Neighbors Moving Through and Past the Ashes
By Dorothy Chamness –
Holland has always had strong ties to the Netherlands but the first English-speaking church to be established in our city was the First United Methodist Church. Four churches have stood at 57 West 10th Street. The first three were consumed by fire. The third structure, built in 1902, served the congregation well until fire destroyed the sanctuary in January, 1979. Like their forefathers and mothers, the parishioners vowed to rise once more from the ashes.
Immediately after the fire a church member offered several acres of land south of town if we wanted to move there. But the congregation made an intentional decision to remain in the neighborhood; that its mission of spreading Christ’s message would best be served by staying in the heart of the city. The response from the neighbors was overwhelming. Christian school children gave a large sum of money. Downtown churches also responded – offering aid of all kinds from hymnbooks to meeting space. Park Theatre and the Ladies’ Literary Club were considered possible facilities to hold services. After considering all the options, the congregation decided to meet in Dimnent Chapel during the building process which took almost two years.
Members of the church will be forever grateful for the outpouring of prayers, gifts, and compassion from the downtown neighbors, done in Jesus’ name. This connection to the neighborhood continues as the church works with Washington School Neighbors to build strong neighborhoods where people work together to improve the quality of life for everyone.