Tom Katsma

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Our post today comes from the web site of Grace Church, Lansing, Illinois, a church formerly part of the Reformed Church in America and for nearly a year now, a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America. This congregation began, as the account below relates, on this day, December 29, in 1937:

Grace History

On November 24, 1937 a special session of Classis approved a petition which asked that another Reformed Church be organized in Lansing, Illinois. A committee then met with the interested parties on the evening of December 29, 1937. Thirty-two families chose to start a new congregation. The name “Grace Reformed Church” was unanimously adopted. Worship services were held inthe auditorium of the Indiana Avenue Public School at Indiana Avennue and School Street (now the site of the Lansing Public Library.)

In February, 1938 the congregation purchased the present church site. On March 19, 1938 the cornerstone of the original basement church was laid, and was ready for use by June, 1938. In June, 1938 a call was extended to the first pastor, Rev. Emo Ausema. In the fall of 1939 the congregation decided to build a parsonage of Dutch Colonial Style. Rev. Ausema served Grace Church ofr 6 years. The Lord blessed Grace Church during this time and it grew from 32 to 83 families.

In January, 1945, Rev. Bert VanMalsen was installed as our pastor. As the church continued to grow, plans were laid for the superstructure. In the Spring of 1949 construction began and was finished by June, 1950.

In January 1954, Rev. Cornelius Reynen became our pastor. Many additions such as a Sunday School Bus, stained glass windows and the Wick pipe organ were made.

In November, 1958, Rev. John Beenes became our pastor. The Church and Sunday School continued to grow and the decision was made to build an Education Wing, which was completed in 1962.

In August, 1966, Rev. Russell Sybesma became our pastor. Again, Grace Church prospered and grew in many ways. Annex property was purchased at 2718 Indiana (now commonly referred to the White House or Ministry House) and property on 181st was purchased for a parking lot.

The Misison program grew during this time. Grace Church started with Gladys Kooy as their first misisonary in its beginning. Supported 6 overseas missionaries by the 1960’s and today supports 12 missionaries in the U.S. and overseas; as well as many Mission and Venevolent Causes.

During this time the youth program began to formally develop through youth groups, and GEMS and Cadet programs. Grace first youth pastor, Rev. Ron VerWys was called in 1975; follwed by Rev. Tom Katsma in 1981; Rev. Scott Rees in 1987 and Rev. Dennis Colton in 2009. Mark Morris, Tim Sherman, Joe Greenwald and Scott Dykstra served and contracted Youth Directors as well as several Youth Interns . Rev. Fred Buseman served as an Associate Pastor 1984-1987. Pastor Leroy Childress currently serves as Grace’s Pastor of Youth and Outreach.

In 1984 Rev. Tom Katsma, who was currently the youth pastor, accepted the call to the Senior Pastor position. During his ministry Grace Church established a Contemporary Style of Worship, began a Coffee Break Women’s Ministry; had the addition of video equipment, the position of Music Director was added. Grace Church became aware of the changes and needs in the community around them and made changes to continue to reach out to the community.

In 1992, Rev.Don Schmidt was called as Senior Pastor. His ministry was cut short due to cancer and he went to be with the Lord in April, 1994. While at Grace his vision for reaching the community of Lansing was a stepping stone for the future of Grace.

Rev. Andy Nearpass served Grace Church as it’s Senior Pastor from 1995-2014. During this time Grace Church saw the continuance of a strong youth program; development of small groups; sent numerous mission teams out abroad and into the community, many facility updates; and a focus on prayer and God’s Word.

Pastor Leroy Childress was called as Senior Pastor on June 21, 2015. This marked Grace’s first pastor as a PCA church.

After much prayer and contemplation, on September 20, 2014 the Grace Church Congregation voted to transfer from the Reformed Church in America (RCA) to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). On October 30, 2014 the Illiana Classis of the RCA voted to approve the requested transfer.

As Grace Church looks to the Lord for guidance in our future and where He will lead us, the mottos of previous years ring through: “Fear Not Little Flock,” “Hither to the Lord has Blessed Us,” “Living and Sharing God’s Wonderful Grace,” and “Reaching…, Healing…, Sending,” “Connect, Grow, Serve, Go.” Grace Church continues to strive to live out it’s mission: Raising up followers of Jesus who impact the community and beyond with God’s love.

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