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Interview with Dee Recker

January 25, 2023

Over the course of her time with the CRCNA, Dee Recker has worked for eight different senior leaders and has helped to administer 23 synods and 70 Board of Trustees or Council of Delegates meetings. She retired as director of synodical services earlier this month (see Banner news story), and CRC News asked her to share some of her insights from the past 23 years of service.

You began your time at the CRCNA as an administrative assistant to then-general-secretary David Engelhard. What made you decide to apply for that first position?
I previously owned and operated an educational supply store in a mall that was quickly going downhill. The week that I decided to close my store, our church bulletin included an announcement for an administrative assistant position for the General Secretary of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

Not knowing what I was going to do after my store closed, I asked a member of my church who worked for Home Missions (now Resonate) about the position. She encouraged me to apply, stating, “You could do that job!” So I applied, not anticipating that I would be called – and even though I was busy preparing to close my store.

After serving as administrative assistant for a few years, you became an office manager and then took on the role of director of Synodical Services in 2007. Over all of those years, you have helped to plan and administer 23 synods! That is astounding! What do you remember about your first synod?
Oh, my goodness – I was so nervous! I had never attended a synod and had no idea how the meetings ran – other than what I had been told. Imagine sitting on the floor of synod with all men (circa 2000 when women were not present as delegates).

David Engelhard, general secretary, was such a gracious and calming presence. The officers that year were also very helpful and delightful to work with!

One of the most memorable moments for me was when the assembly sang during worship – the acoustics in the Calvin University Fine Arts Auditorium, with all those male voices joining the organ, nearly moved me to tears.

Do any other synods stand out for you?
Synod 2010. That was the first year that “youth observers” were present during the assembly, and the year that synod voted to give these young adults a voice on the floor of synod as “young adult advisers.” It was a proud moment! (I had been instrumental in creating this special advisory group – now called “young adult representatives.”)

And who can forget Synod 2009? That was the year that the “synod flu” (norovirus) swept through the participants, even striking the president of synod and our staff. That synod was held at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill. On Monday morning, as I was standing in the breakfast line, delegates kept coming up to inform me that their roommate was very ill and would not be able to attend the session that day. It soon became apparent that something was seriously wrong.

Trinity’s president, synod staff, and the officers quickly stepped into action to help prevent the spread of what we later learned was the norovirus.

Even though synods held outside of Grand Rapids (e.g., at Dordt, Redeemer, and Trinity) require more planning, we found the staff and area churches a delight to work with! The hospitality was unbeatable – and those synods provided the opportunity for synod staff to gather for “debriefing meetings” each evening rather than heading to their individual homes. Those are moments I will continue to cherish!

Along the way, you've worked for eight different senior leaders, called at various points general secretary, executive director, and now again general secretary. What was that like?
Each of my supervisors had their own work style, which required some adjustment on the part of staff. The Denominational Ministry Plan was first adopted by Synod 2002, which guided the work of the ministries and board as well as the general secretary and executive director. There was always an abundance of committees of synod and of the board to keep the office staff busy and engaged in the work of the denomination.

The turnover of leadership over the years posed some challenges and extra work in the transitions, but one learns how to prioritize the steps needed in order to assist in those transitions.

Did I have favorites? Indeed! But each had unique gifts and personalities that stood out.

What kinds of changes have you seen over the past 23 years in how the business of synod is conducted?
Not a lot has changed in the way synod processes reports through advisory committees, or in the procedures used to conduct the business. With that said, there are a few changes that come to mind:

  • Transitioning from having voting boxes at each classis table to using digital voting through Google Sites via personal devices.
  • No longer printing and mailing all of the delegate information pre-synod, or the advisory committee reports while at synod.
  • The inclusion of ethnic and women advisers (as needed) and young adult representatives on the floor of synod.
  • We now also have a projectionist, a synod business operator (for roll call, voting, speaker queue, etc.), and an IT Helpdesk to assist during plenary sessions.

What do you enjoy most about the week of synod?
A highlight of synod has always been the worship times – the singing is memorable. I also enjoyed meeting the delegates and advisers in person after communicating with them for months before they finally arrived! And I greatly enjoyed “handing over” the responsibility of synod to the synod officers upon their election. The Synodical Services staff do all the groundwork and preparation for the Agenda and to get everyone to synod – what a relief it is to have the officers take over!

What’s one thing people don’t realize about the work of the Synodical Services office?
Our office supports the retention and collection of information on all ordained personnel, churches, and classes for the online and printed annual Yearbook. This is an important task, requiring careful attention to a significant amount of detail. Churches and classes depend on this data. The team is amazing and deserves appreciation for this annual project.

What is an encouragement you’d give to those considering serving at synod?
I have heard time and time again by way of notes or the evaluations from delegates and advisers to synod that they were blessed by the experience. Yes, there is a lot of preparation, but they were rewarded in the end to see the broader church at work – deliberating, fellowshiping, and worshiping together – in spite of our differences and uniquenesses.

The CRCNA is once again in a time of transition with nearly all of the senior leader positions being filled with new people (general secretary, chief administrative officer, transitional executive director - Canada, director of Synodical Services, etc.). What advice do you have for Scott DeVries, the new director of Synodical Services, and others as they work through this time of transition?
What an exciting time this is to look to the future and implement new strategies and vision. You have new, creative energy. Use it to your advantage and as a blessing to the church!

And what advice do you have for the denomination as they support these leaders during this time?
Be patient with the new administration – it takes a full year to learn the ministry cycle and to grow familiar with and comfortable in their roles. You’ve appointed the best of the best – intelligent, caring, growing individuals. They need your support and prayer to be effective in their ministry.