Always a Singing People

17 05 2011

by PETER JUDD,
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Presiding Evangelist David Brock lifts his voice in song.

From our earliest days, singing hymns and songs has helped express our movement’s faith. We sing what we believe, and we believe what we sing. The two are intertwined.

As part of the committee that selected hymns for the 1981 Hymns of the Saints, I was aware we were living in a time of change. The texts and tunes of the 1956 hymnal no longer were adequate to express current understandings. Some 30 years later and still a people of change, we again need to update our hymnody to express who we are today.

The hymnal in preparation (due for release in 2013) recognizes we are an international church. While remaining an English-language resource, its contents represent our diversity of languages and cultures. Yet this hymnal will be unifying, as members in many nations sing its rich variety of new and old hymns.

As I have visited congregations in several English-speaking countries, I have been heartened to see Hymns of the Saints in the pews. This quickly reminds me I am in “my” church. This is reinforced as we sing together for worship.

As 2013 draws closer, congregations will want to plan to buy this exciting resource. It will bear our name: Community of Christ. It will witness of who we are and who we are becoming.As yet untitled and covered in a color still undecided, this hardbound book of about 600 hymns and songs will cost no more than $25. Consider how much use our members and friends will get from this modest expenditure—surely many times what we usually get from a book of similar cost that is read once and then shelved or discarded. And what a potential to witness of who we are as Community of Christ!

Plan to buy enough copies to fit your dreams of growth. Include this cost in your congregational budget, or challenge each active member to buy two copies: one for the congregation plus one to keep at home. Please visit http://www.CofChrist.org/hymnal for more details about congregational budgeting and project description.

This will be the fourth major hymnal representing a significant journey from the time I learned to play the hymns from the 1933 Saints Hymnal as a child. I can’t wait to play the new hymns in 2013, and even more to sing them together in worship!

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Film Uplifts Sacredness of Creation

21 04 2011

by BRAD A. MARTELL, Peace and Justice Ministries

In 2008, I saw the premier of the documentary, Renewal: Stories from America’s Religious-Environmental Movement, and I excitedly waited for the DVD to be released.

The film quickly filled my mind with ideas for use in my ministry. For me, it’s an invaluable resource, and I hope it will be for you and your congregation, too.

Renewal is a 90-minute film of eight inspiring stories. They show how faith communities are addressing today’s environmental challenges.

One story tells how Christians are seeking to prevent mountaintop removal in Appalachia. Another shares how Muslims are building relationships between urban communities and sustainable farms during Ramadan. A third is about a Jewish learning center that teaches kids about environmentalism and their Jewish tradition.

In addition, beautiful scenic nature meditations separate each story. The film was made to:

  • Engage people of faith in organized and individual environmental action.
  • Foster interfaith dialogue about environmental stewardship.
  • Break down barriers between secular environmentalists and people of faith.

I have used the film for youth retreats and camps, the Peace and Justice Ministries course at Community of Christ Seminary, and Peace Colloquy workshops. I recommend it for adult and youth church-school classes and congregational and mission center gatherings.

It is full of practical ideas for congregations to cultivate ecumenical and interfaith relationships in their communities and live out the Enduring Principle of sacredness of creation.

EARTH DAY
The date is April 22. Host a Renewal film night at your church. Invite family, friends, neighbors, and other congregations and faiths. Then move forward in faith and action! To learn more, visit www.renewalproject.net.





Whisperings of the Word

20 12 2010

BY TONY AND CHARMAINE CHVALA-SMITH, Disciple Formation Ministries

Always seeking our ear, the Living Word whispers to us in the sacred story of scripture. Have you heard the soft, penetrating voice? In venturing to listen together, might a congregation encounter Christ in its midst? Be changed toward each other and God?

Friends in Michigan recently e-mailed us about what is happening in their congregation:
From Kevin Anderson:

I thought you’d be interested to hear the impact serious, honest study and sharing can have on a congregation.

Last fall our pastor, Nan, felt a strong need for us to spend more time studying scripture. So we began with the parables. We set Thursday evening at the church as the time, hoping to have five–six people. Twenty-two people came, and we’ve never had fewer than 13. We completed a study of the parables, and then Luke and Acts. We’ll begin Paul’s letters soon.

But the testimony of this story is not of numbers; it’s of learning how to share, question, and listen. We learned to seek new insights without condemning previously held ones. We learned to sometimes leave discussions open without forcing a conclusion. We learned that debates are best when the goal is not to win, but to be open to new possibilities.

A favorite memory of that class was when a retired gentleman said of the parable of the vineyard, “This story has troubled me for years. It just didn’t seem fair. But now I get it. It’s not about economics, but about God sharing generously with all people whenever they come into his presence.” His joy at new insights was powerful, and I’m grateful to have shared in this experience with him.

The greatest testimony of studying together came in January–March 2010. When President [Steve] Veazey presented the inspired document we decided to take one Thursday each month and review it and the legislation slated to come before Conference. Our approach was similar to our study of the parables. We read, shared, questioned, listened, and did not condemn views. We left some of the difficult questions open for further thought, and even came back to them in later months.

Our time spent studying scripture together had prepared us for this time of discernment. We don’t all have the same social viewpoints, but the manner in which we’ve shared has drawn our congregation closer. I’ve heard several members say we never could have had such an open discussion if we’d not been sharing in scripture study prior to January 2010.

Our approach allowed us to practice opening up to each other, and to question, explore, and gain insights into the deeper places of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We’ve come to know each other on a deeper level, and because of that, we care for each other more deeply, too. We’ve also seen a growing depth in our preaching, which has enhanced worship for the entire congregation.

Deep engagement with scripture plus genuine respect for each other can create avenues of spiritual and relational growth in congregations and the whole church. Christ meets us in the sacred story as we earnestly share, question, and listen in loving community.





Worship Resources Build Community

18 09 2010

by Jeanne Davis
Worship Ministries

Worship Resources Year ASharing worship ideas as a denomination is one way we become a closer community. When we witness through meaningful worship, we affirm God’s Spirit among us and engage in the blessings of community.

Worship Resources helps us do this. It gives practical help to worship leaders and committees, empowering congregations.

It draws its weekly themes from the Revised Common Lectionary, a widely used cycle of biblical readings. The lectionary suggests three texts: one from the Old Testament or Hebrew scripture, one from the New Testament, and one from a Gospel for each Sunday. In addition, we add a scripture from the Book of Mormon and another from Doctrine and Covenants.

We include sermon helps written by the World Church Leadership Team and translate them into Spanish, French, and Tagalog. Hundreds of Community of Christ congregations and millions of our Christian friends around the world worship with the same scriptural texts on the same day.

The worship services are guides, with choices that can be adapted to various congregational needs.

To echo the Isaiah 6 model of meeting the Divine, each Sunday’s suggestions include elements from the four parts of worship: praise (Isaiah 6:3), confession (Isaiah 6:5), proclamation (Isaiah 6:6–8), and commitment (Isaiah 6:8).

In addition to the year’s worship services, online special services are available. Worship plans for Advent, Easter, Good Friday, sacraments, funerals,and many more are available to download and use.

Order Worship Resources from Herald House (www.HeraldHouse.org, 1-800-767-8181) and see it online at www.CofChrist.org/worship10-11/.