How do isolated church communities survive and thrive? In rural Montana, Del VanDenBerg, stated clerk of Classis Yellowstone, gives much of the credit to Manhattan Christian School.
There are four Christian Reformed churches in Montana’s Gallatin Valley—Manhattan, Bozeman, Bethel, and Gallatin Gateway Community.
“Manhattan Christian has been the ‘glue’ that has helped the church community survive far from large [pools of] human resources,” VanDenBerg said.
Through tough times, like the recent split with the United Reformed Church, and great times, like growth from one to four congregations, the school is the common thread keeping the churches connected.
So when Manhattan Christian celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, “it was not only a school event,” said VanDenBerg, “but an event celebrating the continued support of Christian day-education in the CRC.”
Festivities included a special school assembly in February and a weekend-long celebration in June with more than 1,000 attendees. High school principal Eleanor Denhartigh said, “Our whole celebration tended toward reflecting on the goodness of God through both times of tragedy and tremendous blessing.”
In isolated CRC communities across the U.S. and Canada, VanDenBerg thinks the Christian school may be a dynamic indicator of the health of the church community.
Considering Manhattan Christian’s 100 years, it seems the CRC is alive and well in the Gallatin Valley.