Community of Christ
I’ve long been fascinated by the little stone church on Coleman Drive just behind Rancho San Rafael. It always stuck out to me like a daffodil in snow. The blue sign never offered much information, basically just service times, which added to the air of mystery. Of course, like most churches, if you’re attending, most people probably already know what it’s about. I was in the neighborhood on Sunday morning, so I saw my opportunity to check it out.
I pulled into the lot the same moment as a guy named Lonnie. He greeted me. He said it was a Christian church headquartered in Independence, Mo. I looked it up when I got home. The Wikipedia entry said, “The Community of Christ, known from 1872 to 2001 as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is an American-based international Christian church established in April 1830 that claims as its mission ‘to proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.’”
The sanctuary is like a large living room. There’s wood paneling on the walls, a rough, weathered-looking cross upon which rested a crown of thorns and a strip of purple cloth. There were about three dozen comfortable blue chairs on the white carpet. Not a lot of wallhangings—the Last Supper on one wall, and a few images and certificates near the upright piano. The 11-member congregation averaged middle aged and older, although there were two children. In the corner that served as a chancel, there was a podium and two ornate chairs.
There was a huge family vibe at this service, and at the greeting, I was hugged by as many people as just shook my hand. The service began with good news announcements in which people talked about ordering garden seeds and their friends who survived cancer surgery. The music and singing reminded me of an old-timey radio gospel hour with a woman banging away on the upright, as the congregation sang along. Some could even read music, which left me a little behind the curve. I think there were three songs total.
The most unusual part of the service was the lighting of the peace candle by Pastor Terry McGuire. The church prays for a different country every day, and on Sunday, Feb. 27, they were praying for Georgia. Pastor McGuire gave a short talk about the country of Georgia, telling some of its history and characteristics.
Gary Johnson offered the message that day. The theme was “Seek first The Kingdom,” and Johnson gave a multimedia presentation that began with a video of the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” by Bobby McFerrin. I didn’t get the connection to the theme until I heard the reading, Matthew 6:26-28, 33, which includes the verse, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”
Johnson gave a friendly, conversational sermon that was part informational, with a quiz about the 10 Commandments, part inspirational, with commentary about modern life, and part humorous, with an anecdote from Peanuts and a couple of jokes.
“How can you seek first The Kingdom, if you are stressed, distracted,” he asked. “We miss the opportunities that God puts in front of us to bring ministry to others. … The good news is, if you put your trust in God, God will take care of you.”
He ended the sermon with another video, “Don’t Worry, Playing For Change: Song Around the World.”
The service wrapped up with the congregation again taking up the musical reins with “Make Us, O God, A Church.” I was totally struck by how much this group of people reminded me of people I’ve known back in the Midwest. These could easily have been members of my family, and they made me more than comfortable during my visit there. I think people in Reno who want to belong to a small family could do worse than to check out the Community of Christ church.