Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part…Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
—1 Thessalonians 5: 13-18 (The Message)
I’ve been attending synod since the early 90s when a good friend and fellow church staffer said to me, “They’re going to talk about women at synod today—want to go listen?” I went and was drawn into the discussion, debates, and speakers.
Even though some of it was difficult to hear as a woman in the CRC, I was drawn into the process. Later, when I worked for Faith Alive and Worship Ministries, I was able to participate in worship and assist the teams of delegates leading worship at synod. Today I’m grateful that even though synod is relatively short, there is a growing recognition of the need to spend more time in worship and prayer.
The deliberation and discernment at synod is always somewhat of a mystery to me. Listening and responding to God’s voice with such a large group that operates with synodical rules and church order seems incongruous. Yet we pray for that discernment and moving of the Spirit to happen. I believe it has happened in the past and it can happen again. So we pray.
We pray for God to speak in committee work, in worship, in mealtime conversations with friends and foes, and in early morning walks and late evening coffees.
We pray for God’s voice to be heard through times of silence and prayer.
We pray for God’s voice to be heard in the speeches of the ‘first responders’ (those quick to speak), the hesitant delegates (those who wait until compelled to speak), and the deep thinkers (those who take time to think deeply before responding).
We pray that votes are not taken before all who need to speak have been heard.
We pray that procedural gymnastics do not hinder or derail important speaking and listening.
We pray that the debating and speaking will be full of humility and display evidence of the fruits of the Spirit.
We pray that all will be done in good order, with an extra measure of grace in the bond of unity in Christ.
I’m going out on a limb here and sharing with you that I will be praying for unity in the CRC. I pray especially for all who bear an extra burden of that unity. By that I mean those for whom decisions made by synod, classes, and churches impose a burden that involves a significant decision to stay in this denomination.
Specifically, I think of women who have shouldered that burden and still remain. I think of people of color who have taken up that cross and persisted with us in our not-so-perfect fellowship. I think of those on the margins, whoever and wherever they are, who have sought to be part of the body yet find themselves not fully embraced. It is a heavy burden.
I pray that Synod 2023 will consider the burden of unity with the gravity and depth it deserves. And if the burden of unity should shift somehow to include you and your affinity group, I will pray for you. No one person or group should bear more of the load than others. This should be all of our burden. I pray for bridges that can bear the weight of heavy loads and span a gap that cannot otherwise be navigated.
So we pray.
Let’s not wait. Let’s begin praying now for the health and well being of all who will be participating in synod this year, for the delegates, for the leaders of the CRC, and for the support staff of the CRC and Calvin University. And pray not only for them but for their families, their churches, and their employers. We know that there are many ways to derail someone’s presence (e.g. illness, death, trauma, or pain). Let’s join together now to cover these brothers and sisters in Christ and ask for God’s peace and presence to surround and protect them as they serve.
There are many opportunities for you to participate. You can find them here: crcna.org/synod.prayer. Please join us.