Category: MC Conference

Pastors Breakfast 2022: Reflections from a Friend

Pastors Breakfast 2022: Reflections from a Friend

From Sean Langdon.
A shortened version of these remarks were shared at the 2022 Pastors Breakfast during the Annual GPNW MC Conference.

I considered what I might share this morning with you all and my mind swirled with the possibilities. And where I landed was this… We joke a lot about my many roles in this mission center, and for good reason, but I want to offer a few parting reflections at this time through the lens of these roles.

Let’s start with what brought me onto staff in the first place. Young Adult Ministries Specialist.

  • Invite young adults to journey with you. Not necessarily your congregation but you as fellow companions on the journey. Relationships are deeply important to young adults.
  • A good marker of their commitment is not whether or not they are with you for the Sunday Morning experience. To expect that can just diminish and even cheapen the ministry they have to offer and are likely offering in other areas of their life.
  • Invite them to help reimagine what it means to live out Christian community in new and innovative and authentic ways.

Camping Ministries – Youth Camps & Reunions and though we actually took it out from under our Camping Ministries umbrella, Caravan and SPEC too.

  • Camping Ministries is one of most important things we do in the life of the church, arguably maybe the most important. For within our camping ministries, lives are changed in ways that don’t happen during the Sunday Morning experience. Also, it is here that the power of invitation really comes to life.
  • But we can’t provide these ministries without your help. So, like I have said many times before, we need folks like you and those in your congregations to volunteer to staff our camping events. And we need your help in inviting others to attend.

Youth Ministries

  • Like with young adults, find appropriate ways to journey alongside them. With permission from them and their parents, attend their sports games, choir concerts, recitals, art shows, and more! Invest your time in their lives.
  • But know this, the marker of a healthy congregation is nor whether or not you have robust youth program. It IS whether or not you are discerning your path forward and letting the holy spirit guide you into ways of living out Christian community. Living out the mission of Christ. For some congregations, that will mean youth related ministries, and for others, it will look radically different than that.

Invitation Support Minister

  • Meet new people. Form relationships. Invite people to Christ. Not church. That will likely happen. But Inviting People to Christ means inviting people to be in relationship with you and the community. Be the church, don’t just invite people to church.
  • And explore fresh expressions of ministry in your congregation. New, innovative, authentic ways of living out the ministries of your congregation so that they are relevant to those yearning to be spiritually and relationally filled. And please, let us stop thinking that this simply means changing a few things here and there within the context of our Sunday Morning Worship experience. Simply adding a couple cool videos is not going to make your worships more relevant to those hungering for something deeper. In fact, it might just mean doing something radically different when you gather. Let’s face it, pew worship ministry is not likely the path forward for organized religion. The definition of worship is “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.” We have to stop believing that this means that we sing a few hymns, offer a couple prayers, and listen to someone talk for 20 minutes. What does it mean for us to live our worship? Well, maybe let’s start here. Let us remember Christ’s mission statement found in Luke:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to set free those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The spirit of the Lord is upon all of us to do the same!

  • And lastly, support New Expressions of Community. These aren’t connected to a congregation, but it may be those in your congregation who might feel called to explore them. Maybe even you. And if you are interested in going deeper and exploring this, please remember that on the first Monday of every month, we host New Expression Mondays via Zoom from 6:30-8 PM Pacific Time.

Folks, as I leave on to other opportunities, it has been asked several times who will do everything I did. That is being explored and the reality is that not everything will necessarily continue, at least not in the same way. Someone new will join staff, and along with the other mission center leaders, there will be new passions and invitations to explore here in the GPNW Mission Center. At the same time, some of those things like Community Connections, we are looking at a shared relationship between the Rocky Mountain Mission Center and GPNW Mission Center. So, where the Holy Spirit leads and where opportunities take us.

Courage to Let Go

Courage to Let Go

At our annual Pastors and Staff Breakfast last month, technical difficulties prevented us from properly sharing two video interviews with leaders in our Mission Center. You can view them below or on our YouTube channel:

Proclamation of Joy

Proclamation of Joy

Mission Center President Kim Naten
Opening Worship Address “Courage to Dance”
Mission Center Conference 2022: Courage

My comments this morning start with a story.  A Love story.  Near the beginning of the 3rd grade, a classmate of mine, Regina Hoag, and I began ballet classes together.  I have no recollection of how that came about, but her mom was able to take us to class and I think my mom picked us up, but however it came to be, we started ballet classes at the big green ballet school on the corner of 175th and Aurora, The Giglio Theater School of Dance!  Mr. and Mrs. Giglio and their daughter ran the school, and Mr. Giglio was everything you’ve ever read or seen in the movies as to what a Ballet Master was.  Stern, perfect posture, a walking stick tapping out the counts as we plied, releved, ronde de jombe’d . . . His daughter, Cleo, was the children’s teacher and was a little less frightening, but between them, they conveyed – at least to me – a seriousness and a discipline for dance that somehow stuck.  And I fell in love.  Ballet and tap dancing became the first things outside my family that I truly loved, that was something I could do and experience that brought a sense of JOY.  I’m not sure my mom shared that same sense of joy as she was the one sewing ribbons, straps, and tulle skirts onto the many costumes I wore over the years, but for me – dancing became a magical world of grace, elegance and joy expressed through movement and music.  Like many little girls, I dreamed I’d dance right into adulthood and a career as a professional dancer. 

Toward the end of my 3rd year of lessons we moved out of the area and thus ended my presumed career path.  I don’t think I realized it at the time, but over the years I would recognize that those 3 years of dance lessons instilled in me a love for all types of dance.  As a student at Graceland I was thrilled to be able to take tap dancing as my PE credit; and later in life I took Western line dancing and Salsa dancing classes just for fun.  And if you know me at ALL, then you surely know my nearly lifelong affection for the Disco dancing!  And SOMEDAY I think I’ll learn ballroom dancing.  And keep dreaming that one day they’ll do a season of Dancing with the Stars but call it Dancing with Regular Folks and I’ll try out and get a spot, and win the Mirror Ball trophy!  I’m guessing this is a part of my life story that few of you knew.

So right about now you may be asking yourself, WHY DID SHE DRESS UP LIKE THAT JUST TO TELL US A STORY?  And I may be asking MYSELF, why am I standing here in a none too flattering get-up sharing this story?  It’s not to be cute, or entertaining WELL, here’s why:  wearing this outfit brings me joy.  Just buying it and breaking in these toe shoes, sewing on the ribbons, all of it brought back the joy of dancing. 

Our theme this morning is COURAGE TO DANCE:  HOW DO WE CLAIM OUR JOY IN COMMUNITY TO EXPRESS OURSELVES FREELY WITHOUT FEAR?  I’m sharing this story and dressed up in an outfit that brings me joy because I am not afraid to be my authentic self in this community.

We claim, as members of Community of Christ, to promote communities of Joy, Hope, Love and Peace.  The teachings, words and actions of Christ himself affirm this, and we have countless scriptures from both the Bible and the Doctrine and Covenants that guide and direct us to be a loving community where all are welcome, all are of worth, and all are called.  We claim unity in our diversity and compassion, forgiveness, justice and mercy; we affirm that there is a place at the table for everyone born!  So if that’s the Community we are called to create, and long to live in, shouldn’t this community also be the place where we are free to be our unique, quirky, silly, vulnerable selves?  In a world that seems to thrive on judgment, criticism, and ridicule, shouldn’t our faith community be the one place we can be ourselves without fear of that judgment and harshness?  Theoretically, our families provide that place for us as well – but not always.  Our faith community, what we always called our Church Family, however, is a chosen family, a welcoming, accepting and loving bunch of people who want the best for one another.  Or at least in my mind, is what it should be. 

And so the fact that I’m standing here in this little outfit that brings me joy and helps tell my story, speaks volumes about THIS community.  I can walk in here proudly and uninhibited because YOU, my friends, are my people, my safe space, my sanctuary.  You love and accept me, you provide space for me to risk and experiment, and grace for me when I falter.  I can be my authentic self with you.  And isn’t that what we ALL want to experience in community? And what we’re called to create for others? 

To answer the question then, perhaps we claim our joy simply by having the courage to be our authentic selves, believing that our chosen community will accept us and love us without judgment or ridicule.  Maybe I’m being naïve or viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, but really – if we all just quit hiding behind masks, saying and doing what we think people want to hear and see, and chose to live joyfully and without fear, what a community we could create, huh?  And when WE claim our joy, we are giving others permission and courage to claim theirs, and it goes on and on. 

Being in Christ-like community with one another SHOULD be a joyful experience! So joyful that we want to dance and sing and laugh and know that everyone in our community is free to do the same.  My own experience as teenager confirms my belief in this.  Growing up, as a teen, I felt like I was living 2 lives:  the Monday thru Friday Jr. High and High School Kim, and the Zion’s League/”church” Kim.  The person I was at school bore little resemblance to the person I was with my church friends at Zion’s League events and camps.  I found my safe space and knew that when I was with THOSE friends, I could be myself and not have to fit in with any particular group or act a certain way to be accepted. I was fortunate to learn early in life that my chosen faith community was a safe place for me to learn and grow and make mistakes and be silly and be joyful.  My school friends knew that I was very involved in my church youth group and accepted that about me, but we simply didn’t have the same kind of friendship that I had with my church friends.  And having those friendships in my youth shaped me and formed me.  I don’t just mean my peers, I have to include my friends’ parents, the other adults around, the older kids – the village.  The village that raised me and provided me with loving guidance, boundaries, compassion, forgiveness, and the freedom to express myself freely and joyfully, without fear.  That is the kind of community I hope we are striving to create, for one another, for our kids and youth, for the strangers and the seekers searching for a spiritual home. 

Our scripture text for this morning comes from Doctrine & Covenants 161:1, and inspired me to have the courage to stand here like this today.  I hope that it brings encouragement and hope to you as well.

A. Lift up your eyes and fix them on the place beyond the horizon to which you are sent. Journey in trust, assured that the great and marvelous work is for this time and for all time.

B. Claim your unique and sacred place within the circle of those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ. Be faithful to the spirit of the Restoration, mindful that it is a spirit of adventure, openness, and searching. Walk proudly and with a quickened step. Be a joyful people. Laugh and play and sing, embodying the hope and freedom of the gospel.

Circles of Support

Circles of Support

Spiritual Practice Presented at GPNW MC Conference 2022 Pastors and Staff Breakfast

By Ashley Whitham

This morning, I’ll invite you to sit comfortably with your feet on the floor, and preferably with support against your back. Close your eyes. In your mind, imagine yourself in a large circle. If there were a target on the floor, you’d be standing in the middle, with rings extending away from you.

People in your life begin to walk onto the rings around you. As the rings fill with familiar faces, your body feels lighter. You close your eyes and slowly drift backwards, where the first ring of people catch you.

The first ring is made up of your closest loved ones. Your spouse, best friends, parents, siblings, cousins – who are these special people you can lean on? As your weightless body leans back on this first ring of beloveds, how does it feel to trust them? How does it feel to step backwards into this first ring of support?

(Pause for reflection)

You continue to step back and reach the next ring of people. As you lean back, supported by their hands, you look to see the faces of friends, extended family, and close co-workers – people who you feel comfortable with, who you can relax with. How does it feel to relax while others support you?

(Pause for reflection)

Step backwards again until you reach the third ring of support. Here you find your church family. You feel their hands supporting your back as you rely on their help to hold you up. How does it feel to rely on your church family?

(Pause for reflection)

As you feel your body begin to feel real again, you’re able to stand without help. You open your eyes to look at how far from the center you traveled with the support of others. Look into the eyes of those who held you up. Can you feel gratitude for their support, or are there other thoughts or feelings distracting you?

(Pause for reflection)

If you turn around, you can see that there are still more rings of people. Perhaps in the further rings you can see your cluster support staff.

Take a deep breath. As you feel ready, you can come back to this room and open your eyes. I hope that you saw faces of people that you can trust and rely on in moments when you need to step back.

Movement of a Disciple’s Life

Movement of a Disciple’s Life

Spiritual Practice presented at GPNW Mission Center Conference 2022 during the Business Meeting

By Ashley Whitham

How had you moved through your life as a disciple? This weekend’s theme is courage, but they all have different actions paired with courage, because the courage of a disciple inspires us to move. So as we pause this afternoon, I’ll invite you to reflect on your life as a disciple of Christ, and the rhythm this has created within you.

At some point, you had the courage to Step Forward. Your heart was open, your thoughts connected with ideas and a holy inspiration that moved your body into action. You stepped forward. Can you think of a time you stepped forward in your life as a disciple? You stepped forward into the waters of baptism. You stepped forward into the loving embrace of your community. You stepped forward to offer your hand when someone needed support. You stepped forward to share God’s love with another. Take a moment to think of those times when you courageously stepped forward.

(Pause for reflection)

When have you had the courage to Stand? We stand with our community; with those we care about. We stand in prayer. We stand and sing. We stand in line at potluck. Standing is its own precious action when a disciple stands courageously. You stand to offer support. You stand to volunteer. You stand to make the space around you safe for others. When have you courageously stood as a disciple?

(Pause for reflection)

In the joy of being truly yourself, loved and accepted in your community, how do you express yourself freely, without fear or constraint? Are you comfortable being vulnerably yourself? Can you grab onto your authentic feelings in the moment, and express them without inhibition? In your discipleship, what does it mean to have the courage to Dance? It means you dance! You raise your hands in joy. You open your arms in love. You stomp your feet to the rhythm of life around you. You claim your space. You shout to the world, “This is me! This is what matters to me! You are what matters to me!” When have you courageously danced in joy?

(Pause for reflection)

There is a time to step forward and time to Step Back. You step back to rest. You step back to learn. You step back to make room for others. Stepping back is not failure. Stepping back does not deserve judgment. God calls you to step back sometimes. Step back to catch your breath; to discern; to check the map to make sure you’re still headed where you were planning to go. When have you as a disciple been called to step back?

(Pause for reflection)

And now we week the courage to Kneel. We have gathered as representatives of the greater body of Christ as it lives and moves in the Pacific Northwest. To serve that body, we kneel. On the first Sunday of the month, as we enter that sacred space of sacrament, we kneel. In prayer, we kneel. In love, we kneel. To listen to children, we kneel. Reflect on your life as a disciple and consider times when you have responded to God by kneeling.

(Pause for reflection)

Creator of wind and gravity and force and friction and bodies,
Move us!
Call our bodies into action.
Fill our hearts with the courage to move to the rhythm of discipleship.
Fill our ears with the sounds of your creation around us.
Bless us with the awareness of your Spirit’s dance in our community, that we can join. Amen.

Prayer of Awareness

Prayer of Awareness

MC Conference 2022 Opening Worship

Written by Carol West, Cowlitz Valley Pastor Team Member

We quiet our minds in this moment to let go of concerns, worries, stresses, pains and agendas.

We seek Your wisdom and courage to see what you have laid before us as congregations, as Community of Christ, but also as disciples.

As we begin to see this path more clearly, we continue to seek Your wisdom and courage to change what needs to be changed.

Lord, we gather in Your name as disciples, grateful for Your abundant love and tender nudges. Yet in our humanness, sometimes You feel so distant, and the path is often tumultuous.

Forgive us when our eyes are closed to You; for in the messy details of life, Your outstretched hand is sometimes missed.

Remind us of Your unconditional love that awaits and that nothing can separate us from Your love.

Help us accept that Your love and power can flow through us when we increase our awareness of Your presence in our lives.

As we begin to open our souls to Your presence, help us be conduits of Your love and peace as we use our God-given gifts and talents to the fullness of Your intent.

When we feel Your gentle nudges on our daily journey, may we lovingly represent Your welcoming community where there is a place at Your table for everyone.

Work in us, Lord, that we can truly love You and others. May the footsteps ahead be pleasing to You. Amen.

Dialog About Non-Violence

Dialog About Non-Violence

I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude to the GPNW Mission Center for tackling a very complex topic at its conference on November 6—Non-Violence.  For those of you who may not have been there, the conversation revolved around a resolution brought to the conference by Scott Amos, a member of the Portland, OR congregation.  The text of that resolution can be found HERE.  Ultimately the resolution did not pass.  It failed by a margin (I think) of 58% to 42%.  But I wish to lift up Scott and the rest of the Mission Center because of what I considered to be a real engagement on the topic.

Indeed, the topic of non-violence is a complicated one.  I’ve wrestled with it a lot, and I don’t think I have ever found a complete and satisfying solution.  The topic is so complicated that the world conference of 2018 chose to highlight it by offering world-wide perspectives.  That world conference referred a similar resolution to the first presidency for guidance to the church, and the church is still awaiting a response from the presidency.  I, for one, am anxious to hear that response.  I expect it to answer for us some (but probably not all) of the questions we wrestled with ourselves earlier this month:

  • Are there situations when violence is not objectional?  Like self defense or bringing a population to order or capital punishment?
  • Who can appropriately judge the difference between police violence and the necessary use of force?
  • Does violence done by the state look different between ethnic, social, or cultural groups?  It certainly looks different to members of different countries with different histories of state-sponsored terror.  We heard that at the 2018 World Conference.
  • At what point does a demonstration turn to a riot?  Is there such a thing as a justified riot?
  • Is there such a thing as a justified war?
  • And ultimately (at least for me), can there be peace without justice; and can there be justice without violence?

I am humbled in the face of these questions.  I try to use Jesus as a model to write my moral code, but it’s hard.  He’s such a dynamic figure.  I can’t imagine Jesus participating in a criminal execution.  He actively discourages such an act in John, chapter 8.  Yet he goes into the temple and drives out the merchants with a whip in John chapter 2.  Was that a riot?  Jesus repeatedly refuses to be the military Messiah the people expected him to be, yet he takes mercy on the Centurion in Matthew, chapter 5 (and Luke, chapter 7).

In other words, I am proud of our church for having this discussion.  And Scott Amos, I think we should keep talking about this.  We may not yet all agree, but I believe the strength of a community rests in the ability to ask hard questions and stay united . . . not in its ability to avoid, deflect, or otherwise disengage from the things that really matter.  Let us be grateful we have a community that continues to ask difficult and meaningful questions and rest that we sometimes leave the difficult answers in the hands of God.

Mission Center Online Conference 2020: Claiming Our Prophetic Voice

Mission Center Online Conference 2020: Claiming Our Prophetic Voice

Mission Center Conference will be held on Saturday, Nov. 7th this year, via Zoom. As your Mission Center Leadership Team discussed the options, we agreed that thanks to our many worship and fellowship opportunities offered over Zoom since the pandemic began 6 months ago, our mission center is adept and familiar enough with this platform to successfully conduct the necessary business of the mission center this way.  We will be exploring different voting applications and tools, and will provide training prior to Conference on how to use them. Another significant change to this year’s Conference is that we will move to a Non-Delegate Conference, meaning all members in good standing may attend and may vote on the business presented.  This decision has been approved by our Field Apostle Ron Harmon and the First Presidency, due to the special circumstances resulting from the pandemic.  

Our Conference theme this year is “Claiming Our Prophetic Voice.” It may sound cliché at this point, but we are in unprecedented times and face an uncertain and unknown future. We have talked and explored for the last several years about what it means to be a prophetic church in the 21st century, and now find ourselves with unlimited opportunities to truly experiment with and practice becoming something NEW.  In order to move into the future, we must not shy away from the opportunities on our doorstep in favor of “returning to normal!” NOW is the perfect moment to step into a new expression of our calling, with faith that our identity as a prophetic people is shaped and guided by the Holy Spirit.   

There will be online training for voters to learn to use the voting app effectively, and how we will use zoom for our business meeting. All registered voters should plan to attend one of the training sessions November 3rd or 5th, 1pm or 7pm (PT).

Saturday’s Conference schedule will include a Business Orientation Session in the morning, followed by a lunch break, and our Business Session in the afternoon. The Business Session will include sustaining of Mission Center officers and committees, approval of the 2021 Budget and at least 1 resolution for consideration. More details will be available here on NewsBriefs in the coming weeks. We hope to also include a Saturday evening fellowship opportunity such as another Talent Show. On Sunday, Nov. 8th, we will offer a worship service featuring Apostle Ron Harmon as our speaker.    

Please note that any congregations wishing to submit a resolution for consideration in our mission center, or a resolution to be approved for presentation to World Conference 2022, must be submitted no later than Oct. 10 (4 weeks prior to Conference) in order to be considered. (World Conference Resolutions must be submitted to The First Presidency no later than June 3, 2021.) 

The Saturday Bulletin will be provided electronically at least 2 weeks prior to Mission Center Conference. If any members need a printed copy, please contact your pastor or congregational communications coordinator to request this.  

Please check our weekly e-newsletter for updates! Thank you for your understanding of the many adjustments we must make this year due to the pandemic. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact any member of the Mission Center Leadership Team.

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