I went to my first World Conference with an open heart and mind. I was grateful to know many friends from near and far who had attended before and would help guide me and ensure I had a well-rounded experience. I knew I was in for laughs, tears, hard conversations, and many hours of deliberation on important legislation that will impact the church locally and internationally.
I was privileged to offer the closing prayer after Thursday’s legislative meetings, and I freely admit that I was nervous. I wrote my prayer in pieces throughout the week, a novel practice for me, and was changing things up until we started singing the hymn right before my prayer. I wanted to get it right.
I chose to focus on what World Conference showed me most clearly: the expression of God in each of us. I am called to love, try to understand, and be accepting of those who are different from me. I always knew this meant I should never deny someone Christ-like love based on the shade of their skin, who they love, their worst choices in weak moments, or how much money they have. I have always found it hard to truly accept and appreciate those I don’t agree with, or who I think are just plain wrong about what matters most. This is a less obvious, but I think more insidious way we can be held back from achieving the best in our world.
My understanding of the endless and indiscriminate love God gives each of us continues to evolve. My time at World Conference opened my eyes fully to seeing every person as an expression of our Creator. Each of us shows a facet, a sliver of God’s infinite spectrum of presence. I am made better, more whole and closer to the Spirit when I choose to see the individuals who I contrast with as an important voice in the world, just as entitled to God’s unconditional love as I am. This is our modern-day call: to love the neighbour that you don’t agree with because they are an expression of the Divine, just as you are. God is in them too, just different pieces of the divine shimmer through them. This allows us to experience God’s truly indescribable and mercurial nature that humankind will never fully comprehend. My God is always bigger and more loving than I think they could possibly be, and I look forward to being reminded of this many, many more times in my life.
One of the primary purposes of the World Conference is to do the business of the church. Through a process of common consent, delegates to the World Conference discuss important issues and make decisions that are essential to the ongoing ministry of the church. Delegates are selected at the local level in congregational business meetings and are sent to Independence, Missouri to Community of Christ’s International Headquarters on behalf of their fellow congregants to represent their interests. Click here to learn more about World Conference.
This year’s World Conference experience was, for me, a first. Not that it was my first time attending a World Conference event – I have actually attended at least three to my knowledge – but rather that it was my first time really attending with responsibilities outside of being a delegate. I enjoyed the usual – yet unique – opportunities to experience raw, real, and vulnerable community with people from all around the world. I worked closely with other attending young adults from the USA and Europe to help plan meaningful activities for young adults throughout the week, resulting in incredible opportunities for learning and growth.
I also led co-led two Lunch & Learn sessions and was grateful to have the opportunity to share with eager crowds about issues I am passionate about, including virtual (online) ministries and building an online presence. Both sessions were well attended and not only provided relevant information about the topic at hand but also connected interested attendees with experts and veterans in their fields that can help to mentor them through projects, challenges, and more. Rich discussion flowed from these events and continued throughout the week.
I was extremely happy to attend with several other young adults from across Canada, each of whom took their role as delegate seriously, studying the materials, engaging in discussions outside of legislative sessions to influence amendments and holding responsibilities outside of delegate as well.
Outside of my role as delegate and church employee, I also volunteer as a supporter and board member of Harmony (formerly GALA, Gay and Lesbian Acceptance). Over the last six months, I project managed the re-branding effort following a legal merger with another organization (WCN, Welcoming Community Network), and we went public with the new name and brand on the first day of World Conference. Our mission is to provide advocacy, education, and resources for Queer voices* in Community of Christ with a shared vision of full participation.**
*The term Queer is being reclaimed by some who identify as LGBTQ+ and is used as an umbrella term for the LGBTQ+ community. We use the phrase “Queer voices” to describe all person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI), who have the courage to use their voice to speak for justice for the marginalized in the Queer community.
**Full participation in the life of the church pertains to all members, without exception, ensuring each person is fully eligible to participate in the sacraments, priesthood, all levels of church leadership, as well as any other benefits and responsibilities guaranteed to church membership according to the Membership Manual.
Harmony had a booth in the Village Expo area, and meaningful, deep, and even uncomfortable conversations ensued concerning the unique needs of the Queer/LGBTQ+ Community within – and outside – Community of Christ. Visit the Harmony website to learn more about the organization.
Community of Christ is not a denomination of standalone congregations; rather, we collaborate to further Christ’s mission throughout the world in meaningful and relevant ways locally, regionally, and internationally. World Conference is always such an uplifting and energizing experience that stands as a reminder of our global identity as members of this faith community. I can’t wait until 2022 for our next World Conference!
How can anyone explain the wonder, value and experience of conference? Each person was present because they wanted to be. My heart was lifted by the presence of believers from various countries wanting to let us know how grateful they were to be there. I am grateful I was present and thankful to the many who looked after me. I felt the body was in tune with the Presidency, Bishopric, and Apostles. One of the just-retired apostles and his wife sat right in front of us, and I was so touched that they still filled their role – they just changed seats.
The meeting of special friends continued throughout the week. The Bishopric brought ministry to the people and let us know how valuable we are as people. The offering was generous, and I believe people felt the grace that attended the service.
I am an Evangelist and was blessed in conversations with my brothers and sisters. I feel overwhelmed when I think about the service in the Temple with our brother Bunda Chibwe leading the choir and the people. President Murphy led the service and all were moved by the dynamics of his words.
Our own Dar Shepherdson spoke eloquently and with great passion and sincerity. Several times I was moved to pray for different people and did so. I received so much, and I am so grateful for our leadership in our area and at headquarters. We truly are blessed to have those in the Bishopric to show us the way.
I had a further blessing in being able to stay with Everett and Judy Graffeo. Thank you, each one who helped to plan this life changing experience.
In the faith.
When I got to the Community of Christ Temple and Auditorium in Independence, Missouri, I began to wonder if I would get there for another conference due to my age. I have been to many in the past, so for me it felt like home in the buildings and with the people. The dedication of the busy organizers and volunteers was evident throughout the week. I attended all the business sessions and witnessed the ordinations of two new apostles and a bishop. You can find information about the resolutions on the Community of Christ World Church website.
All resolutions were handled with wisdom and thoughtfulness. The last sermon by President Veazey sent us forward with the counsel to dig deeper into our faith and be diligent for the journey ahead.
There was loving respect and a kind collegial atmosphere in the conference as a whole and in the international meetings of the Seventy. Our Seventy quorum #8 met a few times with all the international Seventies outside the USA for a few meetings. A few days later our quorum #8 broke off and went into a smaller room for several early mornings. We had interpreters in English, French, German, and Spanish.
We shared our perspectives and trials. We saw old friends again and together shared the challenges of our calling to be witnesses and forerunners of Christ’s peace. At our last session, I was one of those honored to pray in my language for a blessing for the journey and burdens of those in my quorum from Canada, Mexico/USA border area. Delegates from Dominican Republic, Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and other parts of South America then prayed for all of us in their own language. This was a highlight for me, for I felt a strong love among us and a deep awareness of our “unity in diversity.” I knew during the prayers we were truly like brothers and sisters.
I looked up into the Auditorium ceiling of beautiful star lights during the familiar hymn “The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning.” The sound of the robust singing with the fantastic sounds of the pipe organ was beautiful. I stood beside a childhood friend from my home congregation in Ontario as he sang with his full tenor part to my soprano. We knew the words by heart and confessed later that this church and all it stands for is in our DNA. This faith movement claims our identity and heritage with a strong sense of total loyalty and commitment.
Community of Christ has evolved from its past in a good way, and the message and growth of understanding as to our mission is clearer to me than ever before.
I had tears as I left the parking lot to leave for maybe the last time. The love, dedication, and friendship of the people will sit in my heart forever.
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.