Congregations of the Christian Reformed Church are encouraged to include prayers of lament in their worship, but Synod 2023 stopped short of changing the Church Order to require it.
Classis Quinte had asked that “lament” be added to Church Order Article 61, which currently reads, “The public prayers in the worship service shall include adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, and intercession.”
Classis Quinte wanted to specifically include lament. “We need to practice and model lament in our churches before people look to other places for answers or give up hope altogether,” they wrote in a formal request (overture). Further, Quinte noted, quoting Walter Brueggemann in his article, “The Costly Loss of Lament,” that an absence of corporate lament results in “the loss of genuine covenant interaction because the second party to the covenant (the petitioner) has become voiceless or has a voice that is permitted to speak only praise and doxology.”
Instead, Synod 2023 “encourages congregations to include prayers of lament in their public prayers.” Lament, synod said, acknowledges pain while acknowledging God as sovereign, and it “brings authenticity to our struggles and gives permission to move beyond simple obedience into a covenant relationship with God.”
Daniel Meyers, Classis Ontario Southwest, said lament can’t be understood to already be included in Article 61. “It is true that lament is often intermixed with confession and intercession, but it’s unwise to consider it as an element of these two,” Meyers said. He shared about his experience of losing his firstborn daughter to spina bifida and how the songs, sermons, and prayers in his church’s worship services contained confession and intercession, but they did not contain lament. He said, “I found myself left behind from the church. I do not fault them, they did not know, and I did not know to tell them.”
Paul DeVries thanked Meyers for sharing and said, “We can’t help but be grieved by your story and how the church disappointed you and let you down.” He then said a prayer for “all of those left behind,” praying, “May the church do better, and may we never leave people behind. Since we are sinners, all of us imperfect, when we do leave people behind may we be quick to lament, apologize and strive to do better in the future.”
Synod 2023 is meeting June 9-15 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod. Visit crcna.org/synod for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.