June 25, 2020 was World Pride Day! It was a day to celebrate LBGTQIA+ individuals and the movement for acceptance. I was able to watch Toronto Community of Christ online worship ton June 28th which was focused on LBGTQIA+ awareness and radical hospitality. It was an awesome worship led by ministers who are LBGTQIA+ in the Community of Christ in conjunction with Harmony (non-profit organization focused on LBGTQIA+ advocacy and education to congregations in Community of Christ). You can check it out on the YouTube video below.
LBGTQIA+ individuals have historically been rejected and ostracized by faith groups for centuries causing deep pain and great harm to people. The inner conflict between beliefs which have been instilled in individuals and their own sexual orientation has caused significant turmoil to navigate. Some have found refuge in family while others have been rejected by those closest to them. Faith communities have often turned their back. Though the world today is slowly becoming a better and more safer place for those who are LBGTQia+ religious organizations tend to still be a place of division and pain for such individuals. Especially for those who grew up in one of the largest religious institutions who continue to not uphold same sex marriage and equal rights for those who are LBGTQia+.
This is one of many reasons why Topeka Community of Christ felt compelled to have a booth at the September 2019 Topeka Pride Picnic. They wanted to show support and give another perspective on religion and faith. To provide an open door for those who may want to talk about faith. Community of Christ was one of three faith groups who had a booth at the event. The community of Topeka has over 40 different religious denominations.
It was a wonderful event in which people were celebrated for who they are without any judgment. The members of Community of Christ said just being present at the event and talking with those who came by was a learning experience about how to be more welcoming as a church. It was a first step in creating an atmosphere were others can come and feel welcomed immediately and supported for who they are. They learned about the importance of using inclusive language, having documents and materials openly state the acceptance of all people, and clear visualizations showing all are welcome. Topeka hopes to participate further in Topeka Pride and be a safe place for all those who come through the doors.
Thank you to all those who are out there supporting and advocating for LBGTQIA+ in your communities. Keep it up!
This week connect with someone different than you. Listen to their story and learn something about who they are that you didn't know.
Our guest blogger this week is Kalene West. Kalene lives in Topeka, KS and attends the Topeka Community of Christ. Kalene grew up going to Catholic services as well as Community of Christ worship when her grandmother would take her. When she was 14 years old she decided to join Community of Christ as a member after an experience at Racine campgrounds in Southern Missouri. Camps have been a major part of Kalene's spiritual life and continue to be when she attends Reunion at Camp Chihowa. She looks forward to being a part of the community formed at Chihowa during family camp and is going to share her experiences with you today.
Attending camp has always been special for me! There I experience joy, fun activities, and the love of being in community with others. It is also where I meet God reflecting on my own spiritual journey. When I was 14 it was during a campfire, prayer circle where I first felt that quiet, peaceful connection to God. It was that spirit that transformed me. In that campfire experience I felt the need and desire to join Community of Christ. I talked with my father about the experience and he supported my decision to be baptized. I have never regretted my decision to further my discipleship in the Community of Christ since. This is just one of many campfire experiences I have had. Campfires are special because I get to sing and I love singing! I also get to hear all the sounds of nature. They are also special because they set the mood for the spirit to work within our hearts and souls.
Some of you may not know, but I was born with a small eye condition which resulted in me being blind and unable to see. Yes I would love to be able to see God's beautiful creation but I also recognize the benefit from the immense love shown to me through this disability. I believe I will see all of God's beauty in heaven. The School for the Blind in Kansas City helped me learn how to get around and learn about the world. It is through my eye condition that I have encountered and experienced the ongoing gift of love through others. I encounter this love even more when I am at camp.
The camping experience has continued to be instrumental in furthering my relationship with God. I now attend Camp Chihowa near Perry, KS. It is here where I experience the breath of God moving through my life through the community and love formed. I love reunion and wait patiently each year for this experience because of the variety of things that connect me.
Camp Chihowa has become a special place for me because of the amazing people I have met. Each year I am surprised at the love present and the kind acts of people to assist me. Because of the uneven ground and unknown environment I often have to remain close to the main lodge. However people go out of their way to walk with me. I remember two years ago 8 youth took me on a long walk around the campgrounds where I was able to get to know them and what is going on in their lives. This was the highlight of the week for me as they took the time to be with me. I also love going to sit by the peace pole and hear the chimes near it.
The morning prayer group is also something that stands out for me. Though its just a small group that likes to get up early, we have strength as we pray for the needs of the people and camp each morning. It is among this sacred space and people that I experience the spirit moving. Camp also has helped me form strong prayer partners that continue throughout the year until we connect in person again the following year.
Other highlights of camp for me are the talent show when I get to read braille and learn about the gifts of others. I also love going to class and participating in Don't Forget the Lyrics, hymn addition. It is in the variety of experiences throughout the week that I find God being fully present and alive with us.
I believe the community formed at reunion is as close to Zion as we can get. People need each other and throughout the week we recognize that need. We collectively allow ourselves to connect at a deeper level with one another and move ourselves out of the way so God can work. It's a week of fun, its a week of relaxation, but more importantly its a week of renewal. Its a week to allow God to be fully present in our lives not just individually but communally. I invite all of you to come to reunion this year and experience this Zionic community. I promise you won't regret it.
You just might have heard schools are closed, march madness was cancelled, and the NBA season is suspended. As a response some of you might have already started taking notes on The Walking Dead, I am Legend, or Planet of the Apes in preparation for the coming days. While many of you may be wondering when will all this hogwash will be done and over with. No matter what camp you are in its important to follow the guidelines of the CDC, WHO, and your local health department so that we can maintain the greatest amount of safety for all people.
One recommendation is social distancing. This refers to actions taken by the public to slow or stop the spread of a contagious disease. This can be cancelling events, avoiding mass gatherings, maintaining distance from others, and closing businesses, etc. These measures may seem extensive however taking extra safety measures counters the unknown of a contagious disease such as Covid-19.
Community of Christ has suspended all church gatherings for 3 weeks as part of this preventative measure to ensure safety of all people. However we do offer online worship groups if you are interested. Please visit Community of Christ Online Ministries.
12 Ways to Connect During Social Distancing
It’s important we maintain connection and community during social distancing. So how do that when we are isolating in our homes. Here are some community building ideas to maintain connection with others in these trying times. Remember there are people that live by themselves that will need connection now more than ever.
1. Video Interface/ Phone calls - Technology rocks! We have ample ways to stay connected to others through Skype, FaceTime, Facebook live, Zoom, etc. Schedule bedtime stories with grandparents, coffee time, kids play dates, or just time to chat with friends.
2. Text Messaging - Though it does not have the same effect it does keep us in communication. Text often! Check in on people. Those close to you and those you haven’t talked with in years. Think about those by themselves and reach out.
3. Social Media - When used appropriately, aka not arguing, pushing political agendas, or sharing inaccurate information, social media can be a way to stay connected. The key is to be personal with others responding to posts or just checking in on people you haven’t seen for awhile.
4. Spiritual Practices - Times like this can deepen our spiritual journey if we focus on it. Take time daily to engage in a spiritual practice. Allow yourself to find God as we need to make that connection. Unsure what to do? Check out all the spiritual practices we have blogged about.
5. Write a letter/ card - Everyone loves getting something personal in the mail or through email. In a time like this we need to share our thoughts and feelings with others. There are tons of websites to help with virtual cards and anyone can send an email or direct message through Twitter, Facebook, Snap Chat or other social media form.
6. Video Games - Gaming actually provides a network for people to do something in common together online. It can be a great device to stay entertained and make some fun moments while conquering a planet or overcoming a legendary boss.
7. Car Coffee - Brew your own coffee and then drive to meet your friend at a location. Each can remain in there car with the windows down if not comfortable getting out at a place in nature.
8. Virtual Book Club/ Film Study - Create a virtual book club or film review group to meet regularly to talk and socialize. It gives you a good reason to finish that book or movie you have been wanting to watch.
9. Cook and Share - This is great time to cook those chocolate blueberry muffins you have been wanting to bake. Make sure you are using good hygiene practices when cooking to ensure cleanliness. This means wash your hands and fight off the temptation to stick your finger in the batter to sample it. If you can be clean in the cooking and packaging process share them with your neighbor or a friend who is on their own. Place it on their porch and leave a little note.
10. Sing with Others - You May have seen videos from Italy and others where people began singing together on their balconies. Music can unite us and bring joy to our souls. If you find yourself in a similar situation maybe your singing or music will start the connection with others.
11. Be in Nature - This is great opportunity to become connected to the sacredness of creation. Go walk, hike, climb, or run. Open your eyes and observe the beauty. Listen to the cacophony of sounds. Identify yourself as just a piece of the larger creation. Connect to creation.
12. Donate - There are many great causes out there needing to push through during this time. Find one important cause to you and give money.
Remember we are in this together! I hope these suggestions may help you and others you know stay connected during this social distancing.
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This week reach out to someone and let them know you are thinking about them.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
The mission of the Seventy
“After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” Luke 10:1-3 NRSV
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting.
They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation.
They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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Copyright Midlands Mission Center 2020
Community of Christ
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