This is big week for our church. After 36 years in our current facility, we are moving to a new building. This Sunday, October 7, we will hold our first worship services (9:00, 11:00, 6:00) at 841 Timberlane, a mile from MSU on the eastside of East Lansing.
University Reformed Church (which everyone around here calls URC) began in 1966 with a young church planter named Tom Stark. The church began on campus in the Alumni Chapel with a handful of students and a few families. In 1976 the church began worshiping at the site on Hagadorn Road. Over the years, the church grew from a few dozen at its inception to several hundred people when Tom Stark retired in 2002. The last five years we’ve experienced consistent growth. We ran out of parking first, then classroom space, and this fall we maxed out our worship area. Last Sunday we had over 700 attend our two morning services, with 100-150 college students and 50-75 internationals.
The process of finding a bigger facility has been a long one. We looked at different parcels, different buildings, and considered every option we could think of. We can see the Lord’s hand in it all. He has allowed us to sell our old facility to Michigan State and purchase a former church building from East Lansing Public School. With the sale of our old building and our own capital campaign we were able to purchase on Tuesday the new facility debt free. Surely the lines have fallen for us in pleasant places.
Although we are leaving our spot right across the street from campus, we are still very much a part of East Lansing, moving only 1.5 miles up the road. With shuttle vans running to pick up students, and our largest campus staff ever, we are still well positioned to reach out to Michigan State University. And with 46,000 students and a campus sprawling over several miles, the majority of students have always been a car’s drive (or bike ride) from our church. We are confident that our student ministry will only grow with the increased space at our new location.
We are also excited to be a part of a neighborhood for the first time. The Walnut Heights neighborhood behind MacDonald Middle School has been warm to welcome us to our new location. They’ve been great at welcoming my family too. We moved to the neighborhood over the summer to be closer to the church, be a part of the East Lansing community, and to have a little more space for our growing family. Our church will be hosting a Fall Festival on October 14 (beginning at 4pm) to meet our neighbors and thank them in person. We’ll have food for everyone, inflatables for the kids to enjoy, and free pies for each household.
I could take a week’s worth of blog posts to thank all the people at our church who have served long and hard to get us to this point, not to mention all the saints who have labored at URC over the years. I know I’m biased, but I think we have a remarkable church. I can’t think of a better one.
More importantly, I know there is no better Lord. God has blessed our church over 46 years with good teaching, strong fellowship, lots of students, marriages, funerals, births, and new births. Now he has blessed us with more space. May we use it for his glory and not for ours. Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.