“CHRIST IN YOU, CHRIST IN THE WORLD”
By Martha Kelder
I recently attended the annual North American Christian Community Delegates Conference from November 5th – 7th in Toronto as the delegate from North Carolina. This event took place in the Christian Community Church which is very near the Toronto Waldorf School. Like New York City, the Toronto community is one of the oldest in North America, its roots beginning in the 1950’s. Rev. Jonah Evans is its 37- year old priest who has just been there for two years and already has brought much new life to their previously struggling community. He asked me especially to send greetings to the people in our congregation while honoring the special enthusiasm for the Christian Community that lives among us. Almost forty people attended the conference, with the majority coming from Toronto, Montreal and California. The 14 main congregations were represented along with two affiliates, North Carolina and Montreal.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Christ in You, Christ in the World”. The organizers wrote a beautiful invitation to draw participants to the conference:
“The foundation and center of our individual life and togetherness is the living Christ. It is toward Him that we strive.
It is in Him that our hearts unite. It is through His presence that we are nourished. The challenge of our time, however,is to find him not only in our hearts but in others and in the world.
It is of utmost importance for the world that human hearts experience the Christ!
As we look inward, it is also vital that we also look outward. One could even say that the most important task of the striving Christian today is to see how the effects of the living Christ work in the world and in our evolution.
How and where do we see Christ in the world? Is He only in us and behind the altar? What about in larger community life, politics and current events? Can we see traces of His being everywhere around us?
It is of utmost importance for human souls that Christ is recognized in the World!
This journey, the work of consciously coming to know for ourselves how Christ’s healing presence works in our hearts,how His power comes alive in communities, how to become co-workers with His healing work on earth, this is the core mission of life. Enlivening and deepening this mission is the theme of our conference.”
During this three day conference, there were three talks, many large and small group discussions, along with singing, painting and Eurythmy. Rev. Jonah Evans spoke the first evening about “Christ in You, Sensing the Archetype “. He shared that even though an archetype is never achievable, if I can imagine it internally, then it makes it possible for me to recognize it in the world. He drew a large tree on the board to describe the archetype of Christ being drawn down into the roots and branches of the world. He asked us, “How can we have a living rootedness as well as be affirming, open and loving to all? He also mentioned that, at the Christmas conference, Rudolf Steiner had spoken about the need for having the greatest degree of openness combined with the deepest possible esotericism. He spoke about the importance of responding to the needs of the world, by developing the ability to see and recognize the spirit of Christ at work in the other. He mentioned a couple of examples of perceiving the working of Christ in the world; in the story of Jonah, there is a profound transformation that Jonah goes through inside the whale, by being willing to give up his own will for the sake of another, thus he can be better able to serve the higher will. We can also see the power of Christ at work in the inner transformative journey of the Prodigal son as well in the profound insights that we are all capable of which change our lives.
The second talk was given by Robert Massoud, from the Toronto community, who spoke very poignantly about his personal journey, having been born in Lebanon and finding the Christian Community in Canada. He is selling olive oil from Lebanon as a peace offering to the world. Olive oil, he said, has been instrumental in the spread of Christianity throughout the world. He was very direct in stating that the Christian Community does the “Christ in You” very well. But his question to us was, “How can the Christian Community do the ‘Christ in the World’ better? The Christian Community is excellent at offering the vertical experience of a meditative connection with Christ at the altar, but the horizontal gesture of reaching out to others in the world is, by far, not developed enough. There are certain stages in developing a social awareness. Egotism generally comes before Ego consciousness. Because we are stronger individuals now, it can be more difficult to achieve a sense of community, in marriages also. In a following discussion, we realized that, by virtue of the fact that the Christian Community is such a fine vessel for our own inner development, it actually works on as a potent force to benefit society and the world naturally. We can bring the “Peace” that we receive at the altar out into the world.
We then moved into, perhaps the most significant aspect of the conference, which was to examine ways to inspire our congregations to develop the skills to respond to the needs of their community as well as to the world at large. If we listen to our own social ideals as well our passions in responding to the suffering in the world, and gather together to identify commonly shared social interests among us, we can join our forces together and initiate a project (s) in our community that could address and meet profound needs right here in front of us! We discovered a practical formula that was truly inspiring! When individuals with a passion for social change join with individuals with special talents, capabilities and skills, we can accomplish so much in our community and in the world!
Our task is finding the impulses in our members, our unique concerns about the world, along with individuals with special practical skills that we can then begin to shape as an outreach program to help others. Rev. Michael Brewer spoke about another successful way to start initiatives; when an individual says, “I want to do…… and could you help me do it? A beautiful model for this is the highly successful Prison Outreach Project, which was started by just one person and has now spread to over 700 prisons in North America, bringing Anthroposophical books and ideas to inmates. Any of this creativity can awaken Christ in us and in the world! These initiatives could be described as Sacred Ventures or Sacred Intention. Even small initiatives can become great! One can behold the spirit of Christ at work in these activities!
In addition, the following ideas were suggested to help a congregation get started with this process:
1) Start a monthly prayer group ( “PrayerCare” is my word for it ) to attend to the immediate needs of its members
2) Plan for a major retreat for the members of the Carrying Group and/or the whole congregation to galvanize support to focus on envisioning the future of the church.
3) Initiate gatherings to learn about the history of the Christian Community, the Sacraments and their place and meaning in our lives.
4) Educate and inspire our members and friends about the possibility of giving a legacy to the church in the future. This has proved to be a tremendous help to our movement in the past.
Rev. Oliver Steinreuck then spoke on the theme “How is the movement working to meet Christ in the world?” He shared some profound information about the consequences that arose out of the way the founding of the Christian Community occurred. There were three Lutheran ministers who were around Steiner at the beginning, Friedrich Rittelmeyer, Emil Boch and Johannes Geyer. The first two were especially aligned with Esoteric Christianity and Anthroposophy, whereas Johannes Geyer was an extremely popular minister with his congregation, very sociable and easy to speak with. However, he ultimately could not commit to becoming a priest and therefore was not present at the founding of the church. This was a deep disappointment to Rudolf Steiner. He had envisioned a religious movement that would have a great appeal to a broad spectrum of the population that would eventually draw people into the Anthroposophical Society as well. The missing “social” element that Geyer would have brought, will have to be very consciously developed in our congregations into the future. Developing the horizontal gesture means bringing warmth and love for everyone around us by taking an interest in their lives. Christ is found in the vertical as well as the horizontal. Both together are vehicles for Christ’s spirit to incarnate into the world.
During his talk, Rev. Steinrueck told us of the passing of Rev. Robert Patterson on October 26. Robert had been a Lenker in the church for decades. He also announced that the next delegates’ meeting will be held in Chicago, November 3rd, 4th and 5th, 2016.