On March 24 the southern cluster met with the Mission Center leadership team for the first “Coffee Talk.” While I cannot vouch for the quality of the coffee, the conversations were excellent! About 25 people from Beloit-Janesville, Madison, Milwaukee-Wauwatosa, and Rockford met with Karen Hill, Alison Woods, Paige Warner, Gary Elrod, and Connie Lane-Lindeen at Beloit, where the congregation did a wonderful job of hosting. It has been several years since we’ve had a cluster gathering and it was so good to be together and to catch up on what has been going on in our congregations as well as having the opportunity to share the journey and worship together. Unfortunately, weather concerns kept Lancaster and Soldiers Grove from joining us.
Thad Corless, representing Madison, shared the discerning process their congregation has gone through to determine the focus of their mission. As a congregation they brainstormed ideas which were then grouped according to theme. After much dialogue, small group meetings, and intentionally participating in spiritual practices including prayer beads and journaling, they felt led to focus on wholeness of mind, body, and spirit. They are continuing to discover what this will look like in Madison and how they can involve the community.
Brian Fuller, who was recently baptized as a member in the Milwaukee-Wauwatosa congregation, shared his faith journey with us. Brian grew up LDS but ultimately left the LDS church and after exploring several different faith communities, and even considering himself atheist for a time, found his spiritual home in Community of Christ. Justice cannot be done to what Brian shared, but you can find his complete interview on the Project Zion Podcast, Episode 107. Vern Erickson also shared another perspective from the Milwaukee-Wauwatosa congregation.
Rockford is beginning the process of becoming a “welcoming and affirming congregation.” Diane Taller shared her experience with her former congregation when she found out her daughter was gay, as well as the experiences of her daughter-in-law, to illustrate why she feels this a journey that Rockford should take. Kylei Davenport then explained some of the process the congregation will be involved in, which will include classes and lots and lots of dialogue. Whenever possible, the training sessions will be open to anyone who would like to participate.
Congregations were also given the opportunity to share their joys and concerns and how they are reaching out in mission. The blessings we are experiencing are too numerous to list here (and I didn’t know I should have been taking notes) but suffice it to say, the Holy Spirit is alive and well in our congregations and moving us forward in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately (how often do you hear that at a meeting?), the sharing was cut short in order to eat a quick dinner before making our way to Janesville for the movie, “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” It was an afternoon well-spent, and when “Coffee Talks” come to your area, I’d encourage you to attend. Brian Fuller summarized the day in a Facebook post:
“Attended a Community of Christ Mission Center gathering today with Brandon in Beloit! The theme was "For Everyone Born a Place at the Table." Each congregation in the southern Wisconsin, and northern Illinois and Minnesota areas spoke about what they are doing to affirm the worth of every person. I was so inspired by what I heard the congregations in this area are doing to embrace marginalized LGBT youth and adults.
There Brandon and I were, in a room with ages 25-80+, with basically everyone engaged in brainstorming what it means to be a "welcoming and safe" spiritual community.
Community of Christ is a small, strange church, but we have some of the most earnest and sincere people I've ever met.
I'm grateful to be part of a church that is so focused on learning what it means to show love to the world."
Do you have more questions about what was shared at the Coffee Talk? Diane Taller (Rockford pastor) is a great place to start!