One. The running theme of Disciples of Christ's General Assembly this year. Never has a single word meant more than it did at the General Assembly. It's funny how we don't think about mundane, everyday words; much less about how valuable and significant they can truly be and the impact they can have on our lives.  

Attending General Assembly was such an exciting adventure. To have the opportunity to travel with such an amazing group of people (PSWR Young Adult Leaders) to a conference who's purpose was to encourage, and practice, unity amongst our churches was a genuine pleasure and blessing.  

I'll admit, I was a little naïve towards what I thought I would actually receive that week. Although I was excited, I had almost the same expectations as that of any other conference I had ever attended. What I didn't expect was the various cultural backgrounds and mindsets I would interact with. It made me start to wonder, what exactly does it mean to be one? 

At the heart and core of the General Assembly was this idea that we can unite people, in spite of their many differences, for one sole purpose and that's to praise and worship our one true God. As I spoke with different people, I discovered very quickly just how truly different we all are. Never had I encountered so many believers who thought so differently than I did. I found myself really struggling in my heart and mind. It made me really ask myself, "Could I truly be united with others who didn't think like me? How could I expect acceptance and unity for my own personal beliefs yet neglect to even acknowledge the views and beliefs of others'?  

 I think Rev. Jose Morales said it perfectly the first night of Assembly, "Safe unity does not equal unity at all. True unity is service and sacrifice. True unity is done at foot level." 

True unity is done at foot level. But this level of unity is driven by a single force: love. A sacrificial love like Christ demonstrated. A love that serves others without any pretense. And that’s exaclty the kind of love I saw during those 5 days, a sacrificial love. I saw people serving together, serving each other, no matter their race, sex, or background. My favorite part of the whole assembly? Getting together to take part in communion while the worship team played a beautiful rendition of Israel Houghton's Alpha and Omega. And that's really what it's all about it isn't?  Jesus welcomed all to the table. He died for all. And His desire is that none would perish.  

I am a Bible study leader for high school and college aged girls and one of the youth coordinators at my church. My desire for the young people in my church is that they would learn to love and serve others with a sacrificial love. A love that knelt at the feet of others and placed their needs before even their own without a single question.

I am thankful to the region for allowing me to be a part of such a beautiful experience. It's an experience that both challenged me in my walk with Christ and rekindled a desire to love God and love people. My encouragement to other current and/or aspiring young leaders: be a part of the leadership at the regional level. Get involved and take advantage of these incredible opportunities that may come your way. Getting involved means bringing more unity to our churches. It allows us to impact those lives outside of our own congregations. But getting involved also means allowing God to grow you in ways you never even dreamed about. It’s a precious gift that I will carry with me and live out for the rest of my life. 

-Veronica Martinez
CdO Youth Coordinator

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

We're delighted to be hosting spiritual activists and writers Brian McLaren and Gareth Higgins for a unique event at the Hatchery. It's called The Seventh Story Experience: 27 Hours in a New World, and takes place ‪on Friday, October 13th in the evening, and all day and ‪evening on Saturday 14th. 

 

It's the first time we'll be doing this event together: an interactive immersion in the idea of how to change the story we're telling about the world and our lives, turning anxiety into hope, scarcity into abundance, and struggle into ease. It will be genuinely new, which means, of course, that it will dive deep into the past...

We want to fill the space so we're asking our friends in the area if they would be willing to come on board to support the event by spreading the word, and recruiting people to attend. I would love a group from your community to be there, and I'd like to ask if you'd be willing to enthusiastically promote it to the community.

More information and registration are available here: http://m.bpt.me/event/2991062

Please consider joining us, and please spread the word. At a time of political strife, cultural anxiety, and when so many of us are feeling disheartened, we believe this will be a significant and helpful event, that has the potential to change our minds and our lives for the better.

Hope to see you there,
Spencer Burke
Executive Director
HatcheryLA 

 

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

Although I’ve never desired to be a cop, even as a small child – I’ve always respected what a difficult job it is for those who are sworn to “serve and protect”.   In our culture, police are more scrutinized and more criticized than virtually any other group.  Of course, there have been multiple instances when police officers should be scrutinized and held accountable.  There have been instances of abuse of power and excessive force.  There are (and have been) wide-spread instances of profiling, racism, and corruption.  However, I believe that the overwhelming majority of our men and women in blue take on that difficult job because they want to be part of making the community in which we all live a better place.

Likewise, as a member of the clergy, I too have a desire to make our community a better place.  I too would like to utilize my training and skills to help people and to make a difference.  I also must admit that (despite the respect and trust that we desire) members of the clergy have also been guilty of some very unethical and ungodly practices – often inflicted on those we are called to shepherd and teach.  So, what am I to do with this information?  How can I help be part of the solution instead of just lamenting about the problem?

In my case, I decided that in addition to my duties as Senior Pastor of FCC-Las Vegas, that I would also serve as a volunteer chaplain with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.  Once I cleared the very extensive background checks and completed their training and orientation, I was assigned to serve the Convention Center Area Command – the city’s largest substation and the one that patrols the LV Strip.  It has been an eye-opening experience, to say the least.  The Department asks its chaplains to serve at least 20 hours per month.  Sometimes that includes time in the substation getting to know officers and civilian staff.  However, most of the time, it means that I’m riding along with a patrol officer, (equipped with my own ballistic vest and uniform – but not a weapon), and being a part of every call that they respond to during that shift. 

On my very first shift, what really struck me, and continues to make an impact – is that when an officer makes a traffic stop, he or she will place their right hand on the back of the car as they approach the driver.  The reason for that is that IF the driver were to open fire and mortally wound or kill the approaching officer, then at least that officer’s fingerprints would be on the car as evidence of that officer’s presence.

I’ve always heard that police officers place their lives on the line every single day.  But I’ve learned that statement isn’t clear enough.  Police officers place their lives on the line at every call, in-between calls, and on their off days.  In most cities, police officers are referred to as “the best of the best”.  So rather than complain about all that’s wrong with our police departments and society in general – aren’t we as Christians (and especially the clergy) called to do more?  I’m proud to do whatever I can, to serve those who are called to serve and protect my community.  I challenge you to find a way to serve your community (beyond the church) as well.

Steve Willis, Senior Pastor

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Las Vegas, Nevada 

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

By Revs. Don and Susan Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.”

John 17:20-21a

Susan and I, along with over 4,000 other Disciples from across the US and Canada and around the world, gathered together in Indianapolis for our General Assembly this July. It was an exciting time, filled with wonderful worship, fellowship, business sessions, learning opportunities and networking with colleagues and friends across the life of the whole church.

IMG_9100.jpg

We of course were very proud to have our own Tom Perring as First Vice Moderator of the General Assembly leading the worships for this amazing event. In addition, our youth and young adults helped with worship, business and other activities throughout the Assembly. Our PSWR pride shone brightly on the first night as the Rev. Jose Morales brought the opening message that challenged us to re-think our notions of unity: “The paradox and promise of the Gospel is that whereas false unity is safe yet deadly, true unity is dangerous yet life-giving.”

We also celebrated that the PSWR will continue to be represented in the biennial with the election of Belva Brown Jordan as Moderator-Elect and Eula Nicola Pagdilao for her election onto the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Board.

One of the very special moments of the Assembly was the farewell celebration for Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins who finished her 12 years as our General Minister and President. We were reminded of the historic significance of her election as the first woman to be named as head of a mainline denominational communion. In addition, we again were filled a deep sense of pride as we recalled that Dr. Watkins gave the address at President Barrack Obama’s inauguration.  We also witnessed all the amazing work that Dr. Watkins accomplished in her 12years as GMP and offered tearful goodbyes as she closed her time in this position.

Of course perhaps the most anticipated moment of the Assembly was around the election of our new General Minister and President the Rev. Teresa Hord Owens. With the announcement of the overwhelming affirmation of her election, the entire Assembly erupted in celebration as Disciples witnessed yet another historic moment in electing not only another woman to head our denomination but a woman of color! Rev. Owens will be the first person of color as an African American to hold the position as General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

With the Assemblies theme being “ONE” based on the scripture from John’s Gospel, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” John 17:20-21a, Rev. Owens delivered an inspiring message calling for all Disciples to again claim our calling to reflect this prayer of Jesus in all we do.

She said, “Our striving for unity is perhaps the most powerful way in which we bear witness that the love of God is real and present in the world. If we can hold one another in community, even in the presence of tensions that result from human differences of various dimensions of identity, socio-economic status, geography, theology and politics, we can be an example to the world to say that we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and his church are so important that we can work together despite those differences to ensure that God’s message of love is shared and lived out in the world.”

Certainly in today’s contentious climate both politically and religiously this message is needed perhaps more than ever. We seem to be bombarded daily with things aiming to divide us along every line and create hostility, distrust and suspicion of the “other.” Rev. Owens goes on to say, “This is not an easy vision, and it will take not just the best of what is in us, but it will also take the best of what God can do in and through us.”

As we look ahead our Regional Gathering on October 21, we will continue this vision with our theme, “FAITHFUL IN THE TENSION.”  We are pleased and excited to have the Rev. April Lewton as our keynote speaker and look forward to the inspiring and challenging word she will bring for us here in the PSWR.

I close with these words from our new General Minister and President, “I pray that together we can provide the world with an example of the radical love and hospitality of God that will allow us to be witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this time. May they look at our fellowship, with all its diversity, with all its struggles, and marvel at God’s goodness and love.”

Together on the journey,    

Don and Susan
Your Regional Ministers

 

Read more about General Assembly highlights here

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

by Paul Turner

Greetings in Jesus Name!

Thank you for your prayers and response to Global Ministries’ call to establish a critical presence in DR Congo. Your financial contributions made it possible to make it to the half-way point of a four-year assignment with the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo (CDCC). In fact, thanks to your commitment, and other contributors who share a passion for mission, the goal to raise enough support for the entire four years has now been met.  To God be the Glory!

This July marks two years since I arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to advise and consult with the CDCC in its community and economic development efforts. The Disciples churches in DR Congo are doing a tremendous work to meet the needs of people and communities impacted by years of conflict, poverty and neglect. Inspired by the church, the people have a mind to work, not only to restore and transform lives, but whole communities as well.

It has truly been an awe-inspiring journey. The joy of seeing faces light up with surprise when they learn that someone from the United States has been sent to live among them never gets old. Indeed, the most important lesson I’ve learned so far is the power of presence in mission partnerships. The sense of shared purpose provides dignity, encouragement and motivation for all involved, and demonstrates the true essence of Koinonia.

Consider all that’s been done in just two years:

o   Secured new funding and partnerships to support clean drinking water resources

o   Profiled successful climate adaptation efforts by local communities

o   Equipped congregations with the knowledge to create community impactful seed projects

o   Accompanied delegations to six posts to support local training

o   Created the Office of Development at CDCC to share best practices and improve reporting

o   Expanded access to markets for goods and services produced by women in micro-credit groups

o   Visited churches, hospitals, homes, schools, universities and seminaries

o   Attended funerals, weddings, baby dedications, ordinations, and baptisms

As a member of the Arc en Ciel Chorale at Nouvelle Cite Parish Disciples of Christ, I have ministered in song at many church events in Mbandaka.  This has been a rewarding ministry because we are more than just a chorale…we are a benevolent organization, a prayer ministry and a support group.

The stage is being set for 2018 to include a new urban development agenda for Disciple churches in the capital city of Kinshasa. There is no doubt that the next two years will be an exciting time as we await the possibility of democratic elections, new Disciples posts and expanding activities for the CDCC development office . 

Again, thank you for your partnership and prayers for CDCC.

Yours in Christ,
Paul H. Turner

Paul Turner is a member of Abundant Life Christian Church of Los Angeles and currently serves as the Global Ministries Missionary with the Community of Disciples of Christ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Paul is a Project Consultant on various community development projects designed to increase the quality of life for communities served by Disciples of Christ churches.

Posted
AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt