New City Fellowship didn't happen overnight. The new Grand Rapids, Mich. work held its first public worship service on March 30 with about 120 people in attendance. About 80 people attended worship on the second and third Sundays. This marks the beginning of the first mission work in about a decade in the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario according to Regional Home Missionary Glenn Jerrell.
Even before the first service, the core group began developing a vibrant fellowship. They gathered every other Saturday morning for prayer meetings. NCF's mother church, Harvest OPC in nearby Wyoming, Mich., "has really put themselves out for this work," says Jerrell. The core group comes mostly from Harvest, but also includes some from nearby Redeemer OPC and students at Kuyper College.
Pastor Mika Edmondson served as an intern at Harvest. He was later hired by Harvest as a church planting pastor. He has also been working on his PhD at Calvin Seminary. In preparation for the new work, Edmondson and others led workshops on evangelism and public worship. Harvest was intent on planting a "Christ-exalting, Spirit-dependent, God-glorifying, gospel-centered, biblically faithful, multi-culturally accessible church in S.E. Grand Rapids."
"I am elated that there is so much interest in and passion for the multi-cultural effort of New City Fellowship," said Edmondson. The congregation purchased a building near the intersection of three distinct mono-cultural neighborhoods. Those who have led the charge in planting NCF are not seeking primarily to be multicultural, but to be biblical. "We are seeking to be multicultural for the sake of the gospel," said Edmondson. The congregation's written description of what their mission is, says that they seek to reflect the unity and catholicity of the church that Christ is building.
Members and friends put in many hours to get the building ready for worship, including repainting the auditorium, repairing ceiling tiles, installing new lighting and laying new carpet. "From the parking lot to the pulpit, they donated about $50,000 worth of labor," Jerrell said. "What they pulled off in the last few months is amazing."
There is still some work to be done. With a 109 year-old building there are accessibility issues to be addressed. But members are doing everything they can to accommodate anyone who wants to come to worship. This includes a parking ministry, with people directing traffic and helping older folks to and from their cars. Regulars park in the lots of local business that have made space available or on area streets, reserving the small lot for new visitors and those who are less mobile.
NCF hosted a joint Good Friday service with other OP congregations from the area, filling the 500-seat auditorium with about 650 people. They also conducted a major canvassing effort, inviting people to worship with them on Easter Sunday. They hung posters at colleges, sent mailers to 5,000 people living within a mile radius of the church and went into the surrounding neighborhoods to engage people going about their business.
About 200 people, many of whom were new visitors from the surrounding neighborhoods, came to worship on Easter. About the same number came the next week, some with mailers in hand saying that they couldn't be there on Easter, but wanted to see what was happening at this new work.
Outreach and evangelism efforts will continue. Several youth groups from local congregations of the United Reformed Church plan to assist NCF in hosting neighborhood Bible clubs and helping residents with projects like painting and yard maintenance. Another mass mailing will precede this event. Pray that many will respond, and that NCF will be a blessing to its neighbors by presenting the gospel while they do works of mercy.
For years, Harvest has sent young people to New City Fellowship PCA in Chattanooga, Tenn. This year New City Fellowship PCA hopes to send their young people north to help Harvest’s daughter with similar outreach efforts in Grand Rapids.