General Synod president Phil Assink opened General Synod 2022 at 3:00 p.m. Central Time on Thursday, June 9. The opening session included introductions, an orientation to the process of synod, and table discussions about civil discourse guidelines.
“We are called together to deliberate and discern God’s will,” Assink said of the work the delegates are called to do. “We are called to make decisions for the entire denomination. And while we are sent by various bodies, we are not called to represent these bodies. … We are called to be open to the Holy Spirit and let Jesus be the king of the holy church, not popular will.”
Building on this theme, Assink also lit a Christ candle at the start of the session. He explained that it was a reminder “that we gather in Christ’s presence.”
Delegates reflect on civil discourse
Delegates spent just under an hour in table conversations about civil discourse and cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in the ways we engage one another.
“My hope is that you will leave more relationally connected at least to the people you are seated with,” Assink said. “So we want to spend some time today beginning our journey together by building our relationships with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Assink invited each table to share additional guiding principles from Scripture to help guide civil discourse throughout General Synod 2022.
Powerful opening worship service inspires and challenges
During opening worship on Thursday evening, Douwstra Auditorium was filled with wholehearted song, from “How Great Thou Art” at the beginning of the service to the doxology at its close. A worship band with musicians from across the RCA led the singing.
Rev. Dr. Micah McCreary preached a powerful sermon on Micah 6:8 and 1 Peter 5:6, calling on the RCA to stand. “This text can tear down walls and build relationships,” he said. “This text can spread healing balm. … Christ purchased our freedom and left us with a profound example of how to share that freedom with others, by emptying ourselves.” He acknowledged the difficulties in the world and challenges in the denomination, but urged the assembly to wait with expectation. “While we are in the valley, we can find green pastures,” he said. “Waiting provides a time to cry out to God, ‘What do you want us to do?’
“Waiting allows you to power up. Waiting allows you to clothe yourself in hope. Waiting allows you to renew yourself,” said McCreary. He compared it to a half-time break—a chance to rest and get ready, to plan your play for the next half. Then, he urged, stand. “It’s time for the RCA to stand!” he implored, prompting delegates to stand and clap with enthusiasm.
#ThrowbackThursday: Synod at Central College
The RCA’s General Synod first descended on Central College’s campus exactly 100 years ago, in 1922. A special train carried the delegates to Pella, Iowa. It was the furthest west synod had ever taken place at the time. The Black Diamond Express began its journey in New York and New Jersey and picked up more delegates in Michigan and Illinois. A brigade of cars met the train at midnight in Pella, ready to carry each delegate to a host family’s home.
Hours after the synod adjourned with a rendition of “Blest be the tie that binds,” cries of “Fire!” rang out on Central College’s campus. The “Old Central” building–the oldest structure on the campus, dating back to 1853–had erupted in flames. Soon the whole town was awake and a crowd had gathered around the burning building. The fire department’s hoses proved no match for the flames, and the building was in ashes within hours.
Delegates gathered with college faculty and town residents nearby and lifted the college up in prayer. They thanked God that no lives were lost and prayed for strength and guidance in responding to the crisis. Eager to help, on the train home the following day, delegates pledged more than $12,000 to help Central rebuild.
Fortunately, the most recent RCA General Synod to take place in Pella–General Synod 2014–did not involve any calls to the fire department. The 2014 synod was a joint meeting with the RCA’s sister denomination, the CRCNA.
Here are a few pictures from that synod.
Central is one of three RCA colleges, along with Northwestern and Hope. Learn more about the relationship between Central College and the RCA in this article from 2016, when we celebrated 100 years of partnership between the college and the denomination.