This new church plant is getting the word out that it will be a congregation for people of all abilities — meaning those with and without disabilities.
Its inaugural service is Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. It will share space with Monroe Community Church at its new location at 1020 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids.
"The plan is to keep it at 5 p.m.," says Vander Woude. "We looked at different days and times and that's the best time. We'll look at it again in four to six months and if we need to adjust the day and time, we will."
According to Vander Woude, people with physical disabilities and those who are developmentally delayed are gun shy about attending church, or said another way, are an untapped segment of the city's population who need to hear the Gospel. With 200,000-plus people living in Grand Rapids, Vander Woude says at least 14,000 are people with disabilities who live within the city's limits.
All Are In His image
"What we recognize is that there are so many people affected by disability," says Vander Woude, who has 20 years of ministerial experience, the majority of it in establishing new churches. "They're thought of later down the road or as an after thought in many places, frankly. There are a lot of people not necessarily mad at the church or they just don't go. God says we are made in His image and if that's true, and we believe it is, then we need to remember God has a purpose and He gifts and calls people of all abilities.
Vander Woude is an ordained Reformed Church in America minister but he says City Hope is both non-denominational and multi-denominational church.
It borrows a page from Kingdom Enterprise Zones (KEZ) the late Amway co-founder Richard DeVos helped initiate in 2011. Back in 2009, during Amway's 50th anniversary, DeVos said there was practically no theological or worship differences remain between the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church denominations.
"KEZ paved the way for some of this to happen," says Vander Woude. "Officially City Hope GR is part of the CRC. I am also ordained in the RCA church and we have two nondenominational partners. We literally have 10 ministry partner churches."
Another influence is Benjamin's Hope, a 40-acre nonprofit in Holland where services are held for people with disabilities. Founders Dave and Krista Mason gave Benjamin's Hope its moniker after their son, Ben, was declared autistic in 1997, a time when autism wasn't understood as well as it is today.
A loving community
In the end, what it all means is City Hope will be a nondenominational, multidenominational, inclusive church that doesn't blink in adding another in Grand Rapids, which at one time was known as a City of Churches before it was dubbed its current sobriquet, Beer City.
"We need to have a community of people with all abilities. (It needs to be) a loving community," says Vander Woude. "I've realized a great amount of people who love Jesus and are committed to God but so, so many have stepped away from the church or just plain never had a relationship with God. We know a lot of people have grown up around here but also know a lot of new move-ins from other states and other countries."
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