Community Context– Trinity is centered in the West Leonard section of Grand Rapids’ Westside. Transitions abound in a slice of Grand Rapids historically known for its blue collar roots and Polish, Dutch and Lithuanian populations. These days the West Leonard neighborhood is diversely vibrant with students from nearby colleges mingling with long-time Westsiders; homeowners living next to local businesses; recent immigrants from across the globe using the same sidewalks as tricycle-gripping toddlers. Transitions aren’t always easy or simplistic as the neighborhood continues to adjust to its grander diversities involving education, skin color, language, religious belief, and even overall worldview. Trinity’s immediate neighbors include a medium-sized grocery store, neighbors in rental properties, tattoo parlors, a large GRPS Elementary and Middle School, an Arnies’ restaurant, a hot dog factory and an adult book store.
Congregational Character– Trinity was organized in 1908 as the first English speaking Reformed or Christian Reformed congregation on the Westside of the Grand River. In essence, our DNA has always had a missional edge as we learned how to reach beyond typical Dutch populations that many of our sister congregations more easily related to at the time. Not surprisingly, this missional edge has joined the Holy Spirit in not only gathering a diverse worshiping body (especially in education and socio-economic terms) but also in empowering a more robust neighborhood-focused ministry. Today this focus involves a weekly soup kitchen (called Community Kitchen that feeds about 100 people each Thursday); an early-education literacy program with 1st-3rd graders from Harrison Park School; a Friendship Ministries group connected to our work with disability concerns; one of the largest food pantries in our area (started by Trinity and now ecumenical in scope); a Narcotics Anonymous group and much more.
Worship is the central hub of our week as persons from all types of backgrounds gather in our well-worn wooden chairs to celebrate God’s story of salvation. We warmly embrace the form and freedom of our liturgy and appreciate the breadth of scriptural witness provided by the lectionary. We participate in the mystery of our faith through the sacraments of baptism and communion. In recent years, we have experimented with celebrating communion on a more frequent basis, and baptized children are all welcomed at the table.
Alongside of this liturgical emphasis is a more informal feel to the worshiping body as persons new to the gospel sit next to life-long members; persons teaching theology at Calvin College sit next to earnest spiritual seekers; young children sit next to their grandparents. The Children and Worship approach to earlier faith development in our children has been part of this Sunday rhythm for years.
Ministry Themes– Trinity’s particular vision comes from II Corinthians 5:16-21, that God is reconciling the world through Jesus Christ. We believe that God is using us in such work as we learn how to be faithful, engaged, and active in the very story of our savior’s love. Modeling reconciled relationships within our body becomes vital to how we witness God’s purposes and promises to the wider world.
Along with the biblically rich theological theme of reconciliation, Trinity has been wrestling with how to best disciple followers of Christ and prepare them for a life within the fuller realities of the world. In this we have been sensitive to age-specific development as well as the power and potential of more multi-generation approaches to growth. Thirdly, as with other urban-focused ministries, there is a very thin line between what we do through our neighborhood ministries and who we are as a worshiping congregation. Trying to figure out how to best reveal grace to neighbors while inviting all to further growth in Christ is both opportunity and struggle.