Renaissance Vineyard Celebrates 100 Years in Ferndale
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 3, 2018)
Ferndale, MI – As people were starting to build homes in Ferndale, before it was even a village, Bible-loving folks came from Highland Park Baptist to this blossoming community to host scriptural discussions in various homes and buildings.
In 1918 a group of these passionate American Baptists chartered a new church and hired the local school superintendent to be their first preacher.
This congregation continued to grow along with the surrounding community – blossoming into what is now called Renaissance Vineyard.
Their recent 100 year celebration was the perfect time to reflect on the past and contemplate the future. At one point the First Baptist Church of Ferndale met in what is now the historic post office building. They met in several locations before constructing the church located at 1841 Pinecrest Dr. The building was completed in 1927, and there was a new wing added in the 1950s. The golden shovel used to break ground at that expansion remains as part of the church’s historical items.
The life cycle of First Baptist is similar to many suburban congregations across the country. After a boom of families in the 1950s, the 70s and 80s saw shrinking memberships. While many churches closed, First Baptist was able to carry through the decades with a small but dedicated group of active members.
Important programs like a food pantry and hosting homeless guests from the South Oakland Warming Center continued to be important parts of the congregation’s work, yet more involvement was needed.
In 2000 there was another church in the area called Royal Oak Vineyard which began meeting in various locations, led by Pastor Jim Pool and his wife Megan. By 2011 they had grown to a congregation size of over 100 and were ready to find a permanent home.
By Christmas Eve of 2011 the two congregations had melded into one new organization named Renaissance Vineyard.
“I wanted a name that told our story. I had no idea what to call it, but I prayed about it. I remember the moment it came to me. I got up and walked into the living room, and I just knew. Renaissance. Not the easiest to spell, but that was it,” Pool said. “It’s a name that is not just about change, but about our connection to Detroit – the Renaissance Center, Renaissance Zones, the Renaissance Festival. It reflects God’s story and desire for all of us to have new life.”
His congregation joined with the current congregation, adding instant people-power to the programs that had been taking place. The congregation, the programming and the connection to the broader community have grown from there.
“Before coming to RVC, I spent most of my time roaming from church to church trying to find a new home base, to no avail. I was close to giving up, but the words that Jim spoke really resonated with me and I knew I had to come check out RVC. A few weeks later, after I gained the courage to come, I instantly grew attached, gained new friends fast, and have been coming since, whether it was physically in the church or by watching online,” said Debra Ostrander in her testimonial for the 100th Birthday brochure. “Since coming to RVC, my relationship with God and other people has strengthened tenfold, and I have begun to work more on listening for him and following the path he has set out before me.”
Pool is proud that many members from both congregations stayed through the transition, including Bob and Lois Latta. Both Lattas were raised in First Baptist, and for Bob it’s been over 80 years. During the birthday celebration, Pool enjoyed watching Bob give kids the tour of the building, including the monstrous old furnace and the coal room in the basement.
“When he was a kid, he and his dad would come in on Saturday nights and shove coal into the furnace to heat is for Sunday morning service,” Pool said.
In addition to the homeless shelter and food pantry, RVC now hosts the Drayton Avenue Co-op preschool program, a business incubator and co-working space called Greenhouse Ferndale, BritFit training classes, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a clothing closet, English as Second Language classes for refugees, and a community garden that helps stock the food pantry.
Though Jim is officially the pastor, Megan’s responsibilities continue to grow. The couple met at a friend’s house in Chicago while discussing religion with other people of faith. Jim had been serving in the Army, and active with his church in his free time. He didn’t know at the time that he wanted to be a minister, or that his passion for helping others start churches would grow. But there came a point where he knew. “I did not grow up going to church. I worked in the Army and was involved in these other things on weekends and evening, being involved in the church, mentoring others and being mentors,” he said. “There came a point where I thought, this nights and weekends gig is what I want to do. I wanted to give my life more to community.”
Megan had finished grad school, and was working as a nurse when they met. She continued doing nursing in the early years of the church’s formation. Now they lead the church together, with Megan handling what Jim calls “the growing and community ministries,” things like organizing the small groups, care ministries, youth programs and spiritual care. “She’s rocking it,” Jim said.
But in addition to the leadership provided by the Pools, and the beautiful building, the church thrives because of the people. “In the end, being able to celebrate 100 years of service is made possible because of two key reasons,” Jim said, “the amazing people in our church community who are committed to love, one another and our shared purpose; and the persistent, loving faithfulness of God. For these two things I am deeply grateful.”
Learn more about Renaissance Vineyard at https://www.renvc.com/
Renaissance Vineyard Celebrates 100 Years in Ferndale