For Maple Avenue Ministries in Holland, Mich., last month marked the end of a year-long 100th anniversary celebration. Originally named Maple Avenue Christian Reformed Church, the congregation became the first CRC-RCA (Reformed Church in America) union church in 1999.
To celebrate and reflect on its history, the church hosted former pastors throughout the year and displayed an archive exhibit entitled “Always Leading Change.” In March the church released a publication of its history, “The City in Its Heart: The First 100 Years of Maple Avenue Ministries, Holland, Michigan, 1913-2013,” written by Dr. John D. Cox, a long-time member of the congregation.
Despite some significant challenges over the decades, including membership decline and neighborhood gang violence, the congregation has remained committed to living out the gospel in the core of the city.
“This story is profound,” said C.J. Grier, Maple Avenue’s pastor of worship arts. “It is a story of transformation; it’s a story of hope; it’s a story of revitalization. It is really a story of the future for both the CRC and the RCA as they experience decline but with an expectation of hope that God is not finished. [Each] has a glorious future.”
Becoming the CRC’s first union church was not the only denominational ground-breaking move for the congregation. In 1995, Maple Avenue became the first CRC in Holland to appoint an African-American pastor, Eric Gray. In 2009 it was also the first CRC to call an African-American woman, current pastor Denise Kingdom Grier, as its lead pastor.
The final week of celebration, May 18-25, included a celebration banquet attended by several former pastors as well as a celebration church service.