I wanted to share this picture with you, because it gives a great impression how our reconfiguration project was presented at General Synod this year. The Synod had gathered in Pella, IA and the presentation was part of the speech of the Synod President, Rev. Dr. Tom Smith. Rev. Tom is co-pastor of Faith Reformed Church in Rock Valley, IA.
I also found the remainder of Tom’s speech remarkable. He presented our project as one of two examples on how established churches can successfully transition into a new era and context. From there, Tom delineated the general need for transformation within our denomination.
He said, (and I paraphrase what I heard him say on live stream from my computer in New Brunswick): “One congregation is completely open and affirming when another one is debating whether they can even allow women in ordained leadership.”
Naturally, Tom regretted the resulting lines people draw in the sand against each other. “What is the justification of drawing lines like these?” he asked. “If we insist on measuring each other in these ways, will we ever be able to look together into the face of Jesus Christ in order to serve him?”
Then he suggested, “Instead of drawing lines in the sand, try to see Jesus in the diversity of our denomination. See him in the faces of those with whom you agree. See him also in the faces of those with whom you disagree.”
Certainly, Tom spoke about the denomination on the whole, our beloved Reformed Church in America. But I also applied his words to our particular congregational life. Small as our membership might be, it is very diverse! It comes as no surprise when large projects like our historic preservation or the reconfiguration of our church draw emotions from many sides. In this sense, religion is something extremely personal, and we guard it with a host of feelings, forgetting sometimes that it is not something we can possess.
Yet, I believe that, through God’s Spirit, we have managed rather well to not let our different opinions get in the way of our personal relationships. This says something about the spiritual climate at our church – the body of Christ has remained more important to us than the materialization of this or that group’s intentions. We were able to move forward nevertheless. And so it may be true that herein lays the seed of our transformation into the future. I see it as a gift from God.
With fond wishes,