September 14, 2016
The sounds could be coming from any busy school office responding to myriad requests: Someone needs first aid for a scraped elbow. Someone else is turning in a missing nametag. Someone else wants to change classes.
But this school is different. It’s Synod School, the annual midsummer ministry of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. It’s a nearly weeklong event—Sunday afternoon through Friday noon—that always runs the last week in July at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.
This year 630 people—ranging in age from five weeks to the 80s–took part, most living on campus, some staying in local hotels. This year’s attendance surpassed the previous record of 620, set in 2011.
Deb DeMeester, the synod’s director of leadership development, also serves as lead staff support for Synod School. In that role, she juggles myriad duties for the school. “You sit here, and there’s everything,” she said.
Synod School offered 70 classes this year, ranging from “Embracing Conflict” to “God at the Box Office.” The lineup included all-morning classes, all-afternoon classes, and one-hour classes Monday through Thursday. Mini-classes, sometimes on subjects attendees developed during the day, took place in the evenings. Class times were compressed on Friday to allow for lunchtime departure.
Worship took place Sunday evening and in the morning and evening Monday through Thursday. Burns Stanfield, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Boston, along with his wife, Lorraine, and numerous friends, led evening worship. Leading morning worship were Stephanie Anthony and Jody Branson from First Presbyterian Church in Hudson, Wisconsin, where Anthony is pastor and Branson is organist, accompanist, and director of music and liturgical arts.
Jeff Dickinson provides tech support for Synod School, running projection from the back of Schaller Chapel for packed worship services. He fills the same role for convocations, which this year featured John Bell, a preacher, teacher, and lecturer who is an ember of Wild Goose Resource Group, an autonomous project of the Iona Community in Scotland. Bell met with Synod School attendees for evening discussions.
Dickinson’s wife, Sarah Dickinson, has attended Synod School 13 of the past 14 years, often helping with worship, classes, and other facets of the ministry. In the midst of this year’s busy Synod School, she said she thought things were “going wonderfully.”
In recent years, Synod School has begun incorporating an artist in residence into its program. This year the artist was Cathy Newcomb of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, leader of the PC(USA) new worshiping community Through the Lens. She shared the spiritual and visual aspects of photography as a form of worship, along with teaching the class “Visio-Divina: Bringing Cameras and Christ Together.”
Although Synod School has wrapped up its 2016 program, it’s just a matter of time before the flurry of activity begins anew. After all, the countdown has begun to next summer’s event.
Duane Sweep, Associate for Communications for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies
Today’s Focus: Synod of Lakes and Prairies
Let us join in prayer for:
Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart, Synod Executive
Teaching Elder Deb DeMeester, Director of Leadership Development
Alex De Veyra, Director of Financial Services
Ruling Elder Duane Sweep, Associate for Communications
Teaching Elder Pam Prouty, Stated Clerk
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Gracious God, grant us wisdom as we explore new ways of serving. We know your grace goes with us on the journey. Help us to serve others along the way. Amen.