Twenty years ago on March 19, 1998, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of Troy Christian Chapel, known then as Oak Park Christian Chapel. We sounded the trumpet with hundreds of members, current and past, as well as the honored presence of many friends. It was a time of rejoicing with a great feeling of accomplishment.
Another 20 years have passed, and it is time to sound the trumpet once again. As a believer in this fellowship for the past 65 years, I am proud to extend a warm and heartfelt congratulations to Troy Christian Chapel for this milestone of 70 years of existence. I definitely believe that longevity, whether age or existence, is a gift from God.
Through the years I have attended numerous church dedications, and one of the most used Scripture texts for the event was Psalm 127:1 (ESV): “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” God also instructed Moses to have the children of Israel build the tabernacle in the wilderness. He requested that a sanctuary be made for Him so He could dwell among them (Ex. 25:8). I believe our founding fathers utilized these commands as they endeavored to birth a community of faith pleasing to God 70 years ago.
Through the years, we have had classes on the history of our church and I have mentioned from time to time in sermons or Pastor’s Pen about our beginning, sometimes with mixed emotions, meaning many highs and many lows; yet God has led us thus far to the place we dwell in at this time.
Our church was birthed amidst a time of misguided leadership. Our fellowship, prior to 1948, was with a group who had succumbed to sectarian practices with their leaders lording over the flock in a legalistic, manipulative manner. The main problem with sectarianism is that it leads to judgmentalism, and that leads to sin.
Our founding church fathers pleaded for change to no avail, which finally led to a schism, making it necessary for us to move on and try and establish a new expression of faith elsewhere.
Our new church, which began as Oak Park Christian Chapel almost 70 years ago, had a humble beginning. The new body of believers began their worship at Clinton Elementary School in Oak Park, Michigan. We were the first Protestant Church in Oak Park.
On any given Sunday, Jeannine’s father would go to the school early and set up chairs for the service. I believe Jeannine was our first piano player, and she is still our #1 piano player 70 years later.
Our founding father, James Shallow (Janet Stirnemann’s father), was a godly man of great vision for the future of this church. He gave his all and I consider Pastor Shallow our John the Baptist, who paved the way for us through much stress even to the loss of his health. He passed away at the age of 45 just five years after our beginning.
I discovered a letter that Reverend Shallow wrote soon after the origin of the church. Though the words were said 70 years ago, they still have a ring of truth for our church today. He said, “This letter is being sent to every home affiliated with the Oak Park Church. Its purpose is a reminder of the all-important part you fill in laboring for the founding of a progressive, God-fearing and personal possessive house of worship. We are counting on you to continue to lend your effort in establishing a church that has looked into the perfect law of liberty, and has given every member a sense of spiritual liberty combined with Christian living and self-discipline.” I believe that vision has taken us through 70 years, whether calm or storm. God bless T.C.C.
Pastor Jake StirnemannFebruary 7, 2018