This past Weekend I attended the Community of Christ World Conference in Independence Missouri. Getting off the plane in Kansas City, I was both excited and apprehensive because I did not know what to expect at the Conference. Luckily we met up with some other conference attendees at the airport and so were able to catch a ride with them over to Kansas City. While in Kansas City we visited a couple of places and monuments including the National WWI memorial and museum. The memorial provided us with a surprising starting point on this weekend conference trip.
Kansas City from the WWI Memorial
When we entered the museum we walked over a glass bottomed bridge that overlooked an artificial meadow of poppy flowers. Each flower represented 1,000 lives that were lost during that devastating and tragic war. While still at the museum we had the opportunity to speak with a tour guide who found out that we were heading to a religious conference. This prompted him to talk about how religion was used on both sides to justify the sending of many men to this war. It reminded me of today and how religion is still used to justify violence against those considered the enemy or the other. As I look back now while writing this I am struck with how poignant both the museum and the man's statements were as I embarked to a conference focused around peace and unity in Christ.
WWI Memorial Kansas City, MO
After checking into the apartment that we were staying at, we took our first Uber ride from south Kansas City over to Independence where we were dropped off at the Community of Christ Auditorium. The Auditorium is kind of like the conference center for the Utah Mormons. It is a place where most of the legislative sessions, large meetings, and worship services take place. Fun fact Harry Truman announced the United States signing of the United Nations Treaty at the Auditorium in 1945. To commemorate the signing 50 years later a fountain was erected close to the Auditorium.
Community of Christ Auditorium Independence, MO
The first conference event started off with the Eagle Staff Ceremony on Friday afternoon where the non-geographical First Nations congregation sang and chanted. An Eagle Staff was placed next to the stage as a way to honor the native peoples of the United States during the conference. It was a very nice gesture of recognition for those Native to the land the conference was being held on. It felt very appropriate and very sensitive to the history of the area.
After the ceremony I walked around the Community of Christ Temple. For those who may not know about the purpose of the Temple in Community of Christ theology, here is a quick explanation. The use of the temple is modeled after the Kirtland Temple. The temple is a place where special meetings and the temple school are held. A daily prayer for peace is given in the temple as well. There are no private ceremonies or ordinances performed there except for communion, priesthood ordination, and administration to the sick. The temple itself is dedicated to the pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit. Everyone is welcome to enter into the temple and the sanctuary, I am not a member of Community of Christ and was able to enter.
Before I entered the sanctuary I was greeted by an etched glass depiction of the sacred grove. The place where Joseph Smith prayed for God's divine guidance. As I entered the main entrance I encountered artwork with deep spiritual meanings. The lights were dim as I placed my first step past the doors and onto the worshiper’s path. Step by step I encountered prompts and artwork that challenged me to mediate on the symbolism that was presented. This was my first time in the Temple and I didn’t know what to expect. But as I slowly walked, I kept my mind open, meditating on the words and the imagery that I was being presented. Almost imperceptibly the path grew brighter until it opened up into the main sanctuary. The sanctuary is designed like a Nautilus shell which drew my gaze upward as if I was looking towards heaven. At the edges of the spiraling ceiling, windows allowed for natural light to completely illuminate the room as if it were glowing. An organ and stage were at the front of the room with pews facing toward the stage. The space was very peaceful and provided a wonderful place for mediation and prayer. During a service there that same day. I was able to sing hymns with other conference attendees and as I sang I felt the divine pervade my heart as our songs seemed to reach toward heaven from that sacred and beautiful place.
Temple Sanctuary Ceiling
My first day at World Conference was significant and moving to me as I observed attendees from all around the world meeting together, singing, and greeting one another. I didn't know it at the time but over the next few days I would truly gain a deeper understanding of the profound mission of the Community of Christ church. I will be writing about my impressions about this meaning and the significance I feel it has in my next post. Thanks for reading.