Synod Through My Eyes

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Q. What do you believe concerning the ‘holy catholic church’?

A. I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.

Lord’s Day 21 of the Heidelberg Catechism ran through my mind several times during synod last month. Seeing the growing diversity and the ways in which God is using this denomination to shape and change lives all around the world made me proud to call the Christian Reformed Church my home.

I will never forget the experience of being seated on the floor of synod for the first time as an elder delegate. So much took place in order for me to be there. I was born in South Korea and adopted into a Dutch, Christian Reformed family when I was 4 months old. Pastors, teachers, and family members saw my gifts and encouraged me into ministry. Finally, I was keenly aware that this was only the second year female delegates have been part of synod. So many factors played into the uniqueness of my situation as synod’s youngest delegate, I felt an incredible sense of awe and thanksgiving.

I listened a lot, said very little, and prayed much. Here are a few observations:

I was amazed at how diverse the denomination actually is. I’ve often thought of my Washington, D.C., congregation as an exception in our striving toward racial diversity and unity. But I was encouraged to see representatives from churches just like ours and hear their stories. Racial reconciliation became one of the overarching themes of the week. The decision we made to continue studying the Belhar Confession helped emphasize that (see p. 32). Clearly, we are realizing the value of diversity.

There has been a lot of hype lately about why 20- and 30-somethings are leaving the church. I find it somewhat offensive because those of us who still attend are in some ways dedicated to the church more so than any other age group. I’d like to encourage the church to ask us directly about what attracts us. For example, I enjoy church because it’s countercultural. It forces me to think on a deeper level than anything the media throws my way—to solve problems greater than who killed who on “CSI” last night, to put into practice something more important than my skills on “Guitar Hero.” Church challenges me to think beyond myself and give rightful attention and homage to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. (Some comments I heard at synod upset me. There’s a necessity for accountability and confrontation in the church, but I expected it to be handled in a countercultural way, addressed with love and compassion rather than irritability and skepticism.)  

In his “State of the CRC” speech, Jerry Dykstra challenged us all to build healthy congregations. If we want to shape this denomination that is reaching the world, we need to start on the congregational level—discipling and sending out agents of renewal to transform lives. This task belongs to each one of us. What are you doing?

This was my first and, I hope, not my last trip to synod. I would encourage all CRC members to attend someday if possible. It’s wonderful to see firsthand how God’s Spirit is moving. Synod showed me even more clearly why I love the church. Regardless of its flaws and shortcomings, I will continue striving to be a “living member” of this community. 

About the Author

Katie Ritsema-Roelofs grew up in Denver, Colo., and graduated from Calvin College in 2006 with a degree in music and worship. Ordained last year as a ministry associate, she currently serves as Minister of Music and Worship for Washington, D.C., CRC. She’s also working on a master’s in religion and theological studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Brian, are expecting their first child in October.