to the congregation

Easter Letter

April, 2021


Dear Christ Memorial Family,


Together we continue to celebrate that Easter message of living hope – Jesus is alive and active in our midst. The sun has been shining. Trees and flowers are in bloom (pray for the tulips!). Birds are singing. Creation is proclaiming glory to God, that new life prevails even over death.


The promise of the COVID-19 vaccine carries with it the holy inclination to meet back in person to worship with our friends and family. As leadership, we want to thank you for enduring this last year as we have sought to balance love of neighbor and community with freedom of expression and worship. We are not out of the woods yet, but we remain hopeful. As we see more and more people gathering, don’t forget we still have hundreds engaging with us in digital formats (our Easter experience was viewed by roughly 2,500 people!). We are so delighted to meet new people just about every week. Truly God is good!


A few more things to celebrate include:

  • Our giving remains strong and our spending responsible. Your generosity is both meeting our daily needs and helping us prepare for our future. For that we are profoundly grateful. Our fiscal year ends June 30, 2021, so you will certainly see another update then.

  • Our youth department is preparing to send over 125 students, family members, and volunteer leaders on mission trips this summer. Note: our Youth Banquet is being planned for the fall when we hope COVID-19 numbers are diminished.

  • Children’s ministry is seeing new kids regularly, and Kids Hope mentors are back meeting in-person with students at West Elementary!


Included in all these celebrations is one somewhat bittersweet. We are looking forward to honoring Gary Matthews in his retirement on June 13. Let us rejoice with Gary and Martha and be thankful for his faithful service to our church. Such a wonderful and talented shepherd-leader cannot be replaced, but by God’s grace we will find a suitable successor and continue our remarkable worship and music program.


And finally, we hope you are encouraged as you experience our vision series, “3 Years From Now.” Whatever our new normal entails, we believe the Holy Spirit will continue to Outfit the Church to Influence the World. Christ Memorial Church has always been a strong influence in the denomination, the community, and around the world. We are committed to continuing this legacy as God opens new doors, compels us to engage in new ways, and continues to transform lives (including our own). Our work with the Leader’s Journey is now in our hands to make it a reality. All of us have a part to play. Let us devote ourselves to prayer, humility, and conviction in the name of Jesus Christ.


In the words of Paul, “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” (Philippians 1:6, The Message)


Grace and peace,


Pastors Dave, Dann, Gary, and your Lead Elders.





*please note: the information in the letter below has been updated HERE.

Christ Memorial Church

September 20, 2020 COVID-19 – Facility Usage- Congregational Update


We at Christ Memorial Church deeply value our members. We value our position in the community and our relationship to others. We recognize that we play a vital role in the community, which is something we are honored to be able to say.  We are blessed to be a blessing to others, and it is in this spirit that we take great care to ensure the safety of our congregation and the community we impact.


As we look to the fall season of ministry, we want to communicate the following updates regarding facility usage beginning this Sunday, September 20.  Thank you for partnering with us to create a safe worship environment.



  • We will continue to utilize the reservation system and limit the sanctuary capacity for the immediate future. 

  • We have opened The Gathering Place with a reduced number of tables for Sunday worship.

  • We will no longer take temperatures at entrances. If you are sick, please stay home.

  • To address asymptomatic positive cases that may be present on a Sunday, our best defense is physical distancing and mask-wearing. Please help everyone maintain this by adjusting your seating when needed on a Sunday.


                Building Hours (for the public) Beginning on Sunday, September 20:

  • M,T,W,Th 7:30am-8:30pm

  • Friday & Saturday closed

  • Sunday 6:30am-7:30pm

Office Hours:   Beginning on Monday, September 21:

  • M,T,W,Th 9am-4pm

  • Friday & Saturday closed

  • Sunday – staff only


  • Food Policy:

    • No shared food.

      • The only exception is the middle school and after school program bag lunches where students are relying on food.

  • Group Sizes:

    • 10 and under for all groups

      • See large room exceptions below

  • Rooms: 

    • Large spaces will be capped at 25% occupancy.

      • Youth Center – 100 ppl (youth & children’s departments only)

      • The Ark – 50 ppl (youth & children’s departments only)

      • The Forest – 50 ppl (youth & children’s departments only)

      • Chapel – 75 ppl

      • Jerusalem (Room 167 in the Adult Wing) – 20 ppl

      • Sanctuary - 300 ppl

      • Jungle Playground -closed


  • Scheduling:

    • All activities need to be scheduled with the receptionist.   (616-796-3370)



Masks & 6’ physical distancing highly encouraged for all activities


Letters from

The Lead Elders

Annual Congregational Meeting Minutes 

Zoom Webinar Sunday, June 14, 2020, 5pm 


  1. Opening and Prayer:  David VanOpstall 

  2. Presentation of new officers, 

    • Thank you to retiring officers:  David VanOpstall 

    • Motion made; supported; approved 

  3. Budget Presentation:  Tom Smith 

    • Q & A:  Tom Smith, David VanOpstall, Jon Fegel 

    • Motion made; supported; approved 

  4.  Presentation of Call to David Van Opstall:  Stephen McCarthy 

    • Motion made; supported; approved 

  5. Explanation of voting:  David VanOpstall 

    • New officers 

    • Budget 

    • Call to David VanOpstall 

    • Motions made, supported, approved 

  6. Closing:  Dann Stouten 

*The full consistory subsequently approved the call to David VanOpstall.  We rejoice with him and our congregation!  

Video Link for the

June 14, 2020 congregational meeting


May 26, 2020


Dear Congregational Members / Friends,


We have received many comments and questions about our recent congregational update, and we thank you for being so engaged in this process during a challenging time in the life of our church and communities.


First of all, we are thankful for a very favorable congregational response to our decision to call Pastor David Van Opstall as our key leader. We are moving forward confidently with this recommendation, having sought and acquired the will of the congregation, and we will be finalizing this call with Classis.


Secondly, we would like to answer your questions about job definitions, the structure of the Christ Memorial staff, and to explain our thinking.


We believe God is guiding us into a new model of church leadership. For the past few decades our church has had a "lead pastor" who did the majority of the preaching, and who had overall responsibility for our staff, programming, congregational care, and outreach.  As we prayed, worked, and listened to our congregation, God has shown us a new way: shared leadership.


With this new Shared Leadership Model, there is no lead pastor. Instead, two (or possibly three) pastors work closely together to lead the church. This model is being used successfully in other churches, both locally and throughout the RCA denomination. We believe this model allows God to use the specific gifts of our leaders in a collaborative way. Instead of one lead pastor, there is shared responsibility.


Exact roles and responsibilities are still emerging, so we ask for your patience and for your willingness to be open to change. In the meantime, this is how we see it:

  • Pastor of Formation and Teaching - David VanOpstall. In this role, David will continue primary preaching responsibilities to help us move toward our vision: Think. Love. Serve. Live like Jesus.

In this redefined role, David will also work with our current staff to oversee the full scope of discipleship at CMC, including children, youth, and adults. In conjunction with this, he will oversee the Missional Living Team, including local engagement staff and deacons.

David and the CMC staff will focus both on thinking (discipleship) and serving (missional living). In this way the staff will be equipped to bring our vision and values into all of their interactions with each other, with our congregation, with our community, and with the world.


  • Pastor of Leadership – new position. The person we hire into this role will also share in preaching responsibilities at CMC, but the primary responsibilities will be strategic planning, operations, and leadership and ministry development. This initially will be a contracted position.  We have been aware of experienced RCA-ordained candidates for this position who are semi-retired pastors looking for ¾ time employment (approximately 30 hours per week).   After prayer and discussion with the leadership community, we will be extending a contract to Pastor Dann Stouten, who has preached recently at CMC.  Dann has had two significant, long-term pastorates: one in which he guided a church of 200 members into one with more than 1,000 members, and another where he grew the membership from approximately 400 to more than 2,000.  Dann has a proven track record in pastoral leadership as well as having served on the RCA staff over the last few years.

The human resources committee and David have worked closely together to select our Pastor of Leadership.  They feel it is essential that our pastors are suited in both gifts and personal style to work side-by-side, in order to jointly lead our congregation. In the future, if the need arises, we may add a third pastor in a leadership role.


All models of church leadership have their strengths and weaknesses. With a Lead Pastor Model, perhaps the biggest weakness was expecting too much from one person. We are aware that a Shared Leadership Model also has strengths and weaknesses. Its main strength is that it allows leaders to use their God-given gifts, but it does not ask one person to be all things to all people. If there is a weakness, it is that it requires an extremely high level of cooperation. Decisions must be made jointly. 


We ask for your openness, grace, and continued prayers as we work through these transitions. This is new for our leadership, new for our staff, and new for our congregation.


As we continue to move forward together as a congregation, we believe feedback is a valuable part of the communication process. We have created a feedback form that you can click on here. Feel free to leave comments or questions.  You may also request a personal phone call.


We look forward to the ministry God has for us together in this emerging future.


Lead Elders of Christ Memorial Church




Dear Christ Memorial Church,


On April 19th a lead elder retreat was held to discuss where we have been and how God has prepared us to move forward. About a year ago, we accepted the resignation of our lead pastor following a challenging season that included other resignations as well as the devastating news of Jay Lindell’s tumor diagnosis.


Around that same time we contracted the assistance of The Leader’s Journey consultants to help the elders and the congregation as a whole to get a better picture of the current reality facing Christ Memorial Church. After training a discernment team and conducting nearly 100 interviews of staff, leadership, and congregational members, the consultants returned to us with a report (Fall 2019).  In this report they indicated that we faced a new ministry climate, challenges with trust and communication, an uncertain missional identity, and disagreement regarding our preferred style of leadership. In order to address this current reality we affirmed Rev. David VanOpstall’s significance to the congregation, and his ability to lead the staff. This allowed us to take the time necessary to engage healthy dialogue within the church, which was done both with a pair of trainings in August and February, and a very well-attended congregational gathering in October. In addition, we hosted a pair of “stakeholders” listening sessions in December and January, as well as a “Canoeing the Mountains” leadership conference. Currently the consistory is contacting households and receiving feedback on how the church is coping with our present reality.


After nearly a year of prayer, discernment, and the sustaining of church ministry programming, we are sensing that God is leading us to take a couple of steps forward into our emerging future. The first step is to officially call Rev. David VanOpstall to a permanent lead position of Pastor of Formation and Teaching. In conjunction with this position, we are proposing a shared three-quarter time lead position which is Pastor of Leadership. This position will focus on strategic planning, leadership development, and care. With these two positions filled, we will be prepared to engage with the congregation and walk together into Christ Memorial’s God- ordained future. After  spending some time together to reform or reaffirm our mission, vision, and values, we are prayerfully confident that the Holy Spirit will once again unite us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with an ever-changing world.


We are certain that ministry will be different in the emerging future. Sunday morning worship will still be an exceptional experience of glorifying God. Discipleship of ourselves and others will remain a core identity of Christ Memorial. Missional engagement will be our prime expression of faithful living. While all these primary values hold true, we will also be called to humbly walk in new ways as we trust the Spirit’s guidance.


Our most pressing priorities now will be filling the position of Pastor of Leadership and working with our volunteers and parents to find our next youth director. As clarity emerges from our time of discernment with the congregation, and core values materialize, there will likely be another pastoral position to be filled in the future. However, for now, we are confident in the leadership structure we have outlined here, and believe it sets our church on the right footing to move forward.


We welcome your feedback, after prayerful consideration, to these proposed steps:  1) through

email to Executive Assistant Peggy Ankerman at peggya@christmemorial.org (your message will be passed along to the lead elders); 2) via phone call to Lead Elder and HR Representative Stephen McCarthy, Monday–Friday, 8am–noon at 513-289-5295.


Thank you all for your continued commitment to the ministry of God’s kingdom through Christ Memorial Church.


Grace and peace,


The Lead Elders at Christ Memorial Church

Letter of Response to the Middle Hour Survey Results

August 6. 2019 

 The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us.  We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity. 
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together 

To the Congregation of Christ Memorial Church, 


On July 19, the leadership of Christ Memorial sent out a survey seeking the heart of the congregation as it pertains to a middle hour of discipleship on a Sunday morning. The response was decisive and inspiring. We are a community who wants to learn to be disciples of Jesus together.  


Christ Memorial Church has long been a light in the community when it comes to offering classes, creating fellowship, and encouraging all ages to grow in their faith and understanding of God. The scriptures remind us again and again how our coming together and building unity are a work of the Holy Spirit. Let us fan that spirit into flame in this coming year! 


Beginning September 8, we will be implementing this middle hour on Sunday mornings (fall programming begins September 15). In order to accommodate a sufficient time of discipleship without hurrying from one space to the next, we will be starting our first service at 8:45am and our second service at 11:00am. This will encourage classes and groups to meet between 10:00-10:55 and invite our church to come together. 


Finally, we will continue to seek feedback as these new rhythms guide our time together. Nothing is etched in stone, but we want to be faithful to the movement of the Spirit in our midst. We are hearing from parents that they want their kids to know what big church worship is like. We hear from others how much this hour meant to them as teenagers who invited friends to experience Christ Memorial with them. We hear from volunteers who want to be involved but don’t want to miss the service that ministers best to them. 


We are excited for the new year at Christ Memorial and we are so looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us! 


Grace and peace, 




The Lead Elders of Christ Memorial Church 

Letter of Financial Appreciation

August 5, 2019 


To the Congregation of Christ Memorial Church, 

We would like to share some wonderful news!  As you know, this past year proved to be a challenge from a financial point of view. Over the past three months we did our best to communicate where we were so that as a faith community, we could prayerfully bear this burden together.  

God has proven faithful, you have proven faithful, and the staff at Christ Memorial Church has proven faithful as well.  We are happy to report that at year-end we show a slight surplus when comparing income to expenses. This was accomplished in part thanks to your generosity and your willingness to rise to meet a challenge. In addition, a significant part of this was due to the staff exercising prudent stewardship of your gifts and reducing non-essential expenses. For both of these things we express our deepest gratitude and look forward to a year of partnering together again to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our world. 

To honor full transparency, we also want to share that because there was a capital expenditure incurred last year that we had to write off at the end of the fiscal year, we closed 2018/19 roughly $60,000 shy of breaking even. Part of this capital expenditure was a technology upgrade proposal that we are currently implementing.  

Thank you again for your faithfulness to Christ Memorial Church. We move into this next fiscal and program year with expectation, hope, and diligence, to continue becoming those who think, love, serve, and live like Jesus. Hear these words from Paul as a blessing for our future: 

May your love abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God. Phil. 1:9-11 

In Christ, 


The Lead Elders of Christ Memorial Church