It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 9 days since the 2013 Community of Christ World Conference came to a close but that is the reality. It was my hope to post along the journey but I ended up being too busy wrapped up in the festivities and then my brain was too fried at night to write before going to bed. I will attempt to reflect on the highlights of the week that are still fresh.
I attended my first World Conference in 2000 and have been to every consecutive one since. My grandma Lillie took me to my first one and I immediately became hooked. I wasn’t event a delegate to that conference but at 15 years of age I still attended all legislative sessions. I was captivated by them. I remember a few specific things from that first conference. One of the most memorable moments was walking into the Temple that first evening and being greeted by the French Polynesian choir singing joyous songs of praise. It was then I first realized that Community of Christ was an international faith community. Another memorable moment was the flag ceremony. Back then they would parade the flags down the center of the auditorium and then put them on the rostrum for the week. This was another neat reminder of our International status.
Every conference since I can probably pick out moments that touched me in some way. From the Ordination of Steve Veazey as prophet/president to the inclusion of Doctrine & Covenants 163 to the amazing Spirit of Peace that rested upon the 2010 World Conference. Here are the moments/experiences that I remember fondly from the 2013 Community of Christ World Conference:
> Young Adult Activities – The Young Adult were sure active at this years conference. I was on the planning team again for the Young Adult events. I chaired a sub-committee that put on two Information and Discussion sessions. One focused on three legislative items before conference (i.e. Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, Drinking of Intoxicants, and Basic Beliefs) and the other one focused on Priesthood Faithfulness. Other activities throughout the week included Bowling, Dinner, Young Adult Ministers Luncheon, and more. On Tuesday evening we had a Young Adult Worship after the evening Worship. This was a definite highlight of mine. Ben Smith, a minister from Australia, gave a great message. We did some sharing in small groups. We sang. We listened to scripture being read. We praised our Lord together!
> Passing of Legislative Items – It seems that most, if not all, of the legislative items or their substations passed at Conference this year. Personally, I was happy to see Drinking of Intoxicants and Baptism & Membership pass. Both of these don’t actually dictate any policy change but they do request the First Presidency to come back with contemporary guidance which could lead to policy changes. Other legislative items relating to Wholeness and Well-Being, Baptismal Prayers, Supporting Indigenous and Minority Peoples, and Action towards Nuclear Weapons Abolition also passed. All of the legislative items that passed seem to in some way help assist us seeking the Worth of all Persons. What a blessing to be apart of a faith community that values this Enduring Principle.
> Flag Ceremony – During the opening legislative session we witnessed the tradition of the flag ceremony. The flags are hung around the railing in the upper level of the auditorium and are unravel as each country is announced and what year Community of Christ was established there. I always find this to be a rather touching opportunity to witness our Unity in Diversity. The flags don’t represent nationalism but they represent the many different people that are apart of the Body of Christ and those that are in fellowship with Community of Christ.
> Baptism & Membership – This was the legislative that I felt called to speak on. Here is what I shared with the conference, “I stand today in support of this legislation. I haven’t always felt this way though. We have seen legislation about baptism and membership come up many times over the past several conferences. I have always been uncomfortable with the idea that we would accept other baptisms prior to age 8 when the child didn’t make the decision themselves. It went against what I thought was my view and the churches view of the nature of being a Disciple. Though as I continued to pray and consider this over the past couple of years I have come to an understanding where I realize that I was casting judgment on someone else’s faith journey. I realized that it was not my place to decide whether some one else’s heritage, life experiences, and spiritual journey were making them a true disciple of Jesus Christ. And that if a change in our policy were to come in the future because of this passing I actually believe it would give more integrity to the sacrament of baptism when making new disciples. I believe in the power of our sacraments, especially that of baptism. this resolution doesn’t change that but empowers it. And let’s be honest here, we have people in our communities all around the world who are hungry, without clean water, don’t have dignified shelter, facing battles of all kinds, and yet we continue to spend our time revisiting whether we will let all disciples in Community of Christ or keep them out of full fellowship with Community of Christ when instead we should be focusing on addressing the issues that really matter. I look forward to future conferences where we hopefully don’t spend so much money and use so many resources to come to the conferences and spend a lot of time deciding who and how we let people in Community of Christ and instead spend our conferences focusing on the true mission of Jesus Christ and how we can address those things that really matter most. Let us value the worth of all people and where they are in their relationship to Christ on their journey. I hope this passes and that the First Presidency comes back with opportunities to allow us to welcome more to live out their discipleship in Community of Christ.”.
> New Calls to Ministry (Ordinations) – We had several ordinations this year but a few in particular touched me. First, it was great to see Apostle Scott Murphy called to serve as a Counselor in the First Presidency. Scott was my pastor at the Cedarcrest Congregation in Marysville, WA, when I was growing up. When he left to go work for the church we all knew God has some big things in store for him. Our Council of Twelve Apostles became more diverse this conference. Mareva Arnaud Tchong from French Polynesia, Arthur Smith from Canada, and Barbara Carter from the USA, were all ordained as Apostles. This adds two more females to the Council as well as more representation from beyond the USA. It was particularly touching to see Mareva ordained an Apostle. I kept thinking about what this has to mean for the people of French Polynesia. James Poirier and Steven Graffeo were also called as Counselors in the Presiding Bishopric. Another neat moment was seeing Linda Booth chosen by her peers to be the first female President of the Council of Twelve. The church will definitely benefit from her continued service as the President of the Council of Twelve.
> Words of Counsel – Unlike previous years where Words of Counsel have been presented I am noticing that I am continuously finding parts of the Counsel that inspires in new ways. It’s like every time I read it I am reading it with new eyes. There are things that speak to me that I didn’t even notice previously. Some quotes from the Counsel that continue to speak to me and that I believe will help shape Community of Christ into the future are, “Lovingly invite others to experience the good news of new life in community with Christ. Opportunities abound in your daily lives if you choose to see them.”, “Tithing is a spiritual practice…”, “be aware, it is not right to profess oneness and equality in Christ through sacramental covenants and then to deny that equality by attitude, word, or action. Such behavior wounds Christ’s body and denies what is eternally resolved in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.”, “God calls whoever God calls…”, and “As Christ’s body, lovingly and patiently bear the weight of criticism from those who hesitate to respond to the divine vision of human worth and equality in Christ. This burden and blessing is yours for divine purposes.”. To read the Counsel it in it’s entirety, click here. I think I might begin a blogging series that looks deeper into these Words of Counsel.
> Twitter Delegation – This was definitely one of my favorite things about conference! It is also how I was able to meet so many awesome new people. I’ve only recently started to actively use my Twitter account. I remember thinking a few weeks ago that I may never get to 1000 tweets on my account. Well, not only did I hit that during conference but I exceeded it. Within the ten days of being in Missouri I made several hundred tweets. It helped make the the legislative sessions pass by and even helped me to better understand the legislative items. I cherish my Twitter moments with old friends and new friends!
> Frozen Custard – Yes, I had to post about this! No trip to conference can happen without a few trips to Sheridan’s Frozen Custard. I made it there twice and then to Custard’s Last Stand another time. I must say that I think Custard’s Last Stand is my new favorite Custard place. Sorry Sheridan’s!
> New Friends and Old Friends – As always I got to meet lots of new people from all over the world. Also was able to get reacquainted with friends I haven’t seen in a while. Always one of the best things about World Conference!
> House Rental – A group of 7 of us rented a house together for the week. This made for some very interesting moments. “Nuff said.
> Weather – We had some weird weather throughout the week. We went from a sunny weekend to possible snow flurries to stormy weather. We were under a tornado watch on Wednesday. Since it is my dream to spend at least one tornado season being a storm chaser I loved being under the Tornado watch. We had thunder and lightning and rain that pelted the ground. I loved it!
> Peace, Salaam, Shalom – We believe in Peace! – This became the unofficial anthem of the 2013 World Conference. A video that some church members made called “Peace Through All People” that depicted church members from around the world singing and playing along to the song “Peace, Salaam, Shalom”. It was done in the same way that the Playing for Change videos are filmed. Then during the Hymn Fest on Wednesday Evening the Songwriters of the song came and lead us in singing it. This was definitely a highlight! To learn how this song came about, click here!
> Different Languages – One of my favorite things about conference is hearing the singing, sharing, and prayers done in the native tongues of the delegates from around the world. It shows just how diverse Community of Christ is. I don’t understand what is being said, and yet, it inspires me in profound ways.
I am sure there are highlights I am forgetting. It was a GREAT conference experience. Unfortunately, it was shortened this year. I definitely noticed the difference. I look forward to a conference with a normal length in 2016. Also look forward to having conference in June! Just three more years. Until then I have SPEC, Peace Colloquy’s, and other experiences to hold me over!