In 125 years, Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., has transitioned from a church that served Dutch immigrants by incorporating the Dutch language into its services to a church that continues to serve its ethnically diverse neighborhood.
In May, Oakdale Park held three commemorative services celebrating the past, the present, and the future of the congregation. Committed to diversity, the church has overcome difficulties while growing into its own culturally diverse place of worship.
“The first Sunday was a reflection on the past that included the celebration and recognition of growth through embracing immigrants—most of whom were Dutch,” said Rev. John Rozeboom, the church’s administrator.
“The second service focused on current ministry diversity,” Rozeboom said.
After Oakdale Park welcomed Dutch immigrants, the congregation experienced another cultural shift. “White flight”—the movement of Caucasian residents to the suburbs—changed the membership landscape. In the 1960s and 1970s, many African Americans immigrated from the southern U.S. and moved into the available homes. Oakdale Park welcomed these new members to their existing immigrant-based congregation. Diversity continues to play an important role in the church.
The commemorative services concluded with senior pastor Rev. Emmett Harrison focusing on the spiritual growth of Oakdale’s members. Rozeboom said that since its beginning in 1890, the church has reached out, now hosting over 500 members, with 300 of them participating in regular worship groups.
The future looks bright. “Kids are an important part of Oakdale’s ministry,” said Rozeboom. “One hundred kids attend the church, and there is about one baptism each month.”
About the Author
Kristin Schmitt is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. She lives in Hudsonville, Michigan.