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.
When I set out to attend a church service on a Sunday in August of 2013, I was seeking a supportive community that feels more like an extended family than an institution with a set of common beliefs about how to interpret scripture. I was seeking a church community, who like me, believed that the best interpretations of the Bible were those that brought people together, rather than divided them. I felt strongly that my God was less concerned about the beliefs people held in their heads, and more concerned about the love we held in our hearts. I’ve been to quite a number of churches of several denominations and in various regions of Canada over the years. However, the genuine warmth and openness that my daughter and I experienced from people in the Community of Christ over the following months was truly unique.
The September of 2014, I began organizing and facilitating our Sunday School classes with a small group of fairly regular kids who were all around the same age. Sunday School was not just one hour a week to learn some useful life lessons; it was a time of kindling friendships and special memories. We adults stood back and watched with smiles on our faces at how quickly and easily they found a friend in one another. I remember thinking that these were the kind of authentic, supportive friendships that I had envisioned for my daughter when I set out to find a church that August morning in 2013.
Our community really does have the energy of an extended family. My daughter will occasionally comment on the drive home from church that this person feels like a grampa, or that person feels like her sister. However, young families seem to find it more difficult to attend regularly than older folks. Young families tend to be very scheduled these days, including Sundays. Furthermore, Sundays can become a necessary “day of rest” to rejuvenate for another very scheduled week. Therefore, church attendance of our young families is inconsistent, making it challenging to develop and facilitate a coherent Sunday School program.
Enter stage left - Generation Now! This innovative extension of summer camp is an opportunity for not just our youth to foster and maintain healthy, supportive relationships, but also their friends – anyone who wishes to participate may join these events because the Community of Christ is about bringing people together. On October 28, our youth, children, and some adults came together for swimming, conversation, and communing over pizza, veggies and hot chocolate at the Village Square Leisure Centre. The kids had a blast in the wave pool and on the slides – in fact they were having so much fun that they lingered in the pool for an extra half hour before coming for dinner. As they entered the room we had rented for our light pizza dinner, I noticed the kids’ healthy glow from their rigorous exercise, as well as their calm smiles that come from spending time with peers who know the love of a community who supports and accepts one another unconditionally. Healthy appetites by all ensured that every last morsel of food was gone that afternoon! Although Generation Now was formed to bring the youth of our church and their friends together, on this event like most others, the adults also enjoyed coming together for conversation and communion.
In the coming months, there are many other exciting events planned for our youth to foster friendships and memories. Alex, Chelsea, and I are looking forward to spending time with our friends…no…our extended family.
It seems that there is an epidemic of “busyness” in our society and our family is no exception. My husband Ron and I both work outside of the home and are gone from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. Our girls are busy with dance, music lessons, taekwondo, and other extracurricular activities which keep our weekday evenings booked up. Add weekend hockey practices and games as well as my ongoing work on my graduate degree into the mix and our weekends are also pretty tightly scheduled. As you can imagine, when we have the opportunity to just sleep in and have a lazy morning at home together we try not to miss the opportunity! This is our crazy, busy, happy life and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. However, this frequently creates challenges in our ability to attend Sunday morning services, and we all miss the opportunity to be with others in our community in a way that nourishes spirituality within ourselves, our own little family, as well as with others.
We do always make time for camp during the summer and my girls both love everything about being out at Hills of Peace Campground and the friendships they have made there. However, camp is only one week a year and the months in between can be a long time to go without seeing their “camp community”. When our Pastor, Doug, shared his idea of Generation Now I was really excited about the prospect! This presented an opportunity for us to help our kids connect with the youth in our church community (as well as other friends) in a way that would still work with the rest of the priorities that our family juggles . . . AND it sounded super FUN!
I agreed to help organize the first event and immediately turned to my 9-year-old, Sophie, for ideas. She had recently been to a “horse party” for a friend’s birthday party and wondered if we could have a horse party for our Generation Now activity. I did a little research and found a local ranch that was more than happy to host a trail ride for a group of kids ages 8 and up, as well as pony rides for younger children.
On the day of the event we had a total of 20 youth and young adults who came out to participate as well as six parents who came along to chaperone/chauffeur. We had seen our first bit of snow for the season earlier in the week, but we were blessed on the day of our ride with a perfect autumn day. The sun was shining as the 11 older kids and four young adults headed off into the foothills for an hour long ride. The rest of the adults stayed back to visit and lead the five younger children on their ponies.
The giggles, teasing, and smiles were awesome to see as I watched the kids interact with each other not only at the ranch but also on the drive to and from. When I asked my twelve-year-old daughter, Abby, if she had a good time she gave me the typical elaborate tween response of “yep”. However, when I nagged her for more details, she finally confirmed what I suspected “the horse ride was fun but what I really liked was just getting to see everybody and hang out with my friends”.
Both of my kids are looking forward to the next event. Ron and I are also looking forward to joining them again as they get out and get active with this amazing group of kids that are part of our spiritual community!
One of my favourite things about Community of Christ is our connection as a worldwide community. This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to participate in Generation Now's* first monthly get together. Being from Ontario, I was nervous to come all the way out west only knowing a few people. My friends Caitlin and Parker invited me to the trail ride. I had never been on a horse before but I jumped on the opportunity to meet other members of the church and those within the Calgary community. Generation now focuses on developing friendships throughout the community and gives those friendships the opportunity to bloom into the church community. I am very grateful for the time that I was able to share with so many new friends through this program. I am excited to see how it evolves.
*For more information on Generation Now, click here.
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.