I prayed for peace in Tanzania. I prayed for successful peacemaking efforts around the world. I heard the organ pipes play and voices rise in song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” I was seated in a sanctuary where each day a different country is selected for reflection in the Daily Prayer for Peace. On this day, two pre-teen girls, accompanied by their mom, led the service in observation of the United Nations Youth Day. They read scripture, offered a prayer, sang the hymn, and became quiet to allow silent meditation. This brief experience happened in the emblem of peace for the world, the Temple Sanctuary of the Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri.
From the Campus RV Park in Independence where we parked the Prevost, the spire of the Temple rose high about the tree line shining in the August sun like a silver needle poking through a bright blue fabric. This architectural masterpiece is home to the World Headquarters of the Community of Christ, an international denomination with 250,000 members in more than 50 countries. Persons of all faiths are welcome to the Temple which was dedicated in 1994 to the “pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit.”
The bright light in the Temple entrance showed off a row of international flags along the hallway and many colorful tapestries hanging from a balcony terrace. This initial brightness lasts only until you enter the doors leading to the Worshiper’s Path. These lights are dim here to allow time for reflection at each stop point before reaching the Sanctuary. Symbolic artwork along the Path includes a carved-glass entrance of a grove of trees and a granite sculpture of the return of the prodigal son. A rough-hewn cross proclaims the risen Christ. Ikebana-style floral arrangements symbolize heaven, humanity and earth. And, water flows over a granite pool representing the overflowing of God’s love. The light grows brighter at each station until finally, the grandeur of the Sanctuary overcomes you.
Most impressive is the Sanctuary’s spiral ceiling which rises 195 feet. Looking at it, I felt that if were to rise up to its peak, I’d surely float to heaven. That is exactly the effect the designers wanted “to focus on the Divine.” I felt certain that our prayers for peace that afternoon went direct to heaven.
After participating in the Daily Prayer for Peace, I joined a small tour of the Temple. I walked the Worshiper’s Path again, this time with narration explaining the significance of the art. In the sanctuary my guide warned, “You can become dizzy staring up to the pinnacle.” I had already learned this lesson.
He pointed out the 102-rank, 5,685-pipe organ in the Sanctuary that has pipes ranging in size from six inches to 32 feet. He invited us to attend one of the organ recitals beginning at 3 PM daily. He called attention to the award-winning stained glass window depicting the harvest of wheat and rice. He took our small group outside to the World Plaza where we walked on a brick inlaid map of the world. We sat in Meditation Chapel which overlooks a Japanese garden. There he answered questions about the Community of Christ and its founder Joseph Smith, Jr. Our group tour ended in the Library where some folks wanted to see the Doctrines and Covenants relating to the Church.
I was the only person who wanted to see the adjacent Auditorium. My guide graciously accommodated my interest in seeing more. He led me thorough an underground passageway connecting the Temple to the Auditorium.
The Auditorium features a 5,800-seat Conference Chamber with seating in-the-round beneath an expansive domed ceiling measuring 90 feet from the floor, 214 feet wide, and 168 feet long. The 111-rank organ here is among the largest free-standing organs in the United States with 6,500 pipes ranging from ¼ inch to 32 feet. In July 1948, President Harry S. Truman made history in the Auditorium by signing Executive Order 9981 to desegregate the United States armed forces. Now, the Auditorium functions as a religious, cultural and community center for the Kansas City region.
In addition to the Auditorium and Temple tour, there was still more to experience at the Community of Christ World Headquarters. A small museum houses 17 exhibits tracing the history of the Church from its origins in the 1820’s to its world missions today.
And, then back in the lobby, the tapestries themselves are particularly important. They represent “The Thread Project” – an international exhibition by Terry Helwig. The threads in each tapestry were pulled from the fabric of people’s everyday lives: threads celebrating births and marriage, threads from 9/11 families…over 50,000 threads gathered in 70 countries and seven continents. Then, Helwig enlisted weavers and textile artists worldwide to create the tapestries from these threads. The result of this seven year project is the creation of one World Cloth – a reminder that the human race is a global family of one, united by a common thread.
The Community of Christ World Headquarters merits a slow paced visit to absorb all it encompasses – architecture, art, history, meditation and prayer. When you go there, peace will be with you.
August 12, 2009
Community of Christ World Headquarters
1001 W. Walnut Street
Independence, MO 64050
406 S. Pleasant Road