LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church was organized by 36 charter members on February 24, 1887 as the Fourth Holland Christian Reformed Church. As its name suggests, it was comprised of Dutch immigrants, but from the beginning they wanted to be part of their new American environment. Thus, LaGrave was the first Christian Reformed Church (CRC) to conduct worship services in English. This pioneering spirit characterized the first century of its life; it was among the first CRC’s to have a choir, a parish house, multiple staff. Located in the thriving downtown area of Grand Rapids, Michigan, it was home to some of the new city’s most prominent business and political leaders.
In the 1950’s, when the flight to the suburbs was just beginning, LaGrave made a crucial decision to stay in the city. There was then and is now a deep commitment to be a Reformed witness in the heart of the city. As a sign of that commitment, a new sanctuary was built at that time, a neo-gothic, cathedral-like worship space seating up to 900 people. As further evidence of the commitment to stay downtown, a new educational wing was built in 1996. This addition includes a full-length gymnasium, rehearsal rooms for a full musical program, 19 rooms for education, rooms for youth activities and adult classes, and central offices for all staff. With the growth of our children and youth programs, we purchased and remodeled an adjacent building in 2003 to become our new youth building.
Over the years, LaGrave has been served by a number of faithful pastors. In the last decade our full-time ministry staff has doubled. To the previously existing Minister of Preaching, Minister of Congregational Care, and Minister of Youth, we have added a Minister of Music, a Minister of Outreach, and an Administrative Manager, as well as numerous part-time staff. This additional staff reflects the growth in our membership during that time, from about 1000 to over 1500.
Through all of this history, LaGrave has remained a progressive church with very strong roots in the Reformed Christian tradition. While maintaining a tradition of confessionally faithful Biblical preaching and formal liturgical worship, our members have also been deeply involved in starting and supporting ministries in our community, such as The Jellema House (for recovering alcoholics), The Inner City Christian Federation (housing for the disadvantaged), the Ferguson Apartments (housing and social services for low income neighbors), and Wedgewood Christian Youth and Family Services (troubled youth) Running through all this history has been a strong sense of mission that has sent and supported literally dozens of missionaries all over the world.
To paraphrase C.S. Lewis (at the end of The Last Battle), it is our hope and prayer that every new chapter of the LaGrave story will be better than the one before. We invite you to join us in writing it.