One summer in the mid-1980s, while I was a student at Calvin College, I enrolled in summer classes. That was so I could graduate in three years. I was anxious to get on to seminary and reduce the time of sacrifice for my wife, Joanne, and our kids.
One benefit of being at Calvin during the summer that I didn’t anticipate was synod, the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
For two wonderful weeks I would get out of class and head for the Fine Arts Center, where synod was in session. Taking a seat in the balcony with my lunch and my philosophy textbook, I watched synod in action in all its warts and glory.
In all honesty, sometimes I fell asleep. Listening to people talk about pensions or the minutiae of budgets will do that to me. But sometimes I was on the edge of my seat, enthralled by eloquent speeches or captivated by the passionate debates.
“As a student I watched it in action in all its warts and glory.”
It got really interesting when synod delegates discussed hot-button issues. Since this was more than 25 years ago, I can’t remember precisely what they were, but I imagined myself seated at a table on that cramped stage, and inside my head I voted along with the delegates. Sometimes I agreed with the majority; other times I didn’t, but I saw how the process worked and came away with a greater appreciation for the wisdom and commitment of those who made the decisions.
Not everyone would enjoy such weeks. Some find these kinds of meetings tedious. Some are frustrated by the process of deliberation and discernment. That’s OK, because God has wired each one of us in different ways. God has assigned each of us unique gifts and proclivities.
Whether or not we’d enjoy being at synod, we can all thank the Lord for what synod is. It’s the coming together of leaders (elders and ministers) from the width, breadth, and depth of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It’s a powerful expression of our unity in Christ—a unity that transcends race, age, education, gender, and geography. It’s the way we set priorities for denominational ministries. It’s the place where hard and complex decisions have to be made.
Synod is also the place and time when we, as the CRC, celebrate our unity with people and churches outside our denomination. Representatives of churches and ecumenical organizations from around the globe come to extend us the hand of fellowship as we encourage each other in faith and ministry.
All that unity, that fellowship, that discernment, that vision of future possibilities is a gift of the Holy Spirit. God sees to it that the ministry of his church moves ahead.
Maybe you’ll be able to join me and the delegates and denominational staff people as Synod 2011 meets at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., June 10-16. Maybe you’ll watch the live webcast and be part of synod that way. Maybe you’re grateful that synod happens, but you have no intention of watching it. Or maybe you don’t think much about such things at all.
No matter who you are or what you’ll be doing in mid-June, I have a favor to ask: please keep synod in your prayers. Pray for safe travel for all those converging on Calvin’s campus. Pray for God’s great wisdom on the part of delegates as they make decisions both mundane and exciting, both routine and controversial.
Pray that the result will be a blessing on the Christian Reformed Church and on the world and the society of which we are a part.