A long-standing, ecumenical community
An interview with Jerry Munk, a coordinator in the community and one of its founding members
How did your community get started?
In the late 1960s, a movement known as the Charismatic Renewal began to sweep through Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches. It helped millions of Christians have a more personal and vibrant experience of the Holy Spirit. They began to exercise the spiritual gifts and found new freedom to praise and worship Jesus Christ.
One of the earliest charismatic prayer meetings took place in East Lansing, Michigan. Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians, many of them students at Michigan State University, would gather every Wednesday evening to worship God and share the love he was putting in their hearts for one another. This love continued to grow and so did a compelling sense of purpose and mission. In June of 1974, 87 people made an agreement – a covenant commitment – with one another and with the Lord to live fully for God as members of the Work of Christ Community.
Where are you located?
Members live throughout the greater Lansing area (Lansing proper has a population of about 120,000, greater Lansing about 500,000). Perhaps 80 percent of Lansing area members live in neighborhoods close to one another. These clusters of community members are located in diverse urban and suburban areas. A branch of the community is located in the city of Saginaw, about an hour’s drive from Lansing.
Automobile manufacturing dominates the Lansing economy. Lansing is also the capital city of Michigan, so there are many state employees in the city. Michigan State University, with 50,000 students, is located next door in East Lansing.
Lansing has great seasonal diversity. It is green in the spring, hot in the summer, orange in the fall, and white in the winter.
And the make-up of the community?
290 members, including the Saginaw branch
We are a mix of ages, more or less evenly distributed from newborn to 87
Ecumenical make-up: roughly 70% Catholic, 20% Protestant, and 10% Orthodox
There’s quite a range of trades and professions among us.
How often do you meet?
During the school year, we meet most Sunday afternoons, in smaller and larger groupings. At least twice a month the whole community meets together.
During the summer months, we meet every Thursday evening, and these meetings are specially focused on welcoming people who are new to us.
The junior high school group meets every other week. The high school group, Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA), meets every week: one week all together and the following week in small groups. Some of our high school boys started a Bible study at their public high school this year. Over 70 of their fellow students are participating in it. Many of the participants are now attending CYA meetings, and a few final-year students are beginning to connect with our university outreach in anticipation of their college years.
Our university outreach meets weekly and has additional meetings for formation, for social events, and meetings especially for friends and acquaintances who are not Christians.
We also have a few annual meetings: a community conference, and conference for men and a conference for women.
I understand your community has been doing a lot of outreach. How does that work?
For several years the Lord has been calling us to reach out to other people and tell them what Christ has done in our lives and to invite and welcome people. We have many events for new people so they can get to know us – and hopefully get to know Christ, as well. For instance, when we meet as a whole community we also host dinner after afterwards for any guests. That way we can invite people to have a bite to eat with us, hear a short presentation about the community, ask questions, and get to know some community members more personally. We call this “Meet and Eat.”
We also offer a Life in the Spirit Seminar three times each year (in addition to what we offer in our university outreach) – the Seminar is a the tried and tested seven-week course of talks and discussions that presents people with what God is offering them and gives them an opportunity to choose to follow Christ and be filled with his Holy Spirit.
We are also working to create a more dynamic Christian formation program so that people interested in our life can receive quality Christian teaching as they get to know us, discuss it, and become stronger Christians. We are seeing 6-8 new people (outside our university outreach) come into formation each year. In addition, our University Christian Outreach (UCO) chapter continues to grow, and we are adding some new people to our community through UCO as well. Life in the Spirit Seminars are very helpful there, as well, so we can present the gospel well.
What particular strength do you feel you as a community have been given by the Lord just now?
We are blessed with many large and very strong families. Our children’s and youth programs are growing and vibrant. Life among our single people – university age and beyond – is also dynamic, and a growing number of retirees enjoy lively patterns of community relationships. We are finding that more than half of community youth remain in the Sword of the Spirit when they become adults.
Nearly 15 years ago the community purchased a building where we have our offices and hold community meetings. It has been a great blessing. The community’s senior coordinator also serves as president of the Sword of the Spirit’s North American Region and several offices and ministries are headquartered there.
Why is it a help being part of the larger network of communities of the Sword of the Spirit?
The Sword of the Spirit helped the Work of Christ survive a very rough patch about 30 years ago. We have been blessed by the teaching and structures of the Sword of the Spirit in too many ways to give each even a brief mention.
If people in your area wanted to contact you, what’s the best way for them to do it? Do you have a website? And which meetings would people be welcome to attend?
People can also call our community center between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. (517) 336-8530. We’d be glad to hear from them.
We are also on Facebook with lots of photos that give a feel for our life.