This past week I had the privilege of attending Synod School at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.
Synod School is a combination of family vacation (many families come to Synod School every year to spend time together), church camp at a college (all of us live in dorm rooms, eat dorm food, and worship together in the morning and evening), educational opportunities (the workshops and speakers are helpful for people interested in religious leadership and also for people interested in engaging our culture), and Presbyterian love fest (people here have a deep appreciation of the PC(USA).
Within the Presbyterian Church many people question why Synods exist; however spend some time at Synod School and the need for Synods is obvious. This year close to 700 people attended Synod School—a record number.
The highlight of Synod School for me was listening to Rev. J. Herbert Nelson speak. He serves as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) also known as PC(USA). I loved what he had to say about the ministry of justice. One quote of his that resonated within Synod School was “Get off your Blessed Assurance and do something for the Lord.”
What also resonated with me about his speaking was:
· His spiritual foundation. In my memory I cannot remember a national, PC(USA) leader so authentic and open about the importance of prayer, worship, listening to the leading of God;
· His honesty. He grabbed me the first day when he shared that the PC(USA) has been in depression. He also grabbed me when he said that any governing body that has three task forces figuring out the way forward is in trouble;
· His openness. J Herbert ate meals in the cafeteria, walked the grounds with the rest of the group, and was willing to talk to people when he was approached;
· His passion. This man is committed to significance for the PC(USA). His passion alone is worth listening to him speak.
I had the privilege of taking a class by Rev. Mark Sundby called, “The Productive Pastor.” He is the Executive Director of LeaderWise. https://leaderwise.org/mark-sundby/
Just taking a class by Mark Sundby is worth attending Synod School. I came home with all sorts of tools for my own toolbox that will help me be more productive.
Rev. Sarah Dickenson and I led a class called, “Healthy People; Vital congregations.” Sarah is the pastor of Discovery Presbyterian Church in Omaha, Nebraska. http://www.discoverypc.org/
The class originated from Sarah and my discussions last year at Synod School. Both of us are deeply committed to the PC(USA), but last year both of us were frustrated. We shared our frustrations with each other. Out of our conversations came a course. Sarah did much of the work in designing and leading the course. Both of us were very pleased with how the course turned out and hope that the content of what we taught will be implemented in local congregations.
The last day of Synod School I shared a Facebook post where I wrote that I’m more hopeful about the PC(USA) than I was when I came to Synod School. The basis of my hope is a combination of the leadership of J Herbert Nelson; the recognition that many of the Presbyterian conflicts about churches leaving are behind us; and the recognition of the gifts of the people who attended Synod School. There were some very talented individuals who walked the campus of Buena Vista this past week. The gifts of those people gave me a sense of hope that God is going to do something with a group of people called Presbyterian.
Thanks Synod School!