Roosevelt Park Community Church was organized in 1994 through the merger of Grandville Avenue and Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan Bethel.
Adapted from the church history webpage:
In December 1993, Grandville Avenue and Bethel began to study the possibility of merging. However, dwindling numbers, a changed community, and the hope to begin as a brand new church, led to serious discussions about becoming a "blended [church] family." Why should these two dying churches become one new church in the Roosevelt Park community?
Here are a few answers:
Both churches believed a new church could make a difference in the neighborhood. The proposal stated,
- "like a blended family, consolidation will force all of us to make changes in our patterns of living and working in the [new] church. That's hard. We like the familiarity of the old routine, the old space, the old faces. But a new blended family of Bethel and Grandville Avenue is also exciting. It offers us all new resources, new energy, and a new beginning to pursue God's purpose in this community . . . We believe that we must stay in this community not so that we can huddle together with the old familiar faces, but so that we can put out the welcome mat in this community to welcome a wonderful new diversity of people into the family of God."
The churches decided to stake its existence not on perpetuating the same, but to be a witness in the Roosevelt Park community.
A joint task force, consisting of members from both churches, chiseled out a new purpose statement. With help from a church growth consultant, the task force drew up a common purpose, which would be shared and submitted to the new body. The new document explained that a purpose statement
- "is a clear description of a preferred future; it summarizes what God is calling the church to be; it describes the church's target audience and the results expected from the ministry; it allows for flexibility in implementation; and establishes a solid basis for decision-making and problem-solving."
Roosevelt Park will not exist for either Bethel nor Grandville Avenue, but to "become an outreach ministry in which people of all cultures feel welcomed." This is why Roosevelt Park Community CRC exists now. All ministries will be directed toward this end.
They decided to have a blended worship style, combining traditional and contemporary music. They rejected separate services for each style because they wanted the service to "include the best of both worlds." The service's goal was to build unity with members, present a united front to the community, to gain momentum with a worshiping group and to fulfill the new purpose of the church.
On October 10, 1994, I became the first pastor of Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church. I was not sure if I was the right person, but I did believe God called me to join in ministry with the people at this church. I agreed with its vision and joined them to "welcome people of all cultures in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. I have been pastoring at here for the last eighteen years.
We Are a Reformed Urban Church!
Merger of Grandville Avenue and Bethel Christian Reformed Churches is commonplace in the urban context. Most churches close their doors and flee to the suburbs or some take a stand and change in order to be a Reformed witness within a new context. Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church chooses to be an urban Reformed change agent in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. Here are a couple facts about us.
First, both churches decided to die for the sake of new ministry opportunities. Death was one of the best gifts God gave to both churches. The proposal stated, "consolidation will force all of us to makes changes in our patterns of living and working. That's hard." The church of Jesus Christ must recover the truth of the gospel in accepting death as the primary way of getting life. Author Eugene Peterson observed, "we can't participate in God's work if we insist on doing it our own way. Healthy church communities that embody self-denial, sacrifice, and patience for God will survive. These kinds of communities go against the grain of the American ethos." Roosevelt Park Church is a counter-cultural community, accepting the realities of the gospel and the realities of our present context to be a spiritual community that is relevant and Jesus-centered. We are the church that keeps reforming according to the Word of God. We are a church that fights against becoming static, changing and developing new ways for the gospel to be incarnational. We are a witness when she accepts her own death as the gospel way for becoming a light to the nations
Second, the ministries of this church are implemented and evaluated through its vision, mission, and values. All ministries, according to the vision and strategies of Roosevelt Park Church, will be targeted to draw lost people from the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. As church members discover and use their gifts, ministry outcomes will be directed toward discipleship. With the combination of time, talents and treasures, this church decided to concentrate its efforts toward helping these kinds of ministries to grow. All ministries will be geared and backed to make the witness of Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church a light in its neighborhood.
Third, Roosevelt Park Church has a compelling story that is still unfolding. Bethel and Grandville Christian Reformed Churches abandoned the old reasons of existence for a new and exciting prospect that God could use them, in His ministry, to make a difference in Roosevelt Park neighborhood. The merger proposal declared, "[this merger is] an honest and thoughtful effort to show that two historic churches can unite for a new chapter of effective ministry in this community."
Roosevelt Park Community Church closed its doors on July 26, 2015. Its facilities were sold to the Potter's House School, which has been meeting in the former Southwest Christian School facilities, which was physically connected to Grandville Avenue CRC until it closed.
- 811 Chicago Drive SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49509 (built 1951 as Grandville Ave. CRC)
- Reginald Smith, 1994-2015
Green (lower) line shows membership in families; blue (middle), professing members; red (top), total members; and magenta (thin), non-professing members.
Data source: Yearbooks of the Christian Reformed Church. Dates are year prior to publication date since data is gathered at the end of one year and published in the next.