Community of Love
Thank you for the encouraging article “The Holy Trinity: The Community of Love at the Heart of Reality” (Reformed Matters). I feel my Father’s pleasure and love when I am reminded of what Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are like. It is such good news that we are one with them, sharing in the face-to-face relationship of love, joy, goodness, and life. Yes, let’s join in the dance!
Where Have All the Shepherds Gone?
I agree with Gertrude Pool’s article (IMHO: “Where Have All the Shepherds Gone?”). In most churches, volunteers are visiting people who are sick, shut in, or disabled. But many who are unable to go to church or get on the Internet never get to see the Shepherd. I have been a member of an awesome Christian Reformed church for many years. Yet when my son took his life in July 2015, in my extreme pain I had to reach out to my church family and pastor for comfort and the strength to go on. I am a widow and most of my family has already left this earth. I felt very alone in my grief. How about tending the flock?
Grand Rapids, Mich.
I left the church for a time after a divorce because of the lack of pastoral care (“Where Have All the Shepherds Gone?”). Not a single phone call or visit from my pastor. And when the pastor does not seem to care, the rest of the flock seems to follow his lead.
Cathy Smith’s polished gem of a piece (“Holloways”) ends with “I lift up my eyes to that glow in the distance,” suggesting the opening of Psalm 121. The closing quoted wisdom of Henri-Frederik Amiel as a walking stick and the accompanying picture of a holloway have sent me searching for more information and possibly travel to find some of these hollowed and hallowed places. But I really do not need to go through the expense and effort to travel; this numinous essay has taken her readers to places there and beyond.
What We Believe
I was concerned by the suggestion in “What We Believe” (IMHO). Of course we should listen to each others’ stories, and of course these stories can bring encouragement, commonality, and new perspectives. But we are not called by Scripture to create a creed based on our experiences; we are called to submit ourselves to the Word of God. This is the path of discipleship, as was so beautifully taught in Reginald Smith's article “Practicing Resurrection” in the same issue.
Re the News story “Pastoral Guidance for Churches Regarding Same-Sex Marriage”:
It is clear that synod cannot make a decision without rewording our biblical and theological stance on same-sex marriage. Marriage is not a sacrament but a civil requirement by the state. No specific reference can be found in the Bible with the exception of Joseph and Mary going to register with a secular institution (see Luke 2). Solemnizing the religious same-sex marriage is precluded by the CRC. Ultimately a response belongs to the local church.
I am deeply moved by Rev. Koornneef’s honest story (“I Never Had a Chance to Say Goodbye”). It is a difficult story to tell. Grief is often a subject we do not know how to deal with. I appreciate his testimony of how he was always aware of God’s presence and promises and the caring of family and friends. Often grieving is a lonely journey.
I too travel this journey. It is good to know I am not alone. My prayers are with Rev. Koornneef. Thank you for sharing.
—Alice De Kleer
You could hardly have said it better (“The Business of Worship Music"): “. . . it’s a terrible mistake to leave behind the riches of the past.” Where are we when it comes to music and praise in many of our churches?
There is bountiful, excellent music and worship in many of our churches. But at times the songs are shallow, repetitive, and human-centered. What adds to this problem is churches that have gone to one service: everything has to happen in a one-hour service.
In the words of Psalm 84:10: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”
—John Van Hemert
You got the theology right in the editorial (“The Business of Worship Music”). Here are some numbers:
Our church’s CCLI bill was about $1,000 per year. With 300 congregations, that is $300,000 per year for the denomination. Psalter Hymnal books [that are] good for 10 years cost the denomination about $100,000 per year. Add a similar number for all the various supplements we use. If you add sheet music for musicians, add another $100,000. For access to words and music the CRCNA spends about $600,000 per year denomination-wide.
We are Christians. We are followers of Jesus. We are siblings and children. We were baptized and raised in the CRC. We attended Cadets and GEMS. We professed our faith. We taught Sunday school. And at some point we discovered something about ourselves that would change our place in the church: We are lesbian. We are gay. We are bisexual. We are transgender.
In 1973 the CRC declared that we could not be full members of the church that had cradled us—unless we lived in loneliness, not partaking of the blessing that is family. The church determined that we were called to be celibate or else marginal members. It wasn’t safe to be who we were, to live abundantly.
Some of us attempted suicide over our losses, over lives without support. As one gay man said, “The reason we love Jesus so much is that Jesus is all that we have left.” Some of us spent years trying to change ourselves, enduring much pain and experiencing no success in the ex-gay movement. Some abandoned their faith. Others left the CRC to find accepting faith communities elsewhere in the Body. This has meant that the CRC is no longer able to make use of our God-given gifts. In leaving, we lost the most precious kinship of our lives, our spiritual and also cultural heritage. Some of us have stayed in the CRC, working to overcome great odds in order to help the church embrace us as full members of the Body, in order to take our rightful place, a place given to us by God.
We are writing to our family in the CRC in response to Gayla Postma’s summarizing article, “Pastoral Guidance for Churches Regarding Same-Sex Marriage,” recognizing that what is coming before Synod 2016 is only a portion of what needs to be taken up regarding the CRC’s LGBT siblings and children. We are asking you to follow Jesus’ example of radical inclusion, of valuing mercy.
—Douglas Houck, Classis Pacific Northwest
Anna Redsand, Classis Red Mesa (currently PCUSA)
Haley Reyenga, Classis Lake Superior
Cara Oosterhouse, Classis Grand Rapids East
Ryan, Classis Alberta South Saskatchewan
Robert, Classis Chatham, Ontario
BE, Classis Ontario
Tyler Reckman, Classis Chatham
Sharon Dam, Classis Chatham and Huron
Marnie Kersten, Classis Toronto