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.
It's been roughly one year since our congregation put forth its first communications strategy, and what a year of firsts it's been!
In collaboration with the newly formed Communications Team (made up of 60% millennials), we charged ahead by first examining our pre-existing web presence. We evaluated what other churches of comparable size were doing and surveyed our own congregation to find out what meant the most to them. The survey results were incredibly helpful and were immediately implemented on our website and social media channels.
In one year, we launched and maintained the following:
One of the most rewarding things about web-based marketing is that we are able to see accurate, reliable insights in real-time. Every click of a mouse, every visit to our website, every 'like' or 'retweet' on social media...all of it is logged and recorded for us. This information is invaluable to our community. But more important than simply reading this data or sharing it is that we act upon it. Continuous check-ins with these metrics begs the questions: What is working? What isn't working? How can we improve? Who is our target audience? How does our target audience prefer to be communicated with?
We are forming new expressions of ministry based on data-driven decisions...and it's working. Community of Christ International Headquarters, located in Independence, Missouri, USA, recently recognized us as being a 'best practices' congregation in the area of communications.
See for yourself in our Calgary Communications Report below. Enjoy!
Special thanks to the Calgary Communications Team for all your hard work and dedication!
I was planning to run a small daytime group in the congregation like I did last year, but I really thought that we needed a change and to start taking a risk and invite others to join us.
The question I had to ask myself was “who/what is within the sphere of influence for ministry and community building fellowship?”
We rent a room every Sunday for our worship in the Lions Village complex in Calgary. The seniors are independent and living in their own apartments. In the past we have sponsored a Christmas meal and Stampede Breakfast for them, but nothing on a regular basis.
Instead of starting a group for our own Community of Christ seniors once a week like we did last year, I decided to discuss with some of the residents from the apartment complex who regularly attend our services if they wanted to join in with us. I asked if they wanted to form a joint committee to start up a weekly gathering in their complex with Community of Christ as the host/sponsor.
The two non-member residents and the apartment complex leaders/administration, at my invitation, met with me last week to discuss their interest. The two ladies (friends of the church who have been attending our services) told their apartment management in this meeting about their positive experience with "the Community of Christ people."
I really did not feel I needed to explain much about us as they did it so well for me. I did tell of our mission statement and habit of reaching out as servants in community everywhere we are located.
During the meeting I could feel the excitement and Holy Spirit as we talked. The building manager wrote up a flyer for us and slipped one under each apartment door last week to advertise our first meeting tomorrow. The Village leaders are making the coffee. I am even being given a key to open the outside door (a big trust they have in me).
This Sunday, one of the residents came to our church services after a meeting with the residence social club last week. The folder she handed me with great excitement contained a page of suggestions that someone had slipped under her door as to what topics/activities they wanted to discuss...one suggestion was “spirituality”.
Some of them suggested they could help lead sessions. One lady said she could lead a meeting on “How to tell your story” as a memoir for their family.
I am not doing this alone, I have a joint committee formed with both groups represented. The individuals will decide in the group the degree of leadership they want and the level of participation they wish to have.
Sometimes sharing helps each of us to see how ideas and efforts made can make such a difference as we reach out in community.
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.