Weekly church spotlight: LaGrave Avenue CRC


The inside of LaGrave Ave CRC. Credit: Jonathan Boer

Location: 107 LaGrave Ave SE, Grand Rapids

Denomination: Christian Reformed Church (CRC)

Lagrave Avenue CRC, in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids and only a 20 minute drive from campus, focuses on meeting people’s needs and engaging in authentic, God-centered worship. A number of Calvin students attend LaGrave, some of which you can find on the bus leaving at 10:25 a.m. from the front of NVW on Sunday. Reformed creeds provide a strong foundation for LaGrave’s constantly progressing theology.

Established in 1887 by Dutch immigrants, LaGrave was the first English-speaking CRC church in the United States — bringing controversy. LaGrave’s female and male pastors play a variety of roles in congregational life, music and preaching. Rev. Peter Jonker, Minister of Preaching, preaches expressively with clearly articulated points and no theatrics.

When entering the church below the enormous brick steeple, you will see the extensive sanctuary held up by flying buttresses and surrounded with vibrant stained glass windows portraying the story of Salvation. At the front of the church, a magnificent pipe organ encapsulates the choir loft, and the ornate window shows worshipping hands of all different colors lifting high the risen Lord.

The worship services, at either 8:40 a.m. or 11 a.m., follow a three-sided bulletin’s worth of traditional reformed liturgy. The organ prelude envelops the sanctuary in sound. The robed choir sings pieces from many time periods while proceeding down the aisles into the loft. The church sings from hymnals with various harmonies and timbres. Before the sermon, the organist plays a transition with delightful modulations, ending in the congregation singing The Doxology.

After the service, churchgoers participate in friendly conversation; coffee is served in mugs so that you cannot run off with your styrofoam cup and avoid interaction.

The atmosphere of LaGrave directs believers to the enormity, transcendence and majesty of God. Individuals seem small when drowned out by the harmonics of the boisterous organ and when looking towards the lofty ceiling. Worshipping at LaGrave helps you reflect on the worth of God’s glory.

In this vein, Reverend Jonker added, “When you come into LaGrave you enter a place that is unlike anywhere else you will go during the week. We think worship is meant to lift you to a place where you can see over the grey hills of your weekly problems and all the way to the hope of the new creation. Just walking into the sanctuary gives you that feeling.”

LaGrave is a welcoming church with rich history and a unique style of worship.