“Classis” is the name given to the regional expression of fellowship, ministry and organization of the Body of Christ within the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It consists locally of 25 congregations and 2 ministries reaching from Brandon, Manitoba to Baldwin, Wisconsin. Each community is asked to send 3 delegates (deacon, elder, pastor) to deliberate at our meetings held each September and March. At our most recent meeting 51 delegates were present – 16 for the first time.
Our September meeting was held in Thunder Bay, ON at The Gathering Place – a ministry supported prayerfully and financially by classis. They had obtained new facilities in Thunder Bay and invited delegates (representatives from each church) to come, see, and celebrate this gift of God first hand.
The Gathering Place’s new location on Amelia St. W in Thunder Bay, ON is tangible reminder of God’s redeeming work. The building, formerly a Jehovah’s Witness facility, has been transformed into a life giving, functional, and attractive hub of encouragement, prayer, and assistance for those that utilize this ministry. By God’s grace and faithful leadership of both its board and director, Yvonne Schenk, this community ministry is shaping a love for Christ each day.
Below are some highlights of the work done during this gathering:
- As part of an ongoing effort to offer a time of learning and encouragement classis invited Mark Hilbelink, pastor of the “Weirdest Little Church in Texas” and a member of YALT (Young Adult Leadership Team), to speak to “the gaps” in our church communities. He spoke powerfully of the church’s need for those that are missing and the need of those missing for the church. This mutual need drives both groups to maturity in life and faith together. The hard part of the message is that reaching those in the gaps requires communities to be true to themselves and yet willing to create space (change) for those who don’t yet belong.
- Classis heard testimony of the CRCNA’s considerable efforts to support and encourage local ministry and initiatives. This calls classis to be a vital part of this support for local worshipping communities too. Darren Roorda, the Director of Ministries in Canada, unpacked this and more as he shared, “Our Journey 2020”. This is a long-range goal for growing into this call to serving the local church.
- Classis was also briefed on a new initiative called “Connections” that addresses the need for resources and coaching for leaders of local congregations. For example, your church wants to install a carpet, but you’re not sure who to hire, what funding might be available, or if carpet is even an appropriate direction. Rather than asking a willing but unequipped person in your church to do the initial 10-20hrs of investigating, why not just have them call one person – Trudy. Trudy Ash, a regional resource catalyzer from Princeton, MN, and her helping pilot this new support structure to churches! Although this is currently focused on our US churches, in time it should become available to the CAN churches also. So, if you’re stuck – give Trudy a call!
- Before starting with the “work” of classis time was spent in prayer after hearing the stories and testimonies of churches and ministries. Classis gave thanks to God for his faithfulness through the struggles, failures, delights, and new milestones!
- Classis began its work by drawing on God’s faithfulness as they discussed a council’s request to have their formerly deposed pastor be declared eligible for a call to ministry within the CRCNA. As expected, there were several hours of careful testimony, interview, and deliberation. Delegates although not ready to grant the request, expressed a desire to see classis (through the CIC) to provide assistance on this road of healing and reconciliation. Classis began this work by laying hands on the individual and asking for God’s Spirit to continue its work of restoring what becomes so easily broken by our sinfulness.
- Classis was encouraged to hear of ongoing developments to plant a new church in the Southwest corner of the Twin Cities. Classis endorsed Chapel Hill Academy in Chanhassen as the place where it would be located.
- Classis thanked John and Linda Parsons (CAN) and Rosanne Van Marion (US) – a.k.a. “Prayer Mobilizers” – for their years of faithful service to classis. We look forward to new chapters in prayer ministry as new mobilizers join the Classis Home Mission Committees: Sonya Cahais (CAN) and Lowel Schwitters & Norma Baas (US).
- Classis endorsed the continued licensure to exhort for 4 members: Doug Shank, Redeeming Love, East Grand Forks; Carol Veldman Rudie, Calvary, Edina; Marlin Breems, Unity, Prinsburg; and Jerry Van Someren, Baldwin, WI. Classis also added to those licensed to exhort: Rob Braun from Bethel, CRC of Princeton.
- Classis rallied behind Grace CRC of Inver Grove Heights in granting their elders the right to administer the sacraments of Lord Supper and Baptism throughout the season their pastor serves in Egypt as a military chaplain.
- A final highlight of classis is the informal time spent together over lunch, coffee breaks, dinners, and while commuting to and from the meeting (even if its on a bus). It is always such a blessing to hear stories of God’s grace and goodness. Classis is truly an enriching and humbling experience. Maybe you will find yourself here in the near future!
May the Lord keep us faithful as we each contribute our small part where he has placed us and to which he has called us within the body of Christ.