Celebrating in Changing Circumstances Sword of the spirit NEWSLETTER - April 2020

In this issue of the newsletter we'll be highlighting a few communities as they move forward in their Sword of the Spirit membership and an update on the Year of Jubilee.

50 Years in Covenant Community

A message from Dave Hughes

As many of you are aware, we had a plan for the coming year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of God’s gift of covenant community. Our intention was to take a year of jubilee (the 50th year celebration from the scriptures) and focus on the theme of “rest, restore, renew”. We had a nice logo (above), speakers lined up, venues reserved. We were planning to kick things off in May at the International Coordinator’s Meeting (ICM) and roll things out in all our communities over the following year. It was a beautiful plan…but as the old saying goes “man plans and God laughs”. As I write today, the future is unclear on almost every front. When will be able to gather together again? When can I greet my brothers and sisters with a hug as opposed to connecting via video conferencing? What will be the future of our jobs, our children’s education, our outreaches?

This past week I heard a very encouraging online sharing from Joanne Beckman, one of the senior women leaders in the Word of Life community, reflecting on the famous passage from Jeremiah 29: “I know the plans I have for you”. Joanne helpfully broke the passage down into sections—God knows exactly what is going on, he has a clear plan and it’s a plan for our good. Indeed, this is a season for God to bring us to a new place: to separate us from the idols that relentlessly creep into our hearts; to purify our love for him and our brothers and sisters; to lead us to the deeper well that he has for each one of us. May our jealous God bring all these works to a beautiful conclusion!

Back to our beautiful plan, we are still discussing what to do. Will we reschedule and push things back a year or is the Lord leading us to a different way forward? For now, please pray for us as we seek the Lord on his will. We’ll let you know as soon as things are clear.

Two other thoughts before closing:

First, let me encourage all of us to be mindful of those around us who are especially troubled by these times we find ourselves in or who are especially suffering from isolation. This is a time for us to be creative in finding ways to reach out to neighbors and friends who live alone or are subject to anxiety. Small things matter and simple contacts are still possible. For example, my wife Jane is sending out a flurry of notes, letters, and phone calls. Let’s all think about what we can do.

Second, I believe this season of trial and isolation will open many doors for the Gospel in the days to come. I believe God is stripping the veil from our eyes—the veil of a misplaced trust in modernity, wealth, and technology. He does this in his mercy to prepare many hearts for good news. Please join me in praying for an awakening, a revival, a renewal of the Gospel around the world.

May God bless all of you in these days!

A Lighthouse Amid Breweries

Light of Christ in Grand Rapids, MI is an Affiliate community in the Sword of the Spirit.

by Kyle and Lucy VanderWoude

Although Grand Rapids, MI has had an ecumenical community for a number of years, the Lord has moved in and grown the Light of Christ community in recent years, and not just by multiplying breweries in the city. God has continued to add young people and families, and relationships have continued to flourish. In particular the community saw growth at the beginning of this year: sitting across from a pristine lake in Southwest Michigan, the Light of Christ partook in a weekend retreat. It was uncommon because it involved men and women, young and old. The retreat focused on the foundations of the Sword of the Spirit, the call as an ecumenical community, and the individual calls the Lord had placed in each person and family’s life. Speakers were brought in from multiple communities to a community that from the start has been built by those gathered from other places. This mesh of traditions included those unfamiliar with covenant community and those seeking to grow deeper in Christian community without fully understanding the history and call of the Sword of the Spirit.

This history and particular call is something many members of Light of Christ are understanding for the first time, while also experiencing it through those around them. This is part of what makes Light of Christ unique from other communities. It is starting off on a journey that many communities started a generation ago. Questions at the start of this retreat included: How does this community build the kingdom here in Grand Rapids? How does this community fit into the Sword of the Spirit internationally? How do we build our community to be stronger in the Lord? These are the big questions facing this young community.

From the 2019 Soccer Tournament hosted by Light of Christ

For many the questions were just beginning with this retreat. But one thing was certain: the Lord was present and the Lord moved in individuals and in the community. He spoke in power to many individuals regarding their own lives. He spoke to many asking them to commit more fully to the call he had placed on their lives. For ourselves, despite the unknown with our jobs and our schooling, we felt the Lord call us to lay down roots and to be unafraid in moving forward and building our lives here, despite a lack of job opportunities and our family being far away. This clear message was heard not just by ourselves, but by many on the retreat around us.

To encourage building a common life together we have set aside one night of the week with other young professionals to strengthen friendship and to build new relationships within the community. This night of fellowship combines our love of food, drinks, and friends and allows us to serve the community while serving those around us. It has brought new people in and begun new relationships in the Light of Christ. This is just one way the Lord has continued to build us up.

Looking forward the Light of Christ Community will seek to serve Grand Rapids, to be a light throughout the city and throughout West Michigan. We will continue to delve into what the Lord has for us in regards to mission, both outside of the community and within. We will seek the Lord’s will in regard to our place amongst the Sword of the Spirit while looking for ways to support and upbuild each individual as they draw closer to the Lord. Discipleship is a long journey, but the Light of Christ has started along this road. With breweries a plenty and with the Lord at the helm, we look forward to entering into the Sword of the Spirit and welcoming many of you into our little community in the Midwest.

The Community Formation Process

The process for a community joining the Sword of the Spirit is very similar to a person joining a specific community: there's a progression of participating in the life of the community as well as receiving formation. A community joining the Sword of the Spirit is much like a family establishing a home.

Affiliate: People are coming together as a family to live a way of life that will bring them, individually and corporately, closer to Christ. At this point people are joining together in many of the elements of our communities' way of life.

Underway A: The next stage is building a stable, long-term home within which the family can flourish. The individual community receives formation with the help of members from other communities. They are establishing the foundations of their way of life, foundations that are common among all Sword of the Spirit communities.

Underway B: The home takes its final shape as the formation process ends. The community has built upon its foundation and added all the elements of a Sword of the Spirit community. It remains at this stage for a little while to make sure everything is standing firm.

Full-Member: The home stands alongside other homes to form a village. The community is established as a full-member community in the Sword of the Spirit. It will live out our common way of life and be a bulwark for people to live as disciples on mission.

Two Communities Move to Underway B

Family of Faith (NJ) and Triumph of the Cross (MD) are the two latest communities to move to Underway B status. To move from Underway A to B, a team of members from various Sword of the Spirit communities is assembled to review how the local community is doing in living our common way of life. Read below what the team leaders had to say about each community.

"TCC is a very joyful, warm, and Spirit-filled community. It's marvelous to see their growth and maturity.

It was encouraging to see the community's solid unity expressed through healthy diversities of age, race, and ecumenical expression. That's like a small window into the unity/diversity seen in Revelation: 'a multitude from every nation, from all tribes and people and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.' (Rev 7:9).

Our visitation team greatly enjoyed being with our brothers and sisters in Maryland!"

-Br. Rahl Bunsa

"The Family of Faith has something working really right in the area of the extended family. Their intergenerational relationships are very strong. Many children identify the community as 'my community' not 'my parent’s community' because of how well they are integrated. Similarly, they have a remarkable integration of their 'Single Bells,' single women who are so highly respected that the young girls cite them as what they want to be like when they grow up.

Also remarkable is how they have managed to overcome the craziness of life on the East Coast with up to four-hour work commutes and exorbitant prices, but as one of their members said, 'Our love for each other is greater than the distance between us.'”

-Mike Shaughnessy

We're All In: The Brotherhood of Hope Becomes a Full-Member Community

by The Brotherhood of Hope

This year the Brotherhood of Hope enters into full membership in the Sword of the Spirit. We are deeply grateful to God for his faithfulness! We’re also grateful to the men and women leaders in the SOS for their wisdom, guidance, and solidarity.

Our decade of discerning this step has been both organic and encouraging. That’s largely because our life emerged from this vibrant lay movement—especially through the Servants of the Word and the People of Hope. As we later developed as “religious-in-formation” with canonical approval, we still retained our foundational expressions, like charismatic spirituality, character training, relational evangelism, and a heart for ecumenism.

We’ve experienced numerous blessings during our reintegration process—too many to count! Here are some encouraging ones as we help “build the bulwark”.

  • We started a new community in Tallahassee, called the Fountain of Life, which has grown to nearly 50 adults and 45 children. Two Brothers serve on their leadership team.
  • Our Brothers in Minnesota and New Jersey gladly participate in the gatherings, retreats, and life of the Community of Christ the Redeemer and the People of Hope.
  • Eighteen Brothers are involved with Kairos work. Most serve at five universities, where we oversee Catholic campus ministry. We also make various ecumenical connections on campus.
  • Our alliance with SPO has deepened and borne much fruit. Two Brothers work for SPO (one is a program developer, the other a regional director), and our founder is SPO’s national chaplain.
  • Three Brothers are SOS coordinators: one is a local coordinator, one is a missionary coordinator, and one is a regional missionary coordinator.
  • Our Brothers also have been serving in other ways: on visitation teams, on the community building executive team, on the international teaching team, on the Regional Council, on the region’s ecumenical commission, and as retreat or conference speakers. We’re also soon to release some worship/ scriptural songs that we’ve written, hoping that they inspire many members of the SOS.
The Brothers over the years

Finally, this year marks our Brotherhood’s 40th anniversary. What a marvelous way to celebrate this—by signing the covenant and expressing to all our brothers and sisters in the SOS: We’re all in!


We'd love to hear your feedback on the newsletter! Please send us an email at swordofthespirit.nar@gmail.com.


Created with an image by Timeo Buehrer - "untitled image"