Dear Third Coast Family,
I wanted to take a minute and share the newest developments with our church family. Below you will find an open letter from Pastor Aaron. While the turn of events may be disappointing, we know our calling to Saugatuck hasn’t changed, and in fact is stronger than ever.
Dear Saugatuck and Douglas Area Neighbors and Friends,
Third Coast Community Church started meeting in Saugatuck High School on January 8, 2017 with the intention of providing a local faith community for many of our members that were commuting to Holland to worship. We went through the proper process with the school to rent this wonderful facility. Our intentions were to rent until we could find and afford a permanent location. This is a completely legal arrangement and is in line with both national and local norms. We were also excited to benefit our community by giving our rent to our local school district.
Shortly after we started gathering together there was a concern from our community about a church meeting in the school. We’ve tried to listen in order to understand and to honor the concerns of our neighbors. We’ve even committed to finding a new location by the end of our current lease. We feel the concern has since then become a hostile campaign against the Board of Education and against our members personally. We are genuinely surprised at the concern and accusations against us. Our church is being misrepresented by those who simply don’t know us.
There are fears that we were promoting an anti-gay agenda, that we are on a crusade to reform the city, that we are being funded by far-right conservative money to make a “moral stand”, or that we are on a mission to convert students to our way of thinking. None of this is true. We are a diverse church with a wide range of political and social views represented in our membership. All are welcomed regardless of whether they totally agree with one another or with all of our doctrines. Like our community, Third Coast is a place where diverse people can belong and believe together. We understand that we’re all different and we believe that difference, and the right to be different, should be respected and protected. We stand ready to rebuild bridges of trust and partnership with all people.
Although our contract permits us to remain in the school until fall, we will voluntarily leave by May 25 (60 days from March 27). We are doing this because we are concerned for our students and neighbors that will be adversely affected by this situation playing out further. We also feel that the Board of Education will continue to be hindered by protest regarding this issue. The school has been told by members of the public that they intend to stand against the school bond next spring if our church isn’t kicked out of the school. We are no longer willing to allow this to continue.
Though we are leaving the school, we are certainly not leaving our community. Our families live here, and we love it here. We have a lot of our friends and neighbors that attend Third Coast who are excited to be meeting as a church in our beautiful community. We will continue to welcome anyone who comes to our church, tangibly display the love and truth of Jesus, and strive to be great neighbors with all of those in our area. One of our last meetings in the school will be Easter Sunday. If you want to know what our agenda is then join us on April 16th at 10am as we celebrate the power of Jesus and his all-inclusive love for every person… even for those with whom we may disagree politically.
Lead Pastor of Third Coast Community Church (A Fearless Follower Network Church)
I would like to invite each one of you to join the Lead Elders and our brother and sisters at Third Coast in a day of prayer and fasting each Wednesday between now and Easter (if you’re not able to fast from food, maybe you can fast from TV or social media, using that extra time to be in God’s word and in prayer for Third Coast). We are asking God to open doors for a new meeting location, for healing and bridge building in the community, as well as spiritual protection over our church family in Saugatuck. We are now three churches, separated by a few miles, but are able to stay connected through prayer and carrying each other’s burdens. Am I right, church?! That’s what being the Church is all about.
We wait expectantly to see what God’s next steps are for Third Coast, and are grateful for the role each of you has played and will play as God continues to use RP to expand His kingdom!
Lead Elder, Chairperson
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.