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Church Life News Merging with RCA News Feed

(From RCA Communications)

The Church Life News Feed is being merged with the RCA's General News Feed beginning today, November 2.

You can now follow news from all around the denomination in one spot:

Northwestern Opens Simultaneous Interpretation Lab

(From Northwestern College)   
Northwestern College students majoring in translation and interpretation (Spanish-English) can now hone their skills in a new lab that lets them learn and practice simultaneous interpretation.

The lab features 13 booths identical to those used at events—like international conferences—that require professional interpreters. Electronic equipment in each booth enables students to listen through headsets to recordings of either Spanish or English speakers and to interpret what is being said into the other language.

Northwestern’s investment of $75,000 in equipment for the lab gives the college a decided advantage over other interpretation programs. Northwestern is one of only four colleges and universities in the U.S.—and the only Christian college—offering a bachelor’s degree in translation and interpretation (Spanish-English). The lab is equally rare.

“We’re not aware of any simultaneous interpreting lab in the whole Midwest,” says Piet Koene, assistant professor of Spanish, translation, and interpretation. “This gives our program a very big advantage.”

In simultaneous interpreting, interpretation is provided while the speaker continues to speak, typically with a lag time of three to five seconds. Koene, who holds a master’s degree and professional certification in interpretation, says the process is mentally taxing, as it involves listening, understanding the meaning of what is being said, deciding on the interpretation, and then speaking that interpretation.

“Simultaneous interpreting is one of the most sought-after aspects in the professional interpretation market,” Koene says. That’s because it takes less time than consecutive interpretation, in which the speaker pauses while the interpretation is being done. And today’s technology, with wireless headsets and receivers, makes simultaneous interpretation possible.

As students in the lab interpret recordings piped through their headsets, Koene uses a control board to select which student he wants to listen to and, at times, to let them listen to and learn from each other.

Because students must be fluent in both Spanish and English in order to learn interpretation, only bilingual students are accepted into Northwestern’s program. The translation and interpretation major gives the college a market among students who have grown up in Spanish-speaking homes. Northwestern already has 10 students in the major. The goal is to have a total of 24 by 2014.

While there are community colleges that offer two-year associate’s degree in the field, Koene says Northwestern students will advance more in their abilities in a four-year program and will be better prepared for professional certification tests following graduation. Interpretation is a high-paying career field, and graduates with bachelor’s degrees are qualified for administrative positions, such as director of interpretation services or a translation project manager.

Interpreters need continuing education credits to stay current in their field, and Koene says Northwestern will provide that as well. In June the college will host the Iowa Interpreters and Translators Association. Those attending a pre-conference workshop will get to practice and hone their interpretation skills in Northwestern’s new lab.

Central College Students Help Clean Up after Hurricane Irene

(From Central College)
During their fall break, 18 students from Central College in Pella, Iowa, traveled to Esperance and Schoharie in New York to help with ongoing cleanup efforts following Hurricane Irene in August. Kristin Tremper, coordinator of Reformed Church in America relations at Central, organized the trip and worked alongside the students.

The group left after their final classes on Wednesday, October 12, and drove through the night to reach New York. On Friday, they helped clean debris out of destroyed homes on Priddle Camp Road in Esperance, trying to makes sense of the destruction that the flooding from Irene left behind.

“There was nothing left to salvage,” said Tremper. The students moved debris out into the street so that garbage trucks could pick it up.

On Saturday, students headed to Schoharie to clean mud out of basements and rip out ruined drywall. They were able to meet and pray with the owners of the homes they worked on. They were joined by members of Bellevue Reformed Church in Schenectady, as well as alumni Tom Patterson, Glenn and Eileen Van Oort, and Brenna Autrey.

The Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Department, a few miles from Esperance, allowed the Central group to stay in their building and even provided a chicken barbeque for the students Saturday night. A donation from Herkimer Reformed Church covered the cost of the meal. Christ’s Community Church in Clifton Park and Currytown Reformed Church in Sprakers also provided meals.

The trip wasn’t all hard work for the students. On Thursday, they did a ropes course, zip line, and cave tour at Howe Caverns. They also hiked Vroman’s Nose and visited The Old Stone Fort Museum in Schoharie, where they were surprised to be greeted by Central alumnus Paul Ammerman.

“Our students are awesome,” said Tremper. “This was the best group I’ve ever been able to work with. It was a joy to get to know them. A lot of these students came to Central for this reason—to serve other people.”

Chaplain's Works Include Helping Others Explore the Spirituality of Healing

(From Timesunion.com)
The Rev. Harlan Ratmeyer: director of pastoral care at Albany Medical Center and pastor of the First Reformed Church of Bethlehem.

Background: Born and raised in Illinois, he graduated from Central College in Pella, Iowa, and received a Master of Divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich., and, in 2000, a Doctor of Ministry degree from New York Theological Seminary.

After serving Reformed Church in America congregations in Michigan and California, he was director of pastoral care at a health care facility in Reedley, Calif. He has managed the Pastoral Care Department at Albany Med since 1996 and is a supervisor in the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education.

He and his wife Ellen live in the parsonage in Selkirk. He has two daughters and four grandchildren. He enjoys storytelling and gardening.

Bridge builder: He received the Carlyle Adams Ecumenical/Interfaith Award from the Capital Area Council of Churches at its 70th anniversary celebration this week.

Is there a confluence of spirituality and science in health care?

Sleepy Hollow Church Celebrates Book Release

(From Friends of the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground)
Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, the oldest existing church building in New York, released a new book about the colonial church’s history during a celebration open to the community on Sunday, October 9. (The congregation continues as Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns in Tarrytown, though it worships in another building for most of the year.)

The Old Dutch Fest included food, clarinet- and accordion-playing minstrels, and a visit from the legendary Headless Horseman. Visitors could also take a guided tour of the church and burying ground using an innovative iPad application. Janie Couch Allen and Elinor Griffith, authors of The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow: Legends and Lore of the Oldest Church in New York State, autographed copies of the book.

The book shares many stories from the history of Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, which is now a national historic landmark. The book contains hundreds of photographs, maps, illustrations, and true tales of the church and its people from its founding in 1685 to today. It includes stories about the richest man in New York, Lord Frederick Philipse, who built the church but wasn’t exactly saintly; the superstitious Dutch colonists who inspired Washington Irving to write one of America’s most beloved ghost stories; and the “hero with the goose gun,” Jacob Van Tassel, just one of many local Revolutionary War heroes who are buried in the churchyard.

“Everyone in the area loves the Old Dutch,” says Jeffrey Gargano, pastor of Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns, which still holds summer services at the historic building. “Just consider the connections from Washington Irving to another Washington, our country’s first president. It’s truly a community treasure!”

For more information, visit www.odcfriends.org.

Agape House Church in North Plainfield Will Celebrate Opening Sunday

(From MyCentralJersey.com)
The vision is to establish a church that will capture the hearts and minds of those who have turned away from traditional religious services, according to Rev. Calbert Brantley and his wife, Kyla, who relocated from South Carolina a year ago to create Agape House, a new church start that is sharing facilities with Trinity Reformed Church at 401 Greenbrook Road.

Agape House is marking its official opening with a 4 p.m. celebration on Sunday. The celebration will include services, followed by refreshments.

Both churches are member churches of the Reformed Church in America.

“Our goal is to meet people where they are,” said the Rev. Brantley, whose parents were ministers. “There are many people who have turned away from traditional religion and services, so if we are going to reach them, we have to get out into the community, and we have to learn more about their lives.”

Innovative Ministry Serves Community, Coffee, and Fair Trade Goods

(From the St. Charles Patch)
The Bridge is community, coffee house and fair trade market combined in a corner location in New Town, St. Charles. I would describe it as a place to tangibly live out faith values and principles while living out your life.

Over dinner out with their spouses, the Rev. Stephanie Doeschot,  a minister of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Rev. Jim Erdman, a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), shared their separate visions of a new outreach ministry: both spoke of starting a collaborative ministry located in New Town. 

The Bridge started as a small kiosk selling fair trade products, such as coffee and artisan handicrafts. Fairly traded goods support new markets, favorable working conditions, and fair prices especially in areas at a disadvantage with the regular manufacturing and marketing system. More  information is available at the Fair Trade Federation website.

The Bridge is a result of much prayer, planning and creative thinking by members of outreach teams from four St. Charles County churches with support by the two church denominations. Three of the four churches are from the ELCA: Christ the King, Hope, and Living Lord; Christ’s Church is RCA.

VBS Kids Donate to Disaster Relief

(From RCA Communications)
This summer, Addisville Reformed Church in Richboro, Pennsylvania, felt called to partner with Reformed Church World Service to help with disaster relief in the U.S. through its vacation Bible school program in late June.

Each day during the weeklong program, kids dropped their coins and bills into beach buckets in keeping with the program’s beach bash theme. At the end of each day, the kids gathered together to find out how much money was in the beach buckets.

“Children not only learned about God’s love for them through his gift of Jesus Christ, but they also learned how to put his love for them into action by sharing it with others,” says April Pflueger, Addisville’s director of Christian education.

“Disaster recovery is a years-long process. We know, with our Lord’s help, we can make a difference for those who face the unimaginable task of rebuilding their homes, their communities, and their lives brick by brick.”

The church continued collecting money for RCWS through the month of July. At the end of the month, the combined efforts of the VBS kids and the congregation resulted in a donation of $2,565.29 to help RCWS respond to flooding and other natural disasters that have devastated U.S. communities.

Staten Island Parishes Preach 'Love Your Neighbor'

(From the Staten Island Advance)
Continuing on in the spirit of the 10th-anniversary observances of 9/11, the interfaith effort "Love Your Neighbor Weekend" features events promoting tolerance and understanding in Staten Island neighborhoods.

"Love Your Neighbor" was started five years ago in response to the beating death of Mexican IHOP chef Ricardo Salinas in Mariners Harbor.

"It continues to honor his memory and all those targeted because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation," said a statement from the sponsoring group, Staten Island Clergy Leadership.

"The event encourages the values of diversity, tolerance, and non-violence. It is especially significant on this 10th anniversary of 9/11, which honors the memory of nearly 3,000 Americans targeted and murdered for being American."

At least 15 parishes of all faiths are sponsoring free events beginning this weekend, said the Rev. Terry Troia, executive director of Project Hospitality.

Groups Provide Aid, Comfort to Those Left Homeless by Irene

(From NorthJersey.com)
Whether it's to provide food and clothes or pump out flooded basements, volunteers are on hand to help Hurricane Irene victims rebuild their lives following the storm.

The First Reformed Church in Pequannock has a multi-faceted volunteer service for flood victims. In addition to providing clothes, food and cleaning supplies for flood victims, volunteers are also willing to do laundry, pump out inundated basements, and move heavy items.

Child care is also available for people who are preoccupied with cleaning out the mess in their homes caused by Irene.

"We're helping people most affected by the flood," said Pastor Kathleen Edwards-Chase.

Michigan Mission Team Ministers in Staten Island

(From Terry Troia, RCA pastor and executive director of Project Hospitality)
Members of Lakeland Reformed Church in Vicksburg, Michigan, spent a week in July ministering to hungry and homeless people at Project Hospitality, an RCA mission partner in Staten Island, New York. They spent time ministering in the neighborhood of Port Richmond, which has been plagued with interracial violence over the last year. The mission group sponsored a family movie night at the local community center and a friendship dinner that brought together more than a hundred community residents, both black and Latino, to get to know each other over supper. After dinner, everyone participated in a dialogue, sharing their experiences and expectations of living in a multiethnic, multiracial neighborhood. The mission group also conducted street evangelization and encouraged local youth to attend an event called Speak Out Against Violence sponsored by Project Hospitality’s youth leadership program, Eye Openers Youth Against Violence.

Holland Church to Host Seminar for Healing Racism

(From RCA Communications)
Hope Church (RCA) in Holland, Michigan, will be hosting an eight-week program sponsored by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance called the Institute for Healing Racism. The program uses dialogue and activities to examine the history of racism, institutionalized racism, and ways to combat racism.

The program will take place on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., and will run from September 20 through November 8. Registration is $100 per participant; financial hardship scholarships are available through the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance.

For more information or to inquire about scholarships, call (616) 846-9074 or email program@ethnicdiversity.org. To register for the seminar, go to www.ethnicdiversity.org.

RCA Pastor Publishes First Book

(From Don Peet, retired RCA pastor)
Don Peet, a retired RCA pastor who most recently served Second Reformed Church of Rotterdam in Schenectady, New York (also known as Cobblestone Church), has announced that Xulon Press has published his first book, Grace Robbers.

Peet says, “Grace robbers are those things we allow into our lives which keep us from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings. For example, many people, many church-attending people believe that if they are good enough, they will go to heaven. These good people go about their lives being good people, and totally miss the truth that salvation is a gift of God’s grace—that life itself is a gift of grace.”

Throughout his 21-year pastoral ministry, Peet was frustrated by the inability of the church to capture a higher vision of the blessings that God has for them. He sought ways to encourage the church to desire this higher vision, but resistance to change, aging congregations, and behaviors contrary to God’s way prevented many congregants from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. Grace Robbers is based on a series of sermons Peet delivered at Cobblestone while he served as pastor there.

Peet is currently working on a study guide for Grace Robbers as well as another book, A Pastor Looks at Prophecy.

Grace Robbers is available online and can also be ordered from local bookstores.

Rural Iowa Church Pursues Second Site Ministry

(From Rick Vollema, pastor of Pleasant Valley Reformed Church, Holland, Iowa)
Pleasant Valley Reformed Church, started in 1874 to reach local farmers in a very rural area of Iowa, has a long history of supporting new churches. In 1953, the church built a new building because it had outgrown the first one. The church donated its old building to help start Grace Reformed Church in Waterloo. Pleasant Valley also started Reformed Church of Stout, Hope Reformed Church in Parkersburg, and Orchard Hill Reformed Church in Cedar Falls. Pleasant Valley also started Center Community in Grundy Center, which is now parented by Orchard Hill with support from Pleasant Valley. Pleasant Valley has given up families and pastors to help start these new congregations. It has been quite a history.

As a result of visioning efforts, Pleasant Valley is now pursuing an extension ministry that we are calling “Second Site.” We have existed for many years in a very rural area, on a gravel road, serving a farming community. We have come to realize that as farming culture has changed so dramatically, the church must also change. Although our church is 137 years old, we do not fear change. God is leading us to a wonderful vision of erecting a second facility near the intersection of a newer expressway and a state highway—we call it the crossroads.

The second site will also allow us to do ministries that are hindered by the remote, rural location we currently occupy. We hope that Second Site will be able to serve multiple communities; the new location is at the crossroads of several rural towns. We can do this without losing our outreach to our farming communities because instead of centering ourselves in a single town we will pursue a regional ministry.

The vision is new and exciting. We are not abandoning our old facility; rather, we envision growing God’s kingdom by worshiping together at Second Site in the beginning, then as we expand, we will have the opportunity to worship on two sites. We will keep our traditional church building available for weddings, funerals, and small group use.

This is a bold and exciting vision that the consistory has worked on for more than 18 months. The vision has remained strong through the election of new consistory members. It appears to be a rather untrodden approach to rural ministry. We are close to purchasing land and our planning continues—prayers are needed and appreciated. God is good—always!

RCWS: Flooded Churches Need Help

(From RCA Communications)

Following Hurricane Irene's landfall over the weekend, flooding has devastated homes and churches along the East Coast.

In Prattsville, New York, four to five feet of water swept through Reformed Dutch Church, carrying away the piano and organ and leaving behind seven to eight inches of mud. Prattsville's Fellowship Hall The back of the church's fellowship hall is gone, with just a sinkhole remaining. The parsonage was severely damaged, as well.

Residents of Schoharie, New York, have not been able to return home following an emergency evacuation on Sunday. The floodwaters reached Schoharie Reformed Church's sanctuary and completely filled a basement fellowship hall. The homes of many church members, including the pastors, were flooded.

South Branch Reformed Church in Hillsborough, New Jersey, had five to six feet of water and mud in the lower level of the church. Other RCA churches also suffered flood damage, including nearby Hillsborough Reformed Church; Griggstown Reformed Church in Princeton, New Jersey; First and Second Reformed Churches in Little Falls, New Jersey; Fairfield Reformed Church in Fairfield, New Jersey; Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church in Roxbury, New York; and North Branch Reformed Church in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Flooding Hits East Coast Churches

(From RCA Communications)

Heavy rainfall from Hurricane Irene has caused flooding along the East Coast, impacting many RCA members and congregations.

In Hillsborough, New Jersey, pastor Stephen Eckert reports that South Branch Reformed Church has five to six feet of water and mud throughout the lower level of the church. The church is without power, and the pipe that connects to the well is broken, so cleanup is stalled at this time.

As Schoharie Reformed Church in Schoharie, New York, was finishing its morning service yesterday, an emergency evacuation was announced. Michelle Meyer DuBridge, sister of pastor Sherri Meyer-Veen, posted on the RCA's Facebook page that all of the homes in Schoharie are severely flooded, including the Meyer-Veens' home. The church is also flooded. Because of the emergency evacuation, people were only able to take a few things with them.

Prattsville, New York, was also battered by flood waters. Four to five feet of water came through Reformed Dutch Church, leaving behind seven to eight inches of mud. The back of the church's fellowship hall is gone, with just a sinkhole remaining.

Church Shelters Homeless Men

(From RCA Communications)

Homeless men can now spend the night at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York. The church opened a respite center this summer, offering meals and a place to sleep on weeknights throughout the summer.

The project is a collaboration between Old First, the newly-formed Park Slope interfaith social justice network, and CAMBA, a Brooklyn-based social service organization.

Old First began working on issues of homelessness several years ago, when a handful of homeless men started sleeping on the steps of the church. Pastor Daniel Meeter offered help but was frustrated at a seeming lack of permanent solutions.

"We wanted to do more, but didn't know how," he says. "City policies were in flux, assistance programs were intermittent, and the need remained.

"One Sunday morning in February we were convicted by our reading from the prophet Isaiah: 'Will you not take the homeless poor into your house?' We heard the call, but how to go about it?"

Church Group Constructs Deck for Housing Ministry

(From RCA Communications)
More than 20 members of the Men Up ministry at Remembrance Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, spent Saturday, June 11, adding a 50-foot-long deck onto a building owned by Exodus Place, a transitional housing ministry.

Exodus Place provides affordable housing for men coming out of homelessness, prison, and other difficult life circumstances. The ministry also provides counseling services, mentoring and encouragement, help with employment resources, Bible studies, and help connecting with recovery programs.

Exodus Place’s building is a former Grand Rapids correctional facility located on the Grand River. Although the building has been fixed up and remodeled by residents, the building’s design and frosted window glass eliminated the riverfront view.

The new deck built by the men from Remembrance runs along the side of the building by the river, providing residents with a view of the river and of the sunrise.

“Pillowcase Party” Brings Cheer to Sick Kids

(From RCA Communications)
Fifty volunteers gathered at Community Reformed Church of Colonie in New York on April 2 to sew brightly colored pillowcases that would bring smiles to patients at Albany Medical Center Children’s Hospital. Church members donated nearly $600 to purchase fabric for the pillowcases, and the congregation invited members of other nearby RCA churches and the community at large to join the sewing party.

The volunteers opened the Saturday event with a prayer of dedication, and then 34 sewing machines went into action. The remaining 16 volunteers cut fabric, ironed the completed pillowcases, and did any gofer work needed. Each completed pillowcase was hung on a length of clothesline strung across the sanctuary so volunteers could see their progress.

By the end of the event, the volunteers had made nearly 200 pillowcases. A few days later, several volunteers delivered the pillowcases to the hospital.

Community Reformed Church’s pillowcase party was hosted by the church’s quilt group in support of ConKerr Cancer, an international organization that recruits volunteers to make and distribute cheerful pillowcases to children facing life-threatening illnesses.

New Jersey Church Makes 70,000 Meals

(From RCA Communications)
Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, is still reeling from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince in January 2010.

Last year the congregation of First Reformed Church of Pompton Plains, New Jersey (FRCPP), was challenged by pastor Kathleen Edwards-Chase to spend less on Christmas and put that toward people in serious need. “We wanted to raise $12,500 to purchase 50,000 meals for Haiti, but we exceeded our expectations and raised $18,000, despite the economy,” says Edwards-Chase. “The people of Haiti are not forgotten.”

Volunteers from the community and FRCPP worked together on a Saturday in May to package over 70,000 meals for Haiti. The event was coordinated through “Change This World,” an organization that provides the raw food materials and partners with groups and organizations across the United States.

Volunteers were placed in several groups of 10 and each group occupied a table where all the tools and packing materials were set up. The organizers had a video to explain how to make the meals and also provided samples for all the volunteers to taste. Like a production line, the volunteers measured, sealed, and boxed the individual meal packs. Others replenished the supplies at the tables, while the youth group took charge of decorating the boxes. The atmosphere was filled with joy, hope, and excitement for all who participated. It was a wonderful experience of fellowship for participants as they lived out the FRCPP vision of “open doors, open hearts, and open hands.”

The meals were sent to Haiti in July to feed hungry people there.

Church Plant Opens Doors to Evacuated Seniors

(From RCA Communications)
Two weeks ago, lightning struck a retirement home next door to Well of Hope Church, an RCA church plant in Orlando, Florida. The lightning started a fire in the retirement home, forcing 65 residents to evacuate the building into the pouring rain.

Well of Hope pastors DaRon Dixon and Ian Dixon invited the residents to take shelter in the church’s facility and provided water and blankets to help them dry off. With the help of Well of Hope’s worship leader, Tyrell, they contacted the manager of the local Hardee’s restaurant, who donated hamburgers and French fries to feed the evacuees.

The storm also caused a power surge at the church that damaged two computers, a printer, a telephone, and wireless Internet routers. The church is thankful that no one was hurt, but cannot afford to replace the computers or the printer.

Well of Hope began meeting in February 2011, and currently has about 75 worshippers on Sundays.

For more information, contact Arlan TenClay at arlanministry@hotmail.com or 616-262-1664.

Catholics offer $50 million for Crystal Cathedral

(From Religion News Service)


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif., has offered $50 million to purchase the Crystal Cathedral, the famed Protestant megachurch that is attempting to recover from a bankruptcy crisis.

The diocese -- the nation's 11th largest -- does not currently have a cathedral.

The offer, which includes an immediate deposit of $250,000 and a secondary payment of $750,000, could provide creditors with relief by the end of the year, Bishop Tod Brown said in a Friday (July 22) announcement.

The diocese's plan would permit the Southern California ministry to have a leaseback option for an interim period, and give it space for religious and administrative purposes on nearby diocesan property when that period concludes.

Brown called Crystal Cathedral Ministries, founded by Robert H. Schuller, "a valued religious resource" and said he hoped it could continue under the diocese's plan.

"Dr. Schuller built up this ministry from the humble roof of a drive-in snack stand, and that constant faith in God's providence, I believe, will sustain their community through these current trials," he said. "With our offer we will enable this beacon of faith to continue to influence others as an important place of worship."

The Orange County Register reported that the cathedral has also received offers from nearby Chapman University; a Newport Beach, Calif., developer; and My Father's House Church International in Norco, Calif.

Crystal Cathedral lawyer Marc Winthrop had told the paper previously that the diocese's interest in buying the property for its own use would "be a big impediment as far as the Crystal Cathedral is concerned."

Grand Haven's First Reformed Church to Help Feed "Poorest of the Poor"

(From the Muskegon Chronicle)
The plight of the world’s poorest has been increasingly on the heart of First Reformed Church [in Grand Haven, Michigan].

Many of the teachings in the past year have focused on God's clear and uncompromising call for his church to come to the aid of those in need. Members of First Reformed Church also recently read the book The Hole in Our Gospel [by Richard Stearns] as a congregation, which deeply impacted many about how they could make a difference in the world.

The church responded with a special challenge to work for free for one day and give that day's wages toward building two schools in Africa through Samaritan's Purse. The whole church responded and enough money was given to build the schools as well as a church in Bolivia. Now they are tackling the hunger crisis in Haiti.

Ecumenical Veteran Sees a "New Frontier"

(From Religion News Service)


When the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson was younger, the bad blood between Christian denominations made the notion of a modern-day ecumenical movement seem far-fetched.

Now, the recently retired general secretary of the Reformed Church in America says American Christianity has reached "a new frontier."

"We have a chance of bringing in more around the table the way God really intends," said Granberg-Michaelson, who stepped down in June after 17 years in the post. "The missional church needs the unity of the church. How else do we think we can do useful things for the world if we're divided amongst ourselves?"

Amid a culture too often lost in its own self-importance, it's a unity that's sorely needed, Granberg-Michaelson argues in his 288-page memoir, "Unexpected Destinations: An Evangelical Pilgrimage to World Christianity."

Known in many Christian circles as the elder statesman of the contemporary ecumenical movement, Granberg-Michaelson traces his four decades of journal writing to urge Christians of all denominations to forge a new path of unity that requires them to do more than hold hands and sing "Kumbayah."

While loyal to his Reformed tradition, Granberg-Michaelson's book makes it clear he's grateful he wasn't tightly tethered to his denomination.

He recalls the first time he profoundly experienced God's love was at a Trappist monastery; explains why the once Dutch-dominated RCA must morph into something more inclusive; and describes why the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches have lost their way.

Granberg-Michaelson's road to an inclusive Christianity started in a small way in 1950, while growing up in a suburb in northwest Chicago where he rode bicycles with two neighborhood friends who were Catholic.

Raised in an evangelical household where being "born again" was paramount, Granberg-Michaelson's mother encouraged her son to "witness" to his two Catholic friends about Jesus' saving grace since they prayed to Mary and the saints.

But evangelistic fervor turned into a mild case of envy when he noticed his two friends had medals of St. Christopher--the patron saint of travelers--on their handlebars.

After many conversations with his boyhood friends, Granberg-Michaelson concluded the doctrinal chasm between them wasn't as wide as he once thought.

"The main difference was they had St. Christopher medals on their bikes, and I didn't," he said.

When it came to quieting his 60-hour workweeks, Granberg-Michaelson often found solace at a Trappist monastery. He still remembers his 1972 visit to the Holy Cross Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Berryville, Va., that enveloped him with God's presence.

"I had one of those deep and profound life-changing encounters where God's presence and love had simply overtaken me, and has stayed with me ever since," Granberg-Michaelson said. "To this day, when I want to go on a retreat, what I often do is head to a Catholic monastery."

Ethnic diversity also is vital to the body of Christ, added Granberg-Michaelson. During his tenure as the RCA's general secretary, 230 new churches were established since 1993--more than half of them composed of people of color.

"The most important change is the change in the culture of the RCA," Granberg-Michaelson said of his 177,500-member denomination. "Deep change isn't just changes in structure and programs, but changes in values, habits and the style of the way we meet with one another, and bringing people into the RCA who don't know how to play Dutch bingo."

Granberg-Michaelson writes that he is most proud of navigating the denomination through some still-thorny issues.

"Homosexuality comes to mind," he said. "I think we've been able to say this is an issue we're not going to let divide us, but figure out how to talk and keep our focus on the main things and not let us get off track."

Granberg-Michaelson also takes aim in his book at some long-held ecumenical partnerships: the NCC, he says, has suffered from "strategic incoherence" and "inept management."

"One problem with the modern ecumenical movement with the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches is it ended up, not by design, excluding huge parts of the Christian family," said Granberg-Michaelson, who served for six years on the WCC staff in Geneva.

"It's made up of historical Protestants and Orthodox but not Pentecostals or Roman Catholics. As good as an organization as the World Council of Churches is, one-quarter of all Christians are outside their membership. There are more Pentecostals today than those who are members of the World Council of Churches."

Ultimately, Granberg-Michaelson hopes his book spurs others to take the plunge and make a difference.

"I would hope by sharing my story someone else would have the courage and intentionality to take the next step in their own journey, and know how to take it," he said.

Catholics Look into Buying Crystal Cathedral

(From Religion News Service)


The Crystal Cathedral, which has put its iconic campus up for sale to end a bankruptcy crisis, has an interested party that needs a large cathedral: the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif.

The diocese -- the nation's 11th largest -- does not have its own cathedral but has studied the option to build one in nearby Santa Ana, Calif.

While that study is ongoing, "it is prudent to evaluate the opportunity to engage in the pending auction of this property and to mitigate the chance that it cease to function as a place of worship, if acquired by others," said Orange Bishop Tod Brown in a Wednesday (July 6) statement.

Marc Winthrop, the lawyer representing the Crystal Cathedral in its bankruptcy case, told the Orange County Register that inquiries from various parties are coming in daily.

"The diocese would obviously buy the property to use it for themselves, which will be a big impediment as far as the Crystal Cathedral is concerned," he told the newspaper.

Other prospective buyers -- including a development company and nearby Chapman University -- plan to offer the cathedral a leaseback program that would allow it to continue worship services in the renowned glass-walled edifice.

In recent years, the church has been mired in family, leadership and financial problems. It owed $7.5 million to creditors when it filed for bankruptcy protection last October. On Monday, it announced that founder Robert H. Schuller had been removed from a voting position on its board.

Schuller Loses Vote at Crystal Cathedral

(From Religion News Service)


Crystal Cathedral founder Robert H. Schuller has been removed from a voting position on the board of the iconic glass megachurch he started in Southern California five decades ago.

"Recently, the board of directors of Crystal Cathedral Ministries voted to change Dr. Schuller's position from that of a voting board member to the honorary Chairman of the Board Emeritus, a nonvoting position," reads a Monday (July 4) news release from the church in Garden Grove, Calif.

The change will give Schuller, 84, more time for speaking engagements and a writing project, the statement said. Schuller's son, Robert A. Schuller, who left the ministry in 2008 after leadership differences surfaced, called the move "another step toward the church's demise," according to the Orange County Register.

The Crystal Cathedral statement noted that the elder Schuller will continue to speak in the church's pulpit and on its "Hour of Power" television broadcast and participate in "creative and vision-casting meetings" with staffers.

The transition comes after the cathedral, long embroiled in family and financial problems, put its campus up for sale after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Sheila Schuller Coleman, Schuller's daughter and executive director of the church, said in a statement that she will still seek her father's advice.

"I have and will continue to defer to his wisdom and honor him for his unprecedented accomplishments," she said.

The church plans to sell its campus to a real estate investment group with a 15-year leaseback plan. When it filed for bankruptcy protection last October, it owed $7.5 million to creditors and had cut back staff, halted flagship holiday pageants and reduced airtime.

New Jersey Kids Put Mission Studies into Action

(From RCA Communications)
For the first half of the school year, a Sunday school class at Wyckoff Reformed Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey, studied mission and discipleship. After Christmas, they decided it was time to put what they learned into action.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students renamed their class the Kids’ Action Team and together chose one hands-on mission project each month for the remainder of the school year. The kids helped clean up the third floor of the church’s education building, baked and delivered Valentine’s Day treats to older members of the congregation, and even invited the younger Sunday school kids to join them in their mission project one month.

The kids wanted to do something that would impact the community outside the church, so, for the final project of the school year, they decided to collect food for a local food pantry. They got the whole congregation involved by making the collection a kids-versus-adults contest to see which group could bring in the most food (or monetary donations to buy food) for the pantry. The adults brought in nearly 400 pounds of food, but the kids blew them out of the water, bringing in nearly 1,300 pounds of food! Through the PantryPalooza project, the Kids’ Action Team was able to donate nearly 1,700 pounds of food to the Northside Food Pantry.

Though they’re taking a break for the summer, the kids are excited to do more mission projects in the church and around the community when Sunday school starts up again in the fall.

New Church Focuses on Prayer

(From RCA Communications)

"One of our desires this year was to be deeper in prayer in order to live out our mission--experiencing and sharing God's remedy," says Bob Abel, pastor at Remedy, a new church start in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

"We had done a Lenten series on prayer and fasting, and we participated in a 21-day corporate fast that a number of people were a part of."

Abel says the church wanted to create something that would allow the congregation to go deeper in prayer and closer in relationship with God, so it planned 24 hours of continuous prayer in April.

Most of the prayer took place in the church basement, which was transformed into a prayer space.

Ministry Centre Houses Evacuees


(From RCA Communications)
On May 15, as an advancing wildfire threatened the town of Slave Lake, Alberta, its 7,000 residents were evacuated. 
Athabasca Reformed Congregation, 130 kilometers (80 miles) away along the evacuation route, opened the doors of its new ministry centre to welcome them. 
“Quick crisis decisions were made by our church members to respond to the needs before us,” says pastor Ron Opmeer. “While many of our congregation focused on serving the 1,200 persons in or around the Athabasca Multiplex, our church’s ministry centre was served by dozens of our people as it become home to around 30 people that first night, and as many as 84 persons later that week.
“Ministry really does happen during the interruptions. Life changed for many of us in an instant as God called his church to mobilize.”
The congregation acquired the ministry centre just a few months before. Previously, the building was a senior living facility. When church members learned of the evacuation, they set to work cleaning the rooms and setting up cots and mattresses. “Their evacuation was very quick, with minimal time for people to prepare to flee,” says Melanie Opmeer. “It was so wonderful to be able to direct them to a peaceful, safe, and private place to put their families to bed for the night.”
Athabasca Reformed members also helped evacuees who were housed at the Athabasca Multiplex, especially by providing snacks and meals. 
Two weeks after the evacuation, one family was still staying in the ministry centre after losing their home in the fire, which destroyed 374 homes.

(From RCA Communications)

On May 15, as an advancing wildfire threatened the town of Slave Lake, Alberta, its 7,000 residents were evacuated. 

Athabasca Reformed Congregation, 130 kilometers (80 miles) away along the evacuation route, opened the doors of its new ministry centre to welcome them. 

“Quick crisis decisions were made by our church members to respond to the needs before us,” says pastor Ron Opmeer. “While many of our congregation focused on serving the 1,200 persons in or around the Athabasca Multiplex, our church’s ministry centre was served by dozens of our people as it become home to around 30 people that first night, and as many as 84 persons later that week.

“Ministry really does happen during the interruptions. Life changed for many of us in an instant as God called his church to mobilize.”

The congregation acquired the ministry centre just a few months before. Previously, the building was a senior living facility. When church members learned of the evacuation, they set to work cleaning the rooms and setting up cots and mattresses. “Their evacuation was very quick, with minimal time for people to prepare to flee,” says Melanie Opmeer. “It was so wonderful to be able to direct them to a peaceful, safe, and private place to put their families to bed for the night.”

Athabasca Reformed members also helped evacuees who were housed at the Athabasca Multiplex, especially by providing snacks and meals. 

Two weeks after the evacuation, one family was still staying in the ministry centre after losing their home in the fire, which destroyed 374 homes.

Fellowship Over Food

(From RCA Communications)

The Banquet is the latest effort of Rejoice! Community Church (RCA) in Le Mars, Iowa, to reach out to the community with the love of Christ.

"Rejoice's mission is to joyfully celebrate and share God's love," says outreach leader Adri Ruisch. "We want to model fellowship over food. With that in mind, we invite people to a meal, and after eating, they pick up the staples of life--bread, dairy, meat, and whatever else is donated." After each monthly dinner, the ministry distributes about $10,000 worth of food that has been donated by HyVee, Dean Foods, Zestos, Timmy's Catering, and others.

Ruisch says the program is especially geared for people in need, people who are elderly, and people who are lonely. A recent Banquet included more than 275 guests.

"We offer a brief time of prayer and spiritual food as the Banquet begins," Ruisch says. Some Banquet guests have even started coming to church on Sundays for breakfast and worship.

Crystal Cathedral Goes up for Sale

(From Religion News Service)

The Crystal Cathedral has announced plans to sell its iconic glass-walled church in Southern California to pay back creditors and overcome bankruptcy.

Senior Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, daughter of founder Robert H. Schuller, said the church will remain as a tenant and will have the option to buy back some of church's campus in Garden Grove.

"We are thankful to the vendors for their patience and we are so sorry for any pain that they have incurred," Schuller said in a statement on Thursday (May 26).

The church campus is expected to be sold to an unnamed real estate investment group with a 15-year leaseback plan. The megachurch known for its "Hour of Power" television broadcast filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors last October.

At the time of the filing, the church owed $7.5 million to creditors, and has cut back staff, reduced airtime and halted its extravagant holiday pageants.

Under the plan, the worship services and broadcasts are expected to continue without interruption, the church said. The Crystal Cathedral has been torn by controversy since the 2006 departure of Robert H. Schuller as pastor.

Hope President James Bultman's Retirement Will Cap Term of Financial, Academic Growth

(From the Holland Sentinel)
Hope College President James E. Bultman, who has led the college for 12 years, announced Monday he will retire at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

Bultman said it seemed like a good time at Hope to make the transition.

“You just kind of realize when it’s time. I have talked about it, and we have been discussing this with the leadership of the trustees for a couple of years.”

Bultman, 69, became the college’s 11th president in 1999.

A 1963 Hope graduate, he assumed office with more than two decades of direct experience with the college, including his days as a student.

Operation Pack Our Pantry: Area Kids Give Back

(From The Daily Mail)
Small towns are known for their “neighbors helping neighbors” mentality, and for being places where people have got your back. During a special program at Second Reformed Church last weekend, Operation Pack Our Pantry let the community’s kids get in on the act, too.

Operation Pack Our Pantry is the brainchild of local mom Maureen Hanse, a member of the church who wanted local kids to get a hands-on experience and learn what it feels like to help your neighbors in need.

“I volunteer at the Food Bank in Albany, so that gave me the idea for this program,” Hanse said. “It helps the kids get involved in something community-minded.”

Hanse and her team got the word out among other churches and local organizations, letting people know the church would be holding a drive on Saturday to collect items like non-perishable foods, personal care items and paper goods. And people responded.

Second Reformed Church is located in Coxsackie, New York.

American Academy of Audiology Honors Hope Professor

(From Hope College)
David Myers of the Hope College psychology faculty has received national recognition from the American Academy of Audiology for his efforts to transform the way that America provides listening assistance to people with hearing loss.
Myers received the academy’s President’s Award for 2011 on April 9 for launching the effort to “loop America,” spearheading new hearing-loop technology which broadcasts public-address system, television, and telephone sounds directly to hearing aids, doubling their functionality.

The award was presented during the association’s national AudiologyNOW! annual convention, held in Chicago, Illinois, from April 6 to 9. Myers also co-presented a session on the benefits of the technology, which enables hearing instruments to serve as customized, wireless loudspeakers. This technology is now in hundreds of West Michigan locations, including most places of worship, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and home TV rooms.

Myers has been an advocate for hearing loop technology for more than a decade. He has created a website, www.hearingloop.org, to share information about the technology, and has also written some 30 articles on the topic that have appeared in publications ranging from Audiology Today to the Saturday Evening Post to Technologies for Worship. His numerous writings also include the 2000 book A Quiet World: Living with Hearing Loss, which tells his journey through hearing loss, along with information about hearing technology and the psychology of hearing.

In June, he will be a featured speaker during the second International Hearing Loop Conference to be held in Washington, D.C. The conference is an initiative of the Hearing Loss Association of America, which is collaborating with the American Academy of Audiology on an educational campaign called “Get in the Hearing Loop” to educate consumers and hearing professionals about the ways telecoils and hearing loops can improve accessibility for the 36 million Americans with hearing loss.

The April 9 recognition by the American Academy of Audiology is the third major award that Myers has received during the current school year. In October, he was honored for his career contributions by the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Foundation. In January, he received the 2011 Award for Distinguished Service on Behalf of Social-Personality Psychology, presented by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology during the organization’s annual convention in San Antonio, Texas. He also received an award in 2009 from the Grand Rapids chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Myers, who has been at Hope since 1967, teaches in the psychology department. He served as the John Dirk Werkman Professor of Psychology from 1982 to 2007.

Fourteen Brunswick-Area Church Communities Join in United “Stations”

(From the Brunswick Sun Times)
When Pastor Don Poest of the Brunswick Reformed Church first came to Brunswick 33 years ago, the city had an active ministerial association that held regular multi-denominational gatherings of the area’s many Christian congregations.

“But people get busy and there are many reasons such things go by the wayside,” Poest said of the eventual decline of the group.

In the past year, however, the Brunswick Ministerial Association has been reborn. A “Community Living Stations of the Cross” event Good Friday afternoon April 22 at North Park illustrated this newfound sense of community perfectly.

RCA Service to Air on ABC

(From RCA Communications)
“Hope Is Back: A Marble Collegiate Easter” will air on ABC stations on Easter Sunday, April 24.

The program was produced for ABC by Marble Collegiate Church (RCA) in New York City in cooperation with Interfaith Broadcasting Commission. It will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ using contemporary metaphors grounded in solid theology.

The show will feature a sermon from pastor Michael Brown and a solo by Tony award−winning artist Ben Vereen.

Check your local listings to find out when “Hope Is Back” will be showing in your area.

Clara Woodson Honored with Educator’s Award

(From RCA Communications)
Christian Educators, RCA (CERCA) has awarded its 2011 CERCA Lifetime Achievement Award to Clara Woodson.

“Clara has touched the lives of so, so many of us in the RCA,” says Jane Konitz, CERCA historian and longtime friend and colleague of Woodson’s.

“Clara’s contributions to discipleship in the RCA are many: she has encouraged, she has inspired, she has worked to provide events that nurtured, she has led workshops, and she has prayed for and with all of us and all our labors.”

Woodson served as an educator in the New York City public school system and in church school for much of her adult life. In 1992 she was ordained as assistant pastor of Flatbush Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York. In 1996 she began working with the Regional Synod of New York as synod-area minister for the Classes of Brooklyn, New York, and Rockland-Westchester. She retired from that role in March at the age of 84. She was also a founding member of the RCA’s Houses of Prayer Equipping team.

The award was presented in January, at an RCA dinner during the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators annual meeting. CERCA members nominate recipients for the award, with the CERCA executive committee selecting the recipient from the nominees.

“We have served on endless committees and traveled thousands of miles, but always we find ourselves seeking out new ideas, resources, and, most of all, people who are Christian educators,” Konitz says. “I was a church educator and Clara was my inspiration and constant reminder that the work any of us who labored in the church was necessary and appreciated. When things were tough, Clara encouraged us to keep up the ‘good work.’”

RCA Minister Receives National Pastoral Care Award

(From Albany Medical Center)
The Rev. Harlan Ratmeyer, director of Albany Medical Center’s Pastoral Care Department, received the Distinguished Service Award of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education at their recent (April 6) spring conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Each year, the national organization selects one of its members to receive this prestigious award, which is given to an individual who has had a distinguished career in the field of pastoral care.

“We’re delighted that this national organization has chosen to honor the Rev. Ratmeyer for his outstanding service first and foremost to our patients but also for his work in advancing an overall appreciation for this important service nationally,” said James J. Barba, the Medical Center’s president and chief executive officer.

New Christian Curriculum for Korean American Youth

(From New Brunswick Theological Seminary)
New Brunswick Theological Seminary, along with G2G Christian Education Center, is sponsoring an event on Saturday, April 16, to unveil a new youth curriculum called “iDentity.” This is the first Christian curriculum designed for Korean American youth. The curriculum, based on the “4 Cs” (Christ, culture, community, and church), was developed by three current and former New Brunswick professors: Hak Joon Lee, Kil Jae Park, and Kevin Park.

This event will take place at Shin Kwang Church of New York (RCA), 3355 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361. It starts at 10:00 a.m. with a free reception, keynote address, and panel discussion. After lunch, two workshop sessions (the $50 registration fee includes iDentity curriculum books) will introduce participants to the iDentity curriculum.

For more information about the event, call (646) 220-3258 or (800) 445-NBTS, or email hjlee@nbts.edu

Pastor Describes Surviving Plane Crash

(From VCStar.com)
Calmly recounting his most recent brush with death over lunch in the hospital cafeteria, the Rev. Andres Serrano said he was preparing to land at the Camarillo Airport on Saturday when his plane's engine cut out.

Serrano's instructor took over the controls, gliding the plane to the top of a self-storage facility between the airport and the Camarillo Premium Outlets, where it crashed. The Beechcraft Bonanza was wrecked, but Serrano, his instructor, his wife and a friend from the Dominican Republic all escaped before the single-engine plane caught fire.

Good News: Fifth Reformed Church Celebrates Its Men in Orange

(From Mlive.com)
The men at Fifth Reformed Church in Dalton Township have worn many hats as participants of the church's ministries, including bright orange hats in March.

Each March the past seven years the church has hosted its annual "Orange Hat Society" event, with an open invitation to men, young to old, to attend the free event. They're also encouraged to bring their best wild game dishes and stories to share.

New Jersey Church Celebrates 275th Anniversary

(From RCA Communications)
First Reformed Church in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, will be having a service of celebration at 7:30 p.m. on April 7 to celebrate its 275th anniversary. Anyone who would like to attend is invited to join members of First Reformed as they celebrate 275 years of ministry and witness in their community.

Everett Zabriskie, stated clerk of the Classis of Passaic Valley, encourages members of classis churches to consider attending. “Anniversaries are the lifeline to the future. It is important to pay attention to our history as it tells us who we are.”

First Reformed Church is located at 529 Newark-Pompton Tpke., Pompton Plains, NJ 07444.

Newhouse Named Camp Geneva Director

(From RCA Communications)
Geneva Camp and Retreat Center has hired a new executive director, Blaine Newhouse. Newhouse has served as pastor of leadership and preaching at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, for the last 16 years. Before that, he was minister of youth and education at Forest Grove Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.

In 1986, Newhouse and his wife, Kathy, were counselors at Camp Geneva.

He will begin his work as director on May 2.

Geneva, a summer youth camp that also hosts retreats and other special events, is one of eight RCA-affiliated camps.

Second Asian Resource Center Book Discussion a Success

(From Gerri Yoshida, facilitator of the Asian Resource Center)
On Friday, February 25, the Asian Resource Center held its second book discussion at the RCA office in New York City. Eight participants, representing Asian, Anglo, and African American pastors and elders, along with En Young Kim, coordinator for Pacific and Asian American ministries, and Gerri Yoshida, facilitator of the RCA’s Asian Resource Center, held a lively discussion on the book The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why, by Richard Nisbett.

Participants discussed how inherent cultural differences between the East and the West affect relationships within a church and throughout the denomination. For example, Asians are often reluctant to confront issues openly because of their desire for harmony in relationships. Thus, in a consistory meeting, Anglos will interpret their silence as agreement. It was recognized that in these situations, Asians need to speak up and articulate their thoughts and feelings, while non-Asians need to use reflective listening to make sure they understand their brothers and sisters correctly.

It was agreed that each way of thinking has valuable components that need to be utilized when relating to one another. The Western desire for logic, rules, and detail needs to be balanced by the Asian appreciation of the complex, cyclical, holistic view of nature and the importance of community.

The group discussed many practical suggestions to improve relations between Asians and the RCA. For example, seminarians need to be taught about cultural differences and have cross-cultural internships so they can more effectively minister in multiracial settings. The need for translation in consistory, classes, and other assemblies is essential, as is learning new techniques of conflict management and mediation rather than confrontation and argumentation. Rules that acknowledge the differences between Western and Asian perceptions need to be clearly stated so that everyone can participate fully.

Individual churches can be encouraged to have pulpit exchanges or pulpit supply from another racial group as well as more social interactions such as international dinners, choir festivals that highlight worship styles from different countries, and joint mission trips, as well as sports events and youth gatherings. Participants recognized that it is important to prepare for these interracial programs to sensitize people to the cultural bias of each group. Another cross-cultural opportunity can occur if pastors in coaching networks can intentionally include pastors of different backgrounds.

“I am grateful to God for the RCA’s Asian Resource Center,” said Kenita Harris, the RCA's executive assistant for multiracial initiatives and social justice. “The book discussion and time of sharing of our personal stories has truly changed and impacted my life.”

Chad Tanaka Pack, associate minister at Middle Collegiate Church, added, “I felt blessed to be in the presence of a diversity of perspectives from our denomination.”

The purpose of the Asian Resource Center is to discern the unique gifts and needs of the Asian American community, develop ideas on how to more fully integrate Asians into the life of the RCA, and distribute these findings to the rest of the denomination.

Professor Awarded Fulbright Scholarship for Work in Romania

(From Northwestern College)
Jennifer Feenstra, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern College, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to conduct research and teach in Romania during the 2011-2012 academic year, according to the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Feenstra will research the effectiveness of the youth development work done by the New Horizons Foundation. She will also teach research methodology courses in a master’s degree program at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj while on sabbatical from Northwestern.

A social psychologist with research interests in volunteerism and the development of adolescents and young adults, Feenstra will live in Romania from October through June. She will assess the success of the program New Horizons has developed to empower Romanian youth and increase responsibility, teamwork, and trust among them.

New Horizons Foundation’s executive director, Dana Bates, also serves as onsite program director for Northwestern’s Romania Semester. Feenstra, who participated in a Northwestern summer study abroad course in Romania in 2005, will work with Bates to develop a research program for a new curriculum the organization is implementing in its youth clubs. She will also analyze data previously collected by the Center for the Study of Democracy.

“I’m excited to work with New Horizons,” says Feenstra. “I was fascinated with their efforts to improve social capital—the trust in others and willingness to engage in cooperative action needed to successfully run a democratic society—which is low in post-communist Romania. I’m inspired by the kind of difference they’re making, and I look forward to getting to know the people of Romania and learning more about the culture.”

Feenstra, a co-director of Northwestern’s Franken Servant Leadership Institute, has published her research in the Journal of College Student Development, Teaching of Psychology, and Journal of Psychology and Theology. She has also made presentations at meetings of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. A member of Northwestern’s faculty since 2003, she earned doctoral and master’s degrees in psychology at the University of New Hampshire. She received a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College.

Feenstra is one of more than 1,000 U.S. educators and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program next year.

The Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in over 155 countries and is funded primarily by an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education, and athletics, with 40 awarded the Nobel Prize and 75 winning Pulitzer Prizes.

Spreading a Message of Hope

(From the Daily Freeman)
The Rev. Kendra VanHouten, who has been the Fair Street Reformed Church’s minister since Nov. 1, believes a pastor should “have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other” when constructing sermons.

As such, deacon Richard Dunn, who headed the search committee that selected her, described her preaching style as a “blend of traditional with contemporary, current life examples” that “relate to where people are today.”

The places people find themselves aren’t always good, which prompted VanHouten, 37, to ask: “Where don’t we need the message of hope?”

Northwestern Wins Basketball Championship

(From RCA Communications)
Northwestern College’s women’s basketball team won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II national championship on March 15 with an 88-83 victory over Davenport University.

The team finished the year with a 35-1 record. Senior Becca Hurley was named tournament MVP and NAIA player of the year. Kendra DeJong was named to the second team all-tournament. Head coach Earl Woudstra was named national coach of the year.

The team also won the championship in 2001, 2008, and 2010. They are the only team in the NAIA with four championship victories.

Northwestern is located in Orange City, Iowa, and is one of three RCA colleges. Get a play-by-play of the game at www.nwcraiders.com/wbasketball/1011/news/5270.

Youth Group Fasts for Feed One Campaign

(From RCA Communications)
The youth group of Six Mile Run Reformed Church in Franklin Park, New Jersey, participated in a 30-Hour Famine lock-in. They raised money for the RCA’s Feed One campaign while learning about world hunger.

NBTS Receives $350,000 Grant from Henry Luce Foundation

(From New Brunswick Theological Seminary)
The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded New Brunswick Theological Seminary $350,000 toward the establishment of the Horace G. Underwood Chair of Global Christianity.
The Henry Luce Foundation Theology Program grant will be paid to New Brunswick Theological Seminary over the next three years, with the first installment of $150,000 in 2011. To date, the seminary has received more than one million dollars in gifts and pledges toward the $1.5 million needed to fully endow the chair.

Indiana Church Organizes Valentine’s Day Surprise

(From RCA Communications)
When Christian Park Reformed Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, learned that neighboring Indianapolis Public Elementary School 82 was desperately in need of soft bandages, tissues, and hand sanitizer, it recognized a perfect ministry opportunity. The church has been working to develop a relationship with the elementary school in order to help the school’s staff provide students with a great educational experience.

Christian Park organized a drive to collect the necessary supplies. Church members gathered 55 boxes of tissues, 45 bottles of hand sanitizer, and 32 boxes of soft bandages in addition to other school-related supplies.  

On Valentine’s Day, church members dropped off the donated items. They also surprised each staff member with an encouraging Valentine’s Day card. The church also provided treats for the teachers’ lounge, including bananas, orange juice, cookies, zucchini bread, and candy.

Staff at the school were touched by the outpouring of love from the congregation. “I’ve worked here 25 years and no one has done anything like this for us before,” said one staff member. “We praise God that we were able to help share the love of Christ with our neighbors at the school with this Valentine’s Day surprise,” says Christian Park pastor Cory Moss.

TV Program Reaches Tamil Speakers in Queens

(From RCA Communications)
Chris Theodore, pastor of Glendale Reformed Church in New York, was instrumental in developing the half-hour Tamil-language outreach program called Yesu Santhikirar (Encountering God in English), broadcast twice a week in Queens. The program, which includes Tamil music and dance in addition to a message by Theodore, reaches out to the thousands of Tamil speakers living in Queens.

  • Read an article about Theodore’s ministry to the Tamil community from the spring 2009 issue of RCA Today.
Mission Fest Celebrates Global and Local Ministry

(From RCA Communications)
During its annual mission fest in October, First Reformed Church in Harrison, South Dakota, raised $12,600 for mission efforts. The mission fest included three worship services and visits from RCA missionaries J.P. Sundararajan and Mark Wilson, who shared about their work. “It’s really a great experience and people really get behind it,” says Steve Hayes, the congregation’s pastor.  

Hayes says the funds will be distributed to RCA missionaries the church supports, including those who spoke during the mission fest; to RCA ministries and institutions Inspiration Hills, Words of Hope, Northwestern College, Hope College, and Western Theological Seminary; and to support local ministries in South Dakota.

First Reformed worships and shares a pastor with Harrison Christian Reformed Church, located down the street.

Astronomical Murder Rate in Juarez, Mexico, Does Not Deter Volunteers from House-Building Mission

(From Mlive.com)
There were so many murders in Juarez, Mexico, last year that it’s called “Death City,” but a group of Zeeland men will head there Wednesday, armed with hammers and heart.

The 30 men, most from Zeeland’s Community Reformed Church, will pour concrete and hammer nails on the outskirts of one of North America’s most dangerous cities this week, building houses for Mexican families now living in shacks.

They’ll cross the border from El Paso, Texas, with staff from Casas por Cristo--Houses for Christ--a nonprofit that has built 4,000 homes since 1993 with help from 7,000 volunteers a year, many from the United States.

Hope Honored Nationally for Community Engagement

(From Hope College)
Hope College has received national recognition for exemplary service-learning from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s “2010 Community Engagement Classification.”

“Hope College being the recipient of the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is an authentic reflection of the college’s commitment to service to others,” said Dr. Richard Frost, vice president of student development and dean of students at Hope. He said that he especially appreciates the selection because it affirms the way that community engagement and service is expressed as a core value at Hope. He noted that it happens through the efforts of hundreds of individuals—students, faculty, and staff—who come together in multiple ways to make a difference, whether tutoring area children, raising funds for the American Cancer Society, or helping provide a village in Africa with clean water.

The Carnegie Foundation’s listing highlights colleges and universities that demonstrate excellent community engagement locally or beyond, showing alignment among mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices.  First offered in 2006, the classification enables the foundation to address elements of institutional mission and distinctiveness not represented in the national data on colleges and universities.

“Through a classification that acknowledges significant commitment to and demonstration of community engagement, the Foundation encourages colleges and universities to become more deeply engaged, to improve teaching and learning and to generate socially responsive knowledge to benefit communities,” said Carnegie President Anthony Bryk. “We are very pleased with the movement we are seeing in this direction.”

Selection to the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is based on applications submitted by colleges and universities describing the nature and extent of their engagement with the community. Of the 154 institutions that applied for the classification this year, 115 were selected. This includes 66 public institutions and 49 private institutions across 34 states. Hope is one of 25 baccalaureate colleges selected, and one of four institutions from Michigan on the 2010 list.

The foundation has named a total of 311 institutions to the classification since the program debuted in 2006.  Additional information about the Community Engagement Classification program can be found on the Carnegie website, www.carnegiefoundation.org.

Service and outreach activities originated at Hope take place across the nation and abroad as well as locally, and include initiatives connected to coursework, coordinated by Hope offices and departments, and initiated by students as volunteer efforts. Examples include:

  • Fourth-semester Spanish students volunteer as ESL teachers working with area adults through a program coordinated with Latin Americans United for Progress.
  • An academic program called the Center for Faithful Leadership involves students in activities that include providing consulting services for area organizations and teaching leadership principles to high school students.
  • Hope students serve as tutors for area elementary and high-school students through the Children’s After School Achievement (CASA) program and TRIO Hope College Upward Bound program.
  • Hundreds of students work together to help raise funds for the American Cancer Society through the Relay for Life each fall and for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital through the dance marathon each spring.
  • Students travel around the country as well as to Central America and the Caribbean through spring break mission trips coordinated by the campus ministries program.
  • The college’s chapter of Engineers without Borders and faculty and students from the department of nursing have traveled to Nkuv, Cameroon, several times for a project focused on water quality and community health.
Eastern Churches Hit by Blizzard

(From RCA Communications)
RCA churches were not spared by the blizzard that ran up the east coast in the last week. The Synod of the Mid-Atlantics is compiling a page of snowy pictures of RCA congregations on their new website.

Multidenominational Work Group Repairs Reservation Homes

(From RCA Communications)
An RCA member from West Broward Community Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, joined volunteers from other churches from across the U.S. and Canada in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, to help members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe repair flood and tornado damage to their homes.

Zeeland Group Pays It Forward Using Craigslist

(From Fox 17 Online)
When the youth group at Community Reformed Church in Zeeland began looking for families to help, they went online.

The group placed an "ad" on Craigslist looking to connect with families who needed help.

Within eight hours, they had 15 families on their list.

Monday [December 13], "Operation Christmas Hope" when into gear, taking toys and goodies that are sure to brighten somebody's holiday.

The group will enlist other youth groups to help.

Birthday Gift Helps Dig Wells

(From RCA Communications)
Instead of making a wish list for her thirteenth birthday, Jaylin Fillette asked friends and family to donate money to drill wells for the Maasai people in Kenya.

She had heard about the project in Sunday school at North & Southampton Reformed Church in Churchville, Pennsylvania, and at her dance studio, where she saw a flyer about the program.

Six years ago, Jaylin’s grandparents visited Kenya and brought her a souvenir—a small beaded pocketbook and a photo of the Maasai woman who had made it. “When Jaylin heard about the well project she remembered about the Maasai people and the gift we gave her, and so she was especially interested in how they are doing and whether they have access to water,” says Jaylin’s grandmother, Barbara Fillette.

RCA Global Mission is partnering with the Presbyterian Church in East Africa and Maasai Mission to construct five wells in Maasailand, Kenya. During a recent drought that lasted several years, the Maasai people lost half of their cattle. The wells will improve health, promote economic stability, and increase the opportunity for education.

Jaylin’s birthday contribution amounted to $400. She and her grandmother visited the RCA office in New York and presented the check to coordinator for women’s ministries Claudette Reid. (Barbara knew Reid’s emphasis on fostering discipleship for all women and thought she’d be interested in meeting Jaylin.)

“I already had so much stuff; I knew I didn’t need more,” Jaylin says. “It makes me feel good when I give. Any thing you do to help someone else gives them a good feeling, too.”

Thanks to donations like Jaylin’s, the Maasai Well Project has been fully funded. RCA Global Mission is also helping to dig wells for the Orma people, who also live in Kenya.

RCA Pastor Publishes 175th Anniversary Book

(From RCA Communications)
As part of the yearlong 175th anniversary celebration of Clover Hill Reformed Church in Hillsborough, New Jersey, pastor Jack Cherry wrote a book entitled A Year Done Differently. The book reflects on the church’s mission and ministry since 1834.

“I believe that the book will be of interest and, perhaps, of value beyond our Clover Hill community, as other small to midsized churches face many of the same challenges and opportunities,” says Cherry.

“I was asked if I liked the book. I do. I think, out of all of the writing I have done in newspapers, magazines, and newsletters, it is my best effort. I loved writing it, I especially loved finishing it, and now I love reading through it. However, I am not terribly objective!”

A Year Done Differently is available for purchase through www.lulu.com. All proceeds from book sales will go to the Clover Hill’s building fund for maintenance and building improvements.

Scout Saves Life, Receives National and Local Recognition

(From the Times Herald-Record)
Peter Vietello, a Boy Scout from Troop 68 in Cuddebackville, rescued his friend from drowning. When the local Scout Council learned of his brave deed, Peters' actions were forwarded to the national office in Dallas, Texas. It responded with a citation of meritorious service. Peter was also recognized and honored with a plaque from his local troop.

Peter and his friend Mike Springwaldt were swimming last summer at a local swimming hole when Peter noticed Mike was not surfacing after a dive into turbulent water near a waterfall.

Peter was convinced his friend was in trouble and dived down to find Mike sinking lower into the pool and not responsive. Peter fought the downward pull of the falls to bring Mike to the surface.

Editor's note: Boy Scouts Troop 68 is sponsored by Cuddebackville Reformed Church.

Queens College Prof. Robin Rogers Turns Canceled Wedding into Gala Fundraiser for Soup Kitchen

(From the NY Daily News)
The couple wasn't a match made in heaven, but their canceled wedding is a blessing for a Brooklyn church.

In an act of amazing grace, Queens College Prof. Robin Rogers has turned her called-off wedding reception into a gala fundraiser on Sunday (December 5).

She is charging $99 a head for guests to chow down on food and booze she hoped to enjoy on her wedding day—and turning over the proceeds to the Greenpoint Reformed Church soup kitchen.

RCA Pastors Encouraged to Apply for Sabbatical Grant

(From the Lilly Endowment, Inc.)
Lilly Endowment is pleased to announce the 12th year of its National Clergy Renewal Program.  Through this program, the endowment invites Christian congregations to apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support an extended period of intentional reflections and renewal that ministers, working with their congregations, design to suit their own needs and aspirations for pastoral renewal. The pastors are welcome to include their families in the renewal activities. Further, up to $15,000 of the grant can be used for the congregation to pay for worship and pastoral care support while the pastor is away, as well as for renewal activities within the congregation.

Program information and application materials can be found on the Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal website. These materials will provide a full description of the 2011 National Clergy Renewal Program, including details regarding eligibility, application requirements, and deadlines, as well as computer accessible application forms. The website also is the gateway to other resources that will assist pastors and congregations as they begin the process of designing a renewal program and preparing a proposal. These resources include two brochures produced by Lilly Endowment, What Makes a High-Quality Proposal? and Grace Notes, recommendations regarding helpful books about clergy sabbaticals, and a website containing the reflections of several recent clergy renewal grantees.


Church Seeks to Increase Ministry Opportunities

(From RCA Communications)
Twice a year, Iglesia Trinidad (RCA) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, holds a community-wide clothing giveaway. Many of the clothes are donated by members of Iglesia Trinidad and other area churches as well as by community members. Last month, about 100 people benefited from the clothing giveaway.

Because of this ministry, the church has prioritized the installation of an elevator—a plan that had been put on hold.

Many of the volunteers who deliver donations from other churches are retirees, and they drop off boxes and bags of clothes in the middle of the day when church staff members are not available to help them. The donations are kept in the fellowship hall, which is in the church’s basement—creating a challenge for the volunteers.

The stairs are also a challenge for some customers. When people with a physical disability arrive at the church the day of the clothing giveaway, they discover that they cannot access the fellowship hall, where the clothing is set up, unless they bring a friend who can navigate the stairs and pick out clothes on their behalf.

In addition, mothers with babies in strollers and others with shopping carts try to navigate the stairs. The wear and tear on the stairs from heavy carts laden with clothing and strollers with children bumping up and down has loosened and torn the riser protectors. “My fear is that others will catch their toes on the loosened and torn protectors and fall,” says Madeline Fuentez, pastor of Iglesia Trinidad.

“It has become increasingly clear to us that the need for an elevator is crucial to this ministry,” says Fuentez. “It is not just a need expressed by those we serve from our community, but by those who bring us donations, those who make deliveries, and those who need just a bit of extra help getting from the first floor to the fellowship hall in the basement.”

Churches 'Meet the Needs of the Next Generation' With Modern Services

(From the Wyckoff Patch)
Two traditional churches now also offer more modern services, with a "come-as-you-are" atmosphere where dress codes don't apply and coffee cups are allowed.

Genesis, at the Wyckoff Reformed Church, and Restore, at Cedar Hill Christian Reformed Church, both feature non-traditional services with modern music and energetic preaching. The services are held in their respective fellowship halls at the same times traditional services are held in the sanctuaries, which allows for shared child care and Sunday school during the service and joint coffee hour afterward.

Genesis began in December 2007, shortly after the Rev. Billy Norden joined the staff at the 200-year-old Wyckoff Reformed Church. Its aim is to provide an environment that allows for "authentic worship" with lessons that apply to everyday life.

Church Hoping to Feed the Needy with Food Pantry

(From NorthJersey.com)
In these tough times, Faith Reformed Church of Lodi is trying to help those in need with a new food pantry.

"The recession has been tough on all of us," said Pastor Tom Ippolito. "We really discovered the need when it began to hit our own congregation. Folks in our own congregation began to have trouble making ends meet, and that made us sensitive to the broader needs of the surrounding community."

Ippolito said that one of the church's home fellowship groups initiated the idea of the food pantry and decided to make it their mission

"We've got a lot of energy around it. We're excited about it. The only thing we're short of is supplies, but they're trickling in," said Ippolito.

Obama Meets, Prays with Church Leaders

(From Religion News Service)
Twenty-one Christian leaders met and prayed with President Obama on Monday (Nov. 1), discussing joint concerns about poverty, U.S.-Cuban relations and peace in the Middle East.

Leaders from the National Council of Churches thanked the president for the passage of health care reform and voiced concern from the pews about stubborn unemployment rates.

"We weren't going there saying, 'You need to do this for us, you need to do that for us,'" said the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, the NCC's general secretary, on Tuesday (Nov. 2). "We were also asking, 'What can we do for you?' This is a spiritually demanding job and we are spiritual leaders."

At the close of the 40-minute meeting in the White House's Roosevelt Room, leaders said Obama asked for prayer, which was led by Bishop Thomas Hoyt of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

For a president who made faith an integral part of his 2008 campaign, Monday's meeting was decidedly low-key, with no public statements or photos released by the White House.

NCC leaders, who represent Orthodox, historic African-American and mainline Protestant denominations, raised other concerns, including the plight of the dwindling Christian population in the Middle East and limitations on travel to Cuba by U.S. religious leaders.

"On a day when you would imagine he could be quite distracted (by the midterm elections), he was very focused on the things that were being said and responded with questions and with comments of common concern," Kinnamon said.

The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, offered Bible verses that speak against "disorder and wickedness" amid concerns over the country's rancorous political climate.

"We commented that we were all elected people," said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA). "He reminded us that we didn't face midterms."

The meeting, brokered by NCC President Peg Chemberlin, a former adviser to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, came after the leaders had invited Obama to their meeting next week (Nov. 9-11) in New Orleans to mark the 100th anniversary of the modern ecumenical movement. Obama is scheduled to be in Asia during the New Orleans meeting.

It marked the first time a delegation from the ecumenical organization had met with President Obama, and the first time since the Clinton White House that such a delegation had been invited to the White House.

Professor Chuck Green Honored by Students

(From Hope College)
Dr. Chuck Green, professor of psychology and director of the Phelps Scholars Program at Hope College, has been chosen to receive the 15th annual Faculty Appreciation Award presented by the student body. Green received the award on Saturday, October 23, during halftime of the college’s Homecoming football game at Holland Municipal Stadium.

Recipients of the award are chosen through a vote open to the entire student body. Students are not provided with a list of candidates for the award, but rather are asked to write in the name of the person that they feel should be honored. The award was first presented in 1996. This is the second time that the college’s students have selected Green for the honor; he also received the award in 2006.

Green has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1983, and has directed the Phelps Scholars Program since 1998. The Phelps Scholars Program is an academic program for first-year students interested in learning about issues of race and culture. They take one course together each semester, live in the same residence hall, participate in discussions and workshops, take part in service projects, and engage in various social activities. The program has grown from 39 students during the 1999-2000 school year to 90 students this year.

Green’s active involvement in the college’s academic program has included past service as director of the educational assessment program, as co-coordinator of the general education program, as director of the First-Year Seminar program, as director of the Carl Frost Center for Social Science Research, and chairing the committee concerned with restructuring the college’s core curriculum in the mid-1990s. He also delivered the college’s Opening Convocation address in 1999.

Psychologist David Myers Receives Two National Honors

(From Hope College)
Dr. David Myers of the Hope College psychology faculty is being honored by two national professionalassociations in recognition of his service to the field of psychology and behavioral understanding.

He has been honored for his career contributions by the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) Foundation. He is being celebrated on the FABBS Foundation website during October through the foundation’s “In Honor Of” program, which recognizes eminent senior scientists who have made important and lasting contributions to the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior. Nearly 50 scientists have been recognized through the program; Myers is the only honoree from a liberal arts college.

Myers has also been named the 2011 recipient of the Award for Distinguished Service on Behalf of Social-Personality Psychology by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). The society’s executive committee chose him in recognition of his many contributions to the field of social and personality psychology, and to psychology more generally.

Myers, who has been at Hope since 1967, is a social psychologist and communicator of psychological science to college students and the general public. A professor of psychology, he held an endowed professorship at the college, as the John Dirk Werkman Professor of Psychology, from 1982 to 2007.

His scientific writings, supported by National Science Foundation grants and fellowships and recognized by the Gordon Allport Prize, have appeared in three dozen academic periodicals. His 17 books include best-selling psychology texts--some in their eighth, ninth or tenth edition--and general-audience books on happiness, intuition, spirituality, and his experience with hearing loss.

He has been committed to helping those with hearing loss by spearheading new hearing-loop technology that broadcasts public-address systems, television, and telephone sounds directly to hearing aids, doubling their functionality. His advocacy has included creating the website www.hearingloop.org.  

More information about Myers and his work can be found at his website, www.davidmyers.org. The site www.hearingloop.org features information about hearing loop technology, including lists of looped facilities in the Holland/Zeeland, Grand Rapids, and Grand Haven/Muskegon areas.

Michigan Church to Host "Young and Reformed" Conference

(From Corinth Reformed Church in Byron Center, Michigan)
Corinth Reformed Church will be hosting an exciting conference on Friday evening, October 22, and Saturday morning, October 23, called “Young and Reformed: Why a New Generation Loves Doctrine and Is Passionate for Truth.” This conference will explore the movement among young adults toward Reformed doctrine and what this means for the RCA. The keynote speakers are Kevin De Young, pastor of University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan, and Mike Wittmer, professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

This conference costs just $10 to attend ($5 for students, free for members of Corinth Reformed). For more information, visit the conference web page.

Creative Dining Services Honors Employees for Volunteer Work

(From Hope College)
Creative Dining Services (CDS) has honored several of its employees based at Hope College for their volunteer commitment to a local food bank.

Zeeland-based CDS manages the college’s Haworth Inn and Conference Center as well as the dining services at Hope, which include the Phelps Hall Dining Hall, Cook Hall Servery and Kletz Snack Bar.

The team of employees, a mix of hourly staff and managers, received the company’s 2010 Community Service Award for assisting First Reformed Church and Bethel Christian Reformed Church of Zeeland in distributing food provided through the churches’ sponsorship of a truck from Feeding America–West Michigan Food Bank each month. The staff volunteers, often accompanied by members of their families, help organize and distribute the food. A total of 22 employees have volunteered for the effort, four to seven each month.

The staff team was recognized during a meeting of the fall CDS managers held at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center on Tuesday, October 5. The award included a plaque for the team as well as a $500 check for Feeding America–West Michigan Food Bank from CDS.

CDS provides hospitality management services to 64 clients throughout the U.S., including Fortune 100 companies, colleges and universities, conference centers, corporate dining, full-service retirement communities, elementary and secondary schools, and camps. CDS has managed Hope’s dining services since the company was founded in 1990, and the Haworth Inn and Conference Center since the facility opened in 1997.

Mission Alaska: Baileyville Mission Team Aids Sutton Man in Moving Belongings from Collapsing Home

(From the Freeport Journal-Standard)
A team of twenty from Baileyville Reformed Church made news during a mission trip in Alaska from July 31 through August 11.

The team began their days with devotion before splitting up to work between ten work sites in Sutton and Wasilla, Alaska, building, painting and repairing homes. The group agreed there was little sleep between work and sightseeing as the group adjusted to Alaskan nights, which were about four hours of darkness.

The group finished each night around a bonfire for “God sightings.” Team member Mardella Kuper described the sightings.

“We sat around a bonfire every night and each one of us had to say where we felt we saw God that day and I think it really touched all our hearts to listen to what everybody had to share,” Mardella said.

The mission was organized with Eagle Crest Ministries and spent time at Grace Bible Church. Much of the money was raised through a lemon shake-up stand that was set up during various community events in the area. Team member Dean Kuper said the missions team looks for sites where they can build. “Our team likes construction,” Dean said, adding that there were jobs for all ages from 10 to 83.

It was the second day in Alaska when the group was called in to aid a Sutton resident, Forrest Blubaugh, 78, who was losing his home in Sutton to the Matanuska River, which was eroding the shoreline underneath his home. Dean said warm temperatures and rain caused faster glacial melt of the Matanuska Glacier causing the river to flow higher and faster.

[Ed. note: Two young people from Japanese American United Church in Manhattan, New York, were also on the trip.]

Hope Enrollment Tops 3,200 for Fifth Consecutive Year

(From Hope College)
The Hope College campus continues to operate at capacity with enrollment above 3,200 for the fifth consecutive year.

Hope has enrolled 3,202 students this fall, the fifth time since the fall of 2006 that enrollment has topped 3,200. Last year’s enrollment headcount was 3,230.

The student body consists of 1,267 men and 1,935 women from 44 states and territories and 29 foreign countries. The total includes 766 first-time students.

With the enrollment headcount remaining high, the college’s full-time-equivalent enrollment is tied for the second-highest level ever. Full-time-equivalent figures are a synthesis of full-time and part-time enrollment, and help the college measure the demand on its resources. Hope’s total this year—3,177.1—tied with the fall 2008 figure; last year’s total was a record-high 3,201.8.

The largest representation is from Michigan with 2,204 students. Other states represented with 10 or more students include Illinois, 382; Indiana, 110; Ohio, 80; Minnesota, 47; Wisconsin, 45; California, 40; New York, 29; Colorado and New Jersey, 22 each; Pennsylvania, 20; Iowa, 19; Florida, 17; Texas, 12; and Maryland, 10.

Foreign countries represented in the student body include Afghanistan, Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, India, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Vietnam, and the West Bank.

Hope College was chartered in 1866 and is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America (RCA). The college offers courses in 87 majors leading to a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

Thirty-Year-Old Institution Gets New Name

(From Orchard Hill Christian Preschool and Child Care Center)
Orchard Hill Christian Learning Center, a mission of Orchard Hill Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has a new name. The new name--Orchard Hill Christian Preschool and Child Care Center (OHCPCC)--was announced in July. OHCPCC feels that the new name is a better representation of the child care services it provides.

Board chairperson Leigh Van Putten says, “We’ve been providing Christian preschool, kindergarten enrichment, and before- and after-school services along with day care on the northwest side of Grand Rapids since 1980. When you hear people comment they don’t exactly understand what a learning center does, you know you have to make a change. We feel our new name clearly defines the services and educational opportunities we provide.”

“Since our name change, we’ve received more inquiries into our program. This has definitely made a positive impact,” says OHCPC director Jennifer Gray.

OHCPCC has been accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children since 2005.

Anaheim Church-Goers Celebrate with Tattoos

(From the Orange County Register)
Apparently holding services in a punk rock nightclub every weekend wasn't quite cool enough for City Church [an RCA church plant in Anaheim, California].

So, to mark its first birthday, the budding Anaheim congregation Sunday proposed following its regular rock 'n' roll revival with a "radical commitment"–-tattoos of various versions of the church logo.

"City Church has really done a lot for our family, so I thought it would be a nice way to pay them back," said Holly Morales, one of about a dozen members who agreed to get inked-–but only if the church could double its normal attendance.

VBS Kids Help People in Their Community

(From RCA Communications)            
The children who attended vacation Bible school at Addisville Reformed Church in Richboro, Pennsylvania, this past June reached out to help people in their community who are struggling to make ends meet.

Each day the children contributed to a donation basket, and at the end of the VBS week, they had collected over $2,100. The money was used to purchase grocery store gift certificates, which were then donated to a local food pantry. “Donating the gift certificates to the food pantry helps people in need to go to the grocery store and shop for themselves, allowing them to maintain their dignity in a difficult situation,” says April Pflueger, who is director of Christian education at Addisville Reformed.

“VBS is a vital opportunity to teach children how they can put God’s love for them into action by sharing it with others,” she says. And, she adds, “an important part of sharing God’s love is learning how to give to people in need.”

NWC to Honor Three Alumni during Homecoming

(From Northwestern College)
Northwestern College will honor three distinguished alumni on Saturday, Oct. 2, during Homecoming. Rachel Klay of Vienna, Virginia; Brian Renes, of Sioux Center; and Barb Lubbers, of Orange City, will be recognized for their professional, humanitarian and Northwestern service achievements.

The Distinguished Alumni Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. in Vermeer Dining Room. Cost is $10. Reservations are required; contact the Northwestern College alumni office at (712) 707-7134 or alumni@nwciowa.edu, or visit www.nwciowa.edu/homecoming.


Alaskan Mission Trip Brings Youth Together

(From Gerri Yoshida, member of Japanese American United Church [RCA] in Manhattan, New York)
Last summer, 23 members of Baileyville Reformed Church in Illinois spent ten days at Japanese American United Church (JAUC) in Manhattan, New York, fixing up the church building and parsonage. 

This year, Baileyville Reformed invited two JAUC youth members, Hatsumi Yoshida and Sabrina Faranda, to join their 21-member youth work team on a mission trip to Eaglecrest Ministries in Sutton, Alaska, to do construction work for local residents.

They primed, plastered, and painted the insides and outsides of houses; worked on roof repairs; fixed floors; hauled wood; fixed porches; built steps; and many other forms of manual labor. The group enjoyed daily devotions in the mornings and evenings as well as Sunday services at Grace Bible Church, the local church. They also joined in the dramatic rescue of a local elderly resident whose house was swept away by the raging river. In their down time, the group enjoyed sightseeing in Seward, walking on a glacier, flying in a bush plane, and white water rafting.

Hatsumi and Sabrina shared their experiences with JAUC through a slide show and testimony during worship on August 15. The girls also choreographed a praise dance, “You Raise Me Up,” with a multicultural dance team to thank the church for its financial support. A love offering was collected for the Ohori Youth Fund to support future youth mission trips and youth programming at JAUC.

For more information about Eaglecrest Youth Ministries and Alaska mission programs, visit faithwebsites.com/eyms/alaskamissions.cfm.

Statement on Park51: A Call to Reconciliation

(From the RCA’s Collegiate Church, New York City, New York)
We are blessed to be part of a particular community called the Collegiate Church of New York with almost four hundred years of continuous ministry in this city. We gather not only as individuals, but as communities through which we can impact the world around us. We are drawn together by Jesus' calling to love one another, and we share a common vocation of pursuing peace with all people (John 13:34 and Hebrews 12:14). It is from this basis that we, as a community of believers, offer the following comments on the controversy that has been generated by the proposal to develop a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan.

We live in the midst of God’s marvelous mosaic. New York City and its environs is a place of cultural diversity and religious pluralism. The positive and inclusive nature of the Christian faith compels us to respect all people, listen to diverse viewpoints, and work in partnership with those who seek peace and the good of our community. While we pursue the path to truth and life through Jesus Christ, our Christian tradition and our American heritage promote the freedom of all people to seek their own religious paths and to worship however and wherever they wish.

We also recognize that there are deep wounds that still remain from the terrorist attack on our city on September 11, 2001. We honor the courage of first responders and advocate for appropriate health care benefits to address their ongoing medical issues. We grieve with those who suffered losses of loved ones on that day, and we acknowledge that the space formerly occupied by the twin towers holds a sacred place in the hearts of all Americans.

As we watch the fury over the community center intensify, we are also grieved by the mischaracterization of people and positions. A prime example is the way the Muslim leaders involved in this initiative have had their intent, beliefs, and character maligned. We are saddened to see our Muslim neighbors, friends, and colleagues so misrepresented. They are part of the rich heritage and religious tapestry of New York City, and they have done much to contribute to its well-being. Islam, like Christianity, is a large and diverse faith, and one cannot use one experience or expression of Islam to stereotype all Muslims, nor can all be indicted for the acts of a few. We also deplore the portrayal of Christianity as anti-Muslim through the desecration of their sacred text. Our faith calls us to respect others and to strive to represent them fairly. Doing so does not eliminate the space to disagree; it speaks to how we represent ourselves and others with integrity in the midst of disagreement.

The polarizing nature of the debate has left us listening solely for whether people are "for" or "against" the community center. The voices in the middle are being crowded out by extreme positions on both sides. In order to cultivate room to learn from one another and to create greater understanding among all concerned, we believe any engagement of this issue must be based on the following:

First, we call for civil dialogue where the rights of all people are respected. We recognize that the current controversy, in many ways, represents a conversation that we as a people never had after September 11. Moving forward, we pledge ourselves to be engaged in settings and venues where interfaith dialogue and cooperation is fostered throughout the city and beyond. We call upon all those who would exploit this situation for their own personal agendas through demagoguery and the demonization of others to cease their rhetoric and extend their ears and their hearts to all.

Second, we commit ourselves and encourage others to learn more about Islam. If the current controversy has shown anything, it is the great misunderstanding about the faith of Muslims.

Third, we commit ourselves and encourage others to learn the facts surrounding the proposed community center. No reasoned discussion can occur unless we have a common understanding of what is being proposed.

Fourth, we commit ourselves and encourage others to build relationships of trust between those carrying divergent positions in this controversy. A lack of trust prevents us from listening and learning from one another, and there will be no successful resolution without some measure of trust between those involved.

Because of who we are and who we are called to be, we celebrate a vision of cultural diversity and religious tolerance, a setting where we can learn about one another, participate across lines of race, faith, culture, and socioeconomic condition to be faithful to our calling in this city. Therefore we are committed to work with the organizers of Park51 and all concerned parties as a reconciling agent so that there is a new way for residents of this city and all Americans to move forward into a new future in which civil dialogue leads to healing and understanding.

Rev. Michael S. Bos, West End Collegiate Church
Rev. Dr. Michael S. Brown, Marble Collegiate Church
Rev. Robert Chase, Intersections International
Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church
Rev. Charles D. Morris, Fort Washington Collegiate Church

Outgoing Reformed Christian leader looks back

(From Religion News Service)


GRAND RAPIDS -- The history of Christian denominations is pockmarked by centuries of doctrinal disputes and stormy schisms.

Then there are Christian leaders, such as the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, the soon-to-be outgoing general secretary for the Reformed Church in America, who have taken a stand against such feuds.

The 65-year-old said he made the decision to step down prayerfully, believing he's completed the contributions he was called by God to make in the RCA.

Despite long-standing fissures in Christian unity, Granberg-Michaelson is a tireless drum major for ecumenism, said the Rev. Jerry Dykstra, executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

"He has proven himself to be a true ambassador at many ecumenical sites, yet maintains a strong focus on the Reformed Church in the North American context," said Dykstra.

Kind words for a man who initially questioned if he was qualified to be the RCA's general secretary.

Granberg-Michaelson said, "I remember telling those who, when first asked about it, I didn't grow up in the RCA and didn't grow up in a RCA church community, and I haven't pastored a traditional RCA congregation."

His reservations didn't dissuade the General Synod. It turned out Granberg-Michaelson's patchwork ministerial career was the stuff this denomination of 177,500 needed, synod officials agreed before his installation as the RCA's fourth general secretary in 1994.

Ten years earlier, the native of the Park Ridge suburb of Chicago graduated from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich., the same year he was ordained an RCA minister.

Now, after serving as the RCA's chief ecumenical officer, financial administrator and sounding board for pastors, Granberg-Michaelson plans to step down from a position he says has been "deeply meaningful" to him.

Meanwhile, the RCA's General Synod Council is searching for the next general secretary. Granberg-Michaelson will continue to lead until a successor is chosen next year.

As he looks in the rearview mirror of his life, working as general secretary is a high point of Granberg-Michaelson's ministry, despite working a weekly average of 60 to 70 hours.

It's a workload guided by encyclopedic knowledge and fueled by a passion for Jesus.

"It was one of the most unexpected things that ever happened to me," said Granberg-Michaelson. "I never envisioned myself in this kind of a position, nor would I have imagined staying in it for 17 years."

Granberg-Michaelson's eclectic portfolio includes serving for eight years on the foreign policy staff of U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Oregon, and as managing editor of the social justice magazine Sojourners from 1976 to 1980.

In 1981, Granberg-Michaelson and his wife, Karin, moved to Missoula, Mont., where he founded New Creation Institute, a nonprofit that works on issues of Christian responsibility to the environment. From there, Granberg-Michaelson served for six years on the World Council of Churches staff in Geneva, as director of church and society.

He also is co-founder of Christian Churches Together, a forum established to foster unity and to witness among evangelical, orthodox, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, historic Protestant and ethnic churches.

Granberg-Michaelson also played a behind-the-scenes role in the June merger of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Reformed Ecumenical Council into the World Communion of Reformed Churches, a union that represents 80 million Christians from 108 countries, in nearly 230 denominations worldwide.

Those who know Granberg-Michaelson say he has helped make the RCA less insular by strengthening links with an array of Christian communities around the world. He also is known as a confidant to burned-out pastors and a torchbearer for expanding the RCA's multiracial and multicultural mandate.

"It's one thing for people to have ideas, it's another to implement them," said the Rev. Edwin Mulder, who served as general secretary from 1983-1994.

"He's continued to have a vision for churches in the world, and it isn't just for the Reformed churches. That's an important part of what we need to continue to be because it's so easy for denominations to become parochial."

Granberg-Michaelson said his boyhood church, the independent, evangelical, nondenominational South Park Church in Park Ridge, Ill., shaped his bridge-building drive.

To be sure, there are challenges the RCA must grapple with in the future, Granberg-Michaelson said.

That means listening to God's voice and sensing his direction, even if there's a tendency to initially say "no" to what God has in mind.

"I could only do this thing with the deepest knowledge of God's call, and that's what sustained me," said Granberg-Michaelson.

During his free time, Granberg-Michaelson enjoys fly-fishing at Yellowstone River in Montana, where the angler is fond of cutthroat, rainbow, brown and brook trout. He also is writing a memoir, with the working title, "Born Again At 4."

"It plays off the story of my early childhood," he said.

Granberg-Michaelson forgoes taking credit for where the denomination is today.

"A denomination is a servant of the local church," he said. "It needs to connect to the broader church in the world. Keeping that focus remains a huge challenge."

(Paul R. Kopenkoskey writes for the Grand Rapids Press in Michigan.)

Hope Students to Spend Day Volunteering

(From Hope College)
Around 375 Hope College students will participate in service projects throughout the Holland area through the college’s “Time to Serve” program on Saturday, September 11.

The majority of the participants are members of the newly arrived freshman class. Students were offered the opportunity to sign up for the mass volunteer effort during their new student orientation shortly after arrival at Hope.

The students will be working in groups of six to 12 at more than three dozen sites from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Projects will range from sorting at Bibles for Mexico and Goodwill Industries to spreading woodchips at the Critter Barn to yardwork and cleaning at area churches.

The Time to Serve program is designed to help new students learn about service while getting to know their community and becoming better acquainted with one another. The project began in the fall of 2000 with 10 projects and about 100 participants, and had grown to 24 projects and 300 students a year later. In October 2001, Time to Serve 2000 received a 2001 Distinguished Service Award from Keep Michigan Beautiful Inc.

Hope students volunteer in a variety of ways throughout the school year. In addition to the annual Time to Serve program, students also participate in the Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society, a dance marathon fundraiser held on behalf of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital of Grand Rapids, and the spring break mission and service trip program, which together involve hundreds of students annually.

NBTS to Hold Community Celebration

(From New Brunswick Theological Seminary)
New Brunswick Theological Seminary officials are planning an event to celebrate the school, the community, the diversity in their enrollment, and relationships with area congregations.

“A Festival to the Lord” will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 24 at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. The event is free and open to the public.

“I’m looking forward to spending the evening with the New Brunswick family, students, alumni, supporters and those who care deeply about our mission,” said Gregg Mast, president of New Brunswick Theological Seminary (NBTS).

“A Festival to the Lord” gives the community and area congregations an opportunity to work together because the celebration will be hosted by 11 churches of varying denominations and ethnic backgrounds.

A choir comprised of singers from several congregations will perform, there will be testimonies from graduates about their experiences at the seminary, and Jerry Sanders, pastor of Fountain Baptist Church in Summit and a member of the seminary’s board of trustees, is expected to preach.

While the festival will celebrate the community, NBTS will give special attention to the New Brunswick alumni. The celebration will be used to jump start the New Jersey Chapter of the NBTS Alumni Association with a dinner for alumni and their guests.

“We hope to create a New Jersey chapter for those who pastor or reside in New Jersey,” Mast said. “We hope the supper will be the beginning of the alumni group, but it will also be an opportunity for the alumni to see each other, renew old relationships, build new ones, and to find out what’s going on with the seminary.”

If you are interested in obtaining more information about the New Brunswick Alumni Association at NBTS or “A Festival to the Lord,” please call Cathy Proctor at (732) 247-5241 ext. 134.

Northwestern College Enrollment Increases

(From Northwestern College)
Northwestern College’s fall enrollment is up to 1,243, an increase of 37 students from last fall. In addition, this year’s entering freshman class is 351, the largest since 2006.

“We are very pleased with this year’s enrollment,” says Ron De Jong, dean of enrollment services. “We had success identifying students who would be a good fit with Northwestern, and that’s due to a great effort by the admissions staff as well as the entire campus community working together to share our story. Northwestern is becoming more well-known, in part because of our strong rankings by media like U.S. News and World Report, Washington Monthly, and Forbes.com.”

The retention rate of freshmen returning for their sophomore year was 80 percent, second best in school history, which also contributed to Northwestern’s high enrollment. “That shows we are providing the kind of experience students anticipated they would receive,” De Jong says.

This year’s enrollment includes the highest percentage of American ethnic minorities Northwestern has ever had, at 6.8 percent. Of the freshman class, 10.5 percent are ethnic minorities. “Our staff has worked hard to recruit a more diverse student body,” says De Jong, “because we want all of our students to be prepared to be global citizens in this multicultural world.”

The increase in ethnic minorities is partly attributable to a special effort to recruit students from the Southwest. That endeavor has resulted in enrolling 23 students from California in the freshman class and 59 overall, making it the fifth most represented state on campus.

Northwestern was recently named the nation’s second-best baccalaureate college by Washington Monthly. The college was also ranked in the top 10 of 95 Midwestern colleges by U.S. News and World Report for the fourth year in a row and is listed among the top 15 percent of the nation’s colleges by Forbes.com.

Interfaith Walk Includes Staten Island Church

(From RCA Communications)
Brighton Heights Reformed Church in Staten Island, New York, was one of three stops on the Building Bridges Coalition’s Interfaith Gathering for Reflection and Hope on Sunday, August 29. Around 80 people of diverse faiths participated in the afternoon walk, which included stops at Al-Ihsan Mosque and St. Peter’s Catholic Church, in addition to Brighton Heights. The event was designed to promote understanding and respect for neighbors of differing faiths against a backdrop of animosity stirred up by the proposed Islamic community center slated to be built a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.

The purpose of Staten Island’s Building Bridges Coalition, formed in 2003, is to promote dialogue among Staten Island’s various faith communities. Representatives from religious communities and ethnic organizations meet together periodically to share common concerns and develop community programs, and the coalition offers four public events each year, aimed at developing respect among people of different faiths.

Bringing Christ to the County Fair

(From the Sheboygan Press)
In 2007, in an effort to bring Christ to the Sheboygan County Fair, the contemporary worship committee at Gibbsville Reformed Church approached Fair management to inquire about holding a Sunday service at the Fairgrounds in Plymouth.

The idea was welcomed, but it was determined there was not enough time to make such a service happen for that year's fair.

During the 2008 County Fair, Gibbsville Reformed held a Sunday service, which was well received and led to the debut of the All About Music Tent in 2009. The tent featured Christian music groups from the county throughout the day and a worship service.

Again well-received, the Gibbsville Reformed program for the 2010 County Fair was expanded to two days (Sept. 4 and 5) and also will include performers from outside Sheboygan County.

Synod Stated Clerk to Retire

(From RCA Communications)
Frederick Mold, Jr., who has served as stated clerk of the Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics for the past 20 years, will retire on December 31, 2010.

Mold is also stated clerk emeritus of the Classis of New Brunswick, having served as the stated clerk of that classis for 35 years. Upon the conclusion of his service, the Classis of New Brunswick established a prize in his honor at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, given each year to a senior student who has exhibited excellence in the field of Reformed Church polity or pastoral administration.

Mold also served as the vice president of New Brunswick Theological Seminary and treasurer of the Classis of New Brunswick in addition to serving churches in Middletown, Freehold, and Tinton Falls, New Jersey.

The Synod of the Mid-Atlantics will appoint an interim stated clerk at the end of 2010. A new stated clerk will be elected at the synod’s annual meeting in May 2011.

Faith and Facebook: Bringing Church to the Cyber Age

(From North Jersey Media Group)
By Tonya Holman

While many use Facebook to catch up with old friends and let people know what's going on in their lives, a local pastor is using the social networking site to bring her church to the masses.

The First Reformed Church of Hasbrouck Heights successfully launched a weekly cyber worship service on April 2 conducted through Facebook. It consists of scripture readings, a short reflection on the scripture, music and prayers.

"I get great joy out of it. I believe that any way we can spread the word, we have to use it," said Rev. Dianna Smith, pastor at First Reformed Church.

The cyber worship began as a project for Smith's doctoral degree and has expanded to become a true work of the Holy Spirit, changing lives and changing the church.

Special Needs and a Special Relationship with God

(From the Yakima Herald-Republic)
By Jane Gargas

Something was missing.

That's what Georgia Smedema and Claudia King thought as they glanced around their church service one day two years ago.

Little children had their own service in another room, called children's worship.

Older children were mature enough to sit through, and understand, the adult regular church service.

But there was nothing designed for special-needs children.

So Smedema and King set out to change that. They organized a room in East Valley Reformed Church where youngsters with disabilities or special needs could go and worship at their own pace.

Welcoming Kids with Autism

(From the Kalamazoo Gazette)
Stephanie Willoughby wanted her two boys to have a chance to enjoy vacation Bible school with other kids like them.

So she’s planning a VBS at her church for children with autism.

“I wanted to get them incorporated into church life a little more,” she said of her sons, Ben, 8, and Sam, 6.

For parents of autistic children, “going to church is a little scary because you never know how your kids are going to act,” said Willoughby, who also has a 17-month-old daughter. “This is a chance for them to come and be themselves and be in a surrounding that’s more comfortable for them and geared for their actual needs.”

Image by Terry DeYoung

The special VBS will be held August 9-11 at Southridge Reformed Church in Texas Township, where Willoughby has been the director of children’s ministries since 2007. So far, 11 children are signed up and 13 volunteers have offered to help, a few from other churches, she said.

Vriesland Reformed Church Helps Family with Fresh Start

(From the Holland Sentinel)
The Holland area is a fresh start for a family of seven from Kalkaska.

The family--unemployed and living out of a van--moved to the area late last week after a mission group from Zeeland Township’s Vriesland Reformed Church offered to set the father up with a job and find the family a place to stay near Holland.

The father and mother and their five children, ages 2 to 15, are living in a hotel while the church helps find them a place for the summer and a more permanent living arrangement. The adults--nervous about their new surroundings--are shy about the help and attention they’ve received. But Eric Folkers, a youth pastor Vriesland Reformed Church, said the father started work at a job through Manpower on Monday.

After Public Family Feud, Another Schuller Steps In

(From Religion News Service)


GARDEN GROVE, Calif. -- Christian author Carole Lewis stands at the front of the church sharing her tale of woe: bankruptcy, a daughter's death, a husband's prostate cancer, a home destroyed by a hurricane. Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman stands nearby, listening attentively.

Neither Coleman nor the congregation seems particularly fazed by Lewis' litany of tragedies. Instead, they wait for what everyone seems to know is coming: a positive message.

And then, as if on cue, Lewis delivers.

"God has been so faithful to our family," Lewis says, as Coleman and others nod in agreement.

It's an ordinary Sunday at the Crystal Cathedral, the gleaming Orange County megachurch built on a message of transforming misfortune into blessings. The hundreds of parishioners seem to crave the optimism, with some murmuring "make it a great week" as they stream out.

It's also a philosophy the Crystal Cathedral has needed now more than ever.

Coleman, 59, who was formally installed as senior pastor on July 11 after nearly a year as interim pastor, is the latest member of the Schuller clan to take the helm of the landmark church after a bitter and public family feud.

Her father, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, 83, founded the church in the 1950s in his three-bedroom house where the choir rehearsed in the living room.

"I was the first receptionist for the church at the age of 4," Coleman recalled, laughing.

Coleman said growing up in and around the congregation made her feel loved and inspired to help people. But church leadership wasn't always in the cards; her parents explained that women could not be ordained. Her younger brother, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, was always the heir apparent.

The younger Schuller took over as senior pastor in 2006, just as expected. But the new arrangement didn't last long, as reports surfaced of a father-and-son rivalry that simmered behind the church's silver-colored glass.

The family at the heart of one of America's best-known evangelical megachurches, who had reached millions of viewers worldwide through the weekly "Hour of Power" program, wasn't perfect after all.

"I'm just glad I didn't grow up feeling that pressure," she said, referring to the father-and-son tensions at the heart of the Schuller soap opera. "People don't expect me to be just like Dad."

Coleman, like her father and brother, attended Michigan's Hope College, earning a bachelor's in organic chemistry. When she wasn't accepted into medical school, she settled into a life as a writer and educator.

She married and became the mother of four, helped edit her father's books and wrote some of her own, including the recent "Mommy Grace: Erasing Your Mommy Guilt." She taught in public schools and served as principal at the Crystal Cathedral's primary and secondary schools for 15 years, and recently finished her doctorate in administrative leadership at the University of California, Irvine.

"My passion is for children," she said. "I feel my calling is to reach, teach."

Despite her focus on education, Coleman says she couldn't help but say yes to her father. After what she described as a middle-of-the-night vision, he came to her and said: "Sheila, if I ask you to do this, would you say yes?"

She did, but the move did little to dampen the tensions between father and son.

"All I can say about Sheila Coleman is that I thought she made a decent teacher and school principal," said Donna Schuller, Robert A. Schuller's wife, about her sister-in-law.

For her part, Coleman said she and her brother were never terribly close, given their four-year age difference. But she added that there has never been any animosity between them; she said she has always loved him.

"We are as in touch as we ever have been," she said.

In a 2009 interview with Christianity Today, Coleman's brother said he was squeezed out of the "Hour of Power" broadcast when church leaders "decided to no longer air my messages."

"I was disappointed, sad, hurt, and angry," he continued. "It was a very difficult time, and quite frankly remains a difficult time."

Others, however, blame a difference in preaching styles for the rift. Longtime member Augustine Remlinger, 83, says the younger Schuller relied on the Bible for his sermons, compared to his father's gospel of positive thinking.

Under Coleman, she said, people are slowly drifting back to the church. "She knows what she's doing now," Remlinger said.

Remlinger's daughter, Susie Stewart, 50, a homemaker, agreed.

"I think it was very hard for the church and for all of us as parishioners," Stewart said. "I think they've done the best they can."

Coleman's father attributes her success at the church to a shared vision: "Sheila will be doing what I would be doing if I were in her shoes," Schuller said in a recent phone interview. "Focus on the positives."

That's not been an easy task lately as the church faces a crippling economic forecast. In May, the Crystal Cathedral sold its Rancho Capistrano property to Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, which plans to use it as a retreat center. The sale reduced Crystal Cathedral's mortgage to $35.5 million, Coleman said, but recent reports still indicate a $55 million budget deficit and a 27 percent drop in revenue.

Coleman says the church has done what they can, given the current economic climate and a diminished congregation, though she says the cathedral's Hispanic ministry has seen a huge boost in numbers.

"Things are turning around slowly," she said. "I've had a huge, huge mess to clean up."

Others are more skeptical about the church's finances, particularly vendors and former employees who are still waiting to get paid.

"The Schullers aren't hurting," said Larry Grossman, a trumpeter in the church's "Glory of Christmas" mega-pageant for nearly 30 years. "I'm sure they haven't missed a check."

Coleman says she and her father receive modest salaries, and that she could have earned more if she had stayed in the public school system. She does admit, however, that she craves to be liked by others.

And it is, perhaps, her father's approval she wants most. A visit to Crystal Cathedral suggests he is still the heart of the ministry for many visitors.

Maxine Fahr, 45, a hospice nurse from San Diego, recently fulfilled "a life-long dream" by visiting Crystal Cathedral. When she was 6, doctors diagnosed her father with Hodgkin's disease. Instead of going to church, she would sit in front of the television, watching Schuller preach.

She credits Schuller with influencing her way of thinking.

"I think no matter what happens in life that you get to have a choice in how you react," Fahr said. "I wish I could have shaken (Schuller's) hand."

Coleman seems unfazed by the expectation that she's supposed to save the church without wandering too far from her father's shadow.

"That's the bottom line with people," Coleman said, when asked about the congregation's acceptance of her as pastor. "They want someone who will honor and love Dad, and honor and love them."

Revived House of Worship Has Much to Celebrate

(From the Staten Island Advance)
Three years ago, with just a handful of parishioners remaining and little to be hopeful about, the Reformed Church of Prince Bay was on the verge of closing.

But with the help of Adolf A. Pagliarulo, his wife Jarene, and others, the Seguine Avenue house of worship has not only managed to survive; since July 1, 2007, it hasn't closed its doors. Literally.

Now better known as The Church That Never Closes, the sanctuary celebrated its three-year anniversary last Thursday--hosting a barbecue for its dedicated parishioners. Approximately 75 people took part in heralding the church's existence during the event, which started at 4:00 p.m. A 24-hour prayer vigil began at 8:00 p.m., kicking off the church's fourth year of revival.


Joyce Stedge-Fowler Dies

(From RCA Communications)

Joyce Stedge-Fowler, the first woman ordained as a minister in the RCA, died June 23. She was 84 years old.

Stedge-Fowler, then Joyce Stedge, was ordained in 1973, at age 47.

"I'm enormously grateful for the leadership and courage of Joyce and other first-generation RCA women ministers," says Carol Bechtel, former president of the General Synod and professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary. "When Joyce was ordained in 1973, I was still in eighth grade. Her faithfulness helped to make it possible for me--and for so many others--to follow God's call into ordained ministry."

Stedge's ordination was contested at the time. The synod had opened the offices of elder and deacon to women just two years before, 54 years after the change was first proposed, but had come to no final conclusion on ordaining women to be ministers. In 1958, synod declared, "Scripture nowhere excludes women from eligibility to the offices but always emphasizes their inclusion, prominence, and equal status with men in the Church of Jesus Christ" (MGS 1958, p. 328). Following this declaration, several General Synods voted to allow the ordination of women, but the decisions did not receive sufficient support from classes.

At the 1973 General Synod, Rockland-Westchester Classis applied for a dispensation for Stedge from the professorial certificate, which allows a candidate for ministry to be examined for licensure and ordination. The constitutionality of the recommendation was called into question, and the ruling in favor of the dispensation was appealed but upheld. With that dispensation, Stedge was licensed on October 7 and ordained as a minister of the Word the following week. She served as pastor of Rochester Reformed Church in Accord, New York, from 1973 to 1976. In 1979, she was dismissed to the Presbyterian Church.

Stedge's ordination did not settle the debate. Her ordination and installation were contested at the 1974 General Synod, and the issue of ordaining women as ministers of the Word was discussed repeatedly over the next several years.

In 1978, four additional women were ordained to the office of minister of the Word. These ordinations were also contested, and at General Synod in 1979, the Judicial Business Committee ruled that the ordinations were not in violation of the Book of Church Order, thus deciding the issue.

At the time of her death, Stedge-Fowler was a member of United Church of Spring Valley (RCA) in Spring Valley, New York.

Learn more:

Embody Christ Fellowship Welcomes Doubters, Non-Believers

(From the Grand Rapids Press)
Jim Daniels doesn’t bristle at the thought of people not believing in God. He just wants them to come to church.

His new endeavor, Embody Christ Fellowship, on 66th Street near 146th Avenue, is not your ordinary church. It accepts all people, whether they believe or not, and encourages open discussion of doubts and disbeliefs.

“It’s such a welcoming atmosphere,” said Michelle Boogaart, who has been with the church since its start. “There are people there who aren’t believers and when they start questioning, you really have to look at things. Questioning our faith, our Bible, is OK there. And that’s so freeing.”

Hope Professor Retires after Three Decades

(From the Holland Sentinel)
Change of all sorts has been a subject of interest for Hope College’s Donald Cronkite over the years.

But now he’s facing a change of his own — and he’s not sure what he’s going to do with himself in retirement, because teaching biology has become his passion.

Cronkite is one of several Hope professors retiring this year. A native of Colorado, Cronkite was up for tenure at the University of Redlands in California when a nationwide search brought him to Hope College in 1978.

Meredith Drive Reformed Church Gives School a Big Helping Hand

(From the Des Moines Register)
When students at Moulton Extended Learning Center arrive for the start of their new school year on July 15, they may feel like they have a brand new school.

Thanks to the efforts of more than 80 volunteers from Meredith Drive Reformed Church, Moulton on Sunday got a cleaning and refurbishing from top to bottom.

Moulton, situated in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, has had a partnership with the church for about 13 years, said the Rev. Jon Nelson of Meredith Drive church. But the relationship had become fairly inactive until Nelson and Moulton principal Craig Saddler met a few months ago to see what they could do to renew it.

Western Seminary Awards Degrees in 134th Commencement

(From Western Theological Seminary) Western Theological Seminary granted degrees to 36 graduates at its 134th commencement service held Monday evening, May 10, in the Dimnent Memorial Chapel on the campus of Hope College. The seminary awarded 30 Master of Divinity (M.Div.), five Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degrees, and one Certificate in Urban Pastoral Ministry (CUPM).

Jason Byassee addressed the graduates on the subject, "My God and Your God," based on I Samuel 3:1-11 and John 20:11-18. Byassee is executive director of leadership education at Duke Divinity School.

Jeri Baker, a distance-learning master of divinity graduate from Lansing, Michigan, and Rachel Bush, a master of divinity graduate from Grand Rapids, addressed the audience on behalf of their class. Jill Sanders of Cedar Rapids spoke to the audience about pursuing a doctor of ministry degree, which she received that night.

The liturgy for the event was written by graduates Jeri Baker, Rachel Bush, and Jason Mariano, under the guidance of Robert Van Voorst.

Western Theological Seminary, founded in 1866, is an educational institution of the Reformed Church in America. Western is a theological graduate school preparing men and women for ministries in the church.

Kids Help Kids through Stuffed Animal Drive

(From RCA Communications)
In February, the children of Lebanon Reformed Church in Lebanon, New Jersey, initiated a campaign to collect gently used stuffed animals to bring comfort and joy to Haitian children left with nothing after January's devastating earthquake.

During the month-long campaign, children of the church gave up their own stuffed animals for children in Haiti. "At first it was hard to give up some of my stuffed animals," said 10-year-old Rachel Lucenius. "But knowing that they would make some kids happy was a good feeling."

News of the campaign spread through the community, and children from all over the county came to drop off their stuffed animal donations at the church. By the end of February, Lebanon's children had collected 1,690 stuffed animals. The church also raised $900 to cover the cost of shipping the stuffed animals to Loving Hugs, Inc., a nonprofit that distributes stuffed animals around the world.

Sixty-three boxes of donated stuffed animals were shipped to Loving Hugs' headquarters in Littleton, Colorado, where they were professionally cleaned before the nonprofit sent them on to partners like the U.S. Navy. Servicemen and women then distribute the stuffed animals to children all over the world, offering a source of comfort to children living in war zones, refugee camps, and disaster zones.

"As a church, we're always looking for ways to support the community," says Robin Giordano, who co-organized the campaign along with fellow Lebanon Reformed member Cindy Schick. "With this campaign, the community came together in support of a global cause. And we're so excited about the ability to provide some support and comfort to the kids suffering some very tragic circumstances."

Korean Ministry Celebrates Anniversary

(from RCA Communications)
By Gerri Yoshida

On May 23--Pentecost Sunday--Lamb of God Reformed Ministries celebrated its second anniversary with a concert and recognition service at Tappan Reformed Church in Tappan, New York. Many supporters of the ministry offered their talents in voice, violin, organ, and piano to praise God for his faithfulness and provision. The praise band, consisting of young people on guitar, drums, and vocals and led by RCA pastor Grace Rim on the keyboard, was also a testimony to God's hand at work in reaching a new generation of Korean young people for his kingdom.

Lamb of God began two years ago with early-morning intercessory prayer sessions led by Rim and fellow RCA pastor Salome Ryew. With guidance and funding from the Classis of Rockland-Westchester and the willingness of Tappan Reformed Church to share its space, the ministry grew to include regular Sunday worship services and prayer healing services on Thursday nights. On alternate Friday evenings the New Generation 4 Jesus program offers devotions, Bible study, and activities for youth; the program also encourages developing relationships with first-generation Koreans by crocheting scarves together.

The ministry's name, Lamb of God, reflects Jesus' admonition to Peter in John 21:15, "Feed my lambs." The ministry focuses especially on reaching out to "1.5 generation" (Korean Americans who emigrated from Korea as children) and second-generation Korean American young people.


Western Seminary "Institutionalizes Goodness"

(From Duke Divinity School)
By Jason Byassee

How do you institutionalize goodness?

The question itself may confound. “Institution” suggests all the personal warmth of the customer service line at the cell phone company. Brilliant books such as Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody” herald the end of institutions now that people can organize themselves using social networking platforms. By most definitions, once you’ve institutionalized anything, you’ve ruined it.

You knew I was going to argue against this, didn’t you?

Central College Students Dedicated to Volunteering

(From Central College)
According to a report released by Volunteering in America, Iowa ranked second in the U.S. in volunteering within the college student demographic, up from 32nd in 2006, with 41 percent of college students volunteering their time in 2009.

“It’s exciting to learn that Iowa has achieved this milestone, and we’re especially pleased that more of our Central College students are engaging in community as they learn,” said Cheri Doane, director of community-based learning at Central College. “Our community partners report that students’ involvement is making an impact.”

During the 2008-09 academic year, 819 Central College students engaged in academic service learning, logging 38,938 service hours. Nearly 600 students engaged in non-academic forms of community service; together they donated more than 16,000 hours of non-academic volunteer work. Altogether, 1,402 Central College students performed 55,311 hours of service, which saved local businesses and organizations an estimated $862,298.49.

“I volunteer because there are so many people in our world who need a helping hand, and I want to improve conditions of both peoples’ lives and our planet,” said Alayna Schutte, a junior from St. Olaf, Iowa. “A great component about Central’s service learning program is that you are not only giving, but also learning as well. It is beneficial for students to be able to incorporate class lectures into real life situations.”

Part of Central’s dedication to service learning comes from being a longtime member of the National Campus Compact and, more recently, becoming a charter member of the Iowa chapter of Campus Compact. Campus Compact is a coalition of more than 1,100 colleges and universities committed to fostering in students the values and skills of civic engagement through active involvement in community and service learning. Students working in areas such as literacy, health care, homelessness, voting, and the environment contribute more than $5 billion in service to their communities each year.

Central College’s center for community-based learning partners with a number of federal, state, county, and city programs for service learning and other service activities. Each year, the college holds an annual community service day in April in which students, faculty, staff, and alumni come together to volunteer to help with more than 70 service projects in Pella and surrounding communities.

Church Sends 75,000 Meals to Haiti

(From RCA Communications)
Crossroads Church in Norwalk, Iowa, has packaged more than 75,000 meals for Haiti. “As a new church start of the RCA we are always looking for ways to give back to our community and beyond,” says pastor Glen Blumer.

The new church, which officially organized as an RCA congregation a year ago, worked in partnership with Meals for the Heartland, which will distribute the meals in Haiti. Blumer and the church’s deacons organized the initiative, first raising funds for the food and packaging materials. It became a community effort, with contributions coming in from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, local sports teams and businesses, and other churches. In the end, they had enough to nearly double their goal of 40,000 meals.

“The neat thing was to see how the city of Norwalk got behind this project,” Blumer says. “We had all sorts of people involved packaging meals. Even the mayor showed up.” More than 300 volunteers helped pack the meals, which contain rice, dried vegetables, soy, and vitamins.

“I was so grateful for how our deacons jumped on this event, organized it, and handled it well,” Blumer says. “We are already hearing from several people who participated that they would like to have Crossroads organize a similar event next year. The organizers are very excited about this opportunity.”

Community Gardens Bring Neighbors Together

(From the Holland Sentinel)


Holland, MI — That big green lawn at Calvary Reformed Church at 995 E. Eighth St. was just too much to resist.

“The front yard wasn’t doing too much but getting watered by sprinklers,” said Kerri Sue Smits of the church.

Now, two years later, that green lawn is growing food and friendships as a community garden.

Community gardens are a growing trend, with Park Township breaking ground for its first seeds this spring. A workshop for people interested in starting one of their own community gardens is Saturday.

Master gardeners, food experts and composting gurus will discuss how to plan and operate a community garden from 9 to 11 a.m. at Ridge Point Church Moran Park Campus, 97 W. 22nd St. in Holland.

“Community gardens offer access to fresh produce and plants, can improve neighborhoods while providing a sense of community and connection to the environment,” said Ken Freestone, one of the organizers of the event.

That community spirit is key for Garden Heights, the Calvary Reformed Church project.

Church Welcomes New Members

(From RCA Communications)
Community Church of High Falls in High Falls, New York, is rejoicing in God’s faithfulness; they have celebrated five professions of faith and four baptisms in the past two months.

The church received an entire family into the body of Christ as Oscar Hernandez and Kelly Hassett professed their faith and presented their three daughters, Katina, Savana, and Alexandra, for baptism. Brothers Eric and Sean Letus made public profession of their faith in Christ, as did Patricia Matthews. Patricia also presented her infant daughter, Kara, for baptism.

Creative Donations Benefit Ministry

(From RCA Communications)
RCA members and congregations across the denomination are finding creative ways to raise money for Audio Scripture Ministries (ASM). ASM, an RCA mission partner, distributes audio Bibles to people around the world in their own languages.

In Orange City, Iowa, RCA missionary JP Sundararajan told an RCA Sunday school class about the ministry of ASM. One little boy and his sister thought up a creative way to raise money for the ministry. They spent their evenings collecting ripe peaches that fell off the trees in their backyard and then went door-to-door selling them to friends and neighbors. They sent all the money they raised to ASM to help send audio Bibles to India.

In Holland, Michigan, students at Holland Christian High School took an impromptu offering after Sundararajan spoke there. They pooled their lunch money, loose change in their backpacks, and whatever else they were carrying and gave ASM a gift to help send audio Bibles to India.

In Platte, South Dakota, kids attending First Reformed Church’s summer vacation Bible school were given the opportunity to choose where their offering would go. The kids overwhelmingly chose ASM, so all the offerings collected at VBS helped buy even more audio Bibles.

These are just a few of the many stories of churches and individuals around North America that have given small gifts with great love to help Christians around the world have access to the Scriptures in a form they can use and understand.

If you or your church is interested in supporting ASM, visit www.rca.org/playoffs and cast your vote in the “Digital Audio Playoffs” contest between JP Sundararajan and his friend and coworker Chad Vanden Bosch. They want to see who can raise the most money to get audio Bibles in the hands of people in India and Mozambique.

New Home Holds New Hope

(From RCA Communications)
For two months, Brighton Heights Reformed Church has been working with Alice Frett, a single mother of four, to help improve her family’s living conditions.

The family of five includes nine-year-old Moasia, who has cerebral palsy. For three years, they lived in an apartment that was badly in need of repair and infested with vermin. The old apartment was not handicapped-accessible and sported broken windows, holes in the floors and walls, peeling paint, and broken appliances.

Brighton Heights Reformed found the family a clean, three-bedroom, wheelchair-accessible apartment, helping them move in at the beginning of April. An anonymous donor provided $5,000 to cover the security deposit on the new apartment and help purchase new furniture and housewares.

“We wanted to give her as many new items as possible because some of the old things were infested with roaches and lice,” said James Seawood, pastor of Brighton Heights.

The church provided new beds and mattresses, bedding, towels, pillows, dishes, and pots and pans along with other furniture items.

“Even though I feel like the place she’s living in is too small for a mother and four children, they are as happy as they can be,” Seawood said. “We’re just pleased to be able to help this family with this disabled child.”

Church Volunteers Help Flood Victims

(From RCA Communications)
After severe flooding in the area, members of First Reformed Church in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, pitched in to help overwhelmed homeowners.

Heavy rainfall caused the flooding in the Pequannock area of New Jersey. On March 20, groups of church volunteers approached houses where residents were beginning to survey the damage, asking, “How can we help?”

First Reformed volunteers helped carry sodden possessions out of basements that, in some cases, had been submerged in up to five feet of water. They spread clothes, documents, and photos out in the sun to dry, and distributed prepared food donated by area restaurants, since many flood victims had no way of cooking. The church also collected and distributed donations of various cleaning supplies to help homeowners clean out mud and silt left behind by the receding water.

Even Burglaries Can’t Deter Church’s Generosity

(From RCA Communications)
Even after Westwood Reformed Church in Muskegon, Michigan, suffered a burglary on January 22 and again on January 28, church members remained committed to providing supplies for a family of Iraqi Christian refugees moving into a local apartment.

Bethany Christian Services had asked Westwood Reformed if it would be willing to help the refugees settle into their new home by providing furniture, dishes, blankets, and other necessities. At the time of the break-ins, the church was in the process of recruiting volunteers and gathering donations to help furnish the apartment.

After the break-ins, the church discovered that computer equipment and other electronics along with several guitars were missing. Though replacing the stolen items would be an unexpected expense, Westwood members continued to gather supplies and volunteers to help the refugees.

“We said we’re moving ahead,” Westwood Reformed’s pastor, Scott VanArendonk, said. “We’re not letting this discourage us. We’re handling this situation in a God-honoring way.”

CERCA Presents Award, Memorials

(From RCA Communications)
At the annual meeting of APCE (the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators) in January 2010, CERCA (Christian Educators, RCA) honored Delores Koopmans with its annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

Koopmans is director of Christian education at Faith Reformed Church in Kankakee, Illinois. She began her work in Christian education as a Sunday school teacher in the Presbyterian church. She continued to teach catechism and Sunday school after joining the RCA in 1960, and taught in the public school system for 24 years. She has served as director of Christian education at Faith Reformed since 1980. Koopmans is a certified Christian educator in the RCA. She also serves as treasurer of CERCA.

She says one of her favorite moments as director of Christian education is presenting Bibles to graduating seniors and seeing how much they’ve grown and developed since they began Sunday school at age 3.

CERCA also held a time of tribute for two RCA educators who passed away in 2009: Colleen Wiessner and Karen Schakel. Wiessner worked as an assistant professor of adult and higher education at North Carolina State University as well as in education ministry at First Reformed Church of Cary in North Carolina, where her husband, Charles, serves as senior pastor. Schakel worked with the Van Raalte Institute at Hope College and also served as director of Christian Education at Third Reformed Church in Holland. Both women were remembered fondly by their fellow RCA educators.

Zeeland Congregations Collaborate to Focus on Poverty

"Sometimes with churches so close together, you can almost feel like it's a competition instead of cooperation," says Tim Rotman, pastor at Vriesland Reformed Church in Zeeland, Michigan. "We really wanted to work together on some things."

Vriesland has partnered with four other Reformed churches in Zeeland (Community, First, Faith, and Peace) for a collaborative sermon series. Throughout the fall, the pastors met together to study the book The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns, and to plan their sermons. In January and February, each pastor delivered a five-to-seven-week sermon series about the book, which argues that Jesus' emphasis on preaching good news to the poor is not a priority for many Christians today.

"God has a real passion for the people we sometimes overlook," Rotman says. "This a difficult topic. We wanted to have people engage each other and have the conversations--does the Bible really say that, or not? Our hope is that the plumber from Vriesland will talk to the electrician from Community when they're at a job together, and the women who meet for coffee every week from the different churches will discuss what they all heard in their churches on Sunday.

"Initially, the hope is that they will start to see themselves as one body, a broader church," Rotman says.

The partnership also included a pulpit exchange among participating churches. Rotman says the churches are looking for ways to continue working together in the future.

Northwestern Wins Women's Basketball National Championship

The Northwestern College Red Raiders are NAIA Division II national champions! Northwestern cruised to an 85-66 victory over Shawnee State in the final game to win its third championship and second in three years. They also won it in 2008 and 2001.

Wisconsin Kids Send Kits to Haiti

Kids and kits

The kids from the Bible S.P.A.R.K.'S mid-week program of First Reformed Church in Waupun, Wisconsin, have been very busy. They took it upon themselves to sponsor a "Hygiene Kit" Drive. These kids, ages K-5th grade, have collected 222 hygiene kits to help out the earthquake victims in Haiti through Church World Service.

New Jersey Church Celebrates 300 Years

Ponds Reformed Church in Oakland, New Jersey, is celebrating its 300th year of ministry in 2010. The church was formed in 1710 with a congregation of 15 families.

To celebrate its anniversary, the church will sponsor a “Revolutionary encampment” on March 13, featuring hands-on exploration and reenactment of life in the early 1700s. The event will include demonstrations of colonial firearms—cannons, flintlock rifles, and Kentucky long rifles. Other demonstrations and activities will include tomahawk throwing, colonial cooking, traditional maple syrup-making, spinning wool, starting a fire with flint and steel, and blacksmithing.

Other anniversary events are planned throughout the year and will include a celebration dinner, a worship service modeled after a Revolutionary War–era service, and a church picnic.

Locals participate in 'Many Hands for Haiti' mission trip

From The Daily Reporter (Spencer, Iowa):

Six local residents are determined to provide hope and encouragement to residents of a country devastated by an earthquake on Jan. 12.

While this trip is the fifth for Christi Gabhart, it marks the second to Haiti for Karmen Brown and Dawn Vanden Berg. The March 3 - 12 journey is the first for fellow Spencer residents Paul Rekow, Heather Brown and Sharon Berkenpas as local mission volunteers.

As Karmen Brown viewed the others traveling with her to Haiti this time, she called them a drawer of spoons -- filled with different sizes and talents, but all with the same heart filled with wanting to serve.

Iowa Church Pitches in for Haiti Relief

Following their morning service on February 21, members of First Reformed Church in Sully, Iowa, stuck around to assemble Church World Service baby kits and hygiene kits for Haiti relief. They set up tables in three areas of the church, piled donated kit items on the tables, and put the kits together assembly-line style.

The whole church participated in the kit-building; young children, youth group members, and post-high young adults worked alongside moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, and elders and deacons. One group put together 116 baby kits; the other two groups assembled 652 hygiene kits. So many church members stayed to help that it took less than 45 minutes to put together the 768 kits.

Faithwalkers, First Reformed’s youth group, donated $1,534 to help cover the cost of shipping the kits to Haiti (CWS requests a donation of $2 per kit for shipping). First Reformed raised an additional $8,000 to help their brothers and sisters in Haiti through an offering collected for Church World Service.

“What I saw was a people, building, and ministry kits being used for the Lord,” says First Reformed pastor Wayne Sneller. “But what I saw most was the willingness to think ‘outside the box’ and let ministry happen.”

The Pay It Forward Café: Love in Action

One year ago, Parma Park Reformed Church in Parma Heights, Ohio, opened the Pay It Forward Café--a program to help feed kids from struggling families over the weekend. The program is currently feeding 40 to 50 people each Saturday; more than 50 children are enrolled in the program.

Many area restaurants regularly provide meals for the program. Parma Park Reformed has also become an agency of the Cleveland Food Bank, which allows the Pay It Forward Café to use the food bank as a resource for purchasing meals.

The café is open each Saturday. In addition to providing a hot meal, it offers entertaining and educational workshops for kids and parents, as well as service opportunities. Speakers have included representatives from the Parma and Parma Heights police and fire departments, a skunk rescue organization, a children’s author, five magicians, and a nutritionist.

On the second Saturday of each month, “Pay It Forward” Saturday, the kids do some sort of service project. Sometimes their service project includes writing letters and making up care packages for the platoon of 54 U.S. soldiers the café has connected with through the Adopt-a-Platoon program.

Robert Schuller to Speak During Hope Chapel Service on March 12

The Rev. Dr. Robert H. Schuller, founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries in Garden Grove, Calif., will be in familiar environs when he speaks during the chapel service at Hope College on Friday, March 12: he's a 1947 Hope graduate.

The public is invited to the service, which will take place in Dimnent Memorial Chapel at 10:30 a.m., although space is likely to be limited because weekday chapel is regularly attended by a large percentage of the student body. Admission is free.

Schuller and his daughter, Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman, who is director of ministry and mission at the Crystal Cathedral and is a 1973 Hope graduate, will be in West Michigan through the co-sponsorship of the Holland-based Leader Renewal Institute of Holland, which specializes in care and counsel for church leaders, as well as a variety of other organizations including Hope.

Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located at 277 College Ave., on College Avenue at 12th Street. While on campus, Schuller will also attend a reception for the college's students, faculty and staff, and will attend a luncheon for invited members of the Hope community.

Outreach Program Feeds Hungry Children

"When the economy went bad we noticed there were a lot of families in need here, and decided we could do something to help," says Shirley Puett, a member of Warwick Reformed Church in Warwick, New York. Puett co-chairs Backpack Snack Attack, a weekend food program, with fellow church member Jay Rowland.

The program, which began in January 2009, provides backpacks filled with food each Friday for elementary school children and their siblings to eat over the weekend. The school district identifies children who are most in need, and backpacks are distributed by a school nurse to maintain the anonymity of participating families--a stipulation of the district.

"We send home foods that children can fix themselves," says Puett. This includes items like Easy Mac, pudding cups, fruit cups, granola bars, juice boxes, and Chef Boyardee microwaveable meals. The food is provided by donations from church and community members.

At the beginning of the school year, the Backpack Snack Attack program provided a backpack for each family involved in the program. Each Thursday, volunteers from Warwick Reformed deliver food to the school nurse, who distributes the food in the backpacks the next day. The children return the backpacks to the nurse on Monday.

The number of participants fluctuates throughout the year as family situations change. In December the program was filling about 42 backpacks each week through six participating schools, providing 107 children with weekend meals.

Church Plant Expands Ministry with New Home

Papio Creek Church is the proud new owner of two buildings it had been renting: a former theater that they use for worship space and an adjacent building that they now use for offices and Christian education space. The congregation received a loan from the Reformed Church in America Church Growth Fund, Inc. (RCACGF) to make the purchase.

The young church decided to purchase its building out of a desire to better serve and bless its Papillion, Nebraska, community. "We shared the facility and we couldn't do the things we wanted to do to make it more inviting to people," says pastor Darrin Kimpson.

Since taking ownership, the church has made a number of improvements, including painting, renovations, and other updates to make the place more inviting. Kimpson says that having a permanent home means people feel more ownership and they get excited about ministry possibilities. For example, the church now partners with Arts for All, an area nonprofit that offers students classes in painting, writing, and drama at a very low cost.

"This came about thanks to a couple of members who teach for Arts for All," says Kimpson. "They helped arrange for the nonprofit to offer several one-hour evening classes at the church every Thursday night. Thirty kids come to the first hour alone." Kimpson stays to meet the parents of students who come to that first-hour class. He says only a few of the students who attend are from the congregation, so it's a great outreach ministry.

The RCACGF provides loans to RCA churches, classes, and other agencies and affiliates to purchase, construct, or improve church property or facilities.

Southern Normal to celebrate founders

By Lydia Grimes
features reporter

Southern Normal School saw many changes over the last 99 years, and even though the original school closed some years ago, the alumni association works hard to keep the memory of the school alive.

The Southern Normal Alumni Association has planned a Founder’s Day weekend celebration to honor the founding of the school 99 years ago. At that time James Dooley Sr. founded the school to prepare young black students to go on to get a college education.

“Dooley took over a reform school and with the help of the Reformed Church in America made the facility into one of the best to offer an education to young blacks,” said Gloria Odom, Founders Day coordinator and a former student there. “Dooley founded one of the most unique schools at a time when it just wasn’t being done elsewhere.”

New Jersey Church Takes Action for Haiti

When members of Fair Lawn Community Church in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, saw images of the earthquake’s destruction in Haiti, they felt God leading them to help. They began to discuss what they could do as a church community to send aid to their Haitian brothers and sisters.

The church decided to collect items such as towels, washcloths, soap, toothbrushes, nail clippers, and combs to make up as many hygiene kits for Church World Service, an RCA mission partner, as they could.

After seeing a Haitian mother with her newborn baby on CNN, they decided to make up some baby kits, too. These kits included receiving blankets, undershirts, tee shirts, baby sweaters, cloth diapers, and diaper pins. Church members hoped their kits would bring some peace of mind to new mothers who had lost nearly everything in the quake.

The deacons, youth group, and congregation worked with the wider Fair Lawn community to collect donations for Haiti. In all, Fair Lawn Community Church sent 55 hygiene kits and 12 baby kits through Church World Service. They also collected $4,500 for relief efforts in Haiti.

Church Makes Every Dime Count

Inspired by Franklin Roosevelt’s March of Dimes campaign, Richard Albert introduced an annual “Bring a Dime Every Time” campaign at his church, Community Church of High Falls in High Falls, New York, in 2005.

Albert, a deacon, places a large jar in the church’s fellowship room at the beginning of each year. The congregation is encouraged to put any dimes in their pockets into the jar whenever they come to church.

Each January, the congregation holds its annual Roller Luncheon. After sharing a meal, they all pitch in to help roll and count the dimes—the congregation collects more than $200 in dimes each year. Proceeds from the campaign are donated to the Rondout Valley Food Pantry.

This past year, Crossroads Deli in Cottekill, New York, partnered with the church by keeping a dime jar in the deli and encouraging customers to donate their dimes. With the deli’s help, Community Church of High Falls was able to present the Rondout Valley Food Pantry with $437 this January.

In 2010, Albert hopes to expand the program, both by including other local businesses and by suggesting that donors give any loose change they may have instead of only dimes.

Church Plant Helps Family Pay the Rent

In August 2009, a neighborhood woman called Hope Crossing Community Church (RCA), desperately seeking help paying rent.

Bob James, pastor of the Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, church plant, agreed to meet with the woman. “This is common in ministry,” he says, “but something was different this time. Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit moving my heart to listen more closely.”

When James met with the woman, she told him how her husband was disabled and had nearly died of kidney failure. They’d sold most of their possessions in an effort to scrape together enough to pay rent each month. Now her family of five was on the brink of homelessness.

James told the members of Hope Crossing about the family in need, and the church agreed to give them a small sum of money to help meet their needs. But James still felt the Spirit nudging him. He and his wife, Barb, began to build a relationship with the family.

The Jameses invited the family over for a visit. They shared the gospel, showing them a few sessions of the Alpha Course to introduce them to God. The Jameses answered their new friends’ questions about God; step by step, the struggling family began to see God moving in their lives.

Though the family was opening up to God, their situation did not improve. They had no work and the husband was in poor health. By the beginning of December they were $3,000 behind in rent, their car was no longer usable, and their landlord was threatening to evict them.

James brought up the family’s plight to his church small group along with other needs in the church community. They calculated that it would take about $5,000 to pay the family’s rent and get them a usable car, fix the car of another family in need, and help two other families with unpaid utility bills.

A group member suggested taking a special offering at church and asking church members to help their brothers and sisters in need. They weren’t sure how much they’d be able to raise; after all, Christmas bills were piling up and people had received so many other pleas for special help during the holidays.

But they trusted in God’s provision and introduced the special offering to the congregation on Sunday morning, December 6. They informed the 40 church members in attendance that in order to help meet the needs of four families connected with the church, they needed to raise $5,000.

The first offering that came in was a check for $38 from an unemployed woman. The next offering was $200 from an elderly widow. Within six days, the church had collected $5,638, more than enough to help all four families.

Best of all, because the church reacted in love to the pleas of a desperate family, Jesus has entered into a new home; the woman and her husband have both been baptized at Hope Crossing Community Church.

Calvin Hosts Crystal Cathedral Founder

Rev. Robert Schuller, author, televangelist and founder of the Crystal Cathedral in California, will reflect on his 50-year career in ministry starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 11, in the Calvin College Chapel in Grand Rapids, MI.

The next night, Shelia Schuller Coleman (Schuller's daughter) will speak to clergy and others at 7 p.m. at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, MI. Both Robert Schuller and his daughter remain involved in the ministry of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA.

Sheila Schuller Coleman will lead a presentation for clergy members and their families, intended to help participants learn how to prioritize the demands on their time. That event is $5 per person and includes dinner. Questions and RSVPs for the Friday event can be directed to contact@leaderrenewal.org or by calling 866-511-5323.

A variety of local organizations, including Calvin College, Calvin Theological Seminary, and the Christian Reformed Church are helping the Leader Renewal Institute in Holland, MI, bring the Schullers to West Michigan.

In his presentation, Robert Schuller will discuss his career that has its roots in West Michigan.

Schuller was born in Iowa, but graduated from both Hope College and Western Theological Seminary prior to being ordained as a minister in the Reformed Church in America.

He began his work in California in 1955 with the Garden Grove Community Church, which began at a drive-in theater, and 55 years later has become Crystal Cathedral Ministries.

Schuller's popular weekly Sunday television service, the Hour of Power, is now one of the longest running weekly programs on television. Schuller also is the author of 37 books.

—Calvin College Communications, CRC Communications

Casual Service Opens Doors, Arms to Downtown Community

If you're looking for God but prefer a casual, unassuming atmosphere, then the Rev. Bob Abel hopes you will join him at Remedy, located in the heart of downtown Sheboygan. No pews, altars or candelabras don the open space that hosts the new worship service that is Remedy, a satellite division of Bethany Reformed Church.

Instead, there are round tables surrounded with chairs, a small stage for the contemporary worship band and a table with coffee available -- all designed to give a coffeehouse-casual atmosphere.

"The service was a blessing," said Joyce Strade, 48, of Sheboygan. "If it weren't (held) downtown I wouldn't have heard it. I would have had a very, very rough day."

Brick Reformed Church to Host Calvinism Seminar

Brick Reformed Church in Montgomery, New York, will host a three-part DVD seminar entitled “Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism.” The seminar, created by the Center for Advanced Christian Studies, explores the development of Calvinism and the doctrinal controversy surrounding it.

The seminar will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on March 13, 20, and 27. For more information or to register, visit www.brickreformedchurch.org and click on “Church Events.”

RCA Authors Win Christianity Today Book Award

Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, coauthors of Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion, tied for first place in the Church/Pastoral Leadership category of Christianity Today’s 2010 Book Awards. DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, and Kluck is a member of the same church.

According to the magazine, “DeYoung and Kluck respond to the church’s many critics with theological verve, historical backbone, biblical agility, and—above all—an infectious love for the bride of Christ, tawdry or frumpy though she can be.”

Conklin Reformed Church Needs Funds to Move
RCA Members in Quake-Hit Haiti

RCA members from First Reformed Church (Sheldon, Iowa), Bethany Reformed Church (Sheboygan, Wisconsin), First Reformed Church (Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin), and Brighton Heights Reformed Church (Staten Island, New York) were in the Port-au-Prince vicinity when the earthquake hit.

This included General Synod President James Seawood and his wife Emra; Brigido Cabrera, coordinator for the RCA's Hispanic Ministries; and RCA pastor Andres Serrano. This delegation was able to make their way to safety in the Dominican Republic.

RCA Pastor Brings Enthusiasm to Bound Brook Congregation

Two years ago, the Congressional Church of Bound Brook (New Jersey) members had to make some major decisions.

Church attendance at the 209 Church St. building, built in 1856, was down. The spirit was low. The church's pastor, who was about to retire, recommended that its membership seek a part-time replacement because there wasn't enough work to do.

Enter Pastor Marisol Ferrer, a former New York City schoolteacher and counselor and reverend who dabbles in hip hop.

Welcome to The Urban Church, Sobrante Park, Oakland, California
Church Works with U.S. to Spare Detention

From the New York Times:

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. -- When the young pastor started his ministry here at the century-old Reformed Church in 2001, he gave little thought to the separate congregation of Indonesian Christians who shared the sanctuary. They worshiped quietly in their own language on Sunday afternoons, at the end of a hard week’s work in the factories and warehouses of central New Jersey.

But by May 2006, when they began pleading to sleep at the church, the pastor, the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, had to pay attention. At the apartment complex where many Indonesians lived, armed federal immigration agents in a single night had rounded up 35 men with expired visas and outstanding deportation orders, as their wives and children cried and other families hid.

Two Northwestern Professors Selected for Endowed Professorships

Michael Andres, associate professor of religion, and Laurie Daily, assistant professor of education, have been appointed by the Northwestern College board of trustees to five-year endowed professorships beginning in the 2010-2011 school year.

The endowed chairs provide annual funds to support scholarly work. These funds may be used for research, the purchase of equipment or materials, travel to pursue research, or assistance to student researchers. Criteria for the appointments include a distinguished record as an outstanding teacher; recognition for scholarly and leadership contributions to the discipline; exemplary service to the department, Northwestern, and the larger community; and a commitment to the college’s mission.

Andres has been appointed to the Marvin and Jerene DeWitt Endowed Religion Professorship. A member of Northwestern’s faculty since 1998, Andres teaches systematic theology, philosophical theology, Calvin and Calvinism, and Christian witness. He earned a doctorate in philosophy of religion at King’s College, University of London, and a master’s degree in theological studies from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He is a former member of the RCA’s Commission on Theology and is currently working on a book on holistic Christian witness that integrates evangelism, apologetics, and justice.  

Daily has been appointed to the James and Margaret Blekkink Endowed Education Professorship. A full-time member of Northwestern’s education faculty since 2005, Daily previously directed a field-based special education teacher training program in New Hampshire and participated in the development of professional standards for teachers with the New Hampshire Department of Education. She also coordinated the special education program at Plymouth State College. Daily earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Argosy University and a master’s degree in special education from the University of North Carolina.

Collegiate Church Holds Reconcilation Event

On Friday, November 27, the first official Native American Heritage Day, representatives of the Collegiate Church of New York City and the Lenape (Delaware) tribe of Native Americans held a ceremony of reconcilation outside the Museum of the American Indian in New York City.

Brooklyn Church Reconnects with Heritage
Part of the feast

Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York, observed its Dutch heritage by participating in New York City's 5 Dutch Days, an annual event that celebrates the continuous influence of Dutch arts and culture in the area. Old First participated by hosting a worship service and dinner on November 15.

"Why does our church participate in 5 Dutch Days?" asks pastor Daniel Meeter. "For many of the same reasons that school or a museum or a gallery or consulate would do this: knowledge, relationships, fun... but the driving motivation is love, the love of God."

The worship service included a children's choir singing Psalms in Dutch and Meeter's reflections on the church's history. Old First, now a diverse and multiracial congregation, was established in 1654, when New York was still New Amsterdam. It held worship services in Dutch until 1824.

Following the service, worshipers were invited to stay for dinner. The menu featured Dutch food from the 1600s.

Iowa Pastor Publishes Two Books

Steve Bierly, pastor of American Reformed Church in Hull, Iowa, recently published two books on how to understand the Bible’s teachings.

Did God Really Say THAT? 12 Tips on How to Read, Understand, and Apply the Bible aims to help readers better understand how to read and understand the Bible in the way God intended. The book also includes a small group study guide.

How to Be Single, Sexual, Spiritual, and Sane: A Different Christian Perspective discusses various Christian approaches to purity, arguing that some of them are misguided, and revisits what the Bible says about sex and singleness.

At Church Cafe, Eat What You Want and Pay What You Can

(RNS) At A Better World Cafe, it's not exactly "all you can eat." It's more like whatever you can pay.

The new church-affiliated restaurant is offering customers an innovative new dining option: choose the size of your portion, then pay what you want. People who can afford to pay extra help subsidize those less fortunate.

A Better World Cafe, housed at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, is the fifth restaurant of its kind in the nation, which some are nicknaming "Robin Hood restaurants." The original socially conscious eatery was opened in Salt Lake City in 2003 by a former acupuncturist; now, advocates of the concept hope it will revolutionize eating out.

"It's about how we're going to need to change our systems if we're going to survive as a planet," said Tina Weishaus, a board member of the community group Who is My Neighbor? Inc., which co-owns the nonprofit cafe with Elijah's Promise, a soup kitchen and culinary school based in nearby New Brunswick.

Besides the lack of official prices -- only suggested fares -- the eatery uses mostly food from local farms and no plastic or Styrofoam. It also composts all food scraps and acts as a community forum by hosting talks and live performances by local artists.

The "Robin Hood" model aims to end hunger and waste and help bind local communities, said Denise Cerreta, 48, founder of One World Everybody Eats in downtown Salt Lake City. The entrepreneur has been living in Highland Park to launch the new restaurant and is in talks with "50 or 60" East Coast groups interested in copying the model.

Cerreta said the idea has become a movement that's gained so much steam that she moved out of her Utah home in August and is now on tour teaching people what she knows.

"I'm down to a suitcase and a cat," the Ohio native said.

The Highland Park restaurant opened its doors inside the historic brick church in October. The simple dining room, with communal tables and metal chairs, has attracted roughly 50 to 125 customers a day, head chef Rachel Weston said. Three paid staff and volunteers serve food from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and organizers are hoping to expand to dinner and weekend service. Advertising has been minimal: There's no sign for the cafe in the front of the church.

Listed each day on a dry-erase board is a menu of roughly a dozen items that change every week or so, with suggested prices. One item, the "complimentary community entree," is free to everyone.

A person who can't pay anything is allowed to eat only the "community entree," but can volunteer at the cafe for an hour to get a bigger meal with more choices. Weston said all patrons are encouraged to volunteer -- to think, for example, "What if I came back and baked bread, or played the piano?"

Customer Kathleen Logue, 49, said she has been unemployed for two years. But she still paid $6, more than the suggested combined price of $1.50 for a cup of Moroccan tomato consomme and $3 for a medium slice of roasted-tomato and Swiss cheese quiche.

"There are people worse off than me," she said.

Highland Park is an ideal town to host the novel restaurant, said Weishaus, with a mixed-income population that includes residents of housing projects as well as Rutgers University professors. The borough also boasts of progressive policies such as promoting fair-trade products at local stores.

The seed of the idea for A Better World Cafe was planted in January, said Lisanne Finston, executive director of Elijah's Promise. She was giving a talk at the church -- commenting that the richest nation in the world should not have to have soup kitchens -- when someone in the audience mentioned the new dining venture in Salt Lake City.

"It's an idea whose time has come," Finston said.

Church Plant Celebrates First Anniversary

Iglesia Nickao, a bilingual church start in Boston, Massachusetts, is celebrating its first anniversary on December 15. The church, which is 90 percent Hispanic and 10 percent Anglo, is reaching out to immigrants in the Boston area. Nickao is a Greek word from the book of Revelation that means “overcomers.”

Commissioned pastor Nuvia Chanlatte says the church began in homes and now holds worship in space rented from another congregation. “Boston has a lot of immigrants,” she says. “Some are legal. Other ones are not. They’re trying to survive, working and doing what they need to do. Our mission is to reach them in that area.” Iglesia Nickao is hoping to obtain a projector to help expand its mission.

Community Garden Blesses Local Food Pantries

In today's economy, a growing number of people rely on food pantries to make ends meet. In the face of this increasing need, First Reformed Church in DeMotte, Indiana, decided to help in a huge way.

This year, First Reformed planted a six-acre community garden to help supply area food pantries with fresh produce. The project received a $1,000 grant from the local electric co-op, and local businesses and community members donated necessary supplies, including tomato stakes, sign materials, garden hose, hand tools, and lumber to build produce-cleaning tables. A local builder loaned the church a tractor to cultivate the land. Local growers donated hundreds of plants, seeds, onion starts, seed corn, and seed potatoes.


Church members invited other area churches to join with them throughout the planting and harvesting process. Over the course of the growing season, more than 150 people helped out. Some came once or twice, and others came to every single work session.

The church had initially offered produce to three area food pantries, but by the end of the season, the garden was producing enough food to supply eight food pantries across three counties. First Reformed member and project organizer John Allen estimates that the garden produced 100,000 pounds of produce during the growing season at a cost of less than one penny per pound.

First Reformed plans to expand the garden to 10 acres next year with the hope of supplying fresh produce for 15 food pantries.

NWC Computer Programming Team to Compete in World Finals in China

For the second year in a row, a team of three Northwestern College students has been chosen as one of 100 teams from six continents to compete in the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest's world finals. This school year's event will take place in Harbin, China, Feb. 1–6.

Northwestern is among 22 U.S. colleges and universities invited to the 2010 finals, including Carnegie Mellon, Duke, MIT, Stanford and the University of Chicago. They will be competing with students from last year's champion, Russia's St. Petersburg State University of Information Technology, Mechanics and Optics, as well as Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Buenos Aires and the University of Helsinki, to name a few. Seven thousand teams from over 1,800 colleges in 88 countries participated in regional competitions this fall.

Members of the Northwestern team are John Calsbeek, a senior computer science major from Orange City; Mark Haselhoff, a junior computer science and mathematics major from Schaller, Iowa; and Curt Van Wyk, a senior mathematics teaching and computer science major from George, Iowa. Calsbeek and Van Wyk were on the team that competed in Sweden.

The students say team dynamics are a key to their success. "We're all good programmers and good problem-solvers," says Van Wyk, "but each of us has strengths in different areas, so we mesh together well to make a stronger team."

With two of the three having competed in the finals last April, the team will enter the China competition knowing what to expect. "It's just a fun experience," says Calsbeek. "It's really interesting being in a huge room with around 300 nerds, hearing 50 to 60 different languages."

The Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest, referred to as the Battle of the Brains, is in its 34th year and sponsored by IBM. It challenges students to solve real-world problems using open technology and advanced computing methods under a five-hour deadline. Huddled around a single computer, teams of three students collaborate to deduce the requirements, design test beds and build software systems under the scrutiny of expert judges. The winning team is the one that solves the most problems in the fewest attempts within the least amount of time.

Central College Names New President

Mark Putnam will become president of Central College in Pella, Iowa, in July, following the June retirement of current president David Roe.

“We are pleased to welcome Central College’s 21st president Dr. Mark Putnam to the Central College family,” says David Wesselink, chair of the college’s board of trustees. “He has an outstanding set of capabilities that will help Central College build on the very successful legacy of Dr. David Roe. Mark brings the very best combination of background, experience, and skills to meet the future needs of Central College.”

Putnam is senior vice president for executive affairs at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. He has also held administrative posts at Connecticut College and at Alliance Theological Seminary. Putnam earned his master’s degree and doctorate from Columbia University, and his bachelor’s from Nyack College.

“Central’s momentum has the college superbly positioned to capitalize on the prospects that lie ahead of us,” Putnam says. “I see at Central a desire to become ever more effective and have an ever more profound impact on the students who will shape the future of our society.”

Small Congregation Gives Big to Help the Hungry

Community Church of High Falls in High Falls, New York, is one of five churches that support Rondout Valley Food Pantry, which operates out of Christ the King Episcopal Church and serves needy families in the towns of Kerhonkson, Rosendale, Accord, and Marbletown.

Though Community Church is a small congregation, its members steadily donate canned goods and other items to help provide emergency food aid to hungry families. Donation baskets labeled “We Care…We Share” are always available to accept donations for the pantry; the church will often suggest specific items to donate in its weekly bulletin.

This month, as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach, members of the congregation were encouraged to not only give a little more than usual, but to give food items that could be used to help a needy family celebrate a holiday meal: pie crust mix, canned pie fillings, evaporated milk, mashed potato mix, cranberry sauce, canned yams, and more.  

Last year, Rondout Valley Food Pantry handed out 100 Thanksgiving food baskets; this year, the number is expected to grow. Tom Schrader, a deacon at the church and the organizer of the food drive, took a few minutes each Sunday in November to remind and encourage the congregation to give a little more than usual in order to give the growing number of families in need an opportunity to celebrate the holiday season.

By the end of the Thanksgiving food drive, the congregation had donated enough food to fill the back of a pickup truck. Consistory member Merry Oakley says, “We would like everyone to know that our little church is still able to help those less fortunate despite the depressed state of the economy.”

Church Celebrates in Community

On Sunday, November 15, Faith Reformed Church in Zeeland, Michigan, held a Celebration Sunday with the dual purpose of looking back on successful ministry opportunities and looking forward to a new sermon series that will begin in January.

The church held one combined morning service at 10:00 a.m., inviting church members who normally attend the blended 9:00 service and those who attend the contemporary 11:15 service to join together in worship. “The idea for this service was born of love and excitement to come together and celebrate what God has done for Faith Church, and to express our love for one another and unity,” says Steve Rimes, Faith’s executive pastor.

First, the congregation celebrated the success of two ministry initiatives. Earlier this fall, Bethany Christian Services contacted the congregation and asked if they would be willing to support a refugee family immigrating to the United States from Myanmar. Faith members donated furniture, bedding, kitchen supplies, and other household items, then spent an afternoon cleaning and setting up the family’s house so it would be ready for their arrival. During the worship service, Faith presented the newly-arrived family with their first English Bible.

Faith also celebrated the success of their Breakfast with Baby program. Once a month, the church supplies a hot breakfast and time of devotions for neighborhood families with babies under one year old. The ministry also offers baby supplies such as diapers, wipes, clothing, books, and toys, as well as some larger items like cribs and strollers.

After celebrating ministry successes, the congregation turned to the future. Senior pastor Jonathan Elgersma introduced a six-week small group study and sermon series beginning in January. Members of Faith will join with three other area congregations (First Reformed Church, Community Reformed Church, and Vriesland Reformed Church, all in Zeeland) to study The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. The pastors of the four churches have already begun meeting, corporately working on the sermon series and praying about the direction God might be leading their churches through this study. “We thought, ‘What would it look like for four churches to live this out together?’” says Elgersma. “God is inviting all of us to be a part of that.”

Seminary Celebrates 225 Years

New Brunswick Theological Seminary observed 225 years of training Christian leaders at an October 30 celebration. New Brunswick is the oldest Protestant seminary in North America.

More than 300 people attended the celebration dinner, including dignitaries, trustees, faculty, staff, students, and others. Congratulations and best wishes were received from a number of churches, assemblies, and community organizations. The evening also included presentation of the Esther Award to pastor DeForest Blake Soaries Jr. and to bank CEO Elizabeth Hance. The award recognizes people whose commitment to the gospel enables them to embody a fully Christian response in the face of public turmoil.

RCA Member Publishes Mayflower Book

Beverly Stroebel, a member of Christ Community Church (RCA) in Carmichael, California, recently published a book entitled Full Sail: A 21st Century Spiritual Cruise on Board the Mayflower.

The book takes readers back in time to journey to America aboard the Mayflower. Throughout the book, Stroebel uses sailing terminology to point to God as the master of not only the Mayflower’s pilgrimage, but any journey through life.

The book may be purchased from Amazon.com.

Holland RCA Pastor Wins Songwriting Competition

David Landegent, pastor of Central Park Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, was named the winner of the justice congregational song contest cosponsored by the CRC Office of Social Justice, Reformed Worship magazine, and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

The contest asked for submissions of original song lyrics relating to social justice issues. Entries were judged on theological and biblical accuracy, appropriateness for congregational worship, and effective use of language.

Landegent's song, "Let Justice Roll Down," will appear in Reformed Worship and is available for download at www.crcna.org/pages/songcontest.cfm.

NBTS Honors Missionary Horace Underwood

On November 30, New Brunswick Theological Seminary will celebrate the 150th birthday of alumnus Horace Underwood with a dinner and service of thanksgiving. Underwood, one of the first American missionaries in Korea, helped found the Presbyterian Church in Korea. He also founded a number of educational institutions in Korea and wrote the first Korean-English dictionary.

In honor of his service, New Brunswick Theological Seminary will remember Underwood’s legacy. The Korean Student Society will share musical selections; Sang Lee, professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, will speak; and the first five Horace G. Underwood Scholars will be introduced. This new scholarship in Underwood’s honor is funded by a gift from Myungsung Presbyterian Church of Seoul.

The service will be followed by a Korean supper. There will also be a brief tour of Gardner Sage Library, where a new Underwood Memorial will be located.

The public is welcome to attend this event, which begins at 5:00 p.m.

Michigan Church Hosts Free Fair

Hosting a free fair helps one church serve its community and embody the gospel. Free Fair "Basically, it's an outreach to the community to represent the gospel, which in a nutshell is that we are saved freely," says Mark Hofstra, pastor at First Reformed Church in Decatur, Michigan. "It really zeroes in on the passage where Jesus says, 'Freely you have received; freely give.'"

Hofstra first got the idea from a church planter and mentioned it once in a sermon. "Some years later, one of our members, Elaine Mroczek, said, 'We've got to do that. We'll provide food and take care of the advertising.' Before you know it, we were having our first free fair last year."

Free Fair

This summer the church hosted its second annual free fair. "We had a volunteer hair stylist, and we had one of our members donating guitar stringing. He was like, 'I used to work in a guitar shop; I'll offer guitar stringing and tuning.' Another person said, 'I'm a nurse and I'll provide free blood pressure checks.' Another person said, 'My son has a movie theater; we'll provide popcorn.' And the Gideons right away jumped forward and said, 'We'll distribute Bibles.'" The event also included a hot meal, a car wash, clothing distribution, knitting lessons, and activities for children.

"People just really stepped up," Hofstra says. "It was just incredible.

Free Fair

"It was such a joy to give. It's quite something when someone tries to offer you money, and you say, 'No--this is a free fair. This is our day to give.' They just can't believe that you won't accept a donation."

People on the receiving end have been very grateful, Hofstra says. "It's been really good for the community and our church's relationship with the community. Coming away I thought to myself, I could feel God's good pleasure in the air. It was just tangible."

Church Serves Its Community

On Sunday, October 11, Community Reformed Church in Lafayette, Indiana, worshiped by serving its community. The church held a brief worship service, with a message encouraging members to be salt and light in the city of Lafayette, and then commissioned members to go out and bless the community. Around 150 people went out to do various small acts of service with no strings attached. The volunteers then returned to the church to celebrate and share their experiences over lunch.

Members went to grocery stores, nursing homes, homeless shelters, gas stations, and other places, and engaged in a variety of simple acts of service: they brought sack lunches to the homeless, cleaned toilets at local restaurants, helped carry groceries, put carts away, picked up trash, washed windows, and brought carnations to nursing home residents.

“Church members often came to me and said they didn’t know where they could get involved or do these small things with great love,” says pastor Chad Schuitema. “We tried to find examples of things people can do in their everyday life. We tried to think of things that a family could do once a month on a Saturday morning. We tried to think of places that people were already going, helping them see how they could show the love of Jesus through the simple act of serving.”

Community Reformed is already making plans to repeat the experience.

Bike Trade-In Program Helps RCA Ministry

The Bikes for Work program of the Center of Hope, an RCA ministry in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, gets a boost from a local shopowner's "Cash for Two-Wheeled Clunkers" promotion.

RCA Church Hosts Produce Market

Flatbush Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York, hosts Flatbush Farm Share, a community-sponsored agriculture (CSA) program where neighbors can buy affordable, fresh, organic produce. The program was recently featured on MSNBC Nightly News.

Northwestern College Board Approves New Mission Statement and New Hall

The Northwestern College Board of Trustees approved building a suite-style residence hall and endorsed new mission and identity statements at its fall meeting, October 5-6.

The board voted to move forward with constructing a residential facility to house about 60 students. Rooms will be arranged in suites, with a bathroom in each suite. The hall will include commons areas.

Officials hope to begin construction next spring and have it completed by the end of 2010. The new hall will be used to provide needed housing for students following the closing of Heemstra Hall after this school year.

In addition, the board approved new mission and identity statements developed after much input from faculty and staff over the past year.

Mission Statement:
Northwestern College is a Christian academic community engaging students in courageous and faithful learning and living that empowers them to follow Christ and pursue God’s redeeming work in the world.

Identity Statement:
Northwestern College is a Christian college in the Reformed tradition, founded in 1882 by the Reformed Church in America. We are committed to providing a Christian liberal arts education in an undergraduate, intercultural and residential environment. We offer bachelor’s degrees in a variety of traditional and professional programs.

President Greg Christy says the new mission statement is a fresh way of stating what Northwestern’s mission has been throughout its history. “This isn’t a change in our mission, but a new way of articulating it,” he says. The identity statement incorporates much of the wording of the previous mission statement that described Northwestern but didn’t talk about its purpose.

“The most important thing is that we’re living out the mission each day to the best of our ability, with God’s grace, and that the mission is the basis for all decisions we make,” says Christy.

Church Makes Use of Social Media

Peace Reformed Church in Eagan, Minnesota, is trying a new take on church, focusing on the younger, tech-savvy generation. Peace’s contemporary service, called Epic, utilizes visual and multimedia presentations to help illustrate the service, and uses social media applications like Twitter and text messaging to encourage congregants to live out their faith.

Worship at Epic, led by recent seminary graduate Mark Reynoso, is much more contemporary and relaxed than Peace’s traditional service, led by senior pastor Al Pruis.

Pruis and Reynoso say that since its September 13 launch, Epic is already attracting new people as well as a few people who had stopped coming to Peace’s more traditional services.

“For churches to say that they want to reach a new generation for the Lord, you have to be extremely intentional about that,” Pruis says. “We are being extremely intentional.”

Read more about Epic here.

Congratulations to the Marble Community Gospel Choir

A powerhouse performance at the "How Sweet the Sound" national gospel choir competition earned them Audience Favorite, Best Large Choir, and Best Overall Choir awards in the Newark, NJ, regional event. The choir is eligible for the finale in Detroit on Saturday, November 7.

RCA Hospital Chaplain Retires

It is difficult to remember life at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, New Jersey, without Calvin Tysen, its chaplain and head of pastoral services since 1984, who retired in September 2009.

During his tenure, Tysen helped transition his department into a truly interfaith ministry. “What was once largely a four-faith chaplaincy (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish) is now an all-faith chaplaincy,” said Joseph Allen, chairman of the Chaplaincy Committee. For example, to accommodate a growing Muslim presence, a Muslim representative was recently added.

Establishing Volunteer Visitors in the early 1990s was another major highlight of Tysen’s tenure. Through this program, trained volunteers visit patients with no religious affiliation to determine if the patient desires pastoral services.

Tysen shared his insights and expertise through participation in numerous hospital committees, such as the Ethics Committee, of which he was a member for 20 years. The hospital’s commitment to holistic care, which embraces the belief that a person’s physical condition cannot be separated from his spiritual side, has been fertile ground for Tysen’s ministry.

Tysen and his wife, Audrey, remain involved in music at their church, Clinton Avenue Reformed Church in Bergenfield, New Jersey, where Audrey serves as organist.

“Englewood Hospital was my first assignment as a hospital chaplain,” says Tysen. “I believe I was called to this work. It is powerful, but also humbling to think that as I enter a patient room I will be seen as God’s representative to persons in need. It is my hope always to demonstrate my interest in them, and by doing so, to illustrate the compassion and desire that God has for their wholeness in body, mind and spirit.”

Brooklyn Congregation Opens Doors to Jewish Worshipers

When chunks of plaster began falling from the ceiling of the synagogue of Congregation Beth Elohim just before the high holiday of Yom Kippur, Rabbi Andy Bachman turned to his old friend Daniel Meeter, pastor of Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, for help.

Old First gladly offered to host Congregation Beth Elohim for their Yom Kippur services. Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews, began at sundown on Sunday, September 27, and ended at sundown on Monday, September 28. Twelve hundred people filled Old First’s sanctuary to celebrate the Jewish holiday.

“Hospitality is part of our church’s mission,” said Meeter. “We didn’t even have to think about sharing the space.

“Every single Scripture they read from the altar and the pulpit is Scripture for us Christians anyway. And every prayer they prayed could be prayed by any Christian. So for us it was so easy. I am grateful that they did the more challenging thing of accepting our hospitality.

“How joyful that for 24 hours these guests took over our sanctuary in order to sanctify the name of God. What a privilege for us.”

The two congregations, located about a block apart, have enjoyed a close relationship since the 1930s.

RCA Professor Receives Award from State Teachers' Association

Barbara Turnwall, assistant professor of English at Northwestern College, will be honored by the Iowa Council of Teachers of English (ICTE) at its fall conference in Johnston on October 2. She will receive the Distinguished Service Award, which is given annually to an individual who is an instructional leader, an advocate for English language arts teaching and learning, and active in professional development and service.

A member of Northwestern’s English faculty since 1966, Turnwall has served as an advisory board and steering committee member for the Iowa Writing Project (IWP). She has also directed numerous IWP workshops and given presentations at meetings of the ICTE, National Council of Teachers of English, and Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. She also served as chair of Northwestern’s English department for nine years.

In collaboration with the Iowa Writing Project, Turnwall began Northwestern’s Pedagogy Project in 2000. Through the program, more than 70 Northwestern professors have come together for a year of focused study to reflect on and discuss their teaching practice and to experiment with new strategies in their classrooms. The program has spawned Pedagogy Project II, which engages faculty members in a yearlong focus on integrating writing more effectively into the learning process.

One of Turnwall’s latest ventures has been directing the Hispanic Story Project, which has gathered, translated and published stories of northwest Iowa’s Hispanic immigrants. Some of the stories have been published bilingually by IWP and provided to area teachers for a variety of uses, including curriculum materials and sensitivity training.

Turnwall says she is humbled by the award. “I share this honor with the many friends and colleagues over the years who have provided me opportunities, inspiration, and encouragement.”

Volunteers Help Homeowners Rebuild in Cedar Rapids

“I like the way Stephanie and Neal’s sign says it: ‘It’s all about the journey,’ says RCA volunteer coordinator Laurie Hawley.

This summer Laurie and her husband, Bruce, mutual mission facilitators for RCA Global Mission, directed RCA individuals and work groups who came from Iowa, Ohio, New Jersey, and New York to help with disaster recovery work in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In June 2008 the Cedar River rose to 31 feet above flood stage, devastating more than 5,300 Cedar Rapids homes and 1,000 businesses.

“Stephanie and Neal are rebuilding their home on the Cedar River that had flood waters up to the ceiling,” says Laurie. “Their piano broke into pieces and floated around the room. Everything was covered in mud. Neal has been working tirelessly to get his family back home for over a year.” She adds that Neal’s daughter, Angie, who is in her thirties, is severely autistic.

The Hawleys and the other volunteers worked in partnership with First United Methodist Church of Marion, Iowa. They hung, spackled, and primed drywall and painted rooms in the Neal’s home and those of several other residents, including a young man named Chris who was in Iraq when the river flooded. They had many opportunities to pray and minister with the people they came to serve.

“What a great God we serve that we can come from all over the country and work together, no matter what skills we have, and find such joy in the work,” says Laurie.

Pastor Deployed to Kosovo as Army Chaplain

“We are counting down the days until our upcoming mobilization for deployment to Kosovo,” says Maury Millican, a U.S. Army chaplain. “We have been resetting, reorganizing, retraining since our redeployment from Iraq in 2005.”

Chaplain Major Millican’s unit, the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, will command the multinational peace-keeping mission to Kosovo, an eastern European country with a population that is 90 percent Albanian Muslim and 10 percent Serbian Christian. For nearly three decades, the country has experienced political upheaval related to its quest for independence from Serbia; Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. “Kosovo marks the ancient geographic, ethnic, and cultural boundary between Islam and Christianity,” says Millican. “We are the U.S. Army’s twelfth rotation to Kosovo since 1999, teaching the two dominant ethnic-religious groups to live together in peace.” As brigade chaplain, Millican is responsible for the commander’s religious support program along with three other chaplains and four chaplain assistants.  

When Millican is not on active duty, he pastors Bismarck Community Church in Bismarck, North Dakota. “In my absence as senior pastor, the consistory has called Rev. Al Schut to be the interim pastor,” Millican says. “The congregation has been amazingly supportive of my second deployment as an army chaplain. Once again, they are prepared to give up their pastor to full-time military service for the sake of others.” A community send-off was held in Bismarck in July, and in August the congregation celebrated the Lord’s Supper with both Millican and Schut before Millican left for final training. His unit will arrive in Kosovo later this fall and remain there for one year.

Churches Partner Together on Mission Trip

High school and college-age people from two New Jersey churches spent a week this summer helping to establish a camp for children who are blind.

The camp, called Christ’s Outreach for the Blind, has been in development since 1997 and will open this fall. It is located in Mount Vernon, Kentucky.

The work group helped develop the 900-acre site by roofing, painting, putting up a fence, and clearing trails. “We spent our time ‘planting seeds’ that will, with God’s help, be a long term blessing to the area,” says Chris Vande Bunte, trip leader and associate pastor at Colts Neck Reformed Church in Colts Neck, New Jersey. “We all learned a lesson in working for the good of others and future generations in God’s name, without needing to see immediate results.”

The group included 43 youth and eight adults from Colts Neck Reformed, plus seven people from United Reformed Church in Somerville. United Reformed participated with the hopes of organizing a trip of its own in the future; Colts Neck Reformed sends out mission teams each year. “Going on the trip with United was a big thrill for me,” says Vande Bunte, who considered it an opportunity to share what he learned from another church when he was in seminary. “Second Reformed, Kalamazoo, and especially its youth leadership, helped to teach me the logistics and everything else that’s involved with planning, running, and following up on a trip. To now practice that as a leader with another congregation is a wonderful way to pass on the blessing.”

Vande Bunte says another joy of the trip was watching college students grow in leadership roles. Many of the 10 to 15 college-age participants had gone on several mission trips before. “Each year they become more a leader than a participant,” he says. “They are invaluable in work group leadership and in modeling behavior and attitude to those younger.”

Work Teams Serve in New York City

This summer the Japanese American United Church (JAUC) in New York City was blessed by visits from two RCA work teams. Eight members of Altamont Reformed Church in Altamont, New York, near Albany, came from July 25-29 and 23 people from Baileyville Reformed Church in Baileyville, Illinois, came from August 3-10. Both visits were coordinated by Paul Nulton, coordinator of East Coast volunteers.

The team from Altamont painted the pastor’s office and installed insulation in the fourth floor ceilings for the Sunday school rooms. They also cleared debris from the roof so that the second team could waterproof and repair the roof. The Illinois team painted the front doors that had been damaged by graffiti, repaired interior water damage in closets in the basement and hallways, did a thorough cleaning of the sanctuary, and shampooed the carpets throughout the building. Part of that group spent four days at the parsonage in Queens removing multiple layers of roofing, then replacing the wood before shingling the garage roof. They repaired and painted garage doors and rebuilt a crumbling brick entryway. Inside the parsonage they cleaned, repaired, and waterproofed the basement walls.

During their stays, both work teams attended the bilingual Sunday service and enjoyed dinners with church members during the week. JAUC members made delicious Japanese and Asian foods for the work teams. The Illinois team brought fresh sweet corn from a farm owned by one of their members. There was time to share experiences and get to know one another with singing, personal testimonies, and prayer.

Although the primary focus of both work teams was to improve the physical church buildings, much was accomplished in terms of cross-cultural exchange. Members of JAUC learned about the close-knit community of rural churches and of their deep abiding faith and commitment to family and traditions. Work team members came to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing immigrants adjusting to life in a foreign land and the rich heritage they bring with them from Japan.

Members of JAUC were deeply touched to learn that the group from Illinois spent a week selling lemonade at a county fair as well as holding ice cream socials and bake sales in order to raise $7,000 for the trip. Both teams brought their own food, supplies, equipment, and bedding. The teams’ humble servant attitudes and willingness to be the hands and feet of Jesus brought all three churches closer together in the body of Christ and in the RCA. Thanks be to God!

CPAAM Church Celebrates Tenth Anniversary
Singing at Celebration

Grace Christian Church in Flushing, New York, celebrated its tenth anniversary on Sunday, August 30. A service of celebration was held at nearby First United Methodist Church. More than 400 people attended to praise and thank the Lord for his blessings throughout the church's ten years of fruitful ministry. Guests of honor included En Young Kim, coordinator of the Council for Pacific and Asian American Ministries; Jong Duk Kim, senior pastor of Siloam Church (RCA); Joon Urm Kim, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church; Jon Norton, executive minister of the Regional Synod of New York; Tien Tan, an elder at Community Reformed Church at Manhasset; and Norman Chen, senior pastor of Reformed Church of Newtown.

The celebration included lively praise singing led by a praise team and band, a "Love" duet based on 1 Corinthians 13, a PowerPoint presentation on the history of Grace Christian Church, a video presentation about the church's English ministry, a dance by the youth group, and a sermon about the church's vision in the past, the present, and the future by John Chang, the senior pastor of Grace's parent church, Grace Christian Church in Staten Island. After the service, the ladies of the church served a six-course Chinese dinner.

Attending Celebration

The first service of Grace Christian Church in Flushing was held on the first Sunday of August in 1999. Since then, the church has baptized about 200 people. Grace sponsors many programs, such as small group Bible studies; Sunday school; youth group activities; short term mission trips, both domestic and abroad; and drama, music, and dance ministries. The church has even started to reach out in the Bronx, holding regular Bible studies for Chinese students at Albert Einstein Hospital.

Grace Christian Church in Flushing is an example of a successful church plant by an Asian American RCA congregation. It also exemplifies partnership across cultural lines; Siloam Reformed Church, a Korean RCA church, donates space for weekly services. Partnerships also extend across denominational lines; Joon Urm Kim of First United Methodist Church offered his church's building for Grace's anniversary celebration at no cost. This kind of cooperation shows that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ working together for God's glory and for the outpouring of his grace and gospel to increase his kingdom.

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