Thirty Seconds Of Silence

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” I thought as I prepared an email to the synod clerk, offering to bring greetings to the court from the Renewal Fellowship. I’d been reminded of our age-old Renewal mission to be a praying presence in our courts. I was planning to attend anyway as moderator of my presbytery, so why not put our prayer into practice?

I pressed send. And I waited.

Fourteen weeks later, a response. Synod executive agreed, and we were given a five-minute spot on the agenda, along with an invitation to bring a display and brochures to distribute. This was hugely encouraging.

I had exactly one month to prepare. Strange how a long period of prep for such a short address actually makes it more difficult to know what to say. I’d share our new mission statement, along with a call to prayer for a time such as this.

One month also allowed negative thoughts to pierce my thinking. Mindful of the fact that while my synod includes ministers and elders who are great supporters of evangelical renewal, it’s also home to some vocal proponents of more-liberal theology. So, I anticipated scenarios in which we might not be well received.

And then the agenda arrived. There was no mention of Renewal Fellowship on the greetings section. Only the WMS. Were we dropped? Ye of little faith, I admonished myself. Yet the negativity continued to haunt.

All fears were put aside when I arrived. As I parked, I noticed a familiar face in the vehicle behind me. It was the moderator-designate, a good friend from seminary days. Without any prompting by me, she observed my display banner and acknowledged my spot on the agenda.

Always vigilant, I picked out at least two commissioners whom I knew have been vocal foes of the Renewal Fellowship. I mentally prepared a response if my greetings were challenged. The amended agenda, handed out at the meeting, still had no mention of the Renewal Fellowship. No time for anyone to prepare an objection. Was this protection by the Spirit?

Finally, the moment arrived. The words “Renewal Fellowship” were spoken clearly by the moderator for the court to hear. I rose and walked to the mic. The time between the words from the moderator and my remarks was perhaps 30 seconds. A very long 30 seconds. It was ample time for someone to object. But it was also 30 seconds in which the Holy Spirit did some binding.

I brought greetings, thanked the court, pointed out that this was the first time in recent memory that we have been allowed to bring official greetings to a court. I pledged the Renewal Fellowship’s support for church polity and all our courts. I asked the commissioners to pray for the Committee of Former Moderators. I closed by quoting the prayer from the committee’s convenor and the moderator which was printed in the letter which went out to all congregations in October.

The faces of the court reflected a range of emotions: warmth (bordering on joy for some), indifference, polite appreciation, arched brows and even a frown. But no words of objection. Mission accomplished.

Walking back to my seat, I heard the words, “Point of order, moderator.”

“Yes?” the mod replied.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why was this group allowed to speak? They have no standing before the court. They are not accountable to this court.”

A moment of awkward silence.

“They requested to bring greetings,” the clerk replied.

“Just because they asked, doesn’t mean we should allow it,” the commissioner responded.

Murmurs and shifting in seats. Heads turning towards me. I reacted with a slightly arched brow. A wry smile.

“What was that about?” one of my tablemates asked. “Not everyone accepts our mission,” I whispered.

“How rude. All you were doing was asking people to pray.”

Mission … still accomplished. And perhaps more. I thought to that 30-second window of opportunity in which my detractor – a former synod moderator, well acquainted with procedure – could have raised his point of order. Something happened, something beyond human thinking and reaction, that allowed the Renewal message to be spoken. Seeds planted.

The Holy Spirit intervened.