South Grandville Church has a long history in the Grandville area beginning in 1954. Watch the video and read the written history of our church celebrating the 50 years from 1954-2004. Some exciting moments since 2004 have been the ordination of women as deacons, the continuation of the yearly community pig roast, the beginning of occasional alternative bible-study like services held in Friendship Hall, the installation of a new dual video projection system, and many more events in addition to the faithful preaching of the Word every Sunday.
Our Church History 1954 - 2004
On October 7, 1954 a group of men met with the Reverend Sidney Workema, then pastor of the Thirty-sixth Street Christian Reformed Church, and elders of that church. This group of men had asked to meet with Reverend Werkema because they were interested in organizing a Christian Reformed Church in what is today the south part of Grandville, Michigan.
Much work had already been done by those who attended the meeting. Classis Grand Rapids South had already approved the organization of a new church, and it could be reported that a survey of families in the area showed that 29 families had indicated an interest in organizing a church. It was decided to set November 18, 1954, as the date for the organizational meeting.
When this date came, the meeting was held at the old Wyoming Township District Number 10 school building on 44th Street. Rev. Werkema and Rev. Marinus Arnoys participated in the service, but the late Dr. George Goris preached the sermon on “What is a Church?” The essence of the church, he explained, is a habitation of the Holy Spirit.
His working in the hearts of men makes the invisible church. At this meeting an outward, or visible, manifestation to the church was being brought into existence.
Twenty-three families were represented, and-from among them three elders and three deacons were chosen. Clarence Bouwkamp, Sidney Lynema, and Gerrit Vander Meulen were elected elders; and Gerald Van Noord, Kenneth Vredevoogd, and Floris Ykema were chosen as deacons. These six men were the first consistory.
Services were held in the old Number 10 school building located on 44th Street just west of Wilson Avenue, but men with the vision to begin a new church also know that a suitable place of worship is needed, and they had the courage to begin work almost at once to secure such a place. Already at a consistory meeting held just one week after the church was organized a site committee was appointed, and by December 8 they were reported to be hard at work.
At a congregational meeting held April 11 , 1955, approval was given to the purchase of a portion of the Vredevoogd farm. This is the site on Wilson Avenue where the church and parsonage now stand. A Building Committee had already been appointed previously, so planning could begin at once. An encouraging and heart warming response had been received from neighboring churches in their taking of offerings for the fledgling’s Building Fund, but even so, the members knew that the bulk of the burden rested on them. In July the congregation voted in favor of a parish house type building in preference to a basement structure.
November 2, 1955, the congregation met and extended a call to the Rev. Paul Zylstra. He accepted this call to become the church’s first pastor. Rev. Zyistra was given a long and fruitful ministry. Eight years after he arrived in Grandville he accepted a call to San Diego, California. By then the congregation numbered 127 families.
By the later part of 1955 progress was beginning to show on the Wilson Avenue site. The church building was begun in the warm and beautiful days of early autumn, and here transpired one of the most soul stir-ring scenes in the church’s history. Willingly and skillfully the men of the church donated the labor of their hands. Many uncounted hours of time were given in the joy of knowing that soon there would be a fit building to worship God. Members of the church who participated in this experience were ready to testify many years later how richly God rewarded them with a true feeling of fellowship and communion.
Sunday, June 3, 1956, the congregation held its first worship service in the building, and on June 21 the building which resulted from so much labor of love was dedicated to the service and glory of God as a house of worship. Minutes of the consistory meetings
held in those months are replete with acknowledgements of gifts from many sources. Song books, pulpit furniture, refreshments at the dedication service, materials for the building, a piano, and many other items make a long list that represents the love and devotion for many, many people.
During the year 1956 the congregation decided to purchase an organ and also to proceed with building of a parsonage. The parsonage was completed in the spring of 1957.
The history of a church tends to be highlighted by building programs, the changing of pastors, and other big things. These may, however, be only “big” in the eyes of men. The real life of the church is found in that which is not so “newsworthy” - in the faithful preaching of the Word from Sunday to Sunday; in uncounted hours of dedicated efforts by consistory members, Sunday School teachers, society leaders, and others; in flourishing catechism classes and societies, in Daily Vacation Bible Schools, in a Mission Society that called on hundreds of homes and never stopped praying for the lost; in people confessing their faith in Christ, and parents bringing their children to be baptized; in the unsung efforts of many that are remembered only by the King of the Church Himself. All these are a part of the story of South Grandville, and the congregation grew.
By 1959 the building that had seemed so spacious just a short time before was crowded to capacity, and in September of that year two services were begun each Sunday morning. These double services lasted over three and one-half years until that joyous Sunday in May, 1963, that the congregation occupied the present church building for the first time.
This new and beautiful church edifice did not come easily. Already in April, 1958, a long-range planning committee was appointed. This group was given a detailed mandate which included the request for a report on what facilities such as Sunday School rooms, auditorium size, etc. the church would eventually need. In August of the same year a special Finance Committee to act on matters relating to expansion was appointed.
After the decision was made to begin two morning services in September, 1959, the urgency of planning was alleviated somewhat, and progress toward an enlarged building moved more slowly, but in January, 1960, a building planning committee was formed with the charge to begin preliminary planning. With the approval of the congregation, this committee secured plans for a building. These preliminary plans were approved by the congregation in September, but at a meeting held in April, 1961, a decision was made to begin with a different type of planning.
In July of this year the consistory retained Mr. James Haveman as architect for planning the church inwhich the congregation worships today. Progress was steady. In September congregational approval was given for preliminary plans and they were adopted in December. During the early months of 1962 the final plans were completed and these were approved by the congregation in June.
A contract for the construction of the church was awarded to the Stephenson Construction Company of Zeeland, Michigan. As the summer of 1962 turned to autumn a church was rising at Wilson and Forty-First Street. A cornerstone laying ceremony was held after the regular Thanksgiving Day service. Pastor Zylstra officiated as he and his people braved an exceptionally bitter north wind sweeping the site. As 1962 drew to a close the outer shell of the new building had been completed. Members of the con-gregation could be seen on “inspection” tours whenever the opportunity presented itself. Approval with what they saw and happy anticipation were written on their faces as they looked. An eagerly awaited day was now approaching, and it came on Sun-day, May 12, 1963. What a day of joy and thanksgiving it was for the congregation and pastor as they worshipped together for the first time in the new sanctuary. Three years and eight months is a long time, and that was how long it had been since the entire congregation had worshipped together at a regular Sunday morning service.
The Rev. Zylstra, whose efforts contributed much toward the new church building, did not long enjoy its use. In less than a year he accepted the challenge of a new field of service. Early in 1964 he accepted a call to the Christian Reformed Church of San Diego, California. He gave his farewell message on Sunday, February 23, 1964.
During the next few months calls were extended in efforts to find the man God had chosen to be the congregation’s next pastor. The Lord blessed these efforts, and the vacancy was short. The people rejoiced when the Rev. John Medendorp, then serving the Second Christian Reformed Church of Fremont, Michigan, sent word that he had accepted their call.
On Sunday, September 6, 1964, pastor Medendorp was installed, and that evening he preached his first sermon at South Grandville. His text was John 1:6,7; “There came a man, sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him.”
And so, as the church marked its tenth birthday anniversary on November 18, 1964, the child had attained a large measure of maturity. It numbered 133 families and 636 souls. The history of South Grandville gives ample evidence of the Spirit’s presence in her midst even as God has promised. May the past only point to even grater blessings in the future so that she may live as Christ’s holy bride until her Bridegroom appears again on the clouds of heaven. May He who bought her keep her “with every grace endued” until
“. . .with the vision glorious
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.”
At a special congregational meeting on May 3 approval was given to pave the parking lot, provide lights for it, and plant some shrubs. These projects ended a program of building and improving that had continued almost uninterrupted for over ten years. The building and site were now complete except for some interior remodeling.
In December of this year Dr. and Mrs. John Medendorp Sr. joined the congregation. Dr. Medendorp came as an associate pastor.
In March the congregation considered and approved plans to remodel and enlarge the kitchen at a cost of $3500.
In May Dr. Medendorp Sr. was appointed assistant pastor. At this same meeting the congregation decided to purchase a lot on the east side of the existing parking lot.
By 1967 the number of families was still increasing, but such external growth was slowing down slightly. The number of families still increased by twelve during the year, but the building was at capacity, and in the following year growth would be down to four families. The number of total souls, however, increased by eighty-three during 1967. In the previous year twenty-six children were baptized and in this year seven-teen, so the nursery was becoming a very busy place.
Very early in the church’s history a Newsletter was published for a short time. In 1968 this effort was revived and the Newsletter continues to be a regular publication to this day. In the first issue Rev. Medendorp explained that its purpose was to aid in the unity and fellowship of the congregation but also to meet the special need of keeping in touch with our servicemen. The U.S. was becoming increasingly involved in Vietnam, and the Newsletter reported eleven members in the service of our country.
Mr. Gerrit Vander Meulen, clerk of the charter consistory, was take home to glory in 1968. He was again serving as an elder at the time of his death.
The Baldwin electronic organ was still serving, but the goal of having a pipe organ resulted in an organ selection committee.
The 1969 Directory listed 190 families and 928 souls. This number of people in a church building designed for 150 families meant serious overcrowding. To alleviate the problem closed circuit television was in-stalled in the Fellowship Room. Part of the congregation worshipped there most Sunday mornings until
In this year the congregation passed the two hundred family mark at two hundred five. Vigorous growth from within was also evident from the fact that thirty-three young people made professions of faith that year. Twenty-one babies were baptized.
In January of this year approval was given to have a new Shanz pipe organ installed, but building it would take several months.
In November, the Rev. John Medendorp Jr. accepted a call to the Princeton Christian Reformed Church, and as the year closed, the congregation was bidding him and his family farewell. He had served the congregation just over seven years.
In this year forty-one professions of faith were made, but baptisms were down to 13.
The year began with the farewell sermons of the Rev. Medendorp on January 2.
The vacancy extended through the summer, but by the end of the year a pastor was once again in charge of the flock. On August 28 a call was extended to the Rev. Leonard Van Drunen. The Lord led him to accept, and on the twenty-sixth of November he was installed as the third pastor of the church.
By the summer of 1972 the installation of the pipe organ was completed. A special program was held to dedicate the organ in September.
After a trial period of beginning evening services at 5:00 P.M., these services became established at 6:00 P.M.
The congregation had now passed the two hundred twenty mark, and worshipping by closed circuit television was leaving much to be desired. The church sponsored extension services held at the Grandville Christian School, and several families joined in worship there. The first such service was held in November.
The Directory now listed membership at two hundred twenty-seven families. That figure would stand as the peak for many years.
On March 4 the consistory decided to petition Classis Grandville for permission to organize a new congregation. Thirty-seven families, the majority of whom were from South Grandville, and eight individuals signed the petition to Classis.
Approval to organize was granted by Classis at its May meeting. An organizational meeting for a new church was held on June 13.
In January of this year the first Mission Emphasis Week was held and the Faith Promise plan for mission support was initiated with marked success.
Mr. Donald Tamminga began to work at South Grandville on a part time basis in September as Youth and Evangelism Leader.
At the December congregational meeting a new plan for adult Bible study was proposed. The program, known as the Bethel Series of Bible Studies was approved by the congregation.
The second annual Mission Emphasis and Faith Promise Week was held with even better response that the first time.
Two steps in implementing the Bethel Bible Study Series were taken. The pastor, Rev. Van Drunen, attended an intensive two-week training program in preparation for training members of the congregation to become teachers. By fall fourteen volunteers had been led to sign up for a rigorous two-year program of learning to become equipped to teach others. The pastor began teaching this class that fall.
By now Mission Emphasis and Faith Promise were becoming somewhat routine, but congregational response continued to rise.
In March a special congregational meeting was held to approve a limited renovation of the Fellowship Room. New carpet and drapes were the most noticeable change.
The congregation rejoiced and joined in praise to God with the Rev. Van Drunen as he celebrated twenty-five years in the gospel ministry in October.
The Bethel Teacher Training Class continued to study faithfully.
The fourth Mission Emphasis Week and Faith Promise activities were hampered by unusually heavy snowfalls and storms, but the response continued its upward trend.
The Bethel Teacher Trainees finished their program and “graduated”. They received special recognition in a worship service in September. Each received a Bethel pin.
The first Bethel Bible classes began in October with approximately seventy-five people enrolled. Still more joined at a later time.
For the second consecutive year the Mission Emphasis Week activities encountered severe winter weather, but the Lord continued to bless this means of reminding His people of the mission challenge and of gathering in their support for it.
Mr. Donald Tamminga assumed a full time position in church education, in leading the youth, and in evangelism.
The Bethel Bible program was in full swing. Seven classes were meeting in the fall with approximately one hundred ten people enrolled.
As we look to the past we see the blessings of the Lord in a most remarkable way. We exclaim with Samuel of old, “Hitherto the Lord has helped us”.
Coffee Break Evangelism program begun.
All confessing members allowed to vote at congregational meetings.
Social Justice Committee begun.
Evan Heerema, Director of Youth, Education & Evangelism
Friendship Special Ministries begun.
Rev. Leonard Van Drunen retires from theministry.
Renovation of Parsonage.
Rev. Robert Ritsema installed as fourth pastor.
Evan Heerema departs for Yakima, Washington.
Brent Kooi, Director of Youth, Education & Evangelism.
Special fund drive to retire church debt.
Brent Kooi leaves.
Service at Heritage Park by the #10 School.
Rev. Ritsema leaves.
40th Anniversary Sunday.
The council approves the building of a Habitat For Humanity home in conjunction with the Saint Pius X Catholic Church.
The council proposes the transfer of a $30,000 dollar surplus from the 1994 general fund budget to the building renovation for the purposes of future remodeling the sanctuary.
A committee of council members is appointed to study the possibility of restructuring the make up of our council to include ministering elders and deacons as well as administrative elders and deacons.
A proposal to renovate the auditorium (pews, paneling, carpet, tiling, painting and new movable chairs, also make spaces available for persons using wheelchairs) at the cost of $75,000 is approved and work be-gins. That’s the summer we used the Hope church auditorium for our worship services.
In June of that year we called pastor Dan Mouw to be our pastor of the word and sacraments which he graciously accepted. The Mouw family moved into the parsonage in September and he was installed as out pastor on October 29th.
Mary Heuker is installed as our director of outreach and evangelism.
The concept of beginning the Stephen’s Ministry is adopted for use at South Grandville.
Budget approved for 1996 at $41.00 per week.
Mollie Brunsting is hired as the director of education on a part time basis.
Leadership training for Stephens Ministry leader-ship begins.
The council adopts a Mission and Vision Statement for the South Grandville CRC congregation.
Diane Reed is hired as the Director of Youth activities.
The Moses group begins using our facilities for their weekly meetings. The idea of a sportsman’s club is introduced. The concept of hiring a person as Director of Worship and Praise is discussed.
In November of this year the congregation receives a letter from the Barnabas Foundation that a matching gift of $100,000.00 has been given by an anonymous donor. This gift must be matched by December of 1997.
Rachel Plasman begins as Director of Worship and Praise.
A committee for building renovation is appointed to study and plan for the needs and design of a total rebuilding of our foyer and fellowship hall.
A committee is appointed to study how we are to finance such a building program.
In December of this year a financial package to finance $1,200,000.00 was presented to the congregation for approval to begin the design and construction of this project.
The architectural firm of Design Plus was hired to begin the drawings for this undertaking.
Approval is given to hire the Johnson Construction Company to build our new foyer and friendship hall for the bid price of $1,462,154.00 and a financial package is worked out.
Crossroads Bible Study, a program for Bible study for persons in prisons and jails was introduced at South Grandville. This program involves using church members to mark the lessons that prisoners send in and for them to correspond with them in a brief note.
July - We begin using Grandville Christian School for our worship services. The church offices are housed in rented office trailer located on the north lawn of the church. The Grand Rapids Press has a picture of a back hoe crane demolishing the old Fellowship Hall on July 30th. New construction begins in August with an anticipated completion date of Easter Sunday 1999.
In January the contractors found some damaged areas on the south side of the auditorium roof and an ad-ditional $13,200.00 was approved to re-roof that portion of the building.
In March of this year Pastor Arthur Baily is called as an Evangelist in the Christian Reformed Church serving the Abundant Life Ministries Group then meeting at 1721 Madison Ave. S.E. in Grand Rapids. He is installed to that office on October 3rd.
Construction continues until June and we move our worship location back from Grandville Christian School to our beautiful new facilities which now contain a spacious foyer, a large friendship hall with a new kitchen and storage areas as well as new offices for our pastor, secretary, library and copy room. On the lower level we gained space for a large nursery, a cadet room, two additional staff offices, a new council room, four additional classrooms, a boiler room and additional janitor rooms and storage areas.
A dedication service is held with the laying of a new cornerstone and everyone is thankful and praising God for such a well planned, useful and beautiful building.
Mr. Ryan Larue is hired and commissioned as our new Youth Director.
In the fall of this year Mrs. Tamara Vederman is hired as our Choir Director.
The need for a Baby Pantry is identified and work begins on the stocking of items for infant care. These items such a diapers, blankets and foods are now distributed to families with special needs.
November of 1999 marked the death of our former pastor Reverend Leonard Van Drunen who had served our congregation so faithfully for over 18 years from November of 1972 to January of 1990. He was well loved and is missed by all.
The concept of forming care groups of 4 to 6 couples to form deeper relationships with prayer, Bible study and social activities was ad-opted after many months of study. These proved to be well received and the number of groups involved is continuing to grow.
Elder districts are re-configured to give each elder a better cross section of the congregation instead of using a block of names in alphabetical order. Elder districts are now called households. The purpose is to give an elder responsibility for both the younger and the older members as well as families with and without children forming a household unit.
After twenty three years of handling our church’s secretarial work load alone, Lois Haagsma decides to cut back on her hours. Sharon Holwerda is hired to fill the two days each week which were vacated by Lois.
An ad-hoc committee is formed to study the pros and cons of creating a second more contemporary morning worship service. After much prayer and debate the motion was defeated.
Arnie Morren is chosen by Classis Grandville to be a representative to Synod in the summer of 2000. Sandy Sloterbeek chooses to retire from her volunteer job as caretaker of flowers and auditorium decor after 20 years in that capacity.
Work begins on the search for and purchase of a church building in the Abundant Life Ministries community, as they have outgrown their building on Madison Ave. S.E. for their Sunday worship.
An effort to combine the youth groups of Hope CRC and South Grandville is adopted and successfully introduced in the fall of 2001. These two groups now meet together at the South Grandville facility with adult advisers from each church.
A study committee is formed to look at the adoption of the “Kuyer’s” plan for the funding of our Christian Education Program.
In April of this year Care Groups are formed and begin functioning. Today we have 10 Care Groups meeting together regularly.
Funding is arranged and the purchase of a church building is made for the Abundant Life Ministries Church. This property is located at the corner of Francis and Burton Streets S.E. in the Abundant Life Church neighborhood. The building will nicely house the worshippers at Abundant Life and allow for room for Sunday School and other church functions. Before the building can be used, an extensive remodeling project is completed by our Deacons and many other volunteers. This included re-plastering and painting of the auditorium, painting of the large meeting room, classrooms and kitchen in the basement. New tile floors in the kitchen and bathrooms as well as all new carpet in the sanctuary, stair wells, and basement. A new roof and School. This idea was well received and many tutors started assisting students with special needs in September of that year. This program has been very welcomed and successfully run at South Elementary and continues today.
This was a very exciting year for the Taylor family and for South Grandville CRC. Lee and Sue felt called to missions and after much prayer and fund raising they left, with their children for language school in Costa Rica. Today, with the support of South Grandville and other churches they enjoy working with the Latin American Missions in that country.
Early in 2002 approval was given by Council to adopt the idea of using the Kuyer’s plan for the support and funding of Christian Education for the 2002-2003 school year. It was then approved by the congregation and successfully run for that school year and is now operating in it’s second year.
Ryan Larue, our Director of Youth activities resigns from that position to begin work as a high school guidance councilor.
Wednesday night dinners and praise times begin at our church. This event provides an opportunity for our members to gather for a hot meal, fellowship and a time of praise.
Disciplers Bible Study begins for the women of South Grandville and other churches on Tuesday mornings. This program has continued to grow and expects to see 80 women in attendance this fall.
Our relationship with Pastor Bailey and the Abundant Life Church continues to grow. The South Grandville Deacons and other volunteers complete the remodeling of a home next to the Abundant Life Church for the housing of their staff or transitional families.
The Tuition Reduction Incentive Program is introduced at South Grandville. This program allows our members to receive credit toward tuition payment through purchases at various local merchants.
Rev. Ray Vander Laan begins a nine week series on Wednesday nights teaching on the Footsteps of the Master. These lessons are in depth studies on the life of Christ as He walked the paths of the Holy Land teaching His Disciples by parable and performing many miracles. The church was packed all nine eve-flings and all were blessed by his insights.
A commitment was made to pledge $20,000.00 for the support of a church in Russia to help them complete a building for place of worship and gathering.
South Grandville CRC was able to purchase a 17 passenger church bus after an anonymous gift was received for this purpose. This bus is used to bring some of our senior members to worship services on Sun-day mornings as well as provide transportation for all groups of our church.
South Grandville CRC celebrates it’s 50th Anniversary with guest pastors, a summer picnic, a church breakfast, neighborhood pig roast, a celebration dinner, and a special service of celebration and thanksgiving on November 21, 2004.
Pastor Dan celebrates his 25th Anniversary of his ordination.