Twelve thousand worshipers, including synod delegates, gathered Sunday afternoon in the Van Andel arena, downtown Grand Rapids, Mich.—plus 1,000 more in an overflow venue—for the largest worship service ever held by the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
The June 10 service celebrated the denomination’s 150th anniversary and looked forward to what the Lord still has in store for the church.
The service, which included communion, was a logistical marvel. “Take the myriad details involved in planning a special worship service and multiply that exponentially,” said Rev. Howard Vanderwell, one of hundreds of volunteers who ushered, greeted, collected the offering, and served communion.
Patterned after a traditional CRC worship service, the celebration included a litany of lights in which thousands of worshipers held up flashlights or cell phones to show their gratitude. The prayer of confession included repentance for racism that marred the church’s history.
Traditional hymns, contemporary praise songs, and songs in other languages were all part of the blended service. The service opened with God’s greeting given in Dutch, Spanish, Korean, Navajo, and English, and ended with a benediction delivered in the same five languages.
Rev. Roy Berkenbosch, who delivered the sermon, reminded worshipers of why they were gathered. “We are not celebrating the CRC, which we love,” he said. “We are celebrating the God of heaven and earth, who loves us.”
Acknowledging many blessings of the church’s past, Berkenbosch, of Edmonton, Alberta, also challenged those gathered.
“Can God’s yes word be heard today, above bombs in Kandahar, gunfire in inner cities, the cries of AIDS orphans in Malawi?” he asked. “God’s yes word needs amplification, embodiment in the mission of the people of God.”
“There is so much to celebrate and anticipate,” he said. “As much as we have already been used, we are not yet used up. To whom much has been given, much is required.”