Know, Be, and Do – Ministry and Priesthood

9 07 2014
Becky Savage

Becky Savage, First Presidency

by Becky Savage

Ministry and priesthood describe an expanding approach to discipleship. Doctrine and Covenants 119:8b affirms: “All are called according to the gifts of God unto them…”

We respond by intentionally linking ministry in a continuum of disciples and priesthood members who serve together to fulfill Christ’s mission. What does this mean for you? For members it emphasizes your covenant and role as a disciple.

As living expressions of Christ’s life, ministry, and continuing presence in the world, disciples covenant with God to bring peace and reconciliation to the world, break down the walls that divide people, and share Christ’s peace with everyone they meet.

…As ministry takes place, sacred communities of unconditional love, tolerance, reconciliation, and Unity in Diversity are born. These Christ-centered communities invite and welcome those who are searching for a spiritual home and yearning to know of God’s redeeming love….
—Ministry and Priesthood flyer, September 2013

For priesthood, recent inspired counsel calls for faithful, holistic ministry. Priesthood ministry, as a sacred covenant, includes the highest form of stewardship of body, mind, spirit, and relationships. Priesthood members express their ministry with humility and integrity and extend themselves in servant ministry for others and for the well-being of the faith community (163:6a).

Being comes before doing. President Steve Veazey says effective servant ministry comes from the overflow of daily spiritual disciplines that allow one to immerse oneself in God’s love and generosity. Priesthood members are most effective when they focus on bringing blessing to others (163:6b). To increase one’s capacity for ministry, it is essential for priesthood members to spend time in personal renewal and spiritual rest. Priesthood members magnify their callings through continual “spiritual growth, study, exemplary generosity, ethical choices, and fully accountable ministry” (163:6c).

To help disciples and priesthood members learn about or reconnect to covenant commitments, new Temple School courses are under development. They are designed to help students learn what they need to know, be, and do for effective servant ministry. The courses will focus on basic principles one needs to understand, or know, at the beginning of a new ministry responsibility. Learning and knowing are best achieved by being receptive to the intervening presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

Each lesson will open and close with spiritual practices that attune participants to the Holy Spirit’s movements leading into, through, and following each session. Ministry effectiveness is achieved best when one practices how to bring blessing to others. The courses will include the opportunity to do by practicing ministry skills with other participants. Together students also will learn to evaluate how ministry effectiveness can improve by continuing to know, be, and do as ministry and priesthood teams.

For the first time there will be a disciple course. The course will be designed to prepare members to serve in mission. There also will be new preparation courses for priesthood members. These will include a new Introduction to Priesthood Ministry course, a revised Introduction to Scripture course, and new or revised office-specific courses for deacon, teacher, priest, elder, seventy, high priest, and evangelist.

The Ministry and Priesthood Team and course writers will conduct pilot classes over the next several months. If you have the opportunity to take part, we’ll look forward to your feedback. We expect to release final course materials at the 2016 World Conference.

A monthly Herald series will begin in September, focusing on ministry and priesthood. The articles will preview the new course content and will serve as excellent study materials for groups or Sunday school classes.

We affirm All Are Called. We respond by learning what to know, be, and do to best serve together to fulfill Christ’s mission.

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Joyful Sharing for Mission

2 06 2014
Steve Jones

by Steve Jones, presiding bishop

This statement from the 2014 February Herald article, “Tithing as Spiritual Practice,” has generated several comments and questions. The most common response: “If we give to our ‘true capacity’ through the spiritual practice of tithing, how would the mission of the church be impacted?”

First, I will assume joyful sharing from our true capacity will provide additional mission tithes for worldwide ministries. With that assumption:

“…By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a).

We have been called to make Christ’s mission our mission by living out Christ’s whole mission through these five Mission Initiatives:

  • Invite People to Christ
  • Abolish Poverty, End Suffering
  • Pursue Peace on Earth
  • Develop Disciples to Serve
  • Experience Congregations in Mission

Remember that all five Mission Initiatives need to be integrated and expressed—working together, not separately—in each mission opportunity for us to embrace Christ’s whole mission. So with additional tithing, here are some mission opportunities:

Start the church in new nations and expand in existing nations.

We know that in nations where the church is present, many mission opportunities exist to expand ministries. And each year we receive contacts from new nations, inviting us to share Christ’s whole mission.

Revitalize congregations in the USA and Canada.

We need more Spirit-led and highly trained leaders equipped with cutting-edge resources. By adding new leaders and with existing leaders empowering all ages, congregations can be transformed.

Develop new ministries in the USA and Canada.

We are called to make the peaceable kingdom real for those seeking Christ’s loving embrace and to transform congregations, neighborhoods, and communities. We must develop and implement innovated mission models so the church remains relevant in people’s lives.

Expand the Temple as a global peace center.

The world we occupy desperately needs peace, reconciliation, and healing. With additional tithing, expansion of existing ministries and creation of new ministries from the Temple would broaden God’s promise of universal shalom.

Update and expand church communications to support growth of mission.

Targeted and consistent communications are needed so congregations can move from being “poised to fulfill God’s vision” to action. Frequent, informative, and uplifting stories with current and relevant resources can provide mission tools for members to share Christ’s whole mission.

Together let us joyfully share from our true capacity so Christ’s whole mission is offered to a world in need.





We Can’t Do It Alone

2 05 2014
David R. Brock

David R. Brock

We were seated in a circle of 35 at Deer Haven Campgrounds in Florida. It was the close of a course on ministry of the evangelist. Before we partook Communion, which awaited on a table in the center, Jim and Jan Slauter offered the Prayer for Peace.

Because of news about Ukraine and Crimea, Jim asked that we focus our prayers on Ukraine instead of Republic of the Congo. It felt right to pray for that complex situation. It felt good to uphold the church members there.

I can’t measure the value of prayers for members and citizens, for world leaders whose decisions will have impact for generations. Sometimes I wonder, “What value?” But, I join in the prayer for peace. I enter the spiritual practice.

As we partook the Lord’s Supper a few minutes later, I thought about Russian Orthodox priests serving Communion to members of their parish in Kiev. I thought about Ukrainian Orthodox priests offering the same only a few blocks away. Both symbolically lifting up Christ. Both reenacting the death of Christ in bread broken, in lifeblood flowing out in the wine. Both sharing the promise of peace through the One who breaks down walls of division.

But, I knew that some who partook would then walk out of that sacrament into political tensions and violence, possibly in opposition to each other.

I partook, as did Christians in Ukraine, conscious of divisions and tensions that seem to mock promises of the spiritual-formation moment that is the Lord’s Supper.

Again, I wonder, “What value?” But, I kneel as the prayer is read. I receive bread and wine. I enter the practice once again.

Spiritual formation, spiritual practices, spiritual disciplines, spiritual awakening, discernment; the words are more and more a part of our vocabulary. New practices are being introduced. Traditional disciplines are being refreshed. Silence and listening are held up as practices that open us to, as President Steve Veazey says, “divine-human encounters that transform our lives. We are healed at our deepest levels of ego-centered insecurity and pain. We learn to yearn for God and then with God. We are freed to radically love others in true community that reflects God’s nature and purposes.”

My thoughts and actions often betray the declaration that spiritual practices provide a space for God to heal me and others; that God, through the practices, frees me to love radically.

I wonder at times, “What value?” but when there is a rhythm of vulnerable silence, of kneeling, of partaking, of dwelling in words of scripture, a truer self begins to awaken.

A discipline of daily grief for the way things are leads to widened compassion and broader vision. It leads to hope.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says in The Great Partnership, we are here through God’s love, we live on God’s Earth, we breathe God’s breath. There is a radiance and gravitas, a belonging in the lives of those who “practice the Presence,” who reenact the story and perform the rituals, then make that presence real by constantly living in response to it.

The blessing of spiritual formation as President Veazey says, “is rest, renewal, peace, and vision and energy for mission.” We cannot bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, or let the oppressed go free without the Spirit of the Lord resting on us. We simply can’t do it in our own strength. Not for the long haul. Believe me!





I Believe Jesus Lives Today

2 04 2014

by Linda L. Booth, Council of Twelve Apostles

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” —John 3:16–17 NRSV

Linda Booth

Linda Booth

This year my journey to Easter has been disrupted. While preparing for an evangelist retreat at

Deerhaven Campground in Florida, I was confronted with the question: Do you think Jesus is dead or alive? My initial, faithful response was, “Of course. I believe in the resurrection.” However, as I prayerfully considered the implications of that answer I realized the way I live truly reveals what I believe.

If I think Jesus was an important historical figure who provided a meaningful way to treat others and emphasized justice and mercy for all, his life—while still instructive—is over.

However, if I truly believe Jesus rose from the dead and is now living, then I will know and experience the power of Jesus Christ’s presence in my daily living. Jesus, who was crucified, is now my Living Lord. Jesus, who rose from the dead, is with me, providing instruction through the Holy Spirit.

If I truly believe Jesus lives, then I will be a “true and living expression of the life, sacrifice, resurrection, and continuing presence of Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:4c). My life will reflect Jesus’ concerns and passions for others, and I will witness to and invite others to “become fully immersed in the servant life of Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 164:3a).

Imagine what would happen if we all truly believed and proclaimed that Jesus Christ lives. We intentionally and naturally would live Christ’s mission of evangelism, compassionate ministries, and justice and peacemaking. Every person we encountered would be so precious that we would be compelled to give and receive ministry.

The promise of resurrection wouldn’t be delegated to one holy season, Lent, or one holy day, Easter. Resurrection would be real—an everyday experience as we live in and through Jesus Christ.

So my day now begins with the proclamation and prayer: “I believe Jesus lives today. Lord, may your love and peace be alive in me this day.” This simple affirmation has become a daily spiritual practice, causing my days to be disrupted as I encounter people and situations in sacramental ways.

My journey to Easter this year also is filled with intense moments of sadness and joy because of my father’s death January 10. My beloved 93-year-old father, who was the longest-serving seventy in Community of Christ history, had passion for the lost and lonely, for those who needed to know God’s love. He knew Jesus Christ lived. He lived accordingly.

During his last year we watched him slowly slip away because of advancing dementia. Many times when we visited him, he couldn’t communicate. Occasionally he would ask if it was time to go to church, or if we knew where his shoes were.

One afternoon I had an unexpected conversation with Dad. He said, “Did you know that God so loved the world!”

“Yes, Dad. That’s one of my favorite scriptures. I try to weave it into all my sermons.”
Several times he repeated, “Did you know that God so loved the world he gave his Son! Well, it’s marvelous. Everyone needs to know that.”

Because we know Jesus lives, I pray that each day we share the marvelous message of God’s unconditional love and grace; that we make sure someone feels loved and experiences the resurrection of new life in Christ.





Taking Time for Sacred Listening

3 03 2014

by K. Scott Murphy, First Presidency

Scott Murphy, First Presidency

Scott Murphy, First Presidency

At the 2013 World Conference, the church was both blessed and challenged by words of counsel shared by President Steve Veazey..

It has been almost a year since these words were shared. During this time we have rested with these words through our own reflection and at places like reunions, camps, and our congregations.

Now it is time for us to hear these words again. The church is invited into a time of sacred listening to deepen our understanding and awareness of how these words guide our response to live Christ’s mission in the world.

On April 6 President Veazey will begin a process of engaging the church in further reflection on the words of counsel through a live webcast.

The church also has the opportunity to study the words of counsel through the commentary series in the Herald. This commentary series, which began in January, will provide lessons that individuals or groups can use for formational experiences.

As we prepare for the webcast, I want to invite you into this time of intentional preparation while the church community comes together to be blessed through the words of counsel as a gift of God’s presence with us.

It’s important that we choose to listen and reflect on these words together. When we do so, we become intentional in our effort to place ourselves in a sacred space and in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Sharing together as a church allows us to experience the rich tapestry of culture and life perspectives we bring into the conversation.

Our listening together is a time for allowing the words to probe us and to penetrate deeper into our consciousness. Listening together can open us to see our world and the world’s needs in new ways.

As we share and listen together in ways that reflect our love for one another, we make it possible to be formed in the experience of discernment.

This process is not about finding some tool to help us determine if we agree or disagree with the words. Rather, discernment is more about the attitude and spirit in which we enter the journey and process of listening.

As Carolyn Brock reminds us:

Discernment is an ongoing process; a stance toward life. A discerning disciple has the attitude or intention to seek the presence, wisdom, and compassion of the Spirit at all times and in all dimensions of life (www.CofChrist.org/discernment/whatis.asp).

In many ways, to enter into sacred listening is to share together in prayer. It is in the spiritual practice of prayer that we begin to awaken to a clearer awareness of God’s call to us that always takes us into God’s vision. At times this can be exhilarating; other times it can be disruptive. But as a people of faith we must choose to be vulnerable to the possibilities these words of counsel call us to.

May we have the courage to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds as we seek to better understand how these words of counsel move us to become fully embraced by the call to be and live Christ’s mission in the heart of people’s lives.





Embracing the Right Order

3 02 2014

 

Becky Savage

Becky Savage, First Presidency

Being comes before doing.” These are simple words. If being comes first, it should have greater priority. Why do we find being more difficult?

The Ministry and Priesthood flyer offers this challenge:

The constant call is to follow the Living Christ and to abide in increasing measure in God’s love and vision for creation. Being comes before doing.

Traditionally, we are a doing people. We show concern for one another. We take care of those most in need. We feel more faithful when we are busy doing Christ’s mission. Abiding in God’s love seems abstract. Or, is it?

The 2013 words of counsel (www.CofChrist.org/presidency/041413wordsofcounsel) offer insights for our spiritual lives. “Involvement in Christ’s mission is enriched and focused through spiritual growth and guidance.” The counsel helps us understand how to expand our spiritual connectedness. This includes the sacraments. “Oneness and equality in Christ are realized through the waters of baptism, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and sustained through the sacrament of Communion.” There is added guidance for ordination and evangelist blessing.

The counsel expresses two more areas for spiritual enrichment. One is the Mission Initiatives. “As a spiritual venture, boldly follow the initiatives into the heart of God’s vision for the church and creation.” Spiritual venture and growing insights involve being.

Here is a way to make spiritual practice a habit in one’s daily routine. Arrange quiet time and lessen distractions. Read through the Mission Initiatives and perhaps a new hymn. Sections in Community of Christ Sings are specifically for centering, discernment, mission, and spirituality. One example is CCS 181 “Holy Spirit, Teacher, Friend.” Then be quiet and listen for God’s guidance and insights. Make this practice part of your daily routine.

Generosity is another area of focus. “Tithing is a spiritual practice that demonstrates willingness to regularly offer every dimension of one’s life to God.” In this Herald, Presiding Bishop Steve Jones and Presiding Evangelist David Brock share about tithing as a spiritual practice. They offer suggestions about practices that deepen our understandings of God’s generosity.

Brother Brock says, “A spiritual practice is what you do to be.” Please read and follow the suggestions in the “Tithing as a Spiritual Practice” article. Use “For Further Reflection and Discussion” and “Dwelling in the Word” for personal and group spiritual direction. And do it more than once. These are not steps to do and check off the list. They are for intentional, regular, practice. Use them repeatedly to obtain deeper understandings. Take time to study the material. Rather than doing the whole article, try breaking it into parts. Start each session with Dwelling in the Word, then focus on the section over several sessions.

Katie Harmon-McLaughlin offers another expression of spiritual being in this issue. In “A Radical Emptying: Lent” she provides specific guidelines to prepare for Lent. The Lenten journey will begin March 5, 2014 with Ash Wednesday and continue for 40 days. February is the month to begin preparations for this special spiritual journey through Lent.

As Katie suggests, Lent is a time for purging activities and habits that are excessive in our lives. Replace them with God-time; time to “…encounter God within ourselves and in the world around us…” Community of Christ Sings has wonderful songs to connect your spiritual time with the Divine. Look in the sections on Lent and Holy Week and find one or two songs that speak to your sense of connection to God’s Spirit.

The words of counsel urge us to deepen our spiritual lives and connection to God. Begin to balance your life so being comes before doing.





Savoring the Feel of Home

1 01 2014
David R. Brock

David R. Brock

David R. Brock,
presiding evangelist

Will you celebrate with me (and all readers and writers of the Herald) my “week in the life of Community of Christ” and ways Christ’s mission is becoming ours? Yes, I know we aren’t there yet. Yes, I know the struggles and the conflicts. I know the data and the statistics that worry and wear. And, yes, I know I’m called from complacency by words of counsel highlighted in these pages.

I am called to go deeper, to live more on the adventurous edge of risk and trust. But, please savor with me a few experiences of eight days of mission I saw and touched, heard and tasted.

The first Sunday was the final day of a mission center conference. Superb! New hymns from Community of Christ Sings, a provocative sermon by the apostle, sacraments of ordination and Communion, an address by the director of ecumenical ministries in a large city nearby, fresh images (shared by the mission center president the day before) of congregations in mission.

The next Sunday, 2,000 miles away, I listened to a choir sing “Amazing Grace” inside a geodesic-domed sanctuary. Beautiful! During the service I read a just-received e-mail from Apostle Andrew Bolton about typhoons in the Philippines and India that wreaked havoc on so many members of the human family, including our own Community of Christ. Prayers of concern were offered for them and for individuals and families known by name—some in our midst.

At the potluck, amid banter about American football and good-natured teasing that happens in healthy communities, I talked with youth anticipating International Youth Forum 2014, with women making cards for soldiers who wouldn’t be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and with two men whose work took them to China and Mexico. I met people I knew and made connections to members around the international church. I love that feel of “home.”

Traveling with colleagues to the congregation that morning, I learned about a growing relationship with Chinese students who are part of our campus ministry program, about a surprise birthday party the day before, cooking classes, a weekly meal, and leaf raking, all wrapped in the feeling of family in a country far from home.

Midweek, I participated (and partook!) in “Hot Dog Wednesday” at a congregation in an ethnically and economically diverse community. It takes money and time, but it brings neighbors (lots of them!) together where there are few opportunities for community connections. It unites Community of Christ members in one of several ministries, including a computer lab, sewing circle, and a new ministry, “Open Table: From Poverty to Wholeness” (for more information visit http://onwardCofChrist.org).

The same week, in that same building, 50 ministers gathered for three days of formation on the ministry of the evangelist. We’ve been in settings where quality conversation happens. Wisdom is shared, testimonies recounted, probing questions asked. We know sacred spaces where vulnerability to each other and to God offers a glimpse of our true selves and of what the human experience was intended to be.

It is hard to put into words, so we put it to music and express it in action and symbol. A quartet sings us into the reign of God for just a few minutes. Two elders, in the stead of Jesus, “lay [their] hands gently upon us” (CCS 545, Carey Landry) and healing seeps into cell and sinew, soaking into our soul.

Christ’s mission is happening in your life, in your congregation. See it and celebrate it. This Sunday. Then (CCS 390, Frederick M. Smith), “Onward to Zion, faithful and strong. Zion the beautiful beckons us on!”