“...most fun Classis I’ve ever attended.”
The above anonymous comment appeared on the evaluation summary for a classis meeting held on September 18, 2014 at Shawnee Park CRC.
An unusual word to describe a gathering of delegates-pastors, elders, deacons-from the 15 established congregations and 6 start-up churches which make up Classis Grand Rapids East. What ‘fun’ things happened in those hours from 4:00-9:00 p.m.?
Let’s begin with the response of a first time elder delegate to classis. She came eager to listen and see what this thing called a ‘classis meeting’ is all about. She sat at a round table with two deacons, two elders, and two pastors. There were introductions and a friendly welcome. From an inspirational opening worship to the closing circles of prayer she was lifted out of her daily routine and allowed to participate in the life of the church in ways that stretched her vision of God’s kingdom at work in our world.
At the end of the day, when I asked, “Can you give me some adjectives to describe your first classis meeting?” she thought for a moment and said, “It was fun, worshipful, efficient, and a sense of community.” There was that word again, ‘Fun’. Hmm.
The ‘fun’ began In 2009 when Classis GR East adopted a vision for renewal focused on this mission: ‘to be a community of congregations that are encouraging, equipping, and challenging one another to be vibrant and missional.’
This mission came to life in several ways at our September meeting:
-Opening worship: an inspirational transition following a busy day of work
-Classis Orientation: a brief power point introduced delegates to a Classis Website and access to helpful information about Classis Ministry Teams, grants to support ministry, future training events, and other resources to help equip congregations
-Reports from Classis Executive Team & Ministry Plan Team, important updates, information, Q & A, and salted with the president’s and clerk’s sense of humor
-A buffet meal offered a relaxing time for enjoying savory food, good fellowship, and honoring a pastor retiring from 37 years of pastoral ministry and church leadership
-Congregational Cluster Conversations, 7 clusters made up of 3 churches each met for 50 minutes and shared stories of efforts to ‘love their neighbors’ in Christlike ways
Note: first time tried, delegates’ feedback, “Wonderful to hear stories of the Spirit of God at work, so glad to participate, affirms the unity of classis-emerging churches joining the conversation with established congregations, so encouraging, an excellent part of the meeting. Repeat this with diaconate needs.”
-’State of the Church’ reports: 4 established, 2 start-up congregations, each pastor responded to two questions: ‘How did God surprise you this past year?’ and ‘What did you learn about God?’ Delegates’ feedback: “A moving experience, powerful, enjoyed this so much, very helpful to hear joys and struggles, so glad we formed prayer circles and prayed over delegates from each of these churches.”
As we were packing up our stuff to leave I asked a pastor, a senior member of classis, “Any thoughts on this meeting?” He looked at me and smiled, “Best classis ever.”