On Sunday evenings of synod (the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church) week, the delegates worship.
At this year’s synod, worship was led by host church, Faith Community of Wyoming, Mich. Faith, formerly Wyoming Park Christian Reformed Church, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The service, although held in the austere, high church precincts of the Calvin College chapel, reflected throughout the life and faith of Faith Church.
The service offered praise to God with songs chosen from traditional and contemporary genres. Prayers were led by the president and vice president of synod and by members of Faith Church, with thanksgiving offered for the faithfulness of God over the many generations of Faith Church, the Christian Reformed Church, the now 400-year-old Canons of Dort (a Reformed creed), the church of Jesus Christ throughout the ages, and the people of God stretching back to Abraham and Sarah.
The pastor of Faith Church, Roger Groenboom, based his message on Psalms 90 and 91, under the title, “Place, Grace, Face.” He set his message against the backdrop of Isaac Watt’s “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” quoting, actually singing, from a later verse, “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.”
We are, he said, looking for a place to stay, a home, adding, “Home can be more than a place.” For those gathered, he noted, home may be the denomination, the Christian Reformed Church. In a deeper sense, drawing on Psalm 90, home is the Lord: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.”
But, Groenboom noted, for us who dwell still in the dust of death (as the psalm has it), home remains a longing. He called attention to the title for Psalm 90, which attributes it to Moses. Moses remained at the end of his life outside his home, the Promised Land. Groenboom said in this psalm, for himself and those who are still short of home, “Moses begs the Lord God for grace.”
That grace comes in Jesus. Calling our attention to the last verse of Psalm 91, “I will show him my salvation,” Groenboom pointed the congregation to the face of Jesus. “There he was, Jesus, the face of God.”
Turning to the synodical delegates, Groenboom said this story, the story of God’s grace in the presence of Jesus, is “the reason why you are here.” The church has been given a mission to bring [this story] to those who haven’t heard and to those who have heard but who need to hear it again.” Synod has “the privilege of helping our entire denomination to do the job God has given us to do. This is a dream we dare not let die.”
The service concluded with communion, the sacrament of Christian unity. In that setting in which diversity is usually emphasized, it was jarring to see the communion distributed solely by male elders, not a person of color among them.
At the end of the communion service, the congregation sang the words of “Build Your Kingdom Here.” The chorus goes, “Build your kingdom here, let the darkness fear, show your mighty hand, heal our streets and land; set your church on fire, win this nation back, change the atmosphere, build your kingdom here.”
With that prayer, all could agree.
Synod 2019 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 14-20. For continuous coverage from our award-winning news team, download the Banner app on your mobile device or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted on The Banner’s dedicated Synod web page several times daily. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.