Zen and the Art of General Synod

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” –John 3:8

HolySpirit by Colleen Shay S

I walked the campus of Central College with the spirit of my grandmother this morning, all the while praying to God. Walking. Praying. Spirit of my ancestors. All are necessary pieces of my General Synod spiritual thriving guide. I find I need one.

It began, this week, when I arrived early in Pella to sit on a special advisory committee that will make recommendations on overtures and new business. I was one of only two women and the only African-American in the room, and so this morning I had to walk and pray with Jesus and grandma by my side, trying not to feel like a token. With all the women in my denomination, where were the women on my committee? Where were the African-Americans?

My need to draft a guide for spiritual thriving at General Synod began, this week, with faith leaders defining love as censure and the removal of power. My spirit has been troubled by conversations about the “true” church, which looks always like that of the speaker and not like that of the different. I look at who sits in positions of power in the Reformed Church in America, and none of them look like me. Where are the women? Where are the African-Americans? Where are the young people?

Modern day prophet, Maya Angelou, who died recently, talked about spiritual thriving rather than spiritual survival, and I made a conscious decision to thrive this year at General Synod rather than survive. I have already felt challenged in my decision, but I trust in God’s Spirit that blows wherever it pleases. Angelou, an abuse survivor, had a hard and difficult life that many are unaware of, but she made up her mind to thrive. I have made up my mind to do likewise with my own unique joy and creative aesthetic.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

This is my third General Synod, and I am grateful to God that the previous two, and subsequent denominational gatherings since, have provided connection and relationship that buoy me all these years later. Daniel Meeter, whose books I’ve read and whose counsel on liturgy and the Trinity I value, is here. JJ and Tim Ten Clay and their spirited daughters, who are off to Italy in August to serve God’s kingdom alongside the Waldensian community, are here. Denise Kingdom-Grier, who preached the General Synod opening sermon of life and caught me up on her family life over lunch, is here. Steve Pierce, who listens while I rant about race and gender and tokenism, is here. So many friends, from so many locations, are here. We are different geographically, ethnically, theologically, and culturally, but we hang together in this faith endeavor and in this denomination that we love. We are a part of each other’s spiritual thriving this week in Pella, Iowa and part of each other’s faith family.

My Mission in Life

The denomination I love will not only survive General Synod 2014 but thrive during and after it because this is the church of Jesus Christ…who is love. Prophet, Maya, expresses well my hope for our time together in Pella:

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”

Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. You are loved.



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