On Monday, March 5, the delegates of the 27th Annual Covenant East Classis arrived at Heritage Reformed Church in Waymart, PA. We lodged at the Ladore Conference Center, located near the church with a beautiful view of the surrounding hills of eastern Pennsylvania. Our evening began with a hearty bowl of chili, and then we gathered together for a pre-classis discussion on church planting. Before the meeting, each delegate received the book Planting, Watering, Growing: Planting Confessionally Reformed Churches in the 21st Century (edited by Daniel R. Hyde and Shane Lems). This book helped us in our discussion together about the church-planting pastor, the church-planting church, and the church-planting core group. Following the discussion the delegates enjoyed an evening of fellowship and discussion.
On Tuesday morning, Reverend Randall Klynsma called the meeting to order. Rev. Klynsma opened the meeting in prayer, followed by devotions from Hebrews 10:19–25. The opening roll call showed ten ministers and seven elders present. Rev. Klynsma was re-elected to serve as president, with Rev. Dan Schnabel elected as the vice-president. Rev. Kyle Sorensen was elected again to serve as the stated clerk, and Jim Drewes, an elder delegate from Peace Reformed Church in Napoleon, OH, was re-elected to serve as our classis treasurer. We are thankful for the diligent and faithful service of these men.
This year our classis was blessed to have three fraternal delegates in attendance. Rev. Kevin Hossink brought us greetings from the Eastern Classis of the URCNA, and Rev. Wes Bredenhof addressed the body on behalf of Classis Ontario West of the Canadian Reformed Churches. Ray Schnabel also brought greetings from Heidelberg Theological Seminary. It was also an encouragement to hear from Rev. Paul Brace from the Atlantic Presbytery of the RPCNA. Rev. Brace joyfully reported that in January, a regional group of six congregations and 1,100 souls joined the RPCNA as a new presbytery from an “unnamed Asian country” (“unnamed” because of security reasons).
One of the highlights of the classis meeting was the reception of Grace Reformed Church in Northwest Arkansas. Rev. Ron Potter gave a prayer of thanks for the grace of God in building His church, and for the faithful labors of Rev. Wes Brice. Rev. Brice noted that Grace Reformed Church is grateful for the support of classis and for the oversight of the consistory in Garner, IA, over the last ten years.
Classis also gave thanks to God for the life of our dear brother, Rev. Chester Ploeger. Rev. Ploeger died at age 85 on August 21, 2011 (on the Lord’s Day), in Garner, IA. Rev. Ploeger served eight churches from 1949 until his retirement in 1990. From 1990 to 2000 he also filled the pulpit in various Reformed churches. The classis read the necrology for Rev. Ploeger, concluding with the precious comfort we have in Revelation 14:13: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Blessed indeed, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’ ”
We are also thankful to God for the reception of three students who were taken under care of the classis. Steve Carr, a member of Redeemer Reformed Church in Minneapolis, MN, was taken under care and plans to go to Mid-America Reformed Seminary in the fall. Tom Short, a member of Grace Reformed Church in Northwest Arkansas was also taken under care. Mr. Short is planning to take distance-learning classes from Heidelberg Theological Seminary. Also, Christopher Campbell, a member of Northland Reformed Church in Kansas City, MO was taken under care of the classis. Mr. Campbell is currently taking distance-education classes through Greenville Presbyterian Seminary. The classis is also continuing to support Cody Schwichtenberg as a student under care. Mr. Schwichtenberg attends Heidelberg Theological Seminary and is a member of Peace Reformed Church in Garner, IA. Rev. Potter remarked that these students are an answer to our prayers over the last few years that the Lord would raise up men for the ministry.
After a night of rest, the brothers met together again to conclude our business in the morning of March 7. A theme woven throughout the classis meeting was God’s faithfulness in building His church. This theme began in our pre-classis discussion on church planting, continued in receiving Grace Reformed Church, was seen in the parochial reports of the ministers, and went on through taking three students for the ministry under care. The approval of a church constitution for Heritage Reformed Church in Waymart, PA, was yet another example of God’s grace and mercy in the life of His Church. Praise God that the work of the Great Commission continues: “And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Praise God for His faithfulness in building His church through His Word by His Spirit to the glory of His Name!
The 27th annual meeting of the Covenant East Classis was blessed with rich teaching from God’s Word and the reverent worship of His people. Rev. Kyle Sorensen led the worship service in the evening of March 6, and Rev. Jay Fluck preached a sermon on Hebrews 11:23–29 entitled Living by Faith. On March 7, Rev. Steve Altman brought closing devotions from Matthew 18:21–35. This was followed by a time of fellowship together over lunch. As classis concluded, the delegates departed with thankful hearts for God’s grace in building His church, for our rich fellowship together, and for the kindness and hospitality shown to us by the saints at Heritage Reformed Church in Waymart, PA. Soli Deo Gloria!