The mood at General Synod 27 made a palpable shift yesterday. After two days of reunion, celebration and learning, the work of the Synod began.
It's not that the hours of worship, workshops or connection-making are less important than Sacred Conversations on Race or committee meetings on resolutions. No, it's just that the tone of conversations have become more serious, more business oriented.
Of the many resolutions being considered by committees last night, none has been more talked about than the restructuring of the national church boards. Single governance was on the minds and hearts of many as casual conversations turned passionate when the topic was raised.
And passion is a good thing in the church, especially when coupled with an equal amount of respect and prayer and dialog. But passion it is – a driving force that compels us to act boldly. Whether in relationships, art or debate, passion pushes us together at the same time it has the power to repel like similarly charged magnets.
As committees gather to debate and revise, the church trusts that the Holy Spirit is speaking in and through them. We trust that what our delegates hear will be God's voice and mission for the church. We pray that our vision will be clarified: Of whom Christ would compel us to serve, what tables we're called to upend and how we will move together in discipleship.
Propelling us in that vision for the last decade has been John Thomas – whose sermon yesterday afternoon was possibly the most moving compilation of faith images I've ever heard. His benediction concluded, "Swim bravely, swim safely and relax in the buoyancy of grace."
These themes - bravery and courage, safety and caution – all with the undercurrents of compassion, honesty and grace, may be the quickest way to summarize the ministry of John Thomas.
I'm honored to have worked with John for the last 10 months. Even though I often feel like "the new guy" at the national setting, he has never treated me as anything less than a valued colleague, a Christian brother and a friend.
I often see John walking from the train station to the office in the mornings as I ride past on my bicycle. We yell "Hi John … Hi Gregg" to one another over the din of traffic.
For reasons I won't try to justify, I rarely wore a helmet when cycling in the city. That is, until I received the following email:
"OK, I know I'm not your father, or spouse, or even your immediate boss. I applaud your bike riding. But I do wish you'd wear a helmet!!! None of my business, I suppose. Except I do consider you a friend. I'll never bring this up again. – John"
Although I considered the unease of my wife and friends – no one's encouragement had changed my helmet wearing behavior until this note from John.
Courage. Caution. Honesty. Grace. Passion.
May we honor one another, our delegates and Christ with our deliberations in the coming days. May we look out for one another and speak honestly where caution is required. May we have the courage to act and passion for grace as we listen to the still speaking God.