Last week I went to Classis. No, not classes. Classis! For those not familiar with the term, no, I'm not enrolled in further education. I'm referring to broader work of the church. Classis is a regional gathering of churches in our denomination committed to our Lord and each other. We meet together regularly, hold each other accountable, support and encourage each other for the sake of the kingdom. Sussex CRC is part of Classis Hudson which includes churches in Northern NJ, NYC, and Long Island. Now, Classis isn't always something we all look forward to. There is business to take care of, it often requires travel time and an office day that many of us have to catch up on later. Many lay leaders take off work to be there. Sure, there are always things to celebrate, but committing to be there can be challenging. Our previous meeting in January was held over Zoom and it was just fine. We got through the business of the church, covered the important things we needed to, and waved at each other over our computer screens. It was the shortest Classis meeting I've ever been a part of and no one had to travel. But this one was different. We were in person for the first time in over a year. I pulled up the driveway of the host church not thinking much of it. But then I passed the patio where we would be meeting and I saw faces. Colleagues, partners in ministry, dear friends and mentors I hadn't seen all year were there in the flesh. A giant goofy smile crept across my face as I found a parking spot. I was so excited to be at Classis.
It's no secret I'm an extrovert. I like being around crowds of people and feed off of others' energy. Naturally, I enjoy these types of gatherings. But I think regardless of whether we're extroverts or not, most of us are especially grateful for in-person fellowship these days.
In that setting with fellow church leaders, missionaries, volunteers and visitors, I was reminded of a small phrase from the Apostle's Creed. "I believe in…the communion of saints." That word, "saints", isn't referring to names revered in history for their great faith and good deeds. It's referring to the ordinary believer of Jesus Christ who is holy because they walk with their Lord and believe he did the work for them. So what do we mean by this phrase? Our catechism describes it this way:
"First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts.
Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members." (HC Q&A 55)
Ordinary believers in communion with other ordinary believers join in extraordinary work. Classis is one example. We got to examine a pastor for ordination, we welcomed another church which chose to affiliate with the CRC. We heard reports from some of our partner organizations like Resonate Global Mission, Northeast Community Transformation, and World Renew, celebrating wonderful new plans of churches and organizations to connect with and serve our hurting world. We got to hear updates from Mid-Atlantic Ministries (MAM) about church plants and campus ministries we’re supporting as a Classis. We learned that one emerging congregation is raising up one of their own lay leaders for ordination to serve their church as a Commissioned Pastor. We got to spend some time in scripture and prayer, exploring how Jesus is leading us as churches and a classis to work together for the sake of the gospel and how we can better support each other. This is all exciting stuff! One thing was abundantly clear; God has been faithfully leading His Church locally, regionally, and globally, even through a pandemic. The Spirit enabled churches to be creative, try a lot of new things, reflect on what really matters, and celebrate God's faithfulness.
We can say a lot of the same things about Sussex CRC. A church of ordinary people living in communion with ordinary people who walk with Jesus and join extraordinary work. We are blessed to have generations of faith stories to tell. We are blessed to have people of many different gifts cheerfully using them for service and enrichment of others. We are blessed to see God opening our eyes to new opportunities to be a blessing in our community. We are blessed to share in the gifts of Christ and belong to God's family.