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

Father,
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.

Autumn Spiritual Practice

Autumn Spiritual Practice

By Ashley Whitham

Recently we experienced the Autumn Equinox. Because the earth is tilted on its axis compared to its rotation of the sun, the Autumn Equinox is one of only two days of the year when the earth is not tilted, but facing straight to the sun. On that day, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the northern and southern hemisphere equally experience the sun.

But after that day of facing the sun equally, we continue our seasonal shift. In the northern hemisphere, we are currently tilting further away from the sun, our source of light. Our days get shorter, nights longer. The temperatures will start cooling. But we know that again we will shift, and again we will return to face the sun in Springtime.

Do you notice patterns in your spiritual journey where you turn to face God in the Spring, and then pull away from God in Autumn?

Are there times when you feel balanced, when you are having an Equinox day, and your relationship with God is ‘just right’?

Entering an Autumn experience isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It could be that the Springtime spent with God uses a lot of energy, and the Autumn is a time of rest. Or the Springtime is about outward mission, and the Autumn is a time of inward contemplation.

How could you use this Autumn time to prepare for later, when we once again tilt toward God in Spring?

God, we thank you for times of abundance and times of rest, of the movement and cycles of life. Amen.

<strong>Calling for a Rustic Re-do</strong>

Calling for a Rustic Re-do

As Community of Christ summer camps wind down for the year, let’s all take a moment to reminisce about sharing laughs with family and friends, singing songs at the campfire, delicious meals in the dining hall, and enjoying the nature of our beautiful campground. If you stayed in a rustic cabin, you may also remember the sore back from an uncomfortable mattress, or the stuffy and dark cabin with it’s tiny windows that never open when you want a breeze, but refuse to close when it gets too chilly. Ah, the joys of camp! 

While of course we have a soft spot for the original rustic cabins that we all know and love, the camp is in the process of refurbishing and updating those beloved cabins. Updates include: new (and more effective!) insulation, bigger windows, new doors, added electrical outlets with USB ports, and super comfortable double beds (no more smacking your head on a bunk bed in the morning!). The refurbished cabins are brighter and more comfortable, as well as more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable, all of which contributes to the longevity of our beloved campground. 

While those of us who grew up attending camps at Samish may have a nostalgic fondness for the rustic cabins, those who attend the campground and retreat centre for the first time as an adult may not understand the appeal. This includes newcomers to Community of Christ camps (or aging C of C campers who don’t have the same tolerance for those rock hard bunks!), as well as many of the new groups that share our gorgeous campground. Did you know there are Buddhist retreats and artist groups that frequent Samish? I can understand why these groups would love our campground, and can also imagine that these groups would appreciate a more comfortable, modern, and accommodating private place to continue the zen and creativity. 

Some rustic cabins have already been refurbished (check out A, B, C, and D 1 or 2 next time you’re on the grounds!) and the next round of refurbishment is set to begin in October. We are lucky and grateful to have had all of the labor done by camp friends who have lovingly volunteered their time, as well as some who have donated or reduced the price of materials. Only $3,600 (USD) covers the cost of a cabin refurbishment, which buys increased comfort, energy efficiency, and appeal to a wider audience. Consider making a donation, either personally or with your family or congregation, to help update our rustic cabins so everyone can continue to enjoy the campground for years to come. Every dollar helps! 

If you would like to contribute to the rustic cabin refurbishment fund, please contact Jeff Cravy (Samish Island Camp Treasurer, siriusandpenny2@gmail.com) or Bill Campbell, (Samish Island Camp Board President, kayzeta@gmail.com) to arrange donations. 

CALLED TO DO . . . . . SOMETHING

CALLED TO DO . . . . . SOMETHING

By Kim Naten

It’s Friday morning . . .  and while the calendar says “late Spring” the sky reflects anything but that.  It is gray, chilly, momentarily dry, and an accurate reflection of my mood.  This has been a tough week.  Or rather, a tough several weeks.  Buffalo, Laguna Woods, now Uvalde.  On top of ongoing concern, sadness and rage over the war in Ukraine, the continued erosion of human rights, and on and on . . . 

Often, I turn to our musical scriptures for comfort, for the words to express all those emotions bubbling to the surface.  This week was no exception, and I found many that seemed to accurately reflect my grief, my anxiety, my plea for God to hear our voices, to DO something, to heal us.  When I opened my daily Sojourners Verse & Voice email, however, I found the words that felt right.  It spoke the words which I’d been trying to formulate without rage and anger, but with a reminder to myself, to those of us in Community of Christ, of who we are called to be.  Because honestly, most of the words and feelings I’ve had this week have been, let’s say, less than “Christlike.” 

As I read and reread these lyrics, my heart started to lift . . . just a wee bit.  I hope it lifts yours as well.  As per the annotation at the end, feel free to use this in your worship gatherings.  Perhaps it will bring a glimmer of hope to you and others during these dark days as we struggle to understand a broken world, and our call to aid in its healing.

A HYMN FOR PEOPLE CALLED TO DO MORE THAN SING AND PRAY

BY CAROLYN WINFREY GILLETTE

Originally published MAY 25, 2022.

God, Our Nation Feels the Loss

PILOT 7.7.7.7.7 (“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”)

God, our nation feels the loss
as our children pay the cost
for the violence we accept,
for the silence we have kept.
Rachel weeps for children gone;
God of love, this can’t go on!

Jesus, Lord, we hear you say,
“Don’t turn little ones away!”
May we build a kinder land
where our children understand:
Every child here matters more
than the guns we clamor for.

Holy Spirit, wind and flame,
send us out in Jesus’ name.
May we shout and say, “Enough!”
May we build a world of love —
till the sounds of weapons cease,
till our young can grow in peace.

Tune: John Edgar Gould, 1871. Text: Copyright © 2022 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Permission is given for free use of this hymn for churches and ecumenical services.

Author’s Note: See the reference to the Slaughter of the Innocents: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). This hymn was written in remembrance of the beloved children of God who died in the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Many of us, as individuals, do not accept violence, keep silence, or clamor for guns. Yet, as a nation, we do these things, and as a nation, we need to repent; we need to turn around and live a different way. All of us are called to do more than sing and pray; please work for gun safety laws in your community and state.


Statement on Recent Gun Violence

Statement on Recent Gun Violence

May 25, 2022 | USA Team of Apostles

The USA Team of Apostles released this statement on the recent mass shootings in the USA.

To Community of Christ Leaders, Mission Centers, Members, and Friends:

Community of Christ actively endeavors to share the peace of Jesus Christ in a troubled world. This call is grounded in the Enduring Principles, including Unity in Diversity, Blessings of Community, the Worth of All Persons, and Responsible Choices.

We join other faith organizations and communities who grieve for those families that lost loved ones in recent mass shootings. We unite in prayer for those affected by recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and too many other locations. Sadly, the New England Journal of Medicine in April indicated firearm-related violence is now the leading cause of death for US children and adolescents.

We denounce needless violence that ends and shatters lives. We pray for wisdom as we consider our individual response as disciples in dialogue and action. We affirm World Conference Resolution 1270 urging firearms be used for sporting and professional purposes only. We uphold the urgent need for “members and leaders (to) discuss the role nonviolence plays in the pursuit of ‘peace on and for the Earth’ (Doctrine and Covenants 165:1d) and in the life and mission of the church” (World Conference Resolution 1319).

Doctrine and Covenants 163:2a invites all to “strive to be faithful to Christ’s vision of the peaceable Kingdom of God on earth. Courageously challenge cultural, political, and religious trends that are contrary to the reconciling and restoring purposes of God. Pursue peace.”

In the spirit of Jesus, the peaceful One, we encourage all to share their perspectives with their state and national representatives that together we might courageously call for peace, reconciliation, and healing in our world.


STATEMENT ON GUN VIOLENCE FOLLOWING THE SCHOOL SHOOTING IN UVALDE, TEXAS

STATEMENT ON GUN VIOLENCE FOLLOWING THE SCHOOL SHOOTING IN UVALDE, TEXAS

Released by the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon

May 24, 2022

Today our nation watched in horror as yet another mass shooting claimed the lives of 21 souls. Tragically, 18 of those killed are elementary school students. Our hearts are broken for the lives lost as we stand alongside the grieving.

This massacre follows recent mass shootings in Milwaukie, Buffalo, Palo Alto, Laguna Beach and Chicago. Why is there is a mass shooting nearly every day in this county? We ask this as echoes of the Psalmist ring in our heads, “How long, O Lord?”

The United States of America stands alone when it comes to gun violence. These types of shootings simply do not happen in other countries, let alone with such frequency. In the last five months alone, a gun has been fired on school grounds in the United States 288 times. The next closest country is Mexico with eight.

Something is wrong in our country; most anyone can recognize it. Yet we live in a country where elected officials refuse to take even modest steps to protect the vulnerable. How many more children must die before these elected officials take urgent action? We implore them to do so now. Their “thoughts and prayers” ring ever so hollow and reinforce their cowardice.

Because the all too predictable pattern of outrage and shock has become not only tedious but morally inadequate, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon invites immediate action by supporting the work of Lift Every Voice Oregon (LEVO). Through LEVO, people of faith and good will can pursue with expediency IP17–Reduction of Gun Violence Act.

IP17 is a ballot initiative petition that will reduce gun violence by making gun owners more accountable and ammunition less lethal. IP17 needs signatures by the end of June to qualify for the ballot. Sign the petition at lifteveryvoiceoregon.com.

At least for Oregon, we can make a difference. May we turn our sorrow into hope and actions that will assure the day when gun violence is no longer an everyday occurrence.


Minister’s Blessing

Minister’s Blessing

By Sean Langdon

Responsibility overload. Naomi Judd’s suicide. War in Ukraine. Binge-watching “Heartstopper” (if you know, you know). Event canceled due to threat of violence. Mass shootings. Holding in confidential stories. Fractured relationships.

When I log-in to Facebook, I am asked, “What’s on your mind, Sean?” Well, all of this and more! All of us in ministry carry not only our own burdens but also the burdens of others. Lately, it just seems too much. That so many people are carrying so much. People like to say that God never gives us more than we can handle. I don’t theologically agree with that statement but if it were true, I’m tired of God overestimating my abilities. Can you relate? I have a feeling many of you probably can.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, one of my favorite public theologians, recently posted “A Blessing for a Pastor’s Heart” on her blog. It resonated deeply to me. For this context, I’d read it as “A Blessing for a Minister’s Heart”. And by minister, I mean all involved in providing ministry.

So, to all those who provide ministry… Know this! You are loved. Even when it is tough and exhausting… Even when there are times that you just want to throw your hands up in the air and walk away from ministry but the calling of your heart tugs you back into place…. Yes, even when it feels like the weight of your community is on your shoulders… You are loved! You are loved by your Creator. You are loved by your peers in ministry. You are loved by me and those I serve with on the GPNW USA Mission Center Leadership Team.

I hope that Nadia’s blessing speaks to your heart like it did my own.

A Blessing for a Pastor’s Heart

By Nadia Bolz-Weber

I imagine it was because of your heart that you went into this work in the first place.

So I imagine you have a heart that wanted to extend beyond itself, to stretch to love God’s people.

So may God bless the parts of your heart that receive their stories so openly, and comfort their sufferings so compassionately, and share their joys so thoroughly.

And may God also heal the parts of your heart that have been wounded by the very people whose stories you receive and whose sufferings you comfort and whose joys you share.

And may God revive the parts of your heart that have grown protectively cold.

And may God protect the parts of your heart that are well-loved by those who know you best.

And may God gently place God’s own heart right behind yours so that the sorrow of those in your care can move your heart but find a landing place in God’s.

And may God gently place God’s own heart right behind yours so that the love you give in this work can come through you but doesn’t have to come from you.

And as the love of God moves from God’s heart through your own to those in your care, may your heart soak up all it needs in the process.

Because your heart is a human one too, and it deserves to be well tended to.

AMEN.

To read the original post from Nadia, click here: https://thecorners.substack.com/p/a-blessing-for-a-pastors-heart?s=r&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web


<strong>Discernment Journey Videos Released</strong>

Discernment Journey Videos Released

By Sean Langdon

In the fall of 2020, the Bridge of Hope Strategic Planning Team for the Greater Pacific Northwest USA Mission Center followed a nudge to not just focus on how we were going to raise funds to meet our funding goal but also discern a “Bridge of Hope” to the future of who we are called to be as communities that live into our name, Community of Christ. What came out of the planning and conversations that followed was an invitation to our congregations and campgrounds to begin a journey of discernment. The discernment journey invitation provided a way for congregations and campgrounds to ground themselves in the holy work that was unfolding within God’s invitation for them as a community. To help with this, a discernment companion was assigned to journey with them. Many of our congregations, along with Lewis River Campground, have begun the journey!

At our recent Nuts & Bolts workshops, Kim Naten and I lead a session focused on discernment. As part of our planning, we recognized that we wanted folks to hear from disciples in our Mission Center who have been engaged in discernment. Therefore, three videos were created for this session.

The videos were:

  • “Discernment Within Community of Christ”: In this video, Pastors from Renton Community of Christ, along with their Discernment Companion, share with Kim Naten about their congregation’s response to the discernment journey invitation. Watch here: https://youtu.be/FyHcqvRJQi8.
  • “Discernment that Connects Us To the Community”: In this video, Pastor of Portland Community of Christ shares the journey that his congregation on when discerning whether to participate in a new missional opportunity in their community. Watch here: https://youtu.be/pv076ghQa3A.
  • “Discernment As A Way of Life”: In this video, leaders from Southridge Community of Christ share about a discernment journey that lead to the creation of their labyrinth. We hear their story through the lens as individual disciples, collectively as a congregation, and then how it connects them to the community. Watch here: https://youtu.be/6GcXmHljR5g.

We now share these videos with all of you as we learn from the wisdom shared by these faithful disciples.

<strong>Getting Shameless about Faith and Sex</strong>

Getting Shameless about Faith and Sex

By Sean Langdon

In January 2019, Nadia Bolz-Weber released “Shameless: A Sexual Reformation”. The description for this book reads as follows, “Christians are obsessed with sex. But not in a good way. For nearly two thousand years, this obsession has often turned destructive, inflicting pain, suffering, and guilt on countless people of all persuasions and backgrounds. In Shameless, Bolz-Weber calls for a reformation. To make her case, she offers experiences from her own life and stories from her parishoners alongside biblical theology to explore what the church has taught, and the harm those teachings have caused.” This book changed my life and had a deep impact on my ministry.

Not long after its release, some friends in our mission center and I went to her book tour in Portland. She was electrifying. The truths that she spoke had us clinging to every word. She isn’t a conventional, “cookie cutter” minister which is part of what gravitates me towards her. She’s real and authentic and herself, even when that isn’t comfortable for others. And I love that. And I can relate to that. This book helped me better understand the issues as well as begin healing the parts of me that that have experienced trauma because of how much of Christianity approaches the topic of sex. So much harm has been done because of the messaging and shame that is inflicted on others because of this. Within Community of Christ, I didn’t get a lot of that but instead I got nothing. This was also harmful as the only religious messaging I received growing up were the harmful voices that are out there when approaching this layered topic.

A few months ago, I was invited by Carla Long to be a co-host with her for Community Chat. Community Chat is like an online talk show where we talk about things related to Community of Christ and faith. Our most recent episode was inspired by this book. I encourage everyone to watch it and to please do so with an open mind. Even if you don’t agree or are not comfortable with talking about sex and faith together, it is important to understand why it is imperative for others that these kinds of conversations take place. In this episode, you’ll see a familiar face in Tami Perryman as she lived in Bend, Oregon, for a few years while her husband Craig worked for the congregation there. Joining Carla Long and I is also Jamiann Smith. It is my hope that we can begin to have healthy, open conversations about topics like these in our faith community.

Watch here: https://youtu.be/BNu7MxzDgx8


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