On a mild late-summer Sunday, the congregation of Monroe Community Church (MCC) of Grand Rapids, MI began worship at one location, took a walk and then finished worship down the street.
It was goodbye to its old home and hello to a new one.... just a few blocks down Monroe Ave. NW.
Pastor Jim Boer led his congregation in saying good-bye.
"We've shed tears here, we've prayed here, we've served here, we've given here," Boer said of their home of more than a dozen years. "And we've had a lot of coffee here.....and now we're moving on."
Their downtown address on Monroe is changing from 800 to 1020: in the heart of an area referred to as the Monroe North neighborhood. It's a mixture of residential lofts and condo units, restaurants, boutique retail and office space - many located in re-purposed factory buildings.
During the service several members shared stories about the facility. But most brought testimonies about what the MCC community has meant to them and their faith journeys.
Steve Fridsma is an architect by trade and has helped design various church spaces. He recalled some of the history of his church home at 800 Monroe. The building formerly housed carriages used for downtown horse-drawn carriage rides. "So horses were coming in and out of here as recently as 2004," he smiled.
Not long after the Christian Reformed congregation moved into the remodeled space came 2009's inaugural Art Prize. The church decided to apply to become an Art Prize venue, with Fridsma in the role of coordinator.
"We had 3 to 4 thousand people come through our doors that year," he noted. "We were imagining it would be a ministry to visitors. But we didn't understand how much of a witness we could be to the artists themselves."
Indeed, MCC continued its Art Prize involvement, and in 2017 jurors named the church a finalist for outstanding venue. That year it had more than 10 thousand visitors.
"I've had artists say, 'If I lived here (in Grand Rapids), I would attend church here because of how you guys have loved on me.'"
ON TO THE NEW
Mid-service it was time to move. More than 100 worshipers – some waving flags - filed out of their longtime home on their way north to a new one at 1020 Monroe, with new hopes and new possibilities.
The pastor recalled that in the Old Testament, God was "a little resistant to building a temple of brick and mortar" and actually preferred a tabernacle-tent. "He is a God of mission, and he wanted his people to be where the needs were."
The newer remodeled location was not quite complete. Worshipers entered a crisp but wide-open sanctuary space which lacked seating. So they stood around a communion table as Boer led in serving the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
MCC's new spot will be shared with a new church plant – City Hope GR – meant for people with physical disabilities and those who are developmentally delayed. It plans to begin a 5pm worship service Sun. Oct 10 (see our earlier article about City Hope GR at http://www.westmichiganchristian.com/local/1194-city-hope-gr-is-church-for-people-of-all-abilities-first-service-is-oct-10.html)
Remodeling was completed with the needs of this population in mind.
Monroe Community also pledged to be a mission partner with the church moving into its former space. Indwelling Community Church received the keys to 800 Monroe on Sept. 1 and a few weeks later celebrated its official opening.
Fridsma had offered a challenge to church members as they considered their new home.
"We have been the 'survival church' as we've done what it takes to live into ministry," he said of the congregation, which in its infancy went by the name Monroe Mall Ministry with offices near Rosa Parks Circle.
This fall the church was an Art Prize venue in an even more substantial way. It hosted more than a dozen artist displays in the competition which concluded Oct. 3. Two of the works reached the top 25, including a Contemporary Black Artist Award-winner "Planted By the Sacred Streams of Grace," a large scale "installation" painting. View a list and photos of all of their works online .
In mid September came Monroe Community Church's first "official worship" at its new home. The morning theme was new beginnings.
"It was our largest attendance ever," Fridsma reported. A hopeful sign for an urban church with the motto: "Love God, Love People, Love the City."