It was billed informally (at least around our offices) as “The Spaghetti Tour.”
Eleven cities across the United States and Canada in about as many days. Speaking to pastors and interested church officers for 90 minutes during each day. Dining with 20 to 30 church leaders at night.
The tour spanned the continent and included Wyckhoff, N.J.; New York City; Hamilton, Ontario; Pella and Orange City, Iowa; Bellingham and Lynden, Wash.; Modesto and Anaheim, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Chicago, Ill.; and, in a few months, Holland and Grand Rapids, Mich.
Tom De Vries, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, and I, together with a few others from our respective denominations, went on tour to highlight something of great importance: the collaborative efforts in which the Reformed and Christian Reformed Churches are currently engaged.
It depends on how you list them, but there are at least 20 such efforts that fall neatly into three categories: partnering for increased impact, partnering for increased efficiency, and expressing a common witness.
At these gatherings, which themselves consisted of often equal numbers of members of our two denominations, stories were told of our original antipathy toward one another and our growing affection for and cooperation with one another.
We’ve called these collective efforts “The Reformed Collaborative” and chosen the theme “Together (Again).” Some 400 or more people have thus far celebrated with us.
At no point along the way did we actually eat spaghetti. So why did we call it “The Spaghetti Tour?”
It’s because the person who funds the foundation that gave the grant that made this all possible said over coffee one day: “You know, the RCA and the CRC have a lot in common. We share a common heritage, a common set of confessions, a common theological bent. Maybe what we need is just some good old-fashioned spaghetti suppers where we gather around tables and get to know one another better.”
We visited these places, crossing four time zones, to sit around tables and, figuratively speaking, “eat spaghetti” together. To get to know each other a little better. To celebrate our increased collaboration. To enjoy fellowship. But, most important, we came “together (again)” to remember what God has done for us and what we must do for him.
There are those in both camps who fear that the motive is merger: erasing names and calling ourselves something different. But it is not that. It is so much more than that.
Everywhere we went, we urged one another to replace that freighted m-word merger with another: mission. The response was enthusiastic. There is a genuine desire to work together (again), to reach out together (again), to fellowship together (again), and to engage together (again) in the mission of God in the world.
We asked those hundreds to pray for God’s blessing on this collaborative effort. Now I am asking you. We urged the people with whom we met to learn more about our collaborative efforts. Now I am urging you. We encouraged folks to send notes of support and and even paragraphs of prayer for this renewed engagement in God’s mission. Now I am asking it of you.
We intend to post these comments and prayers on a bulletin board during the joint synods of the RCA and CRC this summer in Pella, Iowa, to celebrate our growing commitment to mission.
Perhaps as we do this—together (again)—we will learn not just to know one another better and get along better or even simply to collaborate more but to become part of the answer to our Lord’s prayer in John 17:21: “. . . that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
That’s his prayer for us all—and mine, too.