The largest Christian Reformed congregation in Arizona owns no building, has no full-time staff, doesn’t send delegates to synod—and you really have to hunt to find it mentioned in the denominational Yearbook.
More than 300 people attend Sunday worship services in the winter.
Yet each Sunday morning from early December through mid-April, as many as 330 people attend worship services at Mesa Maranatha CRC in Mesa. This winter, the congregation will celebrate its 30th anniversary in January when the snowbirds flock back to the Arizona desert.
Technically Maranatha is a community ministry of Palm Lane CRC in Scottsdale.
“We snowbirds started coming to the valley and [being early risers] were taking the seats from the people who were regulars at Palm Lane,” said Francis Faber of Luverne, Minn. Faber, his wife, Audrey, and Trudy Bolander of Bozeman, Mont., are the last remaining charter members of the Maranatha flock still attending on a regular basis.
In 1981, Palm Lane assigned home missions missionary Stan Siebersma to lead worship services for wintertime visitors staying in mobile home parks located in eastern Mesa, which is at least a half-hour or longer drive from Palm Lane. Siebersma served the Maranatha congregation for 25 years.
Since 2006, Rev. Gary Hutt, who retired from Ebenezer CRC in Leota (Minn.) in 2004, has been Maranatha’s minister.
At first an elder and a deacon from Palm Lane would attend Maranatha each week, but the winter congregation, comprised primarily of Christian Reformed and Reformed Church of America members from the upper midwest and northwestern states, started electing its own elders in 1990.
Maranatha rents the Farnsworth Hall community theater facility for its Sunday services. Attendance starts each December at around 75 people, swells to more than 300 in February, and then dwindles back to 75 as the snowbirds start to fly home for the summer.