"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the LORD Almighty.
Zechariah 4:6, NIV
In May, 1932, a tent revival was held almost directly across from the old Ferndale Church of the Nazarene property on Ten Mile in Royal Oak. Leah Belle Moon was the evangelist. As a result of this, a lady by the name of Mary Patterson (later Swan) started gathering children for Sunday School in a little junk store. This location became too small for the growing group prompting them to move to 1021 New Hampshire Avenue in Royal Oak. The Royal Oak Nazarene Sunday School was organized on July 12, 1932, with 14 charter members. While we do not have a record of all the names, we do know that the following people were charter members: Anna Moore, Lillian (McLaughlin) Brakebill, Gertrude McClellan, and Esther Middleditch. And as the saying goes, "the rest is history."
Our history began in the Depression with desperate people doing desperate things. In fact, the city of Madison Heights (not yet incorporated) in which we now call home had a makeshift "Tent City" during this time. Our church saw the boom and the decline of the car industry on several occasions. We experienced with the nation and world several wars, the fears of Communism and terrorism, and assassinations and attempted assassinations of our presidents.
We were part of urban development. Farms and wooded areas became paved roads, shopping centers, and birthplaces of cities. Our church recognized the racial tensions of the 1960's which in some ways still looms today. Our topics of conversation have often been on the rise and fall of our professional sports teams like the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, and Pistons.
Our history is also with the Church of the Nazarene denomination. We are part of a large Wesleyan-holiness church. We have seen our Christian guidelines challenged with every cultural revolution and our people catch several revival awakenings. We were born from a people transformed by God's Spirit during a tent revival, not, as referred to in Zechariah 4:6, by might or by power. It was by God's Spirit.
It is obvious that we have a history. Even within our church, we have seen good days and not-so-good days, growing numbers and ingrown numbers, transforming worship services and mediocre worship services. Our name has even some change, five times including "Spohn Memorial." This is our history.
All history, especially within 100 years, carries consequences, good and bad. It cannot be ignored or forgotten, but it should be understood. We should understand that God is bigger than our history. He must be Lord over each spiritual success and failing.
[You are] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:20-22, NIV
Often when compiling a church history, there is this natural compulsion to focus on significant changes in a building or raising a brand new one. In our case, our buildings have held importance to the growth and direction of our ministries.
From our beginning, the growth of our Sunday School was key in our buildings. Within a few months after the tent revival in 1932, we had to move to a larger building. Under the direction of Rev. H.C. Roland, we established the basement church on 10 Mile Road in Ferndale to help with future growth. Within a few more years, the need for more space and the quality of worship placed a sanctuary above ground with Rev. Nathan Hawks.
Later the Ferndale Church added a Sunday School annex to accommodate a "well over" 200 attendance in Sunday School. Thirteen years later, we were in need of addressing our functional structure due to the growth of the church. Basically we were given a face lift with an additional 7,000 square feet. Our church was now capable of having 400 in Sunday School.
A little over ten years, we faced another problem. Will we be able to grow in our current facilities? Concerns with the age and condition of the building, I-696 coming through, members and regular attenders were moving to other more northern communities, and shifting ministry opportunities caused the majority of the congregation to find property in Madison Heights.
Our decision to move was difficult. There was a risk of losing some less mobile people and families. But there was the excitement of a new area in need of a holiness church. After the Ferndale church was sold, we brought the congregation to Hiller Elementary in Madison Heights. Our vision was on the purchased property and a new church building. The obstacles of the interest rate in the late 1970's and early 1980's and other delays slightly dimmed our vision. After three and one-half years at the school, we marched across John R to our new church on November 18, 1984.
Buildings have their high and low points. We are excited about new, well-done projects and struggle with breakdowns and maintenance. But God is not in the building itself. He is bigger than any building. Through His Holy Spirit, He works outside of the buildings and works inside of believers. We are reminded that "in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22, NIV).
Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:1-2a, NIV
Change is a great factor in the church. Change can and does at times create a feeling of instability. We go to church for stability, but, at the same time, we realize that change must occur to present Jesus to different generations and cultures.
With each Gospel challenge, our leaders, pastors, and people have changed programs and styles. Programs may change, but the message of eternal life through Jesus Christ must always remain unchanged. We are committed to this message to all generations, because it offers the hope that is so desperately needed.
All in all, God is bigger than all our changes. You see, without Him we are nothing. Without Him, our future will be history. With Him, we carry out the desires of His will.