On June 14, over 600 people gathered at First Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Center, Iowa, for a Service of Prayer, Word, and Sacrament for Synod 2015. Rev. Mark Verbruggen, pastor at First CRC and leader of the service, commented, “People have come from all over North America, and even all over Sioux Center, to attend this service and participate in synod.” Many of those are delegates or participants at Synod 2015, being held at nearby Dordt College.
The service included a string orchestra, organist, pianist, other instrumentalists, and psalm-singers, all of which reflect the church’s culture, according to Verbruggen. “That way we can draw on our own strengths,” Verbruggen said. Although the service was mostly classical in style, the music was a mix of older hymns, such as “Holy God, We Praise Your Name” and “Psalm 146,” and contemporary songs, including “Sing, Sing, Sing to the Lord” and “We Will Extol You, God and King.” Later in the service, communion was served by male elders, which Verbruggen said is also typical in most churches in Northwest Iowa. Members of a local Friendship Group assisted in serving communion.
Synodical participation included prayers offered by synod president Rev. Bruce Persenaire and the CRC’s director of ministries and administration, Colin Watson.
Following a Scripture reading from Isaiah 6:1-7 and Luke 18:9-14, Verbruggen delivered a sermon entitled “Where Do We Stand?” With a light-hearted start relating Jesus’ ministries of “solid, CRC, three-point sermons,” Verbruggen spoke about Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector and explained how “God’s kingdom is not like this world; in a world of empires that seek to control us and own us, the kingdom of God is counter-cultural.”
Verbruggen challenged delegates, saying “we can’t rely on our history, the great things we as a church have done in the past. We can’t rely on those who think like us and act like us.” Instead, he said, Christians must, through grace, find their identity in Jesus Christ.
Synod 2015 is meeting at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, from June 12-18. For continuous Banner coverage, please follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit crcna.org. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.