Bringing their community together by celebrating Christmas and the diversity of their Boston Square neighborhood in Grand Rapids, Mich., three Christian Reformed churches—Fuller Avenue, Oakdale Park, and Boston Square—again combined efforts with area businesses and other organizations and churches to host a tree lighting event on a chilly Dec. 3, 2022.
The first public tree lighting in the square happened last year, an event that Sheryl Luth, ministry coordinator for Fuller Avenue CRC, said she and her daughter initiated. They both live in the area. “Fuller’s congregation loves an opportunity to come alongside neighbors and community,” Luth said, noting that the church’s collaboration with neighbors applies the principles of asset-based community development. Oakdale Park Pastor James Jones sees that the event has helped to reestablish relationships between residents, businesses, and churches. “It is important for Oakdale to be a part of something that is positive in our community,” Jones said.
Many participants contribute. Luth said the Christmas tree, a cut tree between 15 and 20 feet tall, is from a tree farm in Rockford, Mich.; the city of Grand Rapids contributed a $5,000 grant from the Neighborhood Match Fund; and 46 other sponsors, including Amplify GR, the churches, and Modern Hardware, supplied more financial support, volunteer hours, and the necessary equipment such as tables, chairs, tents, and portable heaters. Boston Square businesses provided hot drinks and food that reflected the area’s diverse cultures: ribs, plantains, tacos, and more. For entertainment, a DJ played music, a Christian dance academy led Christmas carols, volunteers staged giveaways, Santa posed for photos, and Pastor Jones and a city commissioner addressed the crowd. Loretta Crawford, a resident and longtime promoter of the Boston Square neighborhood who attends Oakdale Park CRC, then lit the colorful tree.
Mark and Kathy Oostinde, who live in Boston Square and attend First CRC, were two participants at the Tree Lighting. They said they appreciate community activities that have begun to bring the neighborhood together, including campfires and music events in the small park, block parties, and a pop-up market.
Fuller Avenue, Oakdale Park, and Boston Square CRCs—all within a mile of each other—enjoy working together and have collaborated on other projects. Currently they share in a ministry involving a local apartment complex. Luth said they want to be active parts of the fabric of the community. The tree lighting is expected to continue annually.