The Christian Reformed Church received 31 new candidates for ministry this week, with as much fanfare as it could manage across the video-meeting platform. David Koll, outgoing director of the Office of Candidacy, presented the candidates in an online ceremony streamed on YouTube. The CRC’s Council of Delegates, acting in lieu of synod (the denomination’s usually annual leadership gathering) received the slate of men and women now awaiting calls to ministry. Synod was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Susan LaClear, the new director of candidacy, Jul Medenblik, president of Calvin Theological Seminary, and Colin Watson Sr., executive director of the CRCNA, also participated in the send-off.
Medenblik called it a “doorway” moment.
“As we anticipate you moving across the threshold from study in a seminary to service in the church, we're here in this doorway moment to pray for you as we anticipate you moving into the ministry that God is preparing for you,” Medenblik said. He noted that he was representing not only the faculty, staff, and board members of Calvin seminary, but also “other places of learning and training, other communities that have prepared you for this moment where you now face the church.”
Many speakers noted the diversity of candidates for ministry and the role that Koll, as the CRC’s first director of Candidacy, has played in shepherding the church to this point.
Paul DeVries, chair of the Council, said he first got to know Koll while serving on the Calvin seminary board. “You were the very voice and the arms of Jesus welcoming candidates, coming from all sorts of different avenues,” DeVries said. He said he recognized Koll as a blessing to the denomination because of his “love for diversity, for the diverse and broad Kingdom of God that takes all shapes and forms.”
As happened last year for the first class of candidates to be received during the COVID-19 pandemic, Council delegates blessed the prospective ministers with a virtual “laying on of hands,” the Christian practice of touching a person on the head or shoulders while praying a blessing over them.
“Our prayers and encouragement are going to be with you,” Koll said. ”Because we are entering into a vast desert when we go into ministry, but God shows up in the desert.”
Watson too recognized the challenges of ministry, and God’s providence. “As you take up the assignments that God has prepared in advance for you to do, I believe that there really has not been a better time to be a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church in North America ... because the difficulties are great, the environment that we find ourselves in can be extremely difficult and challenging, but God has provided what you need for such a time as this.”