December 31, 2012 — For the past several years, Crosswinds Community Christian Reformed Church and Grace Community Church (Reformed Church in America) were simply neighbors worshiping kitty-corner from each other at the intersection of Riley St. and 136th Ave. in Holland, Mich.
Recently, however, the two congregations became partners, forming a unique cross-denominational union called Intersection Ministries.
Crosswinds, which until July had worshiped in a school cafeteria, and Grace, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, now share facilities, staff, and finances, but maintain separate congregations and pastors.
The two churches join together in outreach efforts and midweek ministries, including Wednesday night dinners and activities such as Bible studies and youth group.
The arrangement follows a model known in the RCA as a federated church, which is similar to a union church in the CRC, but whose denominational membership counts are kept separate.
Over a year ago, Grace invited Crosswinds to rent its gymnasium. Soon both churches realized there was potential for greater partnership.
“Both had some things that the other needed,” said Jeff Meyer, pastor at Crosswinds. Grace wanted to make more inroads with the surrounding community, which had been changing demographically. A multiethnic congregation, Crosswinds had been making such connections successfully.
Crosswinds, on the other hand, was looking for a more permanent place to call home. “We didn’t want to be tenants forever,” Meyer said. Crosswinds also lacked a place to hold midweek ministries. Grace’s campus, he said, “is highly visible with generous buildings and flexible space.”
On Sundays Crosswinds now worships in the gymnasium; across the parking lot, Grace worships in the sanctuary. Each church maintains access to both buildings.
“Part of the real success in blending is the fact we didn’t merge together our worship,” Meyer said. “It allows us to retain our distinctive character but at the same time learn from each other.”
The partnership, made possible through a grant from the denomination’s Sustaining Congregational Excellence program, launched publicly in September with a two-day community festival attended by over 250 people not already connected to either church.