When you step off the plane in Missoula, MT, you feel embraced by the surrounding hills. I felt that way at the meeting of Classis Yellowstone too. We sat around a large square so the meeting could be a conversation of fellowship. The pace was relaxed, people gave each other plenty of space to think and respond without rush or pressure.
The venue was a conference center, and our meals were served buffet style and we could eat around small tables set up in the same room. Plenty of opportunity for conversation. I noted several younger pastors in the classis which resulted in a nice mix of generations, and more important, there were several conversations both on the floor and around tables about church plants and emerging congregations.
This classis has two Home Missions committees – the result of both history and geography. Classis Yellowstone was formed by joining pieces of two other classes, and this means the classis needs to be constantly mindful of its history and the way the congregations that compose classis are arranged on the map. This is an important theme in the classical story and the classis is moving wisely and slowly to build a cohesive identity and strategy while respecting their history. At this meeting they decided to restructure their Home Mission team to help develop a unified approach.
Multiple overtures on the Belhar were also before the classis. I felt the discussion was handled carefully, graciously, generously. And most notable, after the decisions were made, one delegate spoke what I think was on the heart of many when he said, “We all knew there would be some tension around this discussion, and I feel that we handled it well.” When a group is able to be self-aware and name its own dynamics, that’s a good sign.
This classis only meets twice a year, and has decided to have continuing education happen at its meetings too! Eugene Peterson was the guest, and instead of a formal presentation, the format was a conversation, and the classis gave this more than a half day. It was a beautiful opportunity for some sharing of stories about how God called us into ministry, how the church is called to God’s mission, and how the specific situation in these particular states might need to shape our response to God’s call.
At the end of the formal session of classis, we all drove to the riverside in downtown Missoula, and together we praised God and asked for his blessing and guidance on the work of his church in this place.
This visit reinforced my conviction that the classical structure is a gift our denomination has been given, and it has high potential to help our denomination build coherence, community, and organizational health and renewal. The CRC has work to do, and what is happening at the classical level is helping us see beyond ourselves, and get busy in the fields that are ripe for harvest.
Have you been to a good classis meeting lately? Tell us about it!