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CRC Members Gather for Renewal

April 24, 2024
Participants of Gather: Minneapolis
Participants of Gather: Minneapolis

On April 19, 2024, 61 Christian Reformed people from five regional classes convened at a hotel in St. Paul, Minn. They were joined by 18 staff from CRCNA agencies. Together they shared stories, studied Scripture, and sought God’s will for the future of their congregations.

Dubbed “Gather,” this event in the twin cities (Minneapolis - St. Paul) was the first of 10 events to be held in the next 18 months. Each event will include five CRCNA classes, or regional groupings of churches, with up to 15 people per classis invited. This event included representatives from Classes Columbia, Hackensack, Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior.

“Gather is such a great idea! It was helpful to meet people from different classes,” said Susan Koppendrayer from Princeton, Minn., who attended the event. “I had enlightening conversations with people who are doing amazing ministry. It was so encouraging to see their passion for the gospel and the diversity within our denomination,” 

Attendees sat at assigned seats, with each table including representatives from all of the classes present. They then dug deep into Scripture with a focus on Luke 24:13-35, the story of Jesus meeting two disciples on the Emmaus road.

As they studied Scripture, participants were encouraged to share stories of unmet needs in their congregations, and to confess where they have been slow to recognize God in their midst. They also shared stories of met needs and how God has been actively at work among them. 

“To borrow the language of our times, intersectionality was everywhere,” said John Tamming from Owen Sound, Ontario. He said that his table group included “two young Asian-Americans deeply invested in [their congregation in New York]; a whip-smart teacher from a tiny church in Akron who has reintroduced home visits there; a former church planter from Oregon; [and] an older woman from Maryland who has devoted much of her life to home care for her son (catastrophically injured at Calvin University).”

In fact, the diversity of the group went beyond geography: 22 percent of participants were elders; 22 percent, pastors; 6 percent, deacons; 19 percent worked as church staff; 17 percent were church volunteers; and 15 percent had no formal role but were active members of a CRC.

There were people who regularly attend classis meetings, and there were some who had no idea what a classis was. There were men and women, young and old, urban, suburban, and rural. What they shared was a deep commitment to their local church and a desire to see God’s kingdom work flourish. 

“I hope to learn from other churches and communities, including innovative ways churches have reached out to the community and any shifts in how churches do their programming and ministries,” one participant wrote in a pre-event survey. “I also want to learn from the struggles we are all experiencing, and how we have, or can, overcome some of those barriers. I would love to end the weekend with a sense of unity and knowing there is a bigger community [out there] of support and prayer.”

And that’s just what happened. 

“Over the weekend, we engaged with the text involving [two followers of Jesus] on the road to Emmaus,” Tamming explained. “I heard almost nothing of church politics, synodical committee assignments, or the Human Sexuality Report. Denominational staff were there, but they played a properly understated role, as the successes and stories and felt needs of the congregations moved organically to the fore. Until our hearts were burning.”

In fact, several people commented on the fact that, like the travelers on the Emmaus road, their eyes had been opened to what God had been doing in their congregation and in the denomination as a whole. They were excited to bring their learning back home. 

“It truly was a blessing to attend Gather. It was wonderful to dissect Scripture and to hear other perspectives,” said Richard Jones, an attendee and pastor from Haledon, New Jersey. “We all have attended conferences, planning sessions, and retreats where people cannot wait to return; however, this was different.”

“I came to the gathering with some concerns. I thought it might be another effort to derail some decisions coming up at Synod 2024,” added Rob Braun from Princeton, Minn. “But, instead, it turned out to be something completely different. And what happened there I thoroughly enjoyed. It forced us to think about the future of our church through an Emmaus Road group Bible study. Brilliant!”

The idea for Gather rose out of a decision of Synod 2023, which talked openly and frankly about the challenges CRC churches are facing and the membership decline we have seen across the denomination over the past 30 years (see Acts of Synod 2023, pp. 973-76). 

“In this time of upheaval in our denomination and our culture, we believe God is calling us to orient our congregations with the vision for ministry and mission he has set,” explained general secretary Zachary King, who was tasked with developing a plan for church renewal. “We've heard it from congregational leaders, from our classes, and from our synod in 2023: God is not done with us. Gather is about faithfully discerning and acting on that call as congregations.”

The next round of Gather events will take place in fall 2024 in Vancouver, Calgary, Boston, and Niagara. Learn more at