By Judy Reed
Because a Christian community was faithful in sending out missionaries to start Sunday Schools in nearby communities, a local church is still ministering here today.
Pioneer Christian Reformed Church, 3110 17 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Sunday, June 12, at 10:00 a.m. with a special service of praise and thanksgiving.
While it was officially organized in 1961 as a congregation, the church’s roots go back to 1950. It was then that Grant Christian Reformed Church formed a missionary society and sent them out in four directions to begin Sunday Schools in public school houses. One was started in Solon Township, at the Pioneer School on 19 Mile Road. On the first Sunday, on June 10, 1950, there were 15 people, with an offering of 54 cents. On the second Sunday, there were 11 people, and an offering of $1.12. The Grant church provided the teachers, music and transportation.
“It was interesting to note that the church first began as a Sunday School Bible Study with an attendance of 15…And yet, 61 years later it continues, having touched the lives of countless people,” said Pastor Jim Alblas, current pastor at Pioneer CRC.
In 1952, they added a Vacation Bible School with 38 attending, and in 1953, they added worship services to their Sunday School ministry.
By 1955, they had a full-time ministry leader, and formed the Pioneer Chapel Board. They outgrew the Pioneer School, and moved to the Christian Hill School, on the corner of 17 Mile and Olin Lakes. In 1956, they began to search for property, and added summer Bible camp, mid-week classes, and some evening services.
Land was purchased on 17 Mile, west of the expressway, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held July 28, 1958. The church was completed and dedication services held in November, 1958. Average attendance was 100, with 75 in Sunday School.
The church officially organized as a congregation in 1961, with 20 families, 46 professing members and 50 baptized members.
The church had several evangelists or ministry leaders in the early years, including Willard Willink, who led the congregation from 1954 until 1962. After him, there were eight pastors, with Pastor Jim being the latest.
Today, the church has about 105 people that attend services, with an average of 75-80 any given Sunday.
The public is invited to join them Sunday at 10:00 a.m. as they celebrate this monumental milestone in their history, and give thanks for the faithfulness of those early missionaries to go out and preach the gospel to the world.