Monday, September 24, 2007

A steepled city

Cathedral of St. Andrew

Grand Rapids MI is in the heart of the Bible Belt of the north. It's the headquarters of the Christian Reformed Church, and as one drives into town from the west and the city comes into view from the top of a bluff on I-196, one sees steeples everywhere.

Catholics comprise 25% of the See county, and about 9 or 10% of the population elsewhere, for a total of about 175,000 out of a total population of about 12 million. The Diocese is made up of 11 counties in the western part of Michigan. This is not unlike the South at all! (More photos after the jump)

Last year, the new Bishop moved out of his palatial early-20th century residence, and invited the Paulist community to take up residence in the rectory right next to the Cathedral, which is situated in a sort of Catholic enclave just south of downtown, and just a block or so from the CRC Headquarters known as La Grave (after the street it's on). This Catholic Centeral includes the Cathedral, a middle school and a high school, and a large hospital, as well as a couple of social-outreach agencies that work with the indigent who populate this somewhat depressed part of town.

We got a walking tour on Saturday morning, from the Paulist residence, north to the downtown Cathollic Information Center. We passed a modest Greek Orthodox Church, the CRC headquarters, a Sevent Day Adventist Church, a Congregationalist Church, an independent Unitarian-leaning church called Fountain Street Church, a Tudor-looking Episcopal Church (St. Mark's) with a huge rainbow flag flying from the front, and just behind the Information Center, on a hill, a massive Lutheran Church.

Did you notice anything missing in that list? No Baptists! (There are a few American Baptist congregations in town.)

The Paulists have also recently taken on responsibility for heading the campus ministry at Grand Valley State University, and are building a new parish near the University Campus, St. Luke's ... we attended the Sunday afternoon student Mass at the beautiful campus at Allendale, some 15 miles from Grand Rapids. GVSU is a pretty large school, with some 23,000 students enrolled, at least 20-25% of which are assumed to be Catholic.

Here are some photos of the Cathedral of St. Andrew. Last year we visited some old ethnic Catholic parishes across the Grand river.


Mac said...

Do Greek Orthodox, Dutch Reformed, SDAs, Congregationalists, Unitarians, Anglicans and Lutherans qualify this part of Michigan as a northern Bible Belt? Apart from the Lutherans, I'd have thought it sounded denominationally more like Massachussetts without the RCs.

Gashwin said...

I think it's the Dutch Reformed that do -- for instance, they hold fast to the Heidelberg Confession.

Besides, the "Bible belt of the north" is how, according to our hosts, the locals describe themselves. Religion is a big part of life in ways that reminded me of the South.

thomps said...

I live in the GR diocese and the Dutch Reformed Church is VERY influential in lower western Michigan and they are quite conservative (and often there are undercurrents of anti-Catholicism -its usually not overtly obvious but it is there.) This is definitely Michigan's Bible Belt.