When the Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church met by video conference Feb. 17-19, it was the fourth meeting by video for this group due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While being separated from each other, the group did its best to see, hear, and care for one another as it conducted the business of the church.
The 53-member Council is the governing body of the denomination working on behalf of the CRC’s synod between sessions of synod. Ahead of this meeting, the CRC’s synodical services office sent “meeting survival kits”—a packet of snacks, hand cream, lip balm, and the like—thanking delegates for their patience with the virtual format.
Council chair Paul DeVries reminded Council delegates, as they convened on the first day of Lent, that as servants of Christ, delegates' first responsibility is not to the material things of meetings.
“The truth is that the powers and the principalities of this dark world seek to use the material stuff—national divisions, arguing about institutions and functions—seek to use that stuff to divide and conquer brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. And we are not exempt from some of those arguments, hurts, and pains.”
Quoting Eph. 6:12, DeVries said “Ash Wednesday reminds us, though, that our battle is not against flesh and blood. … Really, if we are fighting it alone, in our flesh and blood, it is already lost, but we belong to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our fundamental battle is a spiritual battle, and the war has already been won in Jesus Christ.”
DeVries noted, “We want to take our time during our meetings to be sensitive to the spiritual temperature in the room,” and encouraged delegates to break at times for prayer, specifically around spiritual warfare.
On Friday, in sharing with delegates some details about the extent of the COVID-19 situation in Classis Red Mesa, delegate Lora Copely said, “We find that the amount of shock and grief that that our community is dealing with is something that we also just need prayer for.”
Red Mesa is a regional group of churches in and bordering the Navajo Nation in the United States. Of the 12 Native American churches in the classis, Copely said six are currently without a pastor, one is served by Stanley Jim, the only ordained Minister of the Word in the Native American churches, and four are served by commissioned pastors. Jim was Red Mesa’s delegate to the Council before Copely. Last May, he also shared with delegates the impact of COVID-19. Copley spoke of hearing from the chaplain and administrator at Rehoboth Christian School that “over the past couple months, every week brings about two families who have lost someone close.
“It has been a very ashy season for us,” Copley said. “We were so grateful that God has shown the power of community, and we have been bearing each other's burdens in the midst of it, but we do feel a bit, I think, under spiritual attack. … And we know that greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world, but we do just covet all of your prayers.”
Other specific times of prayer throughout the Council’s three days of meeting included for staff of the CRC’s mercy and justice ministries and for the denomination’s senior leadership staff.
The Council’s next meeting is also scheduled to take place by Zoom, and at this latest round of meetings the Council decided, in light of the continuing pandemic, to again cancel synod, the church’s broadest assembly, for the second year in a row.