Source: Grosse Pointe News Online

Look back to look forward

by Ann L. Fouty Features Editor

October 03, 2013

Achieving a 75th anniversary is a milestone making it a reason for the members of the Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church to look both forward and backward.

“Seventy-five years as a worshipping congregation is a milestone,” said Rev. Bob Agnew, interim pastor.

While looking back at the church’s history through videos, photos, articles and memorabilia, it’s good to look forward, he added.

“We look at the roots and look forward. This is an opportunity to do both,” he said.

In recognition of 75 years of worship, church members celebrate the significant anniversary with two days of festivities, Oct. 12 and 13, which the public can attend. A 5:30 p.m. open house is followed by a concert with more than 70 voices in three choirs.

Music has been a significant part of the church, Agnew said, and to honor that portion of the church’s history, Noah Horn, the church’s choir director has created a piece of music to be performed at the Sunday service.

Agnew said Horn went through 75 years of service bulletins to create a montage of selections. The service concludes with the traditional bagpiper, representing the church’s Scottish roots.

In addition to the instrumental music Horn compiled, three choirs, the church’s chancel choir, the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church Choir, the Detroit Concert Choir, and a brass ensemble, perform a 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, concert with music by Tchaikovsky, Stults, Tallis, Byrd, Gesualdo, Rheinberger, Haydn, Ray and Gounod.

A historical display in the church parlor provides a walk through the decades of the church’s life, from the ground breaking photos with men and women bedecked in 1940s style hats and fur coats to the Aug. 24 summer festival on the lawn with members dressed in 21st century summer attire.

Photos will compare the piece of property once covered with trees and scrub trees to 2013 showing the stages of the church’s expansion to its present 50,000 square feet. Aside from the sanctuary, administrative office, an industrial kitchen and meeting rooms, the church has a chapel, classrooms, a full gym and stage. It houses The Sunny Days Co-op Preschool and the Detroit Concert Choir offices. And, according to Agnew, there is room for more. Church board members have approached other organizations in need of space for meetings or a home. Inviting community organizations to use the church’s facility is part of its ministry to welcome all.

The mission and ministry, carried out by the 230 members, a majority of whom live in the vicinity, reach out to the community by providing backpacks to local school children, Christmas gifts, winter coats, food panty items and serving meals to the homeless. Global missions are supported with the sale of fair-trade items.

It’s the members’ mission to put their faith to use daily, Agnew said.

“Put (faith) into daily life. There are challenges and opportunities and we are called. It is the small things in the daily walk. That’s what we’re about, doing in various areas of service. Faith comes from the fingertips. Members are from all walks of life, young and old. Everybody has a place. This is a place where everyone is important,” he said.

Parishioner Monte Visser added, “The church can provide guidance and leadership.”

Aside from the sanctuary, administrative offices and meeting rooms, the church, at 19950 Mack, has roots reaching back to 1937. According to the compiled history, a few members of the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms, who lived in Grosse Pointe Woods, then Lochmoor Village, wanted a Presbyterian church closer to them. Frank Fitt, GPMC’s minister promoted the idea. Meetings were held and surveys conducted.

The result was the formation of the Lochmoor Protestant Sunday school, meeting in the Mason school gymnasium. The first Sunday school meeting was Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937. In 1938, the Rev. O. W. Burdett, the assistant pastor at GPMC, helped organize the church, conducting its first service Oct. 23, 1938. A little less than a year later, Oct. 2, 1939, the Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church was brought into the Presbytery of Detroit with 123 members.

By 1940, the Memorial Church assigned its assistant pastor to provide pastoral leadership and gave $25,000 toward construction.

Memorial Church members Dr. and Mrs. Harry N. Torrey gave the land on which the church would be built. However, due to war-time restrictions, plans for a church building were deferred until late in 1946 with the dedication May 23, 1948.

As the congregation grew, so did the church with additions of the minster’s study and church office. The educational building was added in two sections, followed by the lounge, chapel and recreation room. A pipe organ was dedicated in 1966 and the fellowship hall in 1967.

Jesus’ life is told in 10 stained glass windows created by the Willet Studios in Philadelphia.

Above the altar is the 1,860 paned rose window.

“The rose window faces east and catches the morning sun. It illuminates the sanctuary early in the morning. The light moves through the sanctuary, reflecting the changing seasons,” Visser said.

High on the west wall is the trinity window, a vision Visser said is his favorite because one of the images is a globe surrounded by children of various ethnicities. Agnew breaks out singing “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red, brown, yellow, black or white, they’re all precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

“Every time I look at the windows I see something new,” Visser said.

He, like other Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church members, is looking forward to find yet another way to celebrate the church and put his faith to work.