Photo: Karen Huttenga
Professor Michael Williams smiles during a synod banquet held in his honor
Photo by Karen Huttenga

Synod 2018 took a break from discussing church polity to dine together and celebrate the work of retiring Calvin Theological Seminary professor, Michael Williams.

The synod banquet is held each year and is a time for fun, fellowship, humor, and light-heartedness as the denomination honors those who are retiring.

This year’s honoree, Professor Michael Williams, was someone who came to the Reformed church, and Christianity as a whole, late in his life.

As Rev. Sarah Schreiber, Old Testament professor at Calvin Seminary and onetime student of Williams, gave a tribute to Williams, she shared his conversion story. He was serving in the United States Navy and picked up a Gideon’s Bible to read in his bunk, she said.

This Bible reading helped him experience the grace of God in a personal way and made him want to learn more. That’s just what he went on to do.

After completing his studies, Williams went on to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary, the University of Pennsylvania, and most recently Calvin Theological Seminary where he was a  professor of Old Testament and Hebrew.

Williams is also proficient in several ancient and medieval languages including Aramaic, Greek, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Sumerian, and Arabic.

Schreiber shared how Williams love for languages influenced her as a student. She also commended him for his love for the Bible, the books he has written, and his pioneering work in online learning.

Rod Hugen, Classis Arizona, who served on the banquet committee, also spoke during the banquet. His role was to provide the “the after-dinner entertainment”, a role he has served “Ten Times and Counting”—the title of his remarks.

Hugen, who pastors The Village Church in Tucson, Ariz., in the office of commissioned pastor,  said he considered retiring this year, “But as synod voted not to give commissioned pastors pension plans, unfortunately, I’ll be around a little longer . . . or a lot longer.”

Referencing many moments from previous sessions of synod, Hugen had delegates laughing at his echoes of executive director Steven Timmermans’ opening address on a “gallery of numbers,”  delegate Amy Vander Vliet’s fast list-reading, and synod president Scott Greenway’s “mean” mocking of Canadians’ language.

The banquet closed—fittingly, as it honored Williams, a language scholar—with the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 spoken in English, Tshivenda, Navajo, Dutch, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Korean, French, and then, by Williams himself, in Hebrew.

For continuous coverage of Synod 2018 including the live webcast, news, video recordings, photos, reports, liveblog, social media links, and more visit www.crcna.org/synod.