Grand Rapids, MI, has a strong Dutch and Christian background, and this tradition carries into the modern day. However, Grand Rapids is becoming steadily more diverse, and the city’s religious institutions have grown to reflect that.
The earliest account of a religious institution in Grand Rapids is from 1822 and is a small Baptist mission that sought to convert Ottawa tribes in the Grand Rapids area. In fact, this Baptist mission, through various changes has become the Fountain Street Church of today, situated near Main.
In 1848, the Christian Reformed Church came to modern Holland, MI, from the Netherlands, rising out of Dutch Calvinism and a need for religious freedom. The modern headquarters of the Christian Reformed Church was eventually moved to Grand Rapids.
In 1882 Pope Leo XIII recognized the Diocese of Grand Rapids, and Catholic Churches rose up in the Grand Rapids area. These churches were unique in that they grew largely to serve immigrant populations in the city, such as St. Mary’s Catholic Church for the Germans, the Basilica of St. Adalbert for the Polish, and Sts. Peter and Paul for the Lithuanians.
Churches rising to meet ethnic groups is a tradition still alive and well in Grand Rapids. For example, Grace Evangelical for the Ethiopian/Etrurian populations and Our Lady of La-Veng for the Vietnamese. Black churches such as First Community African Methodist. Episcopal and Spanish-speaking churches like La Nueva Esperanza Iglesia dot the greater Grand Rapids area, and this small list is in no way reflective of the diversity of churches and religious institutions in the Grand Rapids area.
While it should come as no surprise that Grand Rapids has rich Christian and Catholic traditions, other religions are significant enough in Grand Rapids to support religious institutions.
Grand Rapids has both a temple for Reform Judaism, Temple Emmanuel, which was founded in 1857 as well as Conservative Judaism, Ahavas Israel, founded in 1892.
The At-Tawheed Islamic Center seeks to provide education and support for the area’s Muslim population, and even welcomes non-Muslim
Grand Rapids has the West Michigan Hindu Temple, founded in 2001, with strong ties to India.
The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center seeks to bring enlightenment to the Grand Rapids area with its focus on American
Pagans and people from other various nature-based faiths gather from all over Michigan at Pagan Pride Day, which meets annually at Richmond Park, just down the road from West Leonard.
Grand Rapids also is the headquarters for the Center for Inquiry in Michigan, which provides support for atheists and people who are non-religious.