In addition to the usual agenda items, the fall meeting of Classis Central California of the Christian Reformed Church in North America included a listening conversation, encouraged by denominational leadership, called One Family Conversation. The session was hosted by Gil Suh, a pastor at San Jose (Calif.) Christian Reformed Church, and it was part of an initiative spearheaded by Thrive, the CRC’s multifaceted congregation-focused ministry agency.
The One Family Conversation intends to create space at classis meetings for ethnic and diaspora leaders to share their experiences as leaders within the CRCNA classical and ministry structures.
Reggie Smith, who works with Thrive in the area of diversity, is leading the One Family Conversation initiative along with Thrive regional catalyzers or connectors. Smith was hearing stories from ethnic and diaspora leaders that concerned him and seemed consistent with each other. These leaders expressed feeling isolated at classis meetings, instead of experiencing welcome and belonging.
Smith submitted a suggestion to the Council of Delegates, the ecclesiastical governance board of the CRC that works on behalf of synod between meetings of synod. The Council recognized the need and approved pursuing One Family Conversation, mandating general secretary Zachary King to implement the project.
“I truly believe that one of the most important matters that we have before us as a denomination is how we will respond to God’s calling to be a church that embodies the vision of Revelation 7,” King wrote in a message to classical clerks. “John sees a great multitude ‘from every nation, tribe, people and language’ gathered at the throne of Christ in worship. On behalf of the Council of Delegates and in response to synod’s instructions over the decades, I am encouraging our CRCNA classes to embrace this vision by engaging in One Family Conversation.”
Using structured dialogue prompts that aim for participants to share informally, ethnic minority churches and leaders will have an opportunity to share their experiences. If thriving is the desire of any classis, One Family circles are an intentional opportunity to give space for listening toward healthy growth and inclusion.
All CRC classes are challenged to hold a One Family conversation during this church year. If classis leadership does not include those outside the majority culture, classes are encouraged to search out diverse leaders or members of their churches to be part of the conversation.
In leading the circle at his classis, which was hosted at Escalon (Calif.) CRC, Suh invited participants to share their experiences of being in a setting where they were a minority ethnically, culturally or socially. How was this experience stretching, enriching, stressful or formative? Reflecting on the classis circle, Suh considers that it hardly scratched the surface. “This conversation needs to be ongoing and requires regional advocates or champions,” he said.
Smith said the Central California conversation serves as a template and believes it is the only classis to hold a circle this fall. Classis leaders seeking support or assistance for their own One Family Conversation can contact Thrive’s regional catalyzers.
About the Author
Jenny deGroot is a freelance media review and news writer for The Banner. She lives on Swallowfield Farm near Fort Langley B.C. with her husband, Dennis. Before retirement she worked as a teacher librarian and assistant principal.