Len’s observations from poking around the CRC

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California Dreaming

Sacramento-area Cluster of Churches

The Sacramento area has an interesting and vital array of CRC churches and successful church plants. What makes it especially distinctive is that they have formed a cluster in which the pastors and other church leaders get together monthly to share their plans and problems. This seems especially helpful in situations in which there is lots of planting activity. The consultation provides invaluable help in support and planning.

I visited with three pastors in the area, Paul VanderKlay at Living Stones, Kevin Adams at Granite Springs, and Eric Dirksen at Christ Church in nearby Davis.

Living Stones, the first church in the Sacramento area, organized in 1963 in a new suburb, now finds itself in a classic first tier suburb. The community now comprises  a wide array of ethnic and cultural backgrounds in the lower middle class neighborhoods where one can still buy a house at a reasonable price (by California standards). I got a good picture of the ministry when I walked up to Paul VanderKlay’s study at a side door of the church to find David, a homeless man camping there. Over the years Paul had built a strong relationship with David, and they knew each other well.

Paul is a veteran of urban ministry, having been raised at Northside church in Paterson, N.J., under the years-long leadership of his now deceased father, Stan. Paul is a widely read, deep-thinking intellectual and a skilled and passionate pastor to this relatively poor, widely diverse, and undereducated congregation. Spending an hour with Paul, you’re likely to get into a discussion of his latest thinking about the future of the CRC along with a history of the homeless man outside the door. Like his father, Paul is dug deep into the community, which gives him immense credibility and trust. Yet you’ll find him preaching sermons of unusual depth on, say, the book of Judges.

Kevin Adams at Granite Springs, a upper middle class suburb, can easily be called a resident expert on church planting in the CRC. He regularly lectures at Calvin and Western Seminaries and is on the faculty at Newbigin House, an urban study center cum seminary in San Francisco, He is also a fine author (150: Finding Your Story in the Psalms, Faith Alive).

Kevin planted the Granite Springs church in Lincoln, where there’s now a worshiping community of around 300 in a fine building. When I was visiting, the long-term associate pastor had left and the church was looking for a replacement, which put Kevin under special pressure. The congregation is also preparing for organized church status in the CRC.

Kevin and the cluster is now working on planting another church in the Sacramento suburbs, with their exploding population, which would bring the total of CRCs in the area to seven.

Christ Church, Davis, a church plant led by pastor Eric Dirksen, is perhaps the most atypical of the Sacramento cluster. Davis is home to UC Davis, a large university campus that dominates the city’s culture and economy. Eric’s approach to church planting came out of his own deep interest in classic Christian liturgical worship, which became the signature of the congregation. A visit to the Christ Church website will give you a taste of this congregation’s unique flavor, where you will even find an online form for liturgical daily prayer.

The church plant struggled a bit until the Lord sent Philip and Sarah Marjorins to the community. Phil and Sarah are accomplished musicians, now on staff as ministers of worship arts. Phil, a musician, and Sarah, a composer and arranger, bring a fresh musical vitality to the traditional liturgical worship at Christ Church.

The congregation averages around a hundred worshipers on a Sunday, and Eric says that the congregation has come to value the thoughtful and vital liturgical worship of Christ Church—especially the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which Eric considers an essential element of Reformed worship.

About the Author

Len Vander Zee is a retired CRC pastor now serving as interim minister of preaching at Church of the Servant CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.  

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Thanks for sharing your visits Len.  I enjoyed and benefitted.