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Denominational Prayer Service for the COD

June 2, 2021

Colin Watson, the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s executive director, called for a denominational prayer service, which included music, recitation of Psalm 121 and a range of prayers, to take place online last night.

Beginning a series of 10 days of focused prayer for the denomination and its congregations across the United States and Canada, the service also asked for prayers for strength, renewal, wisdom, and unity leading up to the Council of Delegates meeting, which will take place June 11-12 and 15-16.

This year’s special meeting of the Council of Delegates in June will consider matters on synod’s agenda that cannot await action by Synod 2022.

Jon Hoekema, pastor of Horizon Community Church in Downers Grove, Ill., opened Tuesday night’s service by reminding viewers of the global dimensions and reach of prayer.

“When we offer God praise, our prayer forms a never-ending chorus around the world,” he said.

“With no beginning and no ending, we are united with all believers in ceaseless praise,” said Hoekema. “God gathers us today from homes, offices, and wherever we may be, and he invites us to join our voices in praise.”

Weaving through the service was a mixture of praise, lament, music and hope with the COD in mind as well as CRCNA churches and members in mind.

It was a lively and varied service in which, near the beginning, organist, Norma deWaal Malefyt, and singer, Carlos Lemagne,  led worship with “Come, Thou Every Fount of Every Blessing.”

This hymn resonated with reminders of the foundational faith that believers can celebrate and lean on in uncertain times such as these — as evidenced by the COD meeting in June to decide on church matters in lieu of synod, canceled again this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the performance of the hymn, James Lee, pastor of Christ Community Church in East Islip, N.Y., spoke of the challenges presented by COVID-19.

“We don’t know what is going to happen,” said Lee, who served as a coordinator, along with Katie Roelofs from Worship Ministries, of the half-hour prayer service.

“We don’t know what the post-pandemic world will look like. But that is why we are here — to lift up our delegates and encourage our churches and families,” said Lee. “Even in the influx of all [kinds of] changes, we know God has called us to pray, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Roelofs, a commissioned pastor from Washington, D.C., picked up on the theme of uncertainty that everyone has experienced over the past 15 months since COVID-19 infections and shutdowns of businesses as well as churches began.

“We are acknowledging the brokenness in our world, the lives lost to the virus, the relationships broken, the milestones missed,” she said. “We lament this time.”

Catheryn Jo from Resonate Global Mission followed up on the topic of lament as she sang a song she wrote, “No Perfect World,” a lament recognizing the world’s fallen nature, especially as seen in the past year with the pandemic, and yet pointing to the hope we have in a perfect world promised with the return of Jesus Christ.

Following the song of lament, Denise Posie, a diversity, equity, and inclusion discipleship coach at Calvin Theological Seminary, and Jeremy Simpson, a worship pastor and catalyzer with Worship Ministries  from Kalamazoo, Mich., offered a prayer, in which they alternated in speaking, that ended with the words “Take our hands and use them; take our mouths and sanctify them; take our feet and guide them; take our hearts, precious Lord, and lead us on.”

Next, with a mountain scene as a backdrop, Henry Kranenburg and Lisa VanderLeek, both pastors from Edmonton, Alta., led us through a reading Psalm 121. Kranenburg followed that with a prayer for the COD.

“We give thanks for those who serve on the COD and have been called on again for extra service in this time of COVID uncertainties,” he said.

After a communal recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, Joyce Borger, director of Worship Ministries, wrapped up the service by saying, “We have made all these petitions of God. Because God is an all-powerful king, God is both willing and able to give all that is good.”

A choir of 16 voices followed with a rich rendition of the doxology: “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, ye heavenly host; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”