Summer is coming. Okay, I admit, it’s only January. But summer is coming. Summer camps are already posting their registration forms online. I saw swimsuits for sale in the mall last week. Hoffmaster State Park (near Muskegon, Michigan) is taking reservations for mid-July (when our family usually camps with extended family and close friends). Though the snow is still falling, summer is coming.
I am always surprised by how much preparation is required for these family vacations. Three families coordinate schedules. Someone makes the reservations. Someone else puts together a schedule for our shared meals. First Aid kits need restocking. Air mattresses and tents require minor repairs and occasionally replacement. Somehow, every year, we need new rope.
Synod is Coming
Around the CRCNA, the approaching summer also means synod is coming. There are logistics to coordinate, agency reports to compile, presentations to finalize, and an agenda to publish. Our denominational staff and leadership are gathering stories about God’s faithfulness, even as they discern ways in which the Spirit is leading us into another year of ministry together.
Our congregations and classes are planning for synod as well. If they have not done so already, many of our classes will soon choose delegates for synod. Some of our classes are discerning how to respond to study committee reports. Others are drawing up overtures that will encourage us to pay closer attention to the whats, hows, and whys of the way we engage ministry. It is only January, but the countdown to summer–and to synod–is certainly underway.
As preparations are being made through official overtures and communications, through informal gatherings, and even by some politicking about whom we want as delegates at synod, this summer’s gathering has a weighty feel to it. The stakes feel higher; the concerns more pressing. A few conversations sound as if plans are being made to set up tents at opposite ends of the campground. Others have wondered if there will be room for them in the CRC campground after this year.
This phenomenon is not new for us, of course. We have been in these spaces where coming together in the summer does not seem possible, much less desirable, because of the tensions between us. The very birth of our denomination emerged from disagreements about how to remain faithful in worship, educational, and social practices.
Praying for Our Unity
Particularly with our anticipated discussions over pastoral care and same-sex marriage this summer, I feel a strong need to pray consistently for our unity as part of our preparations for synod this year. Such an emphasis on prayer is not intended to sweep away the complexities before us, nor is it an attempt to diminish the disagreements between us. These are weighty and complex matters.
Rather because of how complex and weighty our conversations feel already, it seems to me that our most pressing and perhaps even our most time consuming preparation for synod this year needs to be prayer for our unity.
I wonder what impact a season of praying for each other and for our unity as God’s people might have on our congregations. What if we started praying now that the Spirit would strengthen our “unity through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)? How might our delegates to synod be impacted by hearing repeated prayers over the next several months that all of us would “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19)? I pray that, through such a season of prayer, we will witness God doing immeasurably more than we have asked or imagined.
What about you?
- How would prayers for our unity be received in your congregation?
- Is there anything that gets in the way of praying for our unity?
- How will your congregation encourage and support your Classis' delegates to synod in the coming months?