Dave Wheaton of Integrated Communications recently talked with Robin Linkhart, president of seventy and missionary coordinator for the Western USA Field. She has been married 31 years and has four children and one grandchild. Here are excerpts from their conversation.
Q: You have a multiple degrees in what?
A: Biological sciences and Christian ministry from Community of Christ Seminary.
Q: How do your science and theological parts get along?
A: They get along beautifully. Science is the study of life and creation, and all through my studies with science I could see God’s hand. Everything is such a miracle I think.
Q: In addition to working for the church, what do you like to do?
A: I love to read. I love to quilt. I got into quilting in 2000, and I’ve sewed by machine since I was 8 years old. I taught beginning quilt, which turned out to be an amazing journey because I recognized that one thing our culture is missing now is those connections and relationships that women used to have. You’re shoulder to shoulder and talking. And people share about the depths of their souls and lives, and the joys and sorrows.
Q: How did you come to Community of Christ?
A: My mother was a lifelong member. My father did not join the church until I was a senior in high school. But he was always supportive. I and my three younger sisters were baptized at 8. My dad was a career officer in the Army Corps of Engineers, so we moved 19 times in the first 20 years of my life. But the many places we lived, (the church) was a constant in my life. You know how it is in our church. You walk in and you’re part of that family.
I’ve always been active in congregational life—children’s ministry, music, directing the choir. In the early ’90s I began to have a real sense of calling. I spent a lot of time in prayer, and a call didn’t come. I just decided, “You know, my sense of call is to serve God and follow the Christ. And I can do that no matter what.” And in the midst of that kind of sense of peace our pastor told me I had a call to the office of elder. When he said elder, my mouth just fell open.
Q: You’re one of the new 10 presidents of seventy. What’s your ministry focusing on?
A: To join God and God’s mission in the world. Mission can’t be separated from following the Christ. We’re called to serve this world in the stead of Christ and to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Both in and out of the congregation. Both as individuals and as part of the body of Christ.
Another challenge for us is our world has changed so rapidly, and we’re…just grappling to try to find ways to connect to young people and to tell the story in ways that make sense and come alive for them.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your ministry?
A: I think learning together. When I teach I always feel like I’m learning as much or more than the students.
Q: What are the struggles with ministry?
A: I think one of our biggest challenges is understanding how important it is to have balance in our life, to have a holy sense of rhythm. That’s counter to Western culture. It’s critically important to make space for God in our lives in ways that give us holy rest.
I think in many ways if we try to stretch that too thin we’re shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak. It’s more important than ever that we give each other permission to feed and nurture our souls in ways that connect with us.
Q: The church is emphasizing generosity and giving. How do you see that?
A: I believe generosity is part of discipleship. We have natural conversations that meet people at their point of need and dovetail beautifully with God’s grace and the circle of giving.
We have folks who have wonderful ideas and opportunities to engage in mission. If the funding isn’t there to give life to that, then we’re left empty. It not only makes a difference on the receiving side of mission, it makes a difference in the life of the generous disciple.
My husband and I were poor for a really long time. In fact, looking back, my husband and I realized a few years back, “My gosh, we could have qualified for food stamps.” The kids, when they were little, they would come home and say, “Are we poor or are we rich?” And I said, “Well we’re not rich in money, but we’re rich in love.” With generosity I think it’s important to talk about that with children from the beginning.
Q: Tell me about congregations reaching out to young adults, to youth.
A: It’s a struggle. In some ways the advent of technology has separated us from youth and young adults. Just invite young adults over to your house to get involved in their lives, to listen. They will lead. They will have ideas and a sense of how they might want to participate. I think sometimes we’re afraid to let go. I really believe our young adults have the answers we’re looking for.
We just have to find ways to hear that voice and to advocate for them because they need older adults to help mentor and be advocates.
Q: How do the Enduring Principles speak to you?
A: The Enduring Principles didn’t drop out of thin air. I think they came out of the fabric and texture of whom we are as Community of Christ. They pull threads not only from the beginning of our church, but from the beginnings of the Christian tradition.
For me they help us in very concrete ways understand who we are and who we’ve always been, not only who God is calling us to become. I think worth of all persons is a core principle of how we’re called to be a bridge to healing and wholeness.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
A: It’s a privilege to be able to serve in this way. It’s the most-difficult thing I have ever done, but in a sense I think that’s what discipleship is, it’s difficult. It can be painful at times. But the joy and the blessing, there’s an essence of life that flows out of it.