Muskegon County Cooperating Churches Board of Directors for 2020
President: Paul Emick, Prince of Peace
Vice-President: Lucinda Barnum-Steggerda, First Congregational UCC
Treasurer: Tim VanderHaar, First Congregational UCC
Clerk: Thomas Wagner, Muskegon Church of the Brethren
Volunteer Program Coordinator: Lily Marx
Judy Clark-Ochs, Emerita
Dolores L. Cole
We trace our origins to the organization of the Muskegon County Council of Churches on May 26th, 1941, growing out of informal discussions Representatives of 23 congregations gathered at Central United Methodist Church for the founding meeting. It began with 10 member congregations. From the beginning, the group has sought “to minister to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the people” of our community.
One of our earliest projects during World War II was with area PTAs to provide milk to local school children. In the 1940s, programs included vacation Bible school and training events for Sunday School teachers. The Council sponsored choir workshops and pulpit exchanges.
During the 1960s, the mainstream Protestant organization found renewed energy as it grew to include Catholic and Orthodox traditions. The Council coordinated weekly religious services for Brookhaven and during summer months on The Milwaukee Clipper. In cooperation with the Labor Council, Labor Day Services were held in the Walker Arena. As part of the Goose Egg Lake project (now Blue Lake, the Council worked with other social service agencies to organize a preschool program and a clinic. Housing needs were addressed through a revolving loan fund.
For twenty years (1975-1995) the Rev. Ed Rogers led the Jail/Prison Ministry.
Later, the organization changed its name to the Muskegon County Cooperating Churches. Replacing the term “council” with “cooperating” more accurately described the working relationship among member congregations in service to the community.
The MCCC has a long history of discerning community needs and creating programs to meet those needs. These agencies include Foster Grandparents (1983), Muskegon County Habitat for Humanity (1986), Westshore Dispute Resolution Center (now Mediation & Restoration Services) (1993) and the Institute for Healing Racism – Muskegon (1998).
MCCC contributed to the organization of the Westshore Jewish/Christian Dialogue in 1988 (now the West Michigan Academic Consortium). In partnership with the Michigan Ecumenical Forum, Muskegon County Cooperating Churches sponsored an environmental conference in 1994 titled “Dialogue on the Common Good: Seeking a Sustainable Society”. In 1997 Cooperating Churches co-sponsored a conference “Building Bridges in the Face of Hate” addressing hate groups and their flawed theology. A conference on poverty co-sponsored by Cooperating Churches in 2000 was “Faith in Action: Building a Just and Caring Society” with the Rev. Ron Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action as the speaker.
Since 2000 Muskegon County Cooperating Churches has also served as the fiduciary agent for new community organizations. Past agencies under MCCC’s umbrella included the Muskegon Responsible Fathers’ Initiative and In the City for Good. Current programs served in this way are Community Connects Choir and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. MCCC also oversees the Feeding America mobile food pantries offering help to churches by providing such items as tables, as well as instructions on how to run a mobile pantry. Peace and Justice activities and Recovery Congregations are two new programs developed and run by MCCC.
"Profiles on Muskegon"
One of the more visible and enduring projects from the 1970s was helping First Baptist Church begin its television production studio. The programming continues on local cable access Channel 7 and includes Muskegon County Cooperating Churches’ “Profiles on Muskegon” interview show on its regular schedule.
Beginning in 2005, Muskegon County Cooperating Churches has worked to coordinate the food distribution in Muskegon County from the Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, Inc. In addition, Cooperating Churches began the coordination of the Muskegon Depot Delivery Program. The Depot program brings food from Feeding America to the Mart Dock in downtown Muskegon. Each individual pantry that is part of the program orders and pays for their own food, which is delivered by semi-truck to the central location in Muskegon. The Depot program was begun with funding from the Julia Hackley Fund of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County and is currently supported by funds from the Thomas & Geraldine Seyferth Fund of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. The Depot program has been such a success it has been replicated in five other counties.
Looking to the Future
Looking to the future, Muskegon County Cooperating Churches is involved in the Muskegon Area Sustainability Coalition, Strengthening Muskegon, the Emergency Needs Committee, and other programs working to improve the lives of the people of Muskegon County.