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A Synod and a Conference

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A Synod and a Conference

The ride to the airport left home at 7:45 Monday morning.  A quick hop to Calgary, a brief layover, then another flight to Winnipeg, and finally a road trip under a clear blue sky brought us to balmy Carman in southern Manitoba in time for supper.

Regional Synod

Why I went?  According to Article 47 of the Church Order, “each year some neighbouring classes shall send delegates to meet in a regional synod.”  Classis Pacific East had delegated Revs IJbema and myself (along with two elders) to attend this Synod.  The agenda this time consisted of a number of proposals from churches and individuals, as well as four appeals against decisions of a classis. There were also a number of house-keeping matters needing attention.

The sixteen delegates to this Regional Synod assembled at the Carman East church building in time for a coffee before the proceedings began.  At 9 o’clock sharp Rev Holtvluwer as chairman of the consistory of the convening church (Carman East) called the meeting to order.  In attendance were not just the delegates but also the students of the high school and a number of interested persons from the two Carman congregations; after all, it wasn’t every day that they could see something of how an ecclesiastical assembly works.  After the normal Christian opening, the visitors observed how the validity of the delegation was verified (through letters of credentials submitted by the four classes of this Regional Synod resort), and once that bit of paperwork was completed, Rev Holtvluwer declared Regional Synod constituted.  As this Synod needed an executive in order to do its work, the students could observe how a Chairman was elected, as well as a Vice Chairman and a Clerk.

Once the new executive was in place, the meeting tackled the agenda itself.  The first item was a proposal from one of the churches to specify that local consistories from now on should be asked to submit names of brothers who could potentially be delegated to General Synod.  I won’t bother you with the reasons for the proposal, or the arguments pro and con, but the item produced some interesting discussion which, I dare say, the audience indeed could follow easily.  The steps to finalizing a decision on the matter were also, in my judgment, transparent to the student body.  I like to think the students found this part of the work of Regional Synod enlightening.  It better have been enlightening, for once this item was complete the meeting had to go on to the appeals, and as these concerned matters of persons and oversight Synod had to go into closed session – and that’s to say that the audience was dismissed.  It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall of the classrooms as the proceedings of the morning were analysed….

But let me cut the long story short.  The appeals and the remaining house-keeping matters kept the brothers of Synod busy till shortly after 5:00 PM.  One of the last decisions to be made was to decide upon the place and date for the next Regional Synod, and that turned out to be Abbotsford in November 2009.  Close by – and therefore perhaps accessible for Credo’s students.  We’ll see.

Western Ministerial Conference

From the church the ministers amongst the delegates now headed south to Winkler, where a Bible camp had been rented for a two-day ministerial conference.  What this Ministerial Conference is?  For a number of years now the ministers of Western Canada have gotten together each November to discuss aspects of their work as well as encourage each other through personal conversation.  The Press Release of a recent Council Meeting recorded that Council had received an invitation for its minister to attend this Ministerial, and recorded too that Council encouraged me to attend.  I appreciate the brothers’ encouragement very much, and am now happy to relate that I found the Conference to be very beneficial – which was in fact the conclusion of all who attended.  There were 24 ministers present from Western Canada, plus four ministers from the URC.

What we did?  The ministerial consisted of two principle components, namely, work and socializing.  The emphasis was distinctly on the work side of things, but not to the point that there was no time for private conversation during and after a meal.  Tuesday evening we listened to a presentation on the Emotional Lives of Ministers.  The Word of God addresses every part of human existence, and involves every part of ones’ personhood too.  So the public reading of the Bible cannot be done unemotionally, and preaching void of emotion will not cut it either.  Joy, love, anger, hope and so many other emotions are not to be buried behind a façade, but need to be transparent for the congregation to see so as (in part) to ensure that the Word of God touch the emotions of the hearers too.  Still, how does a minister cope with joy on the pulpit, or grief??  Being happy and positive on the pulpit is one thing, but may (or should) a minister also show Godly anger on the pulpit?  And how do you keep your emotions from running away on you, or perhaps letting your emotions control you?  Clearly, there was plenty of material here for a fruitful discussion.

Wednesday morning was devoted to exegesis.  The first step in making a sermon is reading the Hebrew or Greek text, and then asking the text all sorts of questions.  Why did the Holy Spirit move the human writer to use this particular word or phrase?  Why does one evangelist record the same parable differently than another does (as happened in the case we studied)?  On what part of God’s earlier revelation is the present text based?  How do later Bible writers work with the material the Lord reveals in this passage?  The exercise was intended to hone our exegetical skills, and at the same time we ended up with the ground work done for a potential sermon.

The afternoon saw us come to grips with the advice of a senior minister on “How to Handle Criticism as Pastors”.  Criticism can come from so many angles and for so many reasons, can come too in so many different ways and with a wide range of intensity.  How ought one to respond to criticism?  A number of valuable practical suggestions came forward, the first one being to pray and seek God’s guidance to a Godly response.  We were reminded that at the end of the day we have one Master, and it is imperative that we do what pleases Him.  We further discussed the need for self-examination, consultation with others, timeout, etc.  Again, a very worthwhile discussion.

The evening was devoted to the traditional sermon and sermon discussion.  Again, the emphasis (particularly in the discussion) was on fine-tuning our skills, so that we could be the better prepared to preach the Word well, and in my judgment we were helped in that purpose.

Thursday morning had a guest speaker in to help us in Diagnosing and Preventing Depression/Burnout.  The presentation was helpful inasmuch as we live in a world of rush and pressure, and anyone can fall victim to burnout in such an environment.


There’s more I could say about what happened at the Conference, but I trust that the bit I could relate gave a sense of the value of the Western Ministerial Conference.  The time away was most beneficial, but the best was … the homecoming.  Talk about a good reason to go away!

C Bouwman
7 November 2008