An old used car dealership nestled between a car wash and a bar has found new life as home to Celebration Community Christian Reformed Church in Muskegon, Mich.
The church had been meeting in part of the building for seven years—but only recently were they able to finish major renovations to make it their home.
Initially begun as a church plant, Celebration spent its first several years without a permanent place to call home, moving from a library to a church basement to an old school. When the church’s realtor pitched the car dealership to them seven years ago, it had been the last place they had thought to look. The building had sat empty for several years. The owner happened to be a Christian Reformed man from nearby Grand Rapids who agreed to put together a land contract for Celebration. They finally had a place to call home.
However, their dreams of renovating the building hit more than one setback, including a lawsuit brought against them by the city disputing a particular bylaw. The suit was later dropped.
Pastor Matt Eenigenburg, who has been with Celebration for four years, explained that the church got to a point where they had to “fish or cut bait.” He said, “We had been meeting in the former showroom, which was simply too small, and we wanted to move our services into the service bay area. But that wasn’t going to happen unless we owned and outfitted the building and had the money to do so.”
Several benefactors stepped up, and Celebration was finally able to move forward with the renovations with cash in hand.
“Our renovation team called itself ‘The Bigger, Better Boat Team.’ We knew we needed a bigger, better boat to impact people in our community,” said Eenigenburg. “Most people will come to a church on a Sunday morning if a friend invites them, and we wanted to be a place where that could happen. We doubled the size of our worship area and created a narthex where people can gather before and after the service to just be together as a community. Those were the two things at the top of our list that we got done. There’s still a third of the building left to complete—a multipurpose area and a kitchen.”
Thelma Bergman, who Eenigenburg describes as the matriarch of the church, has been involved from the beginning. “It was an exciting, scary, fabulous, sad, happy, exhilarating, humbling event,” she said. “I had no clue it would take this long. I was beginning to think it would not happen in my lifetime since I am now 86. But it’s here. It was worth all the prayers, all the work. Our setbacks seemed to be gifts from God, they made us so much stronger, and we knew how much we needed him every step of the way. Praise the Lord it’s here, and so am I.”
Eenigenburg says the building reflects Celebration’s philosophy of church, that God can repurpose anyone or anything, even an old used car dealership, to serve his purpose of bringing all people to him.