One of our mission initiatives is to Abolish Poverty and End Suffering. Community of Christ members and friends in Calgary embraced this initiative with a project that was fun and practical.
Few of us can imagine what it would be like to not have a home to go to, especially in our cold Alberta winters. Unfortunately, for many people, that is their reality. Home is where ever they can find a place to lay their heads. And, since they do not have a real home, these folks must carry all of their belongings with them. December’s Generation Now! activity was designed to respond to some of these needs and to help make the Christmas season a little happier for our less-fortunate neighbours. We also wanted to raise awareness among the children. We did this by making Christmas stockings for clients of Calgary’s Drop-In Centre for the homeless. At the Drop-In Centre, they have a goal of having a stuffed Christmas stocking for every person who spends the night of December 24 with them.
For several weeks, members and friends of our congregation were invited to contribute socks, underwear, hats, mitts, scarves, toiletries, coffee cards, candy and toiletries. The response was overwhelming! We filled our limited storage space at Lions Village and I resorted to storing several bags of donations in the back of my car! Such a happy problem to have.
On December 10 we did an inventory of our treasures and made a short list of things we still needed. First thing on the list…real “Christmas Stockings” (the fancy felt kind with candy canes, etc. on them).
Then on December 17, while the adults of the congregation met for our usual 10:00 a.m. Coffee & Conversation time, the kids, accompanied by their parents, went shopping at a nearby Dollarama. They came back with Christmas Stockings, tooth brushes, deodorant, mitts, candy canes and a bunch of other great stuff. During the 11:00 service, the children created lovely Christmas cards to put in each of the socks. At noon, following our regular worship service, we got to work stuffing the stockings. What fun! Oh, and we didn’t forget the food. Thanks to Christal Reed, a pizza delivery guy “magically” appeared just as church was over.
By the time we were finished and the mess cleared up, we had 36 stuffed Christmas stockings as well as bags of extra socks, underwear, a couple of winter jackets, and lots and lots of toiletries for the Drop-In Centre staff to distribute as needed.
Thank you to everyone who helped by donating items as well as sorting and packing. Thanks to you and your generosity, I know that several people had a reason to smile on Christmas morning.
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.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
-LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, Excerpt from his acceptance speech
after winning "Best Score" at the 2016 Tony Awards
just 24 hours after the Pulse Nightclub Massacre
A little over a year ago I had begun to finally understand my sexual orientation. It was a journey that took a long time and, in that moment in time, I was relieved to finally begin to understand who I was. The next step for me was to begin to stop living in fear, publicly “come out”, and claim my truth as a bisexual male. Of course, that eventually happened on December 5, 2016. Though, before I had even picked the date that I wanted to come out on, I almost came out one year ago today in response to the tragedy that occurred in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016.
A year ago this morning I was lying in bed at a rental home in Independence, Missouri. The Community of Christ World Conference had ended the day prior and I was on such a high from that experience. It was a Sunday morning and I was waking up to go to church at a local Community of Christ congregation before flying back home to Oregon. As I turned over to check my phone, I noticed that my notification screen was lit up with news alerts about a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida. I was numb. I was angry. I was sad. It wasn’t just an attack on a random group of people. It was a targeted, deliberate attack on a population that I identify with. This was personal. For on the verge of claiming my own sexual orientation, I was again reminded why so many live in fear of simply being who they are. I was reminded that living one’s truth as being LGBT can still, even in 2016, cause one to feel unsafe. As someone who puts the “B” in LGBT, I was also reminded why others who claim this same orientation as I, might choose to just focus on their attraction to the opposite sex and deny their own attraction to the same sex. I know I did for a long time. I was also reminded why others who are a part of the LGBT spectrum may decide to never come out at all.
No words can adequately capture the terror and devastating loss of what happened on June 12, 2016. The reality though, is that the terrorist attack that happened at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, happens every day every in our culture. It may not always be an attack that ends in a literal death but it is an attack that terrorizes the heart, soul, and mind of those who are bullied, belittled, and shunned because of who they are. It happens when a parent lacks love and support for their LGBT child. It happens when basic rights are denied to people because of who they love. It happens when Christian organizations claim to follow the teachings of Christ and love as God would love but then practice and preach something that is completely the opposite of that sacred love. It happens every time a child or adult is bullied and driven to contemplate or attempt suicide. It happens every time a beloved child of God dies of suicide. It happens every time someone has to live in fear because of who they are.
Today is a day to read the names of those who died and remember them, even if only in name. It is a day to remember that even though society has progressed in so many ways in accepting the rights of this beautiful population of people, that we can’t allow that progress to blind us or slow us down from continuing the journey towards full inclusion in our culture today. For as John Legend sang in the song “If you’re out there”: “The future started yesterday and we’re already late.” So let’s look hate in the face and say, “That’s it. You’re done!”. Let us embody the love of God by loving our neighbors as we should love ourselves. And remember, people can change their beliefs and attitudes but they can’t change who they are.
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the fact that today is also Loving Day. A day where we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down state laws that banned interracial marriage. Yet another example of the struggle our culture has had with labeling certain relationships as sinful or wrong when they don’t match that of the dominate population in society. May this be yet another reminder of our continual need to tirelessly work towards equality for all people.
I close today’s blog entry with this sacred text found in Community of Christ scriptures:
You do not fully understand many interrelated processes of human creation. Through its wonderful complexity, creation produces diversity and order.
Be not consumed with concern about variety in human types and characteristics as you see them. Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality that reveal divine nature.
Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality… I like that. I value that. Let’s live it. Let’s build it. In many ways, the lives of people you love depend on it. So as we celebrate how far we’ve come, let us find and create hope in the journey for where we are called to go.
A list of those killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016:
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Amanda Alvear, 25
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Cory James Connell, 21
Darryl “DJ” Roman Burt II, 29
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Enrique L. Rios, Jr, 25
Eric Ivan Ortiz Rivera, 36
Frank Hernandez , 27
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Geraldo A. “Drake” Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Juan Pablo Rivera Velazquez, 37
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Luis Daniel Conde , 39
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Paul Terrell Henry , 41
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
May we remember and honor them. May we continue to lift up in prayer and thought the loved ones they left behind as well as the over fifty additional people who were injured on that day.
Many groups have an outreach activity that involves making prayer shawls to give to others for various reasons. In the Calgary Community of Christ congregation, this activity was presented to us by Evangelist Ted Navey when he moved to Calgary. Ladies in our group were enthused about this opportunity and many shawls have been lovingly made and given over the years to folks for very different reasons: for folks moving away, for soon-to-be graduates, for folks struggling with health concerns, or even just for those experiencing challenging times. As time has gone on, some of our knitters are not able to knit or crochet anymore.
My husband and I live in a condo building. I have come to know a lovely lady who is really a recluse. We were chatting one day when she showed me her efforts to give back to needy folks by knitting beautiful articles (tiny hats for new babies just after they are born, toques, scarves, shawls, or small knee blankets) for folks who may not have family or assistance. There was only one problem: She had no way of distributing these gifts. I was aware of many places that these gifts would be so appreciated, and I knew I could help with this; thus, began our collaborative teamwork. She’d make the articles as she felt comfortable, and I’d help connect her beautiful handiwork with those in need.
Click images to enlarge.
Shortly thereafter, she received some devastating news that sent her into a very heartbreaking state, and I did not see her for awhile. Recently, we happened to run into each other (not really, I believe it was a God moment) in the hallway, and she told me she had some things to give away, but no way to share them herself.
Our little Sunday School children’s class had a project during the Christmas season to collect change to give to a city project called CUPS (Calgary Urban Project Society), a great resource for marginalized families and those in need. Our children's class was going to present their monies, and we'd include some of Hannelore’s talent too.
She was thrilled.
We had another project happening as well…to purchase and donate four breast pumps to be available for new mothers in the Calgary area, who otherwise would not be able to afford one, so that they might be successful in breastfeeding their newborn babies. Someone had an idea that prayer shawls could be added to this gift so that these new families would know that they were not alone on this sometimes-challenging new chapter in their lives.
Wool has been given to Hannelore so that she can make other shawls as she feels secure in her talent and gifts of sharing. We are delighted to find needed homes for her gifts to others, but more importantly, we feel good knowing that we can connect needs with willing hands, letting folks know they are not alone on their own journey while helping Hannelore spread her desire to do such rewarding endeavors in this chapter of her life.
Below is the Blessing Prayer and symbolism of this ministry that fills all of our knitters and the congregation with purposeful sharing. All are blessed because of it.
Prayer Shawl Blessing
May your grace and blessing be upon this shawl – warming, comforting, enfolding, and embracing. May this mantle be a safe haven – a sacred place of security and well-being, sustaining and embracing in good times as well as difficult ones. May those who use this shawl be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace and wrapped in love.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Symbolism of Colours
Red: energy, strength, power, determination, love, courage
Pink: joy, femininity, friendship
Brown: stability, masculinity
Orange: happiness, success, encouragement, endurance
Gold: illumination, wisdom
Yellow: cheerfulness, energy, joy, confidence
Green: healing, harmony, safety, hope, protection, peace
Blue: stability, trust, loyalty, faith, truth, tranquility
Purple: wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery
White: goodness, purity, innocence, faith, safety, light
As a Community of Christ member, I believe that we are all called, compelled even, to approach our lives in a critical way. We are urged to look at the world around us and see opportunities for growth, change, betterment and empowerment. We are then driven to think outside the four walls of our church, and be innovators to help our communities.
As a nurse in one of the busiest Newborn Intensive Care Units (NICU) in Canada, I see families from all walks of life facing their worst nightmare: a sick newborn baby. One day I was working with a particularly small baby who had never gotten any breastmilk, even though her mother said she was pumping regularly. I asked this mother about the pump she was using. It turned out she couldn’t afford a hospital grade pump rental, which is essential to the milk supply of a NICU mom.
I called every resource in the city looking for an affordable option for this mother. I was startled to learn that most mothers without employer benefits do not qualify for any sort of cost relief. The most vulnerable mothers in our province are denied the opportunity to give their babies breast milk because of finances.
This situation plagued me for months, until I realised that I was being called to invent a solution. My congregation could initiate the kind of service these women needed. After several weeks of work with my pastor and other supporters, The Mother’s Own Milk (MOM) Project was born. The Calgary congregation purchased six hospital grade breast pumps to be rented to mothers at a low monthly cost. We can abolish poverty and end suffering by simply allowing mothers to feed their children the way nature intended.
This was my calling.
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.