The Grand Rapids Association of Pastors got back into gear after our summer hiatus on September 15, 2016, with a meeting at Brookside Christian Reformed Church in this open, skylit space. We had intended to learn about racial inequity in the education system in Grand Rapids (from 1910 on) from Deanna Rolffs from Partners in School Innovation. However, with recent events in our city, we wound up crafting a response to the Forest Hills Central High School student display of a Betsy Ross flag alongside a Donald Trump banner, as well as to Forest Hills Superintendent Dan Behm's apology, Grand Rapids Public School Superintendent Teresa Weatherall-Neal's statement, and the ensuing media storm. You can read that response here.
The discussion was frank and wide-ranging, spiritual and heartfelt, and also rollicking, with laughter and also cheers when a well-turned, just-right phrase was suggested.
One point brought up by a number of pastors was the need for relationship among the different churches in our organization, for our congregations to know each other. Dr. Tim Harris of Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church said, "We need to be together and have relationship so we can work together in our communities."
Well, this Sunday, he, Rev. Carl Pace, Jr. of True Light Baptist Church and Dr. Randy Buursma of First Christian Reformed Church are doing something about that. The three churches are coming together for a joint worship service.
Let me repeat that: on Sunday morning, when they normally meet separately, they are joining their worshipping voices together. Not a separate service. But for their regular Sunday morning worship.
Rev. Pace and Dr. Harris will lead in praise and worship and Dr. Buursma will preach the Word. There will be a combined choir from all three churches. Pilgrim Rest and First CRC will meet in their own buildings at 10 a.m., with Pilgrim Rest driving busses to bring people to True Light, and First CRC hosting a prayer walk between the two buildings -- hopefully gathering curious community members as they go. The service will start at True Light at 10:45 am on Sunday, September 18.
I am certain that it will be glorious.
For the past two years, Brown-Hutcherson Ministries and Grace Christian Reformed Church have held a combined Candlelight service the week before Christmas -- a service that had long been important for both congregations. They blend Brown-Hucherson's choir concert with Grace's Lessons and Carols service into a shared worship experience that is beautiful; I am a member at Grace, and this service has become one of my favorite parts of the Advent season.
Blessings to you, True Light, Pilgrim Rest, First CRC, Brown-Hucherson, and Grace CRC. May this be the beginning of a trend towards uniting in worship and building relationships so we can better spread the love of God throughout our community.