“Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Oh my soul, worship His holy name.” With these words, the choir of St. Paul’s Evangelical Reformed Church (Hamburg, MN) lifted their voices to praise our Redeemer during the worship service on Tuesday evening, March 1, 2016. So stirring were the words of this song that, before he began his sermon, the now-licentiate, Mr. Steve Carr, took a moment to thank the choir for reminding him, and all who had gathered for Classis, of the ultimate purpose for this meeting: to serve the Lord with joy and gratitude and so glorify Him who, through giving His Son, has shed upon us blessings incomparable and innumerable—a purpose that can easily be forgotten in the business of the day, whether at a Classis meeting or doing the laundry at home.
Prior to the opening of Classis’ formal business, Rev. Jim Sawtelle led a pre-Classis meeting (on the evening of February 29th) which focused on managing the relationship between the pastor and the Consistory. This sparked a brainstorming of formal ways to improve communication among church officers in order that the work of the church may be faithfully accomplished and that the needs of her members (including the pastor and his family) may be sufficiently addressed. Not only was this session productive, it also fostered a tone for the Classis meeting—one of brotherly love and of a “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
On Tuesday, March 1st, President Pro-Tem, Rev. Ryan Kron, called the 31st Covenant East Classis Annual Spring Meeting to order, with ten ministers and ten elders in attendance. The tone of brotherly love set in the previous evening was further promoted by Rev. Kron’s convicting yet encouraging devotion on Ephesians 4:31-5:2 entitled, “Fighting Bitterness.” With this passage, he challenged us to imitate the loving-kindness of God by weeding-out all roots of bitterness in our hearts and walking together in love, even as Christ Himself loved us and gave Himself for us as a sacrifice to God to please Him.
Following the reading of the Standing Rules of Classis by Rev. Kron, the election of the officers of Classis resulted in Rev. Kyle Sorensen as President, Rev. Dan Schnabel as Vice President, Rev. Ron Potter as Stated Clerk, and Elder Jim Drewes as Treasurer. This Classis welcomed a number of first-time elders including Mr. Dustin Rothwell of Emmaus Road RCUS in Eden Prairie, MN, Mr. Chris Campbell of Northland RCUS in Kansas City, MO, and Mr. Royce Gray of Peace RCUS in Garner, IA. Classis welcomed licensure candidate Mr. Steve Carr, who currently serves as Stated Supply for Grace RCUS in Rogers, AR. At a point later in the meeting, his wife (Crystal), his children, and his parents (Rev. Kevin and Mrs. Kathy Carr) attended and were welcomed. The members of Classis received and extended the right hand of fellowship to Rev. Tim Marinelli of Redeemer RCUS in Minneapolis, MN, for the first time. Classis also welcomed Mr. John Camp, a member of Emmaus Road RCUS, who is seeking to be taken as a Student Under Care of the Classis. Mr. Camp, along with Rev. Dylan Rowland (a congregationally ordained pastor of an independent congregation in Waverly, OH) would later be interviewed regarding their orthodoxy and intentions for potential ministry in the RCUS. Rev. Shane Lems of Hammond Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Hammond, WI, served as the fraternal delegate from the Midwest Presbytery of the OPC, bringing us greetings along with a brief report.
As the regular business of the meeting continued, the permanent committees read their various reports. Of note, the Executive Committee’s report expressed thanks to Rev. Randy Klynsma for his time of service on the Executive Committee. Rev. Klynsma has received a call and has begun his labors in Omaha, NE—a mission work in the South Central Classis. The Executive Committee also recommended that the Consistory of Northland RCUS provide the assistance of oversight as needed for Grace RCUS of Rogers, AR, and this recommendation was approved. The Church Camp Committee reported on the success of the camp of 2015 but expressed a need for additional funds from the churches of Classis to assist with camp expenses. Discussion also noted the need to call upon the churches of Covenant East Classis to encourage their youth to attend camp as it is a wonderful opportunity not only for a time of fun fellowship, but also for the development of godly friendships and personal growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The President Pro-Tem Report on the State of the Church, delivered by Rev. Kron, was encouraging as he noted the clear and tangible ways in which our Lord Jesus Christ has shown Himself faithful, even in our Classis, to continue to build His church in this past year (as promised, Matthew 16:18). Rev. Kron also encouraged the ministers and elders to promote and ensure the faithful preaching of the whole counsel of the Word of God, the devotion to prayer for the work of the church, and the promotion of unity and hospitality within the local bodies represented.
Likewise, the parochial reports from the various ministers that followed were encouraging. I found myself giving thanks and being challenged by these men who are faithfully devoting themselves to feeding the flocks to which they have been called to serve. Their efforts in the weekly preaching of the Word, teaching various Bible studies, and reaching out to their surrounding communities through works of evangelism are things for which we should praise and give thanks to the Lord. It was a blessing to hear of the advancement of the work in Blue Bell as well as in Gettysburg where Covenant RCUS became a RCUS congregation in the past year. It was a blessing to hear of the new faces in our churches, receptions of new communicant members, and births and baptisms of covenant children. It was a blessing to hear of the Lord’s provision of new officers serving these bodies. It was a blessing to hear of the faithful work of catechizing our youth in the doctrines of grace. It was a blessing to hear of church budgets being met. It was a blessing to hear of church members coming together regularly for times of prayer. It was a blessing to hear of members bearing one another’s burdens in times of loss, grief, and sorrow. Amidst these blessings we also heard the need to pray for the provision of officers for a few of our churches currently in need (including a minister for the vacancy at Northland RCUS), and that the Lord would do a work such that some of our ministers may become unburdened from worldly employments and financial needs, freed to devote themselves exclusively to the work of the church. As the ministers read their reports, the body paused to pray for each of the churches.
Following the constitutional questions to the elders of Classis, and a few other reports, the licensure examination for Mr. Steve Carr began and continued until Classis recessed at 5:20 p.m. As part of his licensure examination, Mr. Carr was to preach in front of Classis, and this was incorporated with the worship service at St. Paul’s RCUS where her members joined in worship Tuesday night. Rev. Mark Larson of Peace Reformed Church (Garner, IA) conducted the service, and Mr. Carr preached his sermon, Jars of Clay (from 2 Corinthians 4:7-12). In his sermon he encouraged us in the truth of our union to Christ—a union that not only enables us to endure our sufferings as we live through them, but also enables Him to be glorified as He lives through us, with the all-sufficient grace and power of the risen and living Christ on full display in our frailties and weaknesses.
On Wednesday morning, the licensure examination with Mr. Carr “in the hot seat” continued. The morning devotions were led by Rev. Steve Altman who proclaimed a wonderful, convicting, and encouraging message (Love Without Hypocrisy) from Romans 12:9-10. In God’s providence, this intensely practical message continued to emphasize the urgent need to show brotherly love with the self-abasement and self-sacrifice with which our Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, has loved us, displaying the love of the Father for us, as Christ laid down His life at the cross. Rev. Altman challenged us personally to display such love not only as a body of ministers and elders towards one another, but as husbands and fathers in our families and as brothers towards our fellow brothers and sisters in the household of God.
By the afternoon, Mr. Carr’s examination ended. With the vote of Classis, Rev. Sorensen announced to Mr. Carr that he had successfully sustained the examination. After Mr. Carr read and signed the Form for Licensure and was presented with his Licensure Certificate, Classis extended the right hand of fellowship to him. It was then determined to postpone his ordination examination to a later date. Licentiate Carr did very well on his exam and made a good confession! We are grateful and rejoice to see the Lord of the Harvest preparing and sending laborers out into the fields. Along with Mr. Carr, we give thanks for Mr. Austin Reed (member of Northland RCUS) and Mr. Campbell (elder of Northland RCUS), both of whom are seminary students of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Students Under Care of Classis. We give thanks for Rev. Rowland and Mr. Camp who also are looking towards potential service in Christ’s kingdom within the RCUS.
Following Mr. Carr’s examination, the work of Classis continued with the reports of the Standing Committees. Classis voted to provide for various requests for benevolence as well as to support particular ministers, churches, and mission efforts within the Classis.
Throughout the days of meeting, the cold of the outdoors was contrasted by the warm hospitality we received inside from the members of St. Paul’s RCUS who sacrificially provided us with food and fellowship and enabled the work of the church to go on smoothly.
As the Classis meeting concluded, Christ’s kingdom continuing its advance, it was a blessing to see the Lord abiding with and remaining faithful to His church. As we labor on in this next year we by faith continue to look, with praise and thanksgiving, for incomparable and innumerable blessings from Him from whom all blessings flow.
Rev. Tim Marinelli,
BOX. Insert pic 3, Carr signs Licensure
BOX. Insert pic 3, CEC Photo [THIS COULD GO WITH THE President’s Report, or between the articles, however it flows best]