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Photo: Karen Huttenga
Synod 2018 worship service.
Photo by Karen Huttenga

On June 10, the synods of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and the Reformed Church in America (RCA) gathered for worship in the DeVos Center for Arts and Worship at Grand Rapids  Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Mich.. Mixing participants from the RCA and the CRC, the service was at times exuberant, at times prayerful, and driven by the conviction that the two denominations share a common mission.

As is the tradition, the service was hosted by a local congregation who serves as the “convening” church of synod. For this service, the host was appropriately Pillar Church of Holland, Mich., a union CRC/RCA congregation, with roots deep in the history of both denominations.

Scott Greenway, the president of the CRC synod, opened the service, welcoming the worshipers and introducing Tom DeJonge, superintendent of Grand Rapids Christian Schools. When DeJonge did not immediately appear, Greenway asked, “Is there anyone willing to impersonate him?” With that, the assembly began to ease from a gathering of people who did not know each other into a congregation of sisters and brothers in Christ.

Michelle Lloyd-Paige challenged the worshipers to worship in body as well as spirit. When the band introduced the song “Father, Let Your Kingdom Come” by Porter’s Gate, she had the entire gathering moving rhythmically two steps to the left, arms raised and moving, and then two steps to the right. She warned the crowd that if someone failed to move it would mess up the entire row. Prompted by Lloyd-Paige’s infectious smile as well as her words, the entire crowd was soon moving as one.

The message was brought by Ajoy Kumar Lama of India. Lama began his talk by citing the Heidelberg Catechism about God’s providence. He said that he had converted to Christianity as an adult, and this was “not by chance, but by God’s design.”

Today, Lama leads several evangelistic and discipleship ministries in India in cooperation with the CRC Back to God Ministries International and the RCA Words of Hope.

He preached on 1 Corinthians 9:22-23: “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel. . . .” Walking through several texts including Ephesians 4, John 17, Philippians 1, and 2 Timothy 1:11-12, Lama emphasized the need for Christian unity.

“The Lord Almighty is seated on the throne and he wants us all to be united for his Kingdom purpose,” he said, stressing that  “unity [among Christians] is not an option, it is indispensable and essential.”

Unity is achieved, he added, in learning to sacrifice individual wishes and preferences for the sake of others and for the gospel.

“Unity is a blessing but it comes with a cost,” he said. “For the glory of Christ, we must sacrifice our comfort, our preferences, our independence and even our life. That cost is worth it because Christ requires it.”

With grace and humor, Lama moved the message into a direct challenge to the two denominations to unite in mission, putting aside their preferences and becoming, as Paul says in the text, “all things to all people, that [they] might by all means save some.”

“It is not about what you know and what you have, but it is about how you use what you know and what you have,” he said.

With that challenge, the service moved into the celebration of holy communion, ending with a second spirited singing of “Father, Let Your Kingdom Come,” with the repeated line, “May the works of my hands bring you joy.”

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.