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.

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.

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.

A Journey into the Wilderness

“The wilderness of the Bible is a liminal space – an in-between place where ordinary life is suspended, identity shifts and the new possibilities emerge. Through the experiences of the Israelites in exile, we learn that while the biblical wilderness is a place of danger, temptation and chaos, it is also a place for solitude, nourishment and revelation from God.”
-Jenny Phillips, Jesus and Wilderness
We know the wilderness to be a place that is harsh yet stunning, barren yet beautiful. It is an in-between place, to be sure. And when we willingly enter its vastness, there are things we discover about ourselves, our world and our God. Perhaps that’s why the wilderness shows up time and time again in the biblical story. From Abraham to David to Ruth, God’s people are led into those places where they must wrestle with who they are and who they trust.
This Lent we follow Jesus into the wilderness. Just as he was tempted to live out of his false self, just as he was forced to wrestle with the deep things of his heart, our own 40 day journey invites us the same opportunity.
As we make this journey, may we hear God’s voice. May we be find refreshment. And may we learn that even in the untamed, vast places of life, God is with us.

Christmas Eve at The Branch

Christmas Eve is one of our most anticipated gatherings and we’d love for you and your loved ones to join us. The Branch is a place where everyone is welcome.

Our time together on the 24th will include the singing of carols, a performance by our choir (and drum circle!), a dramatic reading of Christ’s birth story and the lighting of candles.

The service is kid-friendly (in fact, many kids will be leading and participating in various aspects of worship). That said, we are providing childcare for the littlest ones (birth to four years old).

The service starts at 9:30 am (yes, in the morning). We hope to see you then!

Practicing Spiritual Practices

Transformation doesn’t come from effort alone. We can’t just hope or wish or even try really hard. Instead, we have to train ourselves into a new way of being. We have to practice.

To that end, Join us any Wednesday morning from 8-8:45am at the Garfield Park Nature Center (see map below, entrance is on Jefferson) To begin, we head into different parts of the Nature Center to practice prayer and contemplation on our own. We then gather together after a set amount of time to share any reflections. Any one is welcome any week.

Can’t make it? Below is a growing list of resources we’re using . You can engage with these at anytime, anywhere it works for you. 

  • Download and use the Centering Prayer app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/centering-prayer/id844280857?mt=8). We use this most Wednesday mornings.
  • Pick up a copy of Seeking God’s Face

Want more info? Email chris@thebranchonline.org


Fall at the Branch

The weather has turned cooler. The more relaxed pace of summer seems to be over. Here at The Branch, things are no different. Take a look at some of the things happening this Fall. Join us for one or join us for all. We’d love to have you!

Fall Kick-off Party
When: Saturday, Sept. 16 @ 3pm–?
Where: Oeverman and DeBlaay yard – 2020 and 2030 Madison Ave. SE
What to bring: Sign up here for food, lawn chair, any yard games you love, and blankets/pillows for the outdoor movie
Who: Everyone from the youngest member of your family to the oldest is invited.
Why: For fun! And to connect with each other as the fall season begins

BranchStudents Kick-off
When: Sunday, Sept. 17 @ 5:30
Where: Workman’s home
What to bring: any side dish to share
Who: 5th graders and older, along with their parents are invited to this first meeting of BranchStudents. (Please make other arrangements for younger siblings.)
Why: To learn more about what BranchStudents is all about

Fall Partner Gathering
When: Sunday, Sept. 24 @ 3pm
Where: Seymour Church in Alger Heights
What to bring: nothing
Who: All partners (members) and those who call the Branch home, even if not officially affiliated
Why: To discuss and reflect on the vision God has laid before us; to discern what that means for us corporately and individually
Childcare is provided. Please RSVP here.

Vision Series: Reconciled

Reconciliation finds its roots in the Latin meaning to bring back together what has been separated; to make good again. The Scriptures tell us that reconciliation is exactly what God is up to in the world, and we are called to join in that work.

The Branch is a church committed to reconciliation that is both personal, relational and moves us towards greater justice in the world.  Join us each week as we not only consider where we are headed as a church, but what God may be inviting each of us to do in the months ahead.

9/10 – reconciled: me

9/17 – reconciled: you

9/24 – reconciled: us

Sabbatical Return Party

Let’s celebrate the DeBlaay family returning from sabbatical! We will eat together on the lawn of the Branch on JUNE 11 after church. Please sign up to bring something to share.


Easter at the Branch

How do we celebrate Easter at the Branch (and, for some, the end of a fast)?

On Good Friday, we come together to enter into a memorial of the final hours before Jesus crucifixion. The hour long service starts at 7pm and childcare will be provided for toddler and nursery age kids. Older kids may join us for the service. We hope you and your family will join us for this time of worship.

To celebrate the subsequent resurrection on Easter morning, get here a little early to enjoy a special Easter tailgate with us. Bring your favorite breakfast food to share, we’ll make the coffee. It all starts at 8:30am and we look forward to seeing you there.


Racial Reconciliation Training

This spring, we are offering free training aimed at helping address systemic and individual racism and bias. Our goal is “to see and learn about racism in a new and redemptive way, to gain insights into systemic racism through the eyes of faith and Scripture, to see more of the connections between history and contemporary race relations, and to identify organizing opportunities to eliminate racism, both causes and effects, within the body of believers and throughout the world.” Please join us as we pursue reconciliation in this part of the world we call home.

April 22 – Noon to 6pm

April 26 and May 3, 6-8pm*

*While we’d love to have you at all three pieces of the training, you can attend only Saturday if your schedule requires.

To register, simply check our our Facebook event and click “Tickets Available.” We look forward to your presence in our community and welcoming you into the family of the Branch!

Church on the Road

Join us this Sunday (2/26) at 10am as we head to RiverTree to join them in worship and have lunch together. RiverTree is located at 5625 Burlingame Ave.

KIDS: Nursery (0-2) begin the morning in nursery.  Kids 3 years old and up start in worship and then are dismissed 15-20 minutes in.  Parents will find the RiverKids sign in table to their left in the gym.

TEENS: all middle and high schoolers are encouraged to participate in youth group.  These students are released at the same time as the younger kids.

LUNCH: bring a dish to pass!  place settings and drinks will be provided

Unity, Liberty, Charity: Week 3

Love of God and neighbor fulfills all of God’s Law — it is the thing on which everything else hangs.  Chris discusses what this means for our relationships with each other and with the world.


New Year’s Breakfast

Welcome the New Year with us as we share breakfast before worship. Come anytime after 8:30am.

Sure, it’s a bit early, but we’re keeping things low-key and simple.

Click here to sign up for something to bring.


Christmas Eve Service

Our Christmas Eve Service will be held from 5-6pm on Saturday, December 24th. (Please note that we will NOT be worshipping on Christmas morning.) We are hoping to provide childcare for children 4 and under so stay tuned for more information on that. If not, we’re hoping the little ones will enjoy the service with you (and allow you to enjoy it, too). If you’d like to be involved, please see below.

We believe very strongly here at The Branch in utilizing multiple voices and leaders in worship. We’re kicking that up a notch for our Christmas Eve Worship service. There will be creative opportunities for both adults and kids (preschool age and up) to participate through art, dance, drum circle, choir or readings. Rehearsals will be the next two Sundays (11th & 18th) from 11 – noon. Email Teresa if you haven’t signed up yet.

Autumn at the Branch

It’s hard to believe that Autumn is near, isn’t it? Kids are going to be starting school, the air around us will be cool and we’ll either embrace or avoid pumpkin flavored everything. We have big plans at the Branch for this Autumn and we hope you’ll be able to join us for a lot of it, all if you can. Our focus, as always, is getting more connected to our Branch family, our extended communities and to God.

So, what’s happening?


BranchStudents Kick-off!

Joins us September 18 for the BranchStudents kick-off. BranchStudents is for those in 5th grade and up, and this kickoff week we want parents to come too! (sorry, no siblings). Updates and details are on the BranchStudents Facebook page. You can RSVP there.

Rice & Beans

The week of September 19-23 we will be inviting everyone to eat rice & beans for dinner (or use only items in your pantry, or pick another way to lower your eating costs for the week — be creative!).  The point is to spend less on food, make a sacrifice by changing your normal routine and preferences, and then give whatever you saved on food as a gift to Frontline Recovery. Frontline Recovery is a southeast Grand Rapids nonprofit devoted to working with those who struggle with substance addiction.  They are a light and we are excited to partner with them this fall.

All Church Retreat

September 24 & 25 is the All Church Retreat, starting at 1:00 pm on Saturday. It will be held at the DeBlaay-Oeverman homes (2020 and 2030 Madison). This event is completely free of charge!

Here’s a rough timeline of events (emphasis on ‘rough’…it’s a flexible time together and we may move things around as needed). Please sign up today by emailing “I’m/we’re in!” to admin@thebranchonline.org.


  • 1-2pm Kick-Off and Connect
  • 2-5pm Games and Serve (we’ll have some planned activities, including a way to serve others half way around the world)
  • 5-6pm Connect
  • 6-7:30pm Dinner
  • 7:30-?pm Games and Smores
  • You are welcome (dare we say encouraged!) to set up your own tent and join us for a camp out Saturday night or you can head home, sleep in your own bed and join us again in the morning. 🙂


  • 7:45-8:00am  Time of prayer in park
  • 8-9am Breakfast and Clean Up
  • 9:15am – Worship at the Branch building

Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast will be a planned potluck – everyone bringing something specific to contribute.  We’ll have sign ups for food the week before once we have numbers.

Get Connected Lunches

September 25th (and the last Sunday of every month going forward): If you’re new to the Branch or newish and looking to get more connected, we’d love to have you join us for lunch (our treat). We’ll head to a local restaurant and take some time to listen to your story and share the story of the Branch. Kids are welcome.

Beer & Hymns

The fourth Tuesday of every month we sing hymns and drink beer (or your chosen beverage) at the Last Chance Tavern & Grill on Burton in Grand Rapids. If you have yet to make it to one of these events, we hope that you’ll come soon and add your voice to the chorus (and the verses, too). Follow us on Facebook!


Small Groups

Starting the week of October 9th and going for 6 weeks, we will be having another round of small groups to follow along with our sermon series. More details and sign-up sheets to come!

Marriage Retreat

The weekend of October 28 & 29 Drew & Hanna Brennan will be leading a Marriage Retreat for Branch couples. The weekend will start on Friday (6-8:30pm) with dinner and continue on Saturday (9-2pm).  Sign ups will begin the week of September 11. We’d love to have you and your spouse (or spouse-to-be) attend this empowering weekend.

Thanks for reading! We hope we made it onto your calendars for Autumn 2016!

Worshipping Together! — 11am!

This Sunday, May 22nd the Branch church and Comunidad Cristiana de Grand Rapids (CCGR) will be worshipping together at 11 am (Branch-ers, you get to sleep in a little!). Please join us to celebrate our partnership with our CCGR family! We can’t wait to see you!

(we will have all Branchkids rooms up and running this Sunday)

New Stewards & DeBlaay Sabbatical


This Sunday we’ll end worship a bit early to give us time to vote on the two Steward nominations to fill Jeff VerKaik’s and Carrie Elzinga’s spots.  Becky DeGraaf has been nominated for Steward of Resources and Mike DeBlaay for Steward of Care.  Bios of each are below.

If you cannot be at the Branch on Sunday, you can vote via email.  Please email admin@thebranchonline.org with ‘yes’ (meaning you affirm both Becky and Mike for these roles) or ‘no’ (meaning you do not affirm both Becky and Mike for these roles).  You can also send any comments you have.

One final note: during this post-worship meeting, we will also be sharing some dreams around a plan for a 2017 sabbatical for Chris.  If staying after worship doesn’t work, you can come before worship (9am) to hear us share the same information.  We’ll do our best to record the conversation as well, or at the very least, put together an FAQ.

Looking forward to seeing you soon-

The Stewards


Becky DeGraaf

Becky was born here in Grand Rapids and grew up in Byron Center. She graduated from South Christian and Grand Valley with a degree in Art & Design. Nik and Becky have been married for nine years next month and have three children: Lily, 14, Ezra, 8, and Imogen, 3.  Becky grew up in the church and has known God’s presence throughout her life, but in recent years she has felt God strengthening her faith. Through life’s challenges, she has increasingly seen and experienced God’s grace and provision.
The DeGraafs have been at the Branch for eight years, and during that time the Branch has become home.  Together they’ve invested their gifts and passions to help the Branch move forward.  Becky has specifically leveraged her passions for children and creative expression to help provide leadership in BranchKids and CREATE.

Becky also brings the skills in administration and critical thinking.  We have seen her follow through on her commitments and lead with a servant’s heart.  We believe she will be a great addition to the Stewards of Resources.

Mike DeBlaay

Mike has been married to Janelle for 5 years and they have two kids, Lucy and Teddy. He grew up in the Middleville/Freeport area and could often be found roaming around their 20-acre property with his three brothers. Mike currently works at Blodgett Hospital for Spectrum Health in their Information Technology department. He enjoys spending his free time with his family and dabbling in a few hobbies: cycling, home brewing and pretending to be a professional photographer.

Mike and Janelle have been at the Branch for about 8 years and have a desire for building a stronger community around them. He is active in the Alger Heights Collaborative, working with other churches and businesses in the neighborhood towards a focused and coordinated community development effort in the surrounding area. Mike is passionate about the calling to serve others that he feels in his life.

Mike has shown a generous heart, making significant investments in the people and mission of the Branch, as well as those outside of the Branch. We believe he will be a great addition to the Stewards of Care.

Spring/Summer Community Service Opportunities

Alger Heights Canvassing

Neighborhood Listening Opportunity – Jenn Reidsma, Community Coordinator, is currently looking for church members to help with community canvassing on Saturday, May 14 from approximately 9:30-noon. Volunteers will be asked to knock on doors and conduct short interviews. Training will be provided in the evening before the canvassing and there will be a debriefing meeting after the canvassing is complete. The approximate time commitment will be 5 hours between training, canvassing and debriefing. To sign up contact Jenn Reidsma at jenn@tabernaclecommunity.org or 988-9268 ext 205.

Garfield Park Neighborhood Association Community Garden

Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association is continuing to work with Community Partners on a Community Garden at 1714 Madison Ave SE. Our hopes are to contribute to community transformation, neighborhood revitalization, and ecological restoration of the area through the active participation of neighborhood Gardeners.

If you are interested in gardening and providing healthy food for your family, GPNA is excited to offer Community Gardening in the Garfield Park neighborhood.

We encourage anyone interested in gardening to join us for the 2016 growing season (Mid-April through Mid-October). You do not have to live in the Garfield Park Neighborhood to Participate.

The Community Garden includes two levels of involvement. We have 5’ by 12’ plots available for rent for Garden Members. Plot use fee is $35 (with a $10 refund at the end of the season). We also have garden space dedicated to Community Space Gardeners where you can come help in the garden during Community Space Open Hours in exchange for garden produce. The Community Space Garden could provide a grocery trips worth of seasonal vegetables a week when harvest begins.


The week of June 20-24, 2016 we will hold our 6th CREATE camp — a week long arts camp that matches students with skilled teachers who will engage their imaginations and dirty their hands.

We are passionate about helping kids bring life to the world around them through their creations. In past years we have had hundreds of kids, ages K-8th grade join us.

It is an amazing week in which we hope to see child after child discover their unique creativity and find the confidence to share it with others!

To sign up to volunteer: http://vols.pt/53dy7R

Registration for students begins May 1st.

If you’d like to learn more, be added to our email list, or become one of our sponsors, email us at info@thebranchonline.org

Don’t forget to follow our journey on Facebook.

We can’t wait for June!

Race and Hope

We are located in a part of the city where the racial and ethnic divides are clear.  But so is the call to embody God’s reconciling and uniting love.  In this intersection, a number of people at the Branch have been hearing God call them to act — to take steps that would create in them the capacity to love more fully and act more justly.  

As we’ve been hearing this call, we’ve been invited to join others from Hope Reformed Church (Burton and Kzoo Ave.) throughout 2016.  Hope is beginning to lay the groundwork for starting a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural church service in 2017.  This groundwork will be laid by (1) sharing regular meals with those in the community who want to further racial reconciliation and (2) growing in character and capacity through training.  

Anyone at the Branch with a desire to participate is encouraged.  Here’s an upcoming calendar.  If you’re thinking of attending, drop chris@thebranchonline.org a note.

February 3 & 17 Building Belonging Potluck.  These potlucks are spaces to build relationships and build cultural awareness.  Bring something to pass.
February 13 – Jazz Concert; an event open to the public at which the vision of this service will be shared
March 2 & 16Building Belonging Potlucks
March 5 – Cultural Agility Training; 4 hours with the Woodrick Diversity Learning Center
March 12 – Ebony Road Players Presents, “Having Our Say.”  This is a play, open to the public.  The vision will be shared.