About 3,000 Reformed Christians gathered at Calvin College June 20 for a worship service celebrating the birth of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, which unites 80 million believers in 108 countries.
The service included prayers and scripture readings, anthems and hymns sung in at least a dozen languages, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and a special exchange with children. WCRC leaders told them: "We are coming together not just for ourselves but also for future generations."
One child, Christina Lobulo, responded: "This is our family! We are one! To God be the glory!"
WCRC leaders also explained the communion's new logo, which incorporates a communion or baptismal bowl; a circle representing unity; interwoven threads symbolizing strength, partnership and cooperation; and the cross, which Clifton Kirkpatrick — former General Assembly stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — said "is a sign of our confessional identity."
Kirkpatrick was president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), which merged late last week with the Reformed Ecumenical Council to form WCRC.
During the afternoon service, Kirkpatrick and others presented a replica of the WCRC logo to the children, who responded, "This is our family! The World Communion of Reformed Churches. To God be the glory!"
Later, another child, Sol Kim, an 8-year-old from South Korea, joined the invitation to the Lord’s table.
"This table gives visible witness to the communion we celebrate today," said the Rev. Jerry Pillay, a pastor from the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa.
Preaching from the story in 1 Kings 19 about God’s encounter with a discouraged Elijah, Yvonne Delk of the United Church of Christ in the US, offered "a three-fold word" to those who have great expectations — and doubts — about what WCRC can accomplish.
"Do not fear, God is with us," she said. "We are a people rooted in the unity of the Spirit." And finally, she said, "God is calling us to a bold witness."
In the face of promise and uncertainty, Delk said, "We are a people united in the Spirit and by the Spirit. The Spirit never leaves us as it finds us. The Spirit gives new life in our churches, our structures, our communion and our globe."
If those gathered here will remain clear about this Spirit, Delk said, "then I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the Spirit of God will not leave this communion of churches."
Jerry Van Marter is serving as English-language reporter for the Uniting General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, June 18-26. For complete coverage of the meeting, visit the website.