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Original-building

Eastern Avenue CRC, Grand Rapids, MI, 1887 building

Begun with a small chapel in 1877, Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was the second Christian Reformed congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has been at the same location for its entire history.

HistoryEdit

Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was begun by members of First CRC in 1876 and became the second Christian Reformed congregation in Grand Rapids. It began with a small chapel constructed at its current location in 1877. The church organized on September 16, 1879 with 86 members and 72 families. It was supplied by seminary students and other Christian Reformed congregations until September 1881, when Rev. J. Post became its first pastor, moving into the new parsonage next to the church building.

The 1880 U.S. Census counted 32,016 residents, nearly twice the population of a decade earlier - and the Dutch-born population had grown at an even faster rate. This census counted 7,110 Dutch-born, 2.4 times as many as in 1870. Not counting their American-born offspring, this represented 22% of the Grand Rapids population, the highest level in any census.

The church began its own parochial school, which later became the independent Baxter Christian School, in 1882.

Having outgrown the chapel, it was torn down and replaced with a larger building in 1887, one having the same seating capacity of 1,200 as the Spring Street (now First CRC) congregation.

Membership passed the 2,000 mark by 1910, despite launching a daughter church on Sherman Street in 1907. By any definition, Eastern Ave. could be considered the first Christian Reformed megachurch, peaking with 1,600 professing members and 2,400 total members.

However, the large membership was torn apart in the mid-1920s when Rev. Herman Hoeksema was deposed and about 3/4 of the congregation stood with him on the issue of "common grace" Thus was born the Protestant Reformed Church.

As with many churches near the old Calvin College Franklin Street campus, membership declined during the 1966-73 period as the college slowly relocated.

Visit the Eastern Ave. CRC website

Historical DetailsEdit

NamesEdit

  1. Second
  2. East Street
  3. Eastern Avenue

LocationEdit

506 Eastern Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 (built 1887, remodeled 1916, addition circa 1980, later addition 2002)

PastorsEdit

  1. John Post, 1881-87
  2. Sipke B. Sevensma, 1887-1900
  3. Johannes Groen, 1900-19
  4. Herman Hoeksema, 1920-24, deposed, founded Protestant Reformed Churches
  5. William P. Van Wyk, 1925-41
  6. Christian Huissen, 1941-52
  7. William Haverkamp, 1955-60
  8. Melvin D. Hugen, 1967-67
  9. James R. Kok, 1967-72
  10. Peter J. Niewiek , 1972-75
  11. Nelson Vanderzee, 1972-76
  12. Gordon Dean Negen, 1976-86
  13. Vernon F. Geurkink, 1977-82
  14. Leonard J. Vander Zee, 1983-90
  15. Roy M. A. Berkenbosch,1992-95
  16. Rolf T. Bouma, 1987-96
  17. Mary S. Hulst (nee Antonides), 1996-2003
  18. Thea N. Leunk, 2006-

Daughter ChurchesEdit

  1. Oakdale Park CRC, 1890
  2. Dennis Ave. (later Mayfair) CRC, 1893
  3. Sherman Street CRC, 1907
  4. Baxter Street Mission, 1935-37

Membership OverviewEdit

Eastern Avenue launched with a small chapel building in 1877. When it outgrew the chapel, it was replaced with a larger building in 1887, this one having a seating capacity of 1,200.

Membership passed the 2,000 mark by 1910, despite launching a daughter church on Sherman Street in 1907. By any definition, Eastern Ave. could be considered the first Christian Reformed megachurch, peaking with 1,600 professing members and 2,400 total members.

The congregation was torn apart in the mid-1920s when Rev. Herman Hoeksema and about 3/4 of the congregation left over the issue of common grace, giving birth to the Protestant Reformed denomination.

From that point, membership increased until 1957,  declined through the 1960s and early 1970s while trying to be relevant to a changing neighborhood, and then went into a precipitous decline in the mid 1970s. By 1980, membership was on the uptick.

The congregation reached a low 19% youth ratio in 1974, just before a new period of growth began, accompanied by a change in the pastorate. (Since the preceding and following years have significantly higher youth ratios, I question the accuracy of the Yearbook data for 1974.)

Membership reached 496 professing members in 1985 and 755 total members in 1986, coinciding with another pastoral change. Since 1987, membership has fluctuated between 687 and 720 members, making growth prediction impossible. Since 1990 saw another pastoral change, that adds one more factor of uncertainly. Eastern has a solid and increasing youth ratio. This coupled with average birth and death rates gives a promise of growth.
Eastern-crc-members

Membership data, Eastern Ave. CRC, Grand Rapids, MI

Overall Membership DataEdit

Green (lower) line shows membership in families; blue (middle), professing members; red (top), total members; and magenta (thin), non-professing members. Note discontinuity in 1924 following departure of majority of congregation to form First Protestant Refomred Church after Rev. Hoeksema was deposed.

Eastern-crc-youth

Youth ratio, Eastern Ave. CRC, Grand Rapids, MI

Youth RatioEdit

Red line shows nonprofessing members as a percentage of total membership.

Eastern-crc-growth

Five year growth rate, Eastern Ave. CRC, Grand Rapids, MI

Five Year Growth RateEdit

Red line shows five year growth rate. A five year growth rate between 10% and -10% is considered stable; greater than 10% indicates a growing congregation; one below -10% indicates a church in decline. This makes no allowance for daughter churches.

Source: Yearbooks of the Christian Reformed Church. Dates are year prior to publication date since data is gathered at the end of one year and published in the next.

SourcesEdit

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