Life is busy. The demands seem endless. So much is clamoring for our attention. Which means it is all too easy to lose focus of the things we say matter.

This is true for individuals and for groups — including churches. That’s why we’re taking four Sundays to consider again the things we’ve said are important to us:

Grow: becoming like Christ in everything

Embrace: opening our arms to all people, always.

Shape: forming the next generation so that they are equipped to shape our future

Participate: join in God’s renewing work in the world


a·tone·ment: the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ.

We all know the image of the cross. It’s the symbol most associated with Christianity because Christ’s death is fundamental to Christianity.

And yet, what exactly does Christ’s death mean? What precisely ‘happened’ in his sacrifice? Believe it or not, different Christians would answer those questions differently.

Was Christ’s death a victory over evil? Or was it the way that God’s wrath was satisfied? Or was his death a model for how we are meant to live? Or something else entirely?

Now this may all sound well and good, but we might wonder, “What difference does it make? Does it matter how one views Jesus’ death?” We believe it does. From the songs we sing, to the way we talk about and understand God, to how we see our place in the world — all of the Christian life is shaped by our understanding of the cross.

So join us as we explore the mystery and meaning of the Christ’s death and let’s find together what it might mean for our lives.

July 28: Christus Victor Theory
August 4: Penal Substitionary Theory
August 11: Scapegoat Mechanism Theory

Worship on July 7

Throughout the year, we worship with our sisters and brothers from Communidad Cristiana de Grand Rapids — and this Sunday (7/7) is one of those weeks! Join us at a different time — 11Am to noon — and stay after for drinks and snacks.

This is My Story

“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

This promise — both for us and all of creation — can be hard to believe. It’s easy to only see the brokenness of our world. It’s tempting to only have eyes for all that is wrong. Plus, life is simply busy. Crazy. Full.

For all of those reasons we often lose sight of the reality of this promise. We don’t see the ways in which God is at work in our own story.

Each week in this series we’ll hear the story of someone at the Branch and how God is at work in their life. Their stories will not only give us perspective on our own, but in turn help shape how we live.

June 2: Dave & Trina and Brookside
June 9: Sarah and Ghana
June 16: Heather and Heartside
June 23: Jason and the Global Church
June 30: CREATE
July 7: CCGR & The Branch
July 14: Brian and Reimagining Faith
July 21: Bethany and Pain & Suffering
August 18: Racism

Being Good Neighbors this Summer

The Church is not a building. The Church is you and me. The work of the Church (you and me) is to bring God’s Kingdom more fully present to the places we live, play, work and worship. And so, we believe strongly in the importance of being good neighbors. Sometimes we do that together (corporately) and sometimes we do that individually. Here are a few ways that you can join in that mission this summer.

Get to Know Your Neighbor Challenge
We are challenging every person at The Branch to get to know a new neighbor, or get to know a neighbor better, by the end of June. Walk across the street as you see someone working on their yard and offer to help. Invite a neighbor over for a BBQ. Take a walk in your neighborhood and look for ways to connect. Or, throw a block party! Don’t know how? We’ve got you covered! Click here for a helpful resource.

Brookside Beautification Day
Join us on Saturday, June 1st from 9am-noon, as we help clean up and make improvements to the Brookside Elementary playground and park area! Then, celebrate a job well done with a meal together. Bring the whole family! This is a great opportunity for us to help our local elementary school and to get to know some Brookside families. Email to RSVP or with any questions.

Welcome New Neighbors
Do you ever see a moving truck in your neighborhood and wonder if you should go say hi? Do you wonder what to say? We’re putting together a group of people willing to welcome new people to their neighborhood. Bring a plate of cookies, or simply say hello and offer some a list of your favorite places in the neighborhood. Sign up here to join this group of people. We’ll get you a list of houses near you that have sold each month so you can keep your eye out for that truck!

StoryTime in the Park
Every Tuesday evening in the summer, Garfield Park hosts a free books and ice cream event. We are bringing a team to volunteer for this event on June 11, 6:30-8:30. Jobs will range from setting up to helping people register to reading a book to a group of kids. We need 10 people (13+ years old) to help. Sign up here.

Holy Week

Join us this week as we retrace the final days of Jesus’ life, and in doing so, find purpose and courage for our days ahead.

Maundy Thursday: 6-7pm We’ll share a variation of a Seder/Passover meal — the same meal that Jesus would have shared with his disciples at the Last Supper. Kids are encouraged to join us.

Good Friday: 7-8pm We’ll retrace Jesus’ final hours through readings, prayer and music. This is always one of our more meaningful gatherings each year – we hope you’ll be able to join us. Again: kids are welcome.

Easter Tailgate: 8:30am Nothing signals celebration like a good tailgate. We’ll have some food ready and waiting at 8:30, and we’d be grateful if you brought something to pass for breakfast. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the party will move inside.

The Good and Beautiful Life

Lent. A six week period that ushers us towards Easter. A time of reflection and surrender. A gift.

This year, we’ll use James Bryan Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful Life to frame our conversation on Sundays. AND…we invite you to join with others for the six weeks of Lent in one of these three ways:

  1. Grab a book and a few friends. Invite some neighbors, co-workers, or other Branch folks to meet in your home or at a coffee shop for the six weeks to discuss a chapter from Smith’s book (a schedule is below). Questions for each chapter are in the back. All you have to do is decide what ones you’ll use, and invite.
  2. Join us on Thursdays for a meal and discussion. Every week from 5:45-7:15 one of our Missional Communities meets. During Lent, they’ll devote time each week to discussing the book. Email if interested.
  3. Join us on a video conference Wed. nights from 8:30-9:30pm. Teresa will host a conversation on that week’s chapter. Video conference is something new we’re trying — but we think it could be a way to connect in the midst of a busy week. We’ll hope you give it a try. Just click this link at 8:25 on Wednesdays!

Here’s the schedule for Lent:

  • March 10-16 – Chapters 1 and 2
  • March 17-23 – Chapter 3
  • March 24-30 – Chapter 4
  • March 31-April 6 – Chapter 10 (please note the change)
  • April 7-13 – Chapter 6
  • April 14-20: Chapter 7

Our Hopes for the Future

Hope is the fuel that propels us into the future.

That may seem a bit cliche, or perhaps overstated, but we all know the darkness that settles in when hope is gone.

For the next three weeks we will turn our attention to what is propelling us into the future. We’ll consider what unique role we believe God is asking us to play in helping to renew the world.

Our conversation will take place not only on Sunday mornings, but also on Sunday, March 10th, from 4-5:30pm at the Branch. This afternoon dialogue will make space for further feedback and be the beginning of concrete steps we (and you) can take to help us move towards the future we believe is possible.

If you want to get a sense of the overarching framework for this conversation, we’d love for you to give this a read.

We hope to see you soon.


Current Series – January 6-February 10

We all love something.

And whatever we love, we will pursue (i.e. worship).

Now, here’s the thing. We probably all know what we should love. But is knowing enough? (I may know that I should love foods low in fat, but…). Does just having the right information actually lead us to pursuing the right thing?

As we begin a new year we invite you to join us as we consider how to recalibrate our heart’s desires towards what really matters — to those things that are primary — to true north.

What Do You Want? (1.6.19)

The Journey of Advent

The stories leading up to and immediately after Jesus’ birth involve a lot of coming and going. Relatives make the trek to share joy about their shocking pregnancies. About-to-be parents travel to ancestral homes and then flee as refugees. Unexpected visitors arrive from a unknown land.
In the midst of all of these journeys we make one of our own. Yes, Advent involves retracing our steps through familiar stories and images, but it also holds the possibility of discovering new things. Things about ourselves, the world, even the about the Christ who we might be tempted to think we know all too well.
Join us as we embark on a journey through the stories that lead to the one story that shifted the course of history.

December 2 – Mary to Elizabeth

December 9 – Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem

December 16 – Angels to Shepherds

December 23 – Shepherds to Bethlehem
Christmas Eve – The Word to Us
December 30 – The family to Egypt

The Parables of Jesus

Many of the parables of Jesus are well known, even making their way into popular culture. We have “Good Samaritan” laws, and Hallmark continues to turn out stories about a “prodigal” son or daughter who’s finally come home (or so I’ve heard). But as is often the way with Jesus, there is more to explore than we first expected. In other words, these parables are full of surprises. They pack a punch, somehow reaching across the centuries to still challenge us today.
Join us as we open ourselves up to exploring Jesus’ message for us today.
The Parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin & Lost Son (10.21.18)
       Luke 15

Renew: Who are you becoming?

The dominant theme of the Scriptures is one of renewal; of a God determined to create and recreate a world in which peace, justice, beauty and love reign. And our mission as a church is to be a community that is joined with God in that restoration.

And yet, renewal can feel elusive. Brokenness often seems to reign. How do we as individuals step into God’s renewal? And how might our transformed lives be a part of the world’s transformation? What is God’s vision for us? Just who are we supposed to become?

For six weeks we’ll consider these questions, and perhaps be surprised by the answer. For God’s vision is both terrifying and deeply compelling. It is both surprising and exactly what we hope for. Join us.

Series Introduction (9.9.18)

I am becoming a…

…shockingly welcoming host (9.16.18)

…servant in my place(s) (9.23.18)

…generous and genuine friend (9.30.18)

…dreamer and risk taker (10.7.18)

…wise navigator (10.14.18)

Worship with Communidad Cristiana (CCGR)

A few times a year — including this Sunday, September 2 — we join with our brothers and sisters at Communidad Cristiana de Grand Rapids (CCGR). These times of worship have become an incredible blessing – giving us a small glimpse into the larger Kingdom of God. We hope you can join us.

The service will be bilingual with music, prayer, and speaking in both Spanish and English.

Kids will join us in worship for the morning.

Forgotten Stories: Philip (7.29.18)

History offers us a number of heroes. The Bible is no different. Characters like Moses, Ruth and Paul dominate the skyline, and for good reason. Their lives (both the good and bad) are instructive. Through them we see how God interacts with us. But most of the characters in the Bible, and most of the people in the world, are not giant-sized heroes. Most are ordinary people who in their daily lives and choices show us what faith looks like lived out.

Their stories often fly under the radar. Some are even forgotten. Yet, their example is no less significant.

For the remainder of the summer, join us as we look at a number of Forgotten Stories and discover what they teach us about God, our world and our lives. For this first week, we’ll revisit the story of Philip.

Current Series: Forgotten Stories

History offers us a number of heroes. The Bible is no different. Characters like Moses, Ruth and Paul dominate the skyline, and for good reason. Their lives (both the good and bad) are instructive. Through them we see how God interacts with us. But most of the characters in the Bible, and most of the people in the world, are not giant-sized heroes. Most are ordinary people who in their daily lives and choices show us what faith looks like lived out.

Their stories often fly under the radar. Some are even forgotten. Yet, their example is no less significant.

For the remainder of the summer, join us as we look at a number of Forgotten Stories and discover what they teach us about God, our world and our lives.

The Psalms: The Whole Earth is Full of Your Glory (7.8.18)

Psalm 104 and Psalm 8 remind of that God’s glory can be seen in all of creation. We are reflections of God’s glory, a picture of God’s creativity!

Summer at The Branch

Summer. There’s no better time to put your feet up and enjoy time with friends, new and old. Join us as we connect over good food and conversation at some pretty amazing places. Bring a friend. Everyone’s invited.

Every Tuesday, 6:30p: StoryTime in the Park
Join us for FREE BOOKS for all children 15 years old and younger and FREE ICE CREAM for all family members on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Storytime in the Park in located at 334 Burton St SE at Garfield Park. Children can also listen to captivating read alouds from 7:15-7:45 p.m.

Every Tuesday: 8p: Mountain Biking and Brass Ring
Meet in the parking lot of Brass Ring in Alger Heights at 8pm for an hour of mountain biking on local trails. Afterwards, join us for a drink at the Brass Ring.

June 15-17: Camping @ Fort Custer
Join us for a weekend of camping! We had a great time at Fort Custer last year, so we’re going back! They have mountain biking, swimming, fishing, etc. We’ll share the responsibilities of cooking breakfast and dinner. Lunch will be on your own.

June 22, 6:30p: CREATE Gallery Night!
Whether you’ve volunteered at or sent kids to CREATE or had nothing to do with it at all, come celebrate creativity at our Gallery Night! The art will be on display as well as 2 performances this year. There will also be a silent auction that benefits scholarships for next year’s CREATE. Oh, and there will be ice cream.

July 1: an Afternoon at the Beach
Join us at Painted Sky as Kevin & Mindy Freng host a BBQ at their cottage, which is conveniently located 200 yards from Buchanan Beach on Lake Michigan. We’ll have lunch together then enjoy an afternoon at the beach.

July 15: Pool Party
Nate and Liz Winkelman have kindly volunteered to host an afternoon of food and fun in the pool at their home.

August 24: End of Summer BBQ
To top off the summer fun, Jason & Mindy Law have invited us to their house for a Friday night bbq.

Check out our Facebook page to RSVP for camping or any of our summer bbq’s. For the other events, just show up! We’d love to see you.

Inhabit: Stories (6.3.18)

To wrap up our Inhabit series, we invited 2 couples to share stories about life in their neighborhoods, how they’ve built relationships, and how they’ve influenced the flavor of their neighborhood.

Recycling Needed!!!

We need your recycling! Two of the classes at CREATE will take your garbage and turn them into priceless masterpieces. Some call it upcycling, we call it art. Here’s the list of specific things that our two classes need:

  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Plastic bottle caps (all sizes)
  • Metal jar lids of all sizes (like from salsa or jam jars)
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Number junk (any and all things that have numbers 1-12)
  • Cassette tapes
  • Old toothbrushes (we’ll bleach them before letting kids touch them!)
  • Clean milk jugs
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Shallow boxes & lids
  • Paint of any color

You can bring any of these items on Sunday mornings by June 17, or email to make other arrangements. Thank you!!!