Headlined by former American Idol finalist Phil Stacey and kicked off by a speaker described as a cross between Erma Bombeck, Lucille Ball, and Billy Graham, the 71st Christian Reformed chaplains conference drew a record attendance of 114 people. The event always runs in conjunction with the annual synod.
“The fact that this conference had a record attendance was a big surprise,” said Ron Klimp, director of CRC’s chaplaincy and care ministry. That “helped set the stage for a very positive and exciting event overall.”
The conference, whose theme was Chaplains and Prayer, overflowed with information and camaraderie.
Despite the robust laughter her opening presentation aroused, speaker Jolene DeHeer introduced the theme of prayer powerfully, outlining the needs that can be met through prayer and guiding conferees through a time of small-group sharing and praying.
Wendy Cadge, an associate professor of sociology at Brandeis University whose research focuses on prayer and the work of chaplains, followed with three sessions.
As an academic, researcher, and author, “Cadge is a key player in the future of chaplaincy,” reflected Ron Cok, chaplain at a Veteran’s Administration center in Albuquerque, N.M. “Policymakers will be taking notice of what she has to say. We need to pray for her.”
Another keynote speech unfolded the theme of prayer in times of crisis, specifically the Boston Marathon bombings. The remaining sessions grappled with the challenges of prayer in the context of religious diversity.
For Klimp, the highlight was welcoming five of the eight newly endorsed (and relatively young) chaplains who had become chaplains since the last conference, plus processing two more during the conference. This is indicative of the growing popularity of chaplaincy as a ministry choice, and of the fact that it is more and more often a first choice rather than an option discovered later in one's career.
“We currently endorse 130 chaplains,” Klimp said, “which represents a significant ministry force (roughly 10 percent of our ordained ministers) who impact thousands of lives in the midst of some sort of crisis experience every week.”
Synod 2013 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. from June 7-14. For continuous Banner coverage of Synod 2013, please follow The Banner on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at www.thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit www.crcna.org/synod. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.