eyes to see through lenses of love and together our blood will beat true again. When neighbour was once the stranger, now friend.
I think, that day, is today.
November 11: In the USA this day is Veterans Day. In Canada we call it Remembrance Day. In both countries we take this time to reflect on the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve in our respective countries' armed forces. Most people think about those who paid the "ultimate price" for freedom, meaning they gave their lives while doing their jobs. It is fitting that we should honour them, but there are many, many more who gave their lives but did not die. Let me explain.
For 48 years, I have been married to a veteran of the Vietnam Conflict. He spent 30 months fighting a war...not to protect OUR freedom but the freedom of people he did not know in a country he had probably never thought much about until this conflict planted him there. He did this not because he enjoyed what he was doing but because he was following orders and because he believed it was his duty. He received relatively minor physical wounds but MASSIVE emotional and psychological wounds that more than 45 years later have still not healed. Those wounds have impacted his life, my life and the lives of our children, in ways that I would not have imagined possible. After years of therapy with skilled and compassionate counsellors, emotional scar tissue has formed and the wounds are not so raw. But there is not a single day that the impact of those 30 months does not affect our lives, and usually not in a positive way.
So here is the point of my post...on this Remembrance Day/Veterans Day, please remember to say thank you to those veterans (and their families) who are still with us. The ones who gave their lives but continue to suffer.
Writing testimonies is hard. Moving is hard. Having to be a support anchor for your family is hard. Praying and hoping all will go as desired, as it is meant to be is hard. A terrestrial adult-ing life is hard.
But, there are so many joys and blessings that make this hard life so much brighter. To see the beauty around us; to hear the giggles of those finding joy, the prayers of a child; to taste the varieties of foods available to us; to smell the flowers as we run through the fields, the rain as it falls to the dry earth; to give hugs to friends and family we don’t see too often. These are but a few of that which lifts my spirits, gives me a smile when I feeling a bit lonely.
See, our family of 5 had what we call, an “adventurous” summer. The day after school ended in May, my husband was offered a new job in a new location-Washington, D.C. So as our typically busy summer was beginning, we compounded it with packing and figuring out where best to move. Not only was I finalizing plans for Jr/Sr High Camp at the Ozark Campgrounds, but also taking my son to Jr. Camp, sorting through toys, clothes, kitchen items, craft items, etc. Then I directed the Jr/Sr. High Camp. We also had Reunion (a family church camp) and a visit to check out our new home location. With a few weeks left to pack and fix up our house to sell, we tried to find some peace and joy. We went to the park, to the zoo, visited friends, saw family, went to church, prayed.
As the big move from Oklahoma to the Northern Virginia suburbs of D.C. loomed, my anxiety rose. I am a Midwest girl currently living in the big city trying to keep sanity in my family. We are over 18 hours driving distance from family and friends, with few opportunities to visit. Talk about feeling lonely, and out of place!
But, we’ve been here 6 weeks now, and we have found a wonderful new community. We drive into D.C. on Sundays for fellowship and service at the Community of Christ congregation there. It is like walking in at home. There is that sense of peace, love, acceptance, and community I have found at every Community of Christ congregation I have visited. A place where we can find a seat at the table. We may have a new home, and be far from family, but at least we have found a new “surrogate” family. A place where our 3 kids can run and play and not feel awkward. A place to feel comfortable and appreciated.
We greatly miss our previous communities of church families, our previous “tables,” but God moves us to new experiences, to new community at a new table.
Now, I am off to show new wonders, new reasons to smile, to my kids and see where this path of terrestrial life goes that God is leading us on.
May God let the Spirit breathe with you, and lead you towards loving community; an accepting, joyous table; and on the path laid down just for you.
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.