Monday, October 2, 2017

SPEC by Brittany Mangelson

I delight in any opportunity to get out of my congregation and meet the larger body of Community of Christ. So, when I was asked to attend Spectacular in 2017, I jumped at the chance! Originally my husband and I were asked to be SPEC Today facilitators, but we couldn’t juggle both of us going, so I went and helped with a class, participated in a Q&A and spoke during the Communion service.
Because of childcare, I arrived a few days late when the activities of the week were in full swing. I was hesitant and nervous, feeling like the new kid on campus in more ways than one. A friendly face picked me up from the airport and I was reminded for the millionth time that Community of Christ is my home and my community. Being at Graceland was exciting. I’ve heard countless stories of love and faith found on those grounds. So much history has happened in those dorms without air-conditioning and with those ice cream cones dripping on the sidewalks in the Iowa humidity. I was finally getting to experience it for myself!! Thankfully, I too found faith, love and ice cream at SPEC.
Because I attended as SPEC staff and not delegation staff, I was able to take a bird’s eye view of the week and spend my time getting to know campers and leaders from all over the place. It was wonderful, but a little overwhelming for a new convert to the church like myself. Sometimes, I let the smallness of our church get to me. I wonder if our message is really something that will stick with younger generations. I wonder what my place in Christ’s mission really is. However, that week I was able to let go of all my questions, take a step back and be overwhelmed by the love and potential of this community. As I walked the sidewalk between Walker Hall, the Shaw Center and the football field, I kept thinking of my own three kids and what kind of church they will have in 10-20 years. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for those who have come before me and of those who are paving the way for them. During SPEC, I was able to see the Enduring Principles and Mission Initiatives being lived out among teenagers as they planned and put on daily worship services (sometimes two in a day!) As they worked together to put on an entire play in a week, participated in group activities, and asked hard questions about the relationship between politics and faith. These kids WANT Community of Christ’s identity to be their own. They want to lead. They want to participate. They want an active place at the table.
Coming from Salt Lake, I’ve been lucky to see the church in an area that is growing and thriving. Still, the energy and life at SPEC was unlike anything I could have imagined. The depth of understanding, faith, and leadership potential of the campers fired me up for the future of our church. In the Q&A I participated in with President Veazey, the campers asked questions about our unique identity, our history, why I find my home in Community of Christ, the process of receiving revelation, how they can get involved on a local and global level, and how they can take the spirit of SPEC back into their congregations. I was struck at how deeply they loved what we stand for, but were hesitant to know how they can live those things out in their local congregations. Over and over again I told them things like, “If you have a ministry you want to start, start it! Get a class on the Enduring Principles going. Start a Wednesday night service and sing your way through the hymnal. Contact local shelters or after school programs and see how your congregation can help. Just DIVE in!” It is one of my deepest hopes that they do just that.
I don’t want to downplay the troubled times we are finding ourselves in as a church, but I also don’t want to let the bright, beaming hope of the future go unnoticed. If you have youth in your congregation, use them in every way you possibly can. If you don’t have youth in your congregation, get to know the ones in your neighborhood and invite them to activities. We can do this! The message of Community of Christ is more relevant today than ever before. I saw that as I shared Communion with 1,000 on the lawn of Graceland. I heard that in the songs, the prayers, and the conversations that were happening all around me. The talent we have budding up in our youth is breathtaking. I even joked with the campers who were in the worship class that they should come to Salt Lake and teach the adults in my congregation how to plan a worship service. Except I wasn’t really joking!
As I was waiting to catch my flight home, I opened my kindle and highlighted before me was this verse from Doctrine and Covenants 162,
“Again you are reminded that this community was divinely called into being. The spirit of the Restoration is not locked in one moment of time, but is instead the call to every generation to witness to essential truths in its own language and form. Let the Spirit breathe.”
This sums up my experience with Spectacular. Community of Christ was divinely called into being and that divine call isn’t over. I think there’s something particularly special about the physical old, old path being in Lamoni where SPEC takes place. As disciples, we take that path into wholeness with ourselves, God, and community and then go out into the world in mission. We must seek out and open the doors for those disciples, young and old, who want to witness essential truths in their own language and form. We have something special to share with the world, and as I told the campers, it’s time to DIVE IN!