When a Contemplative Goes to Synod


Though it may not feel like it to my CRC community on Vancouver Island, synod is an important week for the denomination and all of its little communities, including mine.

As a first-time delegate, I felt the expected mixture of anticipatory wonderment of what it would be like to be involved in the work of the Spirit in guiding our church, as well as the trepidation of knowing that I would get and be frustrated more often than I would care to experience in the compact setting of advisory committees, plenary discussions, reports, and debates over the course of just one week.

It pays to be prepared.

My preparation of knowing the material proved fruitful and allowed me the time to think through what I felt was my God-given contribution to conversations in a setting where time for reflection is like Vancouver real estate: you’ll either need to pay for it dearly at high cost by trading sleep or exercise and fresh air– even food and drink– for the time to read and think, or you’ll need to be able to move quick in case someone beats you to it by making a motion that moves the conversation in a new direction or calls for the question (essentially stopping the possibility of any changes to what is being discussed).

But perhaps more important than the material preparation I undertook was the soul preparation I’ve been doing over the last few of years. As an Apprentice of Jesus and someone going through the Ridder Church Renewal process, I’ve grown in the grace and knowledge of the Saviour and in particular, the Holy Spirit has helped me grow more into the person the Father created me to be. I am one in whom Christ dwells and the kingdom of God is not in trouble, no matter what happens at synod or what synod decides. All the same, though, how I act, pray, interact with, speak, etc. reflects my trust and belief that I am part of the kingdom of God and how I’ve been transformed by the Holy Spirit as Christ dwells within me.

Three years ago, I’m not sure I would have seen my brothers and sisters with whom I strongly disagree on matters of faith with the heart of Christ and been able to share meals and drinks with them. Even still, I failed to treat them well (both directly and indirectly) more than once this week… Three years ago, I’m not sure that I would have been able to participate in synod without letting my disappointment or fear for the future of the church overshadow the hope that was present throughout the week. Even still, I reacted strongly and judgmentally on more than one occasion… Three years ago, I would have doubted more of what I brought to the table. Even still, I worried that I was speaking up too often… Three years ago, my pride would have gotten in the way of me being able to see how the denomination’s agencies and staff have changed out of deference to the desires of the churches they serve and wouldn’t have taken the time to reflect on the meaning I was making of what I was hearing. Three years ago, I KNOW that I wouldn’t have spent an entire day fasting in order to devote myself to prayer on a particular topic.  And three years ago, I definitely would have had a lot more complaining than peacefulness at the end of synod.

Devoting yourself to being a disciple of Christ really works, y’all. I will say, though, it would have been nice if those 12+ hour days could have included more silence.

I plan to reflect and share more about the decisions and work of synod in the next couple of days, so look forward to that.

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Thanks for posting, Chelsey!  I agree with you that Synod would be well served by including some times of silence.  The Bible has a few things to say about speaking too quickly and too often :-) 

Wonderfully written, Chelsea.  It was an honor to serve at synod with you.