I was always told that the synod and the classis don’t really exist – except when they exist.
Well, OK, that’s not exactly how it was put. The point was (and still is?) that these are not organizations or boards or committees that exist over time; they were not intended (nor permitted) to become pieces of bureaucracy. They only exist when they are in session. They are ecclesiastical decision making bodies that are convened to do specific pieces of business, and then they go out of existence until the next one happens.
It’s true there are “interim committees” and some have become strong and have identity and ongoing life as organizations; and it’s also true that there are examples (more and more) where a classis has staff, and programs and budgets. But the classis itself is unique – it is a very interesting example of a piece of organizational life that only exists when it’s in session.
Where does that word “classis” come from anyway? It’s from the Latin of course (back in the day church leaders were all “classically” trained, but that’s another story). This usage we’re talking about comes from the Latin word for “class” meaning a set, or group, especially used for a group of ships, more commonly called a fleet. So a classis is a fleet of congregations.
There are dozens of these entities in the denomination (almost 4 dozen), and each one meets 2 or 3 times per year (here’s the fall schedule). They exist for the sake of the congregations in their region. They are a mix of routines, leaders, clergy and lay, agendas formal and hidden, the bored and the benumbed, the idealistic and the skilled practitioners of classical politics. Yes, there are politics; by politics we just mean the process of decision making in organizational settings, and we usually mean all the human influencing and leadership and maneuvering that accompanies that process. (There is use of power involved, and the question is whether the power is used with integrity.)
So how should we pray for classis? The gathering is one expression of the life of the Body of Christ carrying out its (His) work on earth. So:
- We pray for the Church, and by that we mean all of its committees, procedures, members, etc.
- We also pray for our denomination and its leaders, its decision makers, its agenda items, and its work of transforming lives and communities.
- We pray for renewal at the classical level.
We are quite familiar with praying for congregations and for synods when they are in session. But how often are we mindful of prayer for the meetings of classis, the so-called “middle judicatory” of the denomination? Run your eye over the list of classes and meeting dates. Use it to refresh your intercession – and your thanksgiving!
What other prayers should we be praying for classis gatherings? How does your church mobilize prayer for your classis?