(Christian Courier column, July 22, 2013)
I love the CRC. Unequivocally. If you bash the CRC in my presence, sooner or later I’m going to speak up (politely) and point out the good. Like Synod.
The other day I jotted down a great (unattributed) quote from a photographer’s website: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” I’ve attended Synod as an observer a few times. When I look at Synod, I see hundreds of delegates who have rearranged their schedules to attend. Some gave up work, foregoing their wages. Others are parents who juggled complicated family schedules in order to be there. I see women and men, Americans, Canadians and global ecumenical guests, worshipping God together. I see pastors and elders, a holy company, united in their willingness to serve the church.
Seated in the gallery on Monday morning, June 10th, at the Fine Arts Center, I witnessed it all again. Sure, I wish I’d seen more women on the floor, but I counted at least nine. And bonus, later in the week, Rev. Amanda Benchkhuysen was appointed associate professor of Old Testament studies for Calvin Seminary. Sure, I wish I had seen more diversity, but later that week Synod approved a specific plan to boost the CRC’s ethnic leadership as well as a new study committee on ministry to gay members. Sure, the delegates were generally grey-ish, but there was a lively team of individuals serving as Young Adult Representatives. The morning worship illumined my soul – thoughtful liturgy and spirited singing accompanied by drums, piano and flute. Rev. Victor Ko, a church planter from Edmonton, challenged us with a message that embodied joy and hopefulness.
That was the vista from the balcony. But every delegate packs a history. When I get a peek at those backstories, my love for the CRC expands. John Krale, an elder from my local church, served at Synod for the first time in 2011, returning home to commend the devotion and spiritual maturity of his fellow delegates. Ancaster CRC was Synod’s host church in 2012, and, for my sister Teresa, first-time deacon there, it was a nervous privilege to serve as a volunteer at Sunday’s worship service. I was there, too, fighting back tears, amazed at how God had worked in her life to bring her to this point of leadership and responsibility. This year I met Ben Vandezande, Director of Canadian Ministries, at the Prince Centre where he has his “own room” because he is in Grand Rapids so frequently. In our conversation I caught the briefest glimpse of his dedicated service to Synod and the CRC.
Saints like you and me
My friend Bill Vis has served as a delegate to Synod eight times. At 60, he’s now heading off to Alaska to be the pastor of Trinity Christian Reformed Church in Anchorage. One regret? That he probably won’t get to Synod for a few years! Or let me tell you about Ken Prol, pastor of First Randolph CRC in Wisconsin. A few years ago, Ken underwent major back surgery, enduring months of pain. He soldiered on through a lengthy rehabilitation. Thankful for his eventual recovery, Ken committed to doing a leg of the Sea-to-Sea Tour this summer and soon surpassed his fundraising goal. However, disappointingly, he had to endure another surgery in March, this time on his neck. Worse, the fusion broke apart and required further surgery on May 3rd to fuse the cervical spine. You can guess where this is going . . . yes, Ken was at Synod. With barely a voice, he squeaked into a microphone to do his work. And work he did! The reporter for his committee had to leave Synod unexpectedly, so Ken filled in. He’s currently back on the bike, in training, determined to fulfill his cycling dream.
Stories like these drop me to my knees to thank God for every person willing to serve at Synod, past, present and future.
The Network reports these facts about this year’s Synod:
- People watched the synod webcast over 15,000 times
- There were 98,000 views of synod-related pages on the CRCNA website
- 7,000 people subscribed to the daily Synod News email
- There were visits to the synod website from 71 different countries
These are not just random statistics. Though scoffers may look at the church with “scornful wonder,” these numbers are notations in a ledger marked “saints who are keeping watch.” I look at my church, the CRC, with reverential wonder. I see Jesus, the “church’s one foundation,” bowed like Atlas beneath her, bearing her up. It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.