Delegates and advisers to synod, the Christian Reformed Church’s broadest annual assembly, gathered by video conference for a prayer service March 30. Convened to pray intentionally for Synod 2022, the gathering is part of the denomination’s yearlong prayer initiative called Together Seeking God’s Face. This is the first time synodical services has coordinated a pre-synod prayer meeting for delegates.
Jon Hoekema, pastor of Horizon Community Church in Downers Grove, Ill., and the denomination’s prayer shepherd for the Together Seeking God’s Face initiative, said, “Having these prayer gatherings beforehand is crucial in moving ahead as a denomination.”
Hoekema was joined by five prayer facilitators who led break-out groups of about 20 through guided prayer using Philippians 4:4-9. Pastors and denominational ministry staff Andy Sytsma, Diane Dykgraaf, Andrew Beunk, Syd Hielema, and Diane Averill served as prayer leaders.
At the beginning of the event Colin P. Watson Sr., executive director of the CRCNA, said, “The purpose of tonight is simply to pray.”
When asked before the meeting about how the prayer time might navigate differing opinions, Hoekema said, “The focus on prayer is not our agenda but seeking God’s face, so the times of prayer are not going to address different views, but it’s really going to be times where we come together before God with a humble heart that we might reflect him.”
Hoekema said, “We pray in the rhythm of the Lord's prayer. We start with reverence, as the Lord’s prayer teaches us, with praise, and then our response is understanding who we are." Explaining that this rhythm is taken from the book Transforming Prayer by Daniel Dean Henderson, Hoekema continued, “Then we bring our requests, after we’ve reoriented ourselves to who God is and who we are.” This makes us ready, he said “for the work that is done” in prayer, “realizing we are in a spiritual battle and being honest about that as we pray.”
The Philipians passage used that day reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Hoekema said, “In our prayer time we’re going to be honest about how we’re anxious. We’re going to talk about how we’re rejoicing but we’re still anxious.”
In the video conference breakout rooms, facilitators guided the participants through prayer as people took turns praying out loud for synod and the time leading up to it.
Delegates and advisers were encouraged to attend the event, though it was not required. There were 124 participants. There are two more virtual synod prayer times scheduled for April 27 and May 11.
Synod is the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church. The assembly did not gather in 2020 or 2021. Synod 2022 will meet June 10-16 on the campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., covering a weighty agenda that includes the human sexuality report requested by Synod 2016. Each synod is made up of 196 delegates: one minister, one elder, one deacon, and one other officebearer from each of 49 classes (regional groups of churches).