They meet in a lecture hall at the L. William Seidman Center, on the campus of Grand Valley State University. The Center was named in honor of the economist who, as head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, helped to correct the savings and loan crisis of 1988-91. The meeting room was well lit, with a very good sound system. A large parking lot is right by the front door.
Quoting from their website, the church’s mission is ‘to help people know God, find freedom, discover purpose and make a difference … [in] … an environment that allows us all to contribute, grow and push our gifts to achieve incredible things.’ They have life groups that (again quoting from their website) ‘allow you to meet other members and develop relationships that will spur your relationship with God.’ They have two children’s Bible study groups called Ripple Effect Kids. On the second Tuesday of each month they hold evening chapel at Mel Trotter Ministries, which conducts programs for the homeless. There is a single service each Sunday.
Grand Rapids, in southwestern Michigan, is the state’s second largest city. For years the city has been known as a furniture manufacturing center, and even today it is home to five of the world's leading office furniture companies. The city’s economy has also diversified into health care, information technology, automotive, aviation, and consumer goods manufacturing. Grand Rapids was the childhood home of President Gerald R. Ford, and he and Betty Ford are buried at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in the city. Grand Valley State University is surrounded by an industrial neighborhood. The area was quiet being that it was Sunday morning.
The pastor led the service, doing the opening greeting.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Morning Service.
How full was the building?
I counted chairs for 130, and they were nearly half filled. (Sounds better than saying that the room was half empty.) A very good sampling of all age groups, from seniors to babies held by their mothers. I enjoyed seeing this, as it showed that the fellowship was healthy to grow.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I walked in directly and sat on the side near the back. Several people said hello to me on the way in, and a few came up to me before the service to welcome me. During a time for congregational hand shaking, the pastor sought me out and introduced himself.
Was your pew comfortable?
Padded comfortable chairs that reminded me of so many offices I've visited.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very informal. They were like friends talking to each other. This type of fellowship, I felt, was like an early church. They had urns of good coffee, which I enjoyed before the service.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
I didn't get the exact words as one member was welcoming me at the time.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
They didn't use any song or prayer books, but everything was projected on the overhead screens in a modern easy to understand translation.
What musical instruments were played?
A good sounding small group of a keyboard and three guitars led the congregation in song. They had an electronic drum sound that I believe was from the keyboard. The volume was pleasant, unlike some churches that seem to have the decibel level of a rock concert.
Did anything distract you?
A beautiful one year old child was trying to crawl on the floor in front of me. A sweet sight to watch.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Worship was free enough for those to stand, sit or even raise hands during the praise worship. They preached freedom in Jesus and practiced it. The music was very contemporary.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 — The pastor’s style was like an informal lecture – easy to follow and understand. He moved right along and I was never bored. He stayed on topic, teaching about the Bible and God without straying into stories about his favorite teams, his children, his wife, etc. He gave one example of a word in Greek, but most of his sermon was down to earth practical.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He used many verses to talk about how God uses death and suffering to his glory. He used Job as an example. Job lost ten children, but he didn’t really lose them – they were now with the Lord waiting for him. We don't lose loved ones who are in God's hands. When life deals you a bad hand of cards, give the cards to God and move on.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Reminding me that lost loved ones are only temporary losses.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing. Everything was heavenly.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the service, I thanked the pastor and enjoyed some short conversations.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn't have a cup after church, but it was available. According to their website, on the first Sunday of each month they put on a buffet luncheon after the service.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 — As I travel, I enjoy visiting different fellowships. So often it feels like I'm visiting family.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
I'll remember the pastor's comment on Job and on giving your cards to the Lord.