Prayer is front and center at this year’s synod. A “prayer tabernacle,” staffed by eight volunteers, sits in the front foyer of the Covenant Fine Arts Center at Calvin University. Several times a day, delegates pass by this special prayer zone, defined by tall blue curtains. Prayer volunteers greet them on the front steps of the building and offer to pray for any needs.
“Some people run right by, and some are very open to it,” said prayer volunteer Laurie Schepers, a member of synod’s host church, Encounter Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.
“Prayer is very important to me,” said Jim Boldenow, who organized the on-site prayer team on behalf of Encounter Church. “Even if it had been a quiet year at synod, I would have still taken the task. I need prayer to stay sane.” Prior to his retirement, Boldenow worked in information technology for the denomination, and before that, from 1975 to 2000, he led development work with the CRC’s World Relief Committee (now World Renew) in Central America.
Boldenow’s group hands out blue prayer request cards to delegates, and meets several times a day to pray for the needs that delegates offer. Schepers prayed for each delegate and for their families, then left them notes reporting that they had been prayed for.
Some members of a prayer group at LaGrave Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids also joined the team, including Rina Warner. “My day starts with prayer and ends with prayer and it isn’t right if it doesn’t,” said Warner.
The blue curtain area was the idea of Dirk VanEyk, Encounter Church’s pastor, who noticed that the prayer room at previous synods was hidden away in the back of the building and resembled a cave.
“Dirk wanted to bring prayer right into the middle of things,” said Boldenow.
Prayer is also happening behind the scenes in anticipation of the weighty matters before Synod 2022. Every morning from 7 to 7:30am, a group of 8 to 10 delegates are praying for the day’s proceedings. On Sunday, all delegates will join in a longer prayer time.
Prayer volunteer Christina Rhebergen has been circling the building where synod meets with her arms raised in prayer. Rhebergen is a member of Church of the Savior CRC in South Bend, Indiana. This year’s human sexuality discussion is very important to her, she said. She considered serving as a delegate but felt it was not her place. “When I thought of praying, I realized, ‘That’s it,’” Rhebergen explained. “In prayer, I cannot advocate for what I want. I’m putting aside my own agenda, and praying that God’s will be done.”
“One of my biggest hopes is that we will be aware of how God worked in this synod and be surprised by it,” Rhebergen added.
Praying for Months
Synod delegates and other CRC members have been praying for months in anticipation of Synod 2022.
“We’re not just praying requests and petitions, we are seeking God’s face,” said CRC prayer shepherd Jon Hoekema, who leads the early morning prayers at synod. “When people pray together, regardless of whether we agree or disagree, God does something.”
In May 2021, the CRC’s Council of Delegates declared June 2021 to June 2022 to be a year of prayer, “recognizing that we stand in a challenging moment,” according to the minutes of the COD meeting. An initiative called Together Seeking God’s Face was begun, and in January 2022, Hoekema was hired for a 10-hour-per-week position as prayer shepherd for the CRC.
The initiative included daily email prompts suggesting a Bible reading, a prayer written by a member of the CRC, and a couple questions to encourage further reflection or conversation. More than 1900 people received the daily emails.
Additionally, this spring, executive director Colin Watson Sr. led pre-synod prayer groups, organized by Hoekema, praying by video conference with groups of three CRC classes at a time. Between 100 and 180 delegates participated in three Zoom prayer times for synod delegates, probably the first time that delegates have officially gathered for prayer before synod, according to Hoekema.
Synod 2022 is meeting at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 10-16. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod, download the Banner app on your mobile device, or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook. On Twitter follow #crcsynod or twitter.com/crcna. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church (it did not gather in 2020 or 2021). Connect to the meeting’s livestream, read advisory committee reports, and find other resources at crcna.org/synod.