I've been a member of Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) all my life, but yesterday was a first for me. Before yesterday, I'd never attended an ordination service for a young adult, and it wasn't until I was in the midst of live-streaming it and leading the congregational support portion of the service that I realized it was happening.
There's something deeply moving about anyone accepting a call...whatever that call may be. It could be deciding to move closer to home to help an ill parent or loved one. It could be the fulfillment of a dream that you've worked so hard to achieve. It could be a lot of things, and in this single case...it is a lot of things. Accepting a call to the priesthood is like asking for daily - perhaps even hourly - disturbances to your everyday life rhythm as a true servant to others. It isn't a status that suddenly denotes respect, and it certainly isn't going to get you a raise.
Watching someone in their twenties accept a call was moving, because it is probably one of the most selfless things a person can do..and let's face it, when we're in our twenties...we aren't always terribly selfless, am I right? The community came together to celebrate this call as well with lots of cake, singing, laughter, tears, and testimonies of support for this call. Family members drove in, secular friends made a point to attend, and the congregation smiled. This call has been a long time coming - we heard that several times from several different people. I'm very grateful that Caitlin said 'yes' when she was ready. She is going to be an incredible priest.
Caitlin saying 'yes' will be one of those moments in my "Community of Christ life" that I'll likely never forget.
If you missed the service, I've uploaded the live broadcast to YouTube and included it below.
This blog originally appeared on Exponent II. Click here to view the original post.
“Those in favour, please show by a raise of hands.”
Counting, recounting, recording.
“Those opposed, please show by a raise of hands.”
Counting, recounting, recording.
“The yeses take it.”
I breathed a sigh of relief–not because my preference was passed but because despite the strong words shared on both sides of the issue being voted on, everyone seemed to be okay. No one stormed out. No one was called unfaithful. The vote was noted, we closed the meeting, put the chairs away and gave one another hugs over doughnuts and over-cooled coffee.
After years of raising my hand to sustain new callings, church officers and to show a vote of thanks, I’ll admit that my first experience voting in a church business meeting was exciting and unnerving. To this point in my religious life, voting in church had largely been a point of formality. The bishop, stake president or general authority read a name and we sustained them. I never saw a contrary vote in my 30 years of attending LDS meetings. I know they exist but they’re certainly rare.
But right here, right now, voting carried some weight. I was putting my own opinions and judgement out in the open. As a member of less than a year, my vote mattered as much as everyone else’s—old, young, convert and lifetime member. And I’ll admit that the thought of conflict seemed suddenly scary. I didn’t want anyone to be hurt and I didn’t want to be wrong.
It was watching this process one year ago that fueled my excitement about being part of a church again. I realized that I didn’t just want to attend, I wanted to have a bit of skin in the game. As I watched my fellow congregants raise their hands for or against motions regarding everything from the election of a pastor to the adoption of a budget, it was exciting and a bit overwhelming to realize that no one person had all the answers. No pastor, no bishop, not even a prophet, could do this alone. Revelation and the inspiration that prompted it was a communal act. Every member was entitled and empowered to a part in it. And I wanted to part of that.
I try to be careful to not draw too many comparisons between my experiences growing up in the LDS faith and my experiences now in Community of Christ. Both continue to teach me to draw deep from the well of faith, to aim for goodness and to practice mercy. But as I raised my hand and voice on a touchy and controversial matter, I wish I could have told my budding Mormon feminist self that there would come a day in my life when conflict and difference of opinion at church would be a sign of involvement rather than disobedience or hardheartedness. God has granted all of us a measure of the Spirit with hands and heart for building Zion. We are best served when we recognize the unique contributions, experiences and opinions of one another and not only dare to do right, but also dare to be vulnerable, mistaken, passionate and even gloriously wrong. We’ll be okay. And then we’ll end with hugs, doughnuts and over-cooled coffee.
Matthew 13: 1-9 (NRSV)
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”
After watching a video (below) about the similarities in gardening and one’s life, the scripture above resonated with us all. In order to have a holistic life you need to tend to the many needs in one’s life. The same as when you plant a garden. Our soil needs to be open to awakening the life within the seed. We are the soil that needs to be open and receptive to new life in our midst.
Like with a harvest, you have to till the soil. You have to cultivate the soil. You have to turn it over, you have to grab the dirt clobs and break them apart. You have to remove root systems and old weeds that threaten to choke out life. You have to be willing to disrupt the soil so that new life might emerge. This is the same in congregational life. We have to be willing to disrupt the soil. Encounters with God and the Holy Spirit can cause disruption. It can be uncomfortable. It can be chaotic, but it can also be transforming.
Learning about the different seeds that you have to plant and what complexities each one has is such a vital part of growth. Where can we plant it so that it might thrive most fully? In this act we abandon the mentality that one size fits all. Are we paying attention to both soil and seed? We must relinquish control and trust. That in the darkness life is forming. Are we willing to wait and trust in what is unseen?
When we tend to our soil it can be a hard and daily task to ensure that life is becoming. This is a practice that never ends, day in and day out to constantly ensure life is thriving. Are we paying attention to what is still needed for growth and are we willing to put in the effort to sustain what is coming alive in front of us?
When it comes time to harvest, we then get to enjoy that life. That life we have planted and tended to. It is a time to celebrate, a time to rejoice. In the end, our final step is rest. Rest is when we renew the soil. We let the nutrients back so that life may be sustained again. We need Sabbath in our spiritual lives. That time with God allows us to feel refreshed.
In each of our lives we have found that we become robotic to our daily tasks, we fall into the wash, rinse, and repeat cycle. But coming to Hills of Peace is the rest we look for, that feeling of being whole as an individual and as a community. We renew those past relationships so that we can thrive in our communities at home.
We have laughed, cried, and found strength in each other. We know that we have learnt more about each other and ourselves, and in the end we carry this part of the mission statement with us: “God, Grant us the courage to risk somethings new.”
Mary Ann, Calgary, AB, Canada
To the Calgary Community of Christ congregation,
I am so grateful to have your pumping machine to provide my milk to my son in the NICU. The MOM Project is an amazing act of concern for both baby and mommy.
You don’t know how you all touched my heart. Maybe for you it’s just a small deed, but for me it’s a reason to build and increase my faith.
Giving birth unexpectedly and seeing my baby so tiny with lots of stuff on his body makes me worry and feel down all the time. I know I have my family, relatives and friends to support me in this part of my life, and now, through the MOM Project, I have one more thing to drive me to be strong and fight my worries and fears.
I don’t know you all but you showed love through this selfless act for us mothers with babies in the NICU. You helped me not only financially, but you also helped me emotionally and spiritually by motivating me to not give up if there are big challenges that come into my life.
I want to thank you all for sharing this project with me.
Community of Christ offers a rigorous Master of Arts in Religion program through Graceland University. As I rapidly move towards the end of my first year of Seminary, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude. My cohort is made up of 20 brilliant, diverse minds from all over the world, including Germany, Belgium, England, India, Tahiti, Canada, and the United States. This community is a beautiful expression of theological exploration, and I couldn't make this journey without them!
Together, we discuss. Together, we research. Together, we push forward.
We are currently enrolled in the History of Christian Thought I, where we are learning about theological history of key figures as well as the church itself from the time of the Greco-Roman Empire to the eve of the Protestant Reformation. It's incredible how much we (as contemporary Christians) have in common with the people of this time. Some of their struggles are still our struggles, but in learning more of their journeys I've grown in my own faith as well.
If you'd like to learn more about Community of Christ Seminary, visit www.graceland.edu/seminary or just ask me! I'd love to tell you all about this wonderful program.
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.