Tag: spiritual practices

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.

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>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.

My Story: Exploring our Inner Monologues

My Story: Exploring our Inner Monologues

“Our Stories” – A reflection by Ashley Whitham

When we’re tots and toddlers
we live in our parents’ stories.
Their lives are our worlds.

When we’re full of wonder and questions,
stories from books, tv, movies
expand our imaginations to an even bigger world.

When we start to live our stories,
we trip and fall,
stumbling over ideals and expectations.

When we realize we have a story,
we look back both in pain and appreciation
for all the stories that brought us here.

When we share our stories,
we find community,
because my story is uniquely mine… and universally ours.

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