Regional groups of Christian Reformed congregations in Canada, known as classes, have had a boost in the past few months in their support of students who are pursuing an education in ministry. Individual classes all have committees that look to support these students, often called Classis Ministry Leadership Teams. Shawn Brix, Canadian church relations liaison for Calvin Theological Seminary, is now helping to connect those teams.
The relations liaison is a new role, with hopes to build bridges between Calvin Seminary, the CRC’s official school for training pastors, and Christian Reformed churches in Canada. One way that Brix is doing that is hosting online meetings for the CMLTs to learn from one another.
Brix has facilitated two conversations between CMLT chair persons so far, with a third planned for Spring 2021. The first online meeting in June included nine people and the second in November, seven.
Peter Van Huizen represented the Student Fund Committee and the Classis Ministry Leadership Team for Classis B.C. South-East at both meetings. Van Huizen said, “The experience of participating in these meetings to date has been positive. Each classis reports and each learns from the other. As well we share in the information provided by the Seminary. This is a "win-win" for everyone.”
Lynette van de Hoef Meyers, a third-year student at Calvin Seminary feels supported by her classis. “Classis Chatham has been a big support throughout my seminary years. One of the most significant ways that they've supported me is financially,” van de Hoef Meyers said. “I have also been in semi-regular contact with my classis, and so I know that they are supporting me through prayer, as well. I have received emails full of wisdom and encouragement from them as I update them on what is going on in my life at seminary. The support from Classis Chatham helps me feel more connected to churches back home and helps diminish the number of concerns present in my daily life. Their support also provides me with additional mentors for seminary life, as well as walking through the end-of-seminary journeys of candidacy requirements, job applications, and eventually classis evaluations.”
Dylan Harper, an M. Div. student at Calvin Seminary who is halfway through his degree is receiving financial support through Classis Quinte. Harper said, “The support I receive is considered a student loan, which is essentially repaid upon my commitment to be ordained in the CRC and enter full-time ministry as a Minister of the Word for a minimum of five years.”
Harper said, “I meet virtually with the Classis Quinte Ministerial Leadership Team once or twice a year in order to discuss the following year's support. I get a chance to chat honestly and in trust about my ongoing experience, and they pray for me. It's a really nice relationship to have with them, despite the fact we only meet a couple times a year.”
Brix, whose bridge-building role comes at a time when governance of ministry in the CRC is being restructured along Canadian and U.S. lines, said this shows one way Calvin is recognizing that the context of Canadian ministry is different from American ministry.
"The June meeting was a best-practices webinar. Each person shared about a unique way their committee works and serves students," Brix said. The November meeting included a question-and-answer session with Jennifer Settergren, director of financial aid at Calvin, and the hope for the spring meeting is to talk about supporting students pursuing bivocational ministry.