Local churches: Madison Square

Photo+by+Johan+Lee

Photo by Johan Lee

Madison Square Church is a vibrant, diverse body of believers that draws many Calvin students to its 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday services. Located about fifteen minutes from campus, Madison is a large, inclusive church. Senior Kyle Disselkoen said, “Madison makes everyone welcome by structuring worship around the principle that if you’re comfortable 100 percent of the time, someone else isn’t.”

Madison’s unique worship style is one reason why so many Calvin students attend. Junior Johan Lee described Madison’s worship as a “fusion,” saying that it includes a mix of traditional worship elements such as singing hymns and standing for the reading of Scripture, as well as contemporary music styles and a modernized liturgy.

“The consistency somewhat lies in the fact that there is very little,” Lee said. “Worship leaders and groups vary in style, sermons are never delivered by the same person two weeks in a row, and the congregation feels free to be spontaneous in its involvement with the service.” He went on to say that despite the variety, services maintain continuity week to week through the celebration of God’s gifts, including the gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence among the people.

One of Disselkoen’s favorite aspects of the worship at Madison is the gospel choir, which is always lively and engaging. Other aspects of worship he appreciates are Madison’s responsive congregation and the church’s “focus on social justice issues, encouragement of diversity and renewal through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Sermons at Madison Square are always engaging. Although Lee said that a sermon at Madison “isn’t heavy in the theology, and leans more towards being a spiritual ‘pep-talk,’” he also said sermons are helpful in emphasizing practical applications of Scripture. Disselkoen characterized the sermons as “memorable, creative and relevant to current issues.”

Another key aspect of Madison’s identity is its focus on ministry. Disselkoen said, “Madison focuses on four areas of ministry – reaching up to God, reaching into our own spiritual lives, reaching across to reconcile with others, and reaching out to those who may not know the gospel.” Ministries range from Sunday school and youth group to prayer ministries, small groups, multicultural celebrations and a newcomers class.

One area Madison Square could improve on is its incorporation of college students into the Madison family. Although there are several options for students who want to engage with the Madison community, there is no ministry especially for college students or young adults, and students must purposefully pursue a ministry to become involved.

Lee said, “The one thing I wish Madison Square did better was incorporate newcomers into the body more effectively. As an outsider, you feel very much like an outsider, and there is not much effort by existing members to greet you or make you feel comfortable.” Although Madison successfully welcomes people from all walks of life through their inclusive worship style, Madison can let students slip through the cracks because it is such a large yet tight-knit community.

While Madison is not a church for everyone, it has a lot to offer. Lee said his favorite things about Madison are “the energy I feel during and after the service, and the level of cultural/racial diversity they cultivate there.” Disselkoen said he would “definitely recommend Madison to Calvin students, especially those with a heart for social justice and race relations. And a good taste in music.”

Lee said that Madison “truly works for harmony between races, cultures, and socio-economic groups. Don’t come here if you like traditional worship, but if you’re looking for someplace that’s a little creative and lively, I would highly recommend.”