"The Cotton Patch Gospel" is performed.
(Right) Daniel Gregory (l.), 2008 Peace Colloquy intern, and
Jonathan Hetherington (r.) introduce Koinonia to colloquy
(Below) Stephen Veazey (r.) presents the Community of Christ
International Peace Award to Bren Dubay and Norris Harris on behalf
of signal community Koinonia.
Hope of Zion: Reflections on the 2008 Peace Colloquy
How blessed the day when the lamb and the lion shall lie down together in
peace with a child. With one heart and mind may the Lord call us “Zion”; A
people of justice, by God’s love inspired!”
It was with the singing of this third verse of the much-beloved “The Spirit
of God Like a Fire Is Burning” that I began to cry. I am not one who is
normally given over to tears, but in this sacred moment, as almost 600
voices echoed the promise and vision of Zion through the chamber of the
Auditorium, I could not hold the tears back. I have sung this hymn, the
unofficial anthem of the Community of Christ, hundreds of times in radically
diverse settings. Every time I lift my voice in praise, I am exhilarated by
the power and presence of the Spirit that I sense in the combination of text
and tune. But for some reason, this time was different. That morning, the
full weight of our heritage and our promise as a denomination washed over me
and compelled me to sing through the choked-back tears of our quest for
peace. The Spirit was calling.
The theme for the 2008 Peace Colloquy was “Signal Communities: Hope of
Zion.” The colloquy, celebrating its 15th year, was an annual gathering at
Community of Christ headquarters where hundreds of people from a variety of
faith backgrounds converged to learn and dialogue about different aspects of
peace. Though each year has been exceptional, co-director Andrew Bolton
frequently said that “this was the theme I have wanted to do since the
With a focus on embodying the call from Doctrine and Covenants 163 to be
about “establishing signal communities of justice and peace that reflect the
vision of Christ,” participants attended workshops, keynote addresses, and
small group sessions where they reflected on the principles of a signal
community and practical ways to make theory reality. Through our fellowship
and learning, prayer, worship, and interaction, more than 690 people from
around the world experienced a signal community.
This is exciting to young adults in the Community of Christ. Ciemantha
Stubblefield, of Independence, Missouri, said, “The Peace Colloquy for me is
a testament to how committed we are as a church to being an example of
peace. We don’t just have peace as a phrase in our mission, but we dedicate
time and effort to finding tangible ways to create an example of peace in
the world. In the class on hospitality in the islands of French Polynesia, I
was inspired to see the shining example that our brothers and sisters give.
Hospitality, a road to peace, is like second nature to them and I hope that
I can follow in their footsteps.”
Teresa Brown, of Pigeon, Michigan, said, “The Peace Colloquy was a powerful
example of a diverse, global community coming together to encourage our
brothers and sisters to be signals of peace and justice in our congregations
and neighborhoods at home and abroad.”
I was blessed to see this example being lived out in various ways throughout
the weekend. From the tireless energies of Facility Services, translators,
and bookstore staff to the jovial reunion of young adults at Sheridan’s
Frozen Custard, there was a stirring in the community, an expectation that
God was at work in that place.
We listened breathlessly as members of Koinonia, the recipients of the 2008
Community of Christ International Peace Award, spoke of their journey
through abundance and hardship in community, clinging always to hope in the
vision of Christ.
Our hearts were challenged and inspired as President Steve Veazey called us
to be “the kind of community where Jesus would feel at home, because the
outcast is invited, the stranger is welcomed, the wounded are comforted, and
people are interconnected through compassionate and sacrificial love.” And I
cried as the “idealistic dream” of Zion became glimpsed reality as a people
who have toiled long experienced the abiding peace of Jesus Christ at the
Communion table and then committed themselves, through the words of a hymn,
to be a beacon of hope to a broken world.
Being a signal community does not mean being perfect. In fact, the colloquy
was far from it. We realized that some of our lingo and directions were
insular. There were moments of tension. Sometimes the clarity of the message
was lost to generalities. Throughout the weekend, though, a sense of
respect, mutual support, and common purpose prevailed, giving us a concrete
example of how a signal community can embrace its struggles and turn them
During his Communion message, President Veazey said, “I am fully convinced
the world desperately needs expressions of genuine community that are
examples of living in creation as God intends. By their very nature, such
communities are distinct because they are not the norm.” The idea of
standing out, being a rebel, staking a claim in something radically
different from the surrounding culture, is daunting and even a bit scary to
most of us. Yet it is where Jesus has called us.
As I travel and share with young adults, I hear over and over again the
desire to be genuine, to not fall prey to the trap of half attempts and easy
excuses. As the Community of Christ endeavors to live out our witness of
peace found in and through Jesus Christ, I cannot help but think of a more
radical call or invitation to a generation longing to get real than to
become a disciple. This invitation includes the call to be an example of
God’s love in the world and to work toward the establishment of God’s reign
on earth, even Zion.
At the Peace Colloquy, I felt empowered in my witness of Zion, the place
where we may be of one voice and mind, inspired by God’s love. I also found
myself asking what we all should ask: “What kind of signal am I sending?”
The congregations, ministries, and members of the Community of Christ are to
be a “city on a hill” whose witness of God’s love and peace is lived out in
the places where we find ourselves.
I personally invite you to attend a future Peace Colloquy to help expand our
understanding of peace in the world. Let us continue to sing of our
dedication and hope. The prophetic Spirit has called. How will you become a
signal community, the hope of Zion?
—Daniel Gregory, 2008 Peace Colloquy intern, reporting