Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church
Friday, December 15, 2017

Church History

 
     

Grosse Ile is an island located at the mouth of the Detroit River at Lake Erie in southeastern Michigan. The Township of Grosse Ile is 9.6 square miles, all surrounded by the Detroit River, which now encompasses the only International Wildlife Refuge in existence.  The township is considered to be the safest community in Michigan, due in part to its uniqueness as an island community, surrounded by water, with only two bridges connecting it to the mainland.  Grosse Ile is very scenic and offers residents numerous opportunities for recreation.  Residents of the community typically enjoy boating, golf, and other outdoor activities while being close to cultural opportunities in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Windsor, Canada.  Most residents work off-island and return to the quiet community in the evenings and weekends.

Grosse Ile is known for excellent schools, with a very high percentage of students going on to higher education. Facilities include two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. In 2001, Grosse Ile was ranked the highest out of 88 school districts in the Metropolitan Detroit area by the Detroit News, and continues this tradition of excellence.

Grosse Ile is a community of about 10,371 residents.  Many seek to balance environmental conservation, historic preservation, small town suburban living, and new development in a manner that makes it a very desirable place to live.  Money magazine named Grosse Ile one of the "Top 100 Best Places to Live" in 2009.

The Grosse Ile Chapel was planted by Fort Street Presbyterian Church of Detroit. On January 6, 1957, Wendling Hastings, D.D., Associate Pastor of Fort Street Presbyterian Church, conducted the first service with 64 people attending in the Grosse Ile High School gymnasium.

On July 17, 1957, Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church was chartered with 114 members.  Dr. Hastings was installed as the first minister. Initially, the church continued to meet in the school gymnasium.  Church school was organized and groups for women and youth were developed.  After a building fund drive in 1958, a six and one-half acre parcel of land at the corner of Horsemill Road and Parke Lane was purchased.  Dr. Hastings worked hard to begin the church building and give God the highest glory.  Architect A. Hensel Fink was brought in from Philadelphia.  The Sanctuary glass was brought in from Virginia.  The bricks were brought in from outside of the state for its special color.  The corner stone of the church was laid on June 19, 1960.  Formal dedication of the church, which included the sanctuary, cloister, sacristy, narthex, office, pastor's study, kitchen, nursery and fellowship hall, was held on November 12, 1961.  In 1964, the Casavant Freres pipe organ was custom designed and installed for the Sanctuary, along with the rosewood cross with inlaid brass.  The two-story educational addition to the church was dedicated on September 24, 1967, and included a second pastor's study, library, nursery, two more fellowship rooms, kitchenettes and eleven classrooms. 
 
Following the illness and resignation of Dr. Hastings, Rev. Richard Milford was installed on June 2, 1963 to lead the congregation.  In 1964 the first Director of Music was hired after the purchase of the Casavant organ.  The music program, broadened to include not only adults but also youth and handbell choirs, is an important ministry of GIPC.  Adult and youth education programs expanded.  Mission also became a very important ministry of the congregation.  Worship activities diversified into two separate Sunday services.  During Rev. Milford’s tenure, several Associate Pastors served the congregation. After 33 years of service, Rev. Milford retired in 1996. In preparation for calling a new minister,
Rev. Dr. Richard Cushnie served as Interim Pastor.  During that time, the congregation spent a three-year interim period studying all aspects of life in the church to determine where we believe God was calling us.
 
In January 2000, Rev. Karl Travis accepted the call to lead our congregation.  Mission continued as an emphasis, including youth and adult mission trips. Programs for members and youth increased during this time. The Stephen Ministry program was established.  In 2006, dedication was held for renovations made to the sanctuary, Administrative and Education wings, the newly built Fellowship Hall, restrooms with showers, and a kitchen.  Hosting ChristNet, a program for the homeless, was the first major use for Fellowship Hall.  Rev. Travis resigned in July 2007 to accept a call to First Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth, Texas.
 
GIPC was served well by Interim Pastor, William Zambon, from 2007 to 2009.
 
In July 2009, Rev. Philip J. Reed was called and installed as Pastor/Head of Staff.  Rev. Reed incorporates missional theology and focus in his ministry at GIPC.  In the past three years, the congregation has paid off most of its mortgage debt and is experiencing innovation in worship and several of its programs.

The members of Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church are morally, intellectually, and spiritually engaged with the world at and beyond our doorstep.  We want to give of ourselves and our resources and, in fact, have a long history of prioritizing mission commitments.  We expect a responsive, engaging Christian education program that nurtures all age groups, teaching the gospel message, and interpreting it in the context of contemporary issues.  We value strong scripture-based preaching and a variety of music and music styles in worship, including Jazz Band and Youth Band.

GIPC members are learning to value discernment (listening for God) and are being encouraged to incorporate it into all decision-making within the church.  Intergenerational and generational activities are a priority.  Wednesday Evening Church Family Dinners are an excellent example.  Every Wednesday during the program year, seniors gather for Game Day from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.  Middlers meet at the same time for fellowship and ministry.  They all join many families with children for simple dinner at 6:00.  Youth choirs meet after dinner as do Adult Nurture Classes and Stephen Ministries.  It is an exciting afternoon and evening of fun, fellowship and enrichment.

Areas of challenge include deepening our mission, growing in membership, and diversifying the congregation.  We seek to expand our mission ministries with many more hands-on opportunities.
  In the past, GIPC has been a successful attractional church.  We more or less waited for people to find  their way to us while we were involved in extensive educational ministries and mission.  Currently, GIPC is in process of becoming more missional as we reach out in love to our neighbors and serve our community.

 

History of Pastors

  •  Dr. Wendling Hastings served the congregation from its inception in 1957 to 1963.  Rev. Richard Milford was called to serve the congregation as an interim.
  • Rev. Milford was installed as pastor in June 1963 and served until June 1996.  During this time, four Associate Pastors served the church:  Rev. William McGaughey (1967-1970); Rev. Robert Orr (1978-1985); Rev. Virginia Purvis Smith (1987-1988); and Rev. Steven Melde (1988-1996).
     
  • Following Rev. Milford’s retirement, Rev. Dr. Richard Cushnie served as Interim Pastor from 1996-2000.  Rev. Sherri Noah (1997-1998) and Rev. Paul Malles (1998-2000) served as Associate Pastors.
  • In January 2000, Rev. Karl Travis was installed as senior pastor, after accepting a call to come to Michigan from New Mexico.  He served until July 2007.  During this time, Associate Pastors included Rev. Mark Peake (2001-2005), and Rev. Deborah Matthews (2006-2009).  
     
  • Rev. William Zambon was the Interim (2007-2009).
     
  • The Rev. Philip J. Reed became Pastor/Head of Staff in July 2009.  The Rev. Katy Doyle-Hohf served first as Interim Associate and then Stated Supply from January 2010 to September 2012.  Katy resigned at that time to be a full-time spouse and mother.  From 2012-2014, Grace Iglehart served as the Interim Youth Coordinator. In the summer of 2014, she became our Associate for Youth and Young Adults and she still currently holds that title.

 

History of Associate Pastors

  • Rev. Katy Doyle-Hohf     2009-2012
  • Rev. Deborah Matthews     2006-2009
  • Rev. Mark Peake     2001-2005
  • Rev. Paul Malles     2000-2001
  • Rev. Steve Melde     1988-1996
  • Rev. Robert Orr     1975-1987