Eastminster Presbyterian Church was founded on April 14, 1957 and moved into its current building, designed by Alden Dow in 1961. Read below our decade-to-decade church history with special sections on the congregation philosophy and the day care that started here at Eastminster.
Decade by decade history:
- Church Timeline
- The beginning
- Congregation Philosophy
- The Church Grows: The 1960s
- Day Care
- The Church Develops: The Busy 1970s
- Eastminster in the 1980s
- Eastminster in the 1990s
- Eastminster in the 2000s
- Eastminster in the 2010s
Special thank you to the late Mary Joyce Longstaff for compiling much of this information in 1997, 2004, and 2007.
- Chartered by the Presbytery of Lansing April 14, 1957
- First worship service held at All Saints Episcopal Church February 3, 1957
- The first pastor, The Rev. Robert Moreland, installed October 1957
- Women’s Association organized Fall 1957
- Building Fund launched October 1958
- Congregation began contributing to One Great Hour of Sharing 1958
- Church membership grew to 325 by the end of 1958
- Phase 1 building, designed by Alden Dow, dedicated January 22, 1961
- 15-member Board of Deacons created 1961
- Part-time assistant pastor, The Rev. Harvey Beach, installed September 1965
- The second pastor, The Rev. Robert Leas, installed January 1969
- Phase 2 building, 250-seat Sanctuary & Christian Education classrooms, dedicated September 28, 1969
- EPC opened Eastminster Childcare Center 1970
- Women’s Association began Telecare Service 1971
- The third pastor, The Rev. Paul Green, installed September 1972
- Week-long Festival of Arts & Festival of Reconciliation held 1972-1974
- Eastminster Childcare Center became independent & relocated 1981
- Part-time assistant pastor, The Rev. Anna Kay Baker, installed September 1981
- Twenty-fifth Anniversary celebrated & first Strawberry Festival held 1982
- Mission work with Advent House began 1988
- Mortgage burned June 4, 1989
- The fourth pastor, The Rev. Art Seaman, installed September 1989
- Eastminster Garden created 1990
- Part-time associate pastor, The Rev. Shirley Paxton, installed September 1991
- New Dobson organ op.66 dedicated December 1995
- Fortieth Anniversary celebrated 1997
- Four retired clergy: The Revs. Hugh Banninga, Fred Graham, Clyde McDaniel, and Shirley Paxton, preached & provided pastoral care during search for an interim pastor, June 1998 – April 1999
- The fifth pastor, The Rev. Steven Robertson, installed January 2001
- The sixth pastor, The Rev. Margie Osborn, installed September 2005
- Fiftieth Anniversary celebrated 2007
- The seventh pastor, The Rev. Kristin Stroble, installed February 2018
Eastminster Presbyterian Church was chartered April 14, 1957, following a 4 p.m. worship service at All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing.
The Synod of Michigan and the Presbytery of Lansing had formed a steering committee to examine the desirability of creating a Presbyterian Church in East Lansing. This committee was made up of Warren Vincent, James Nielson, William Hooker and Walter Spieth. It was aided by the Rev. Jack Harrison, the director of Westminster Foundation and the Presbyterian campus minister.
A meeting to explore this idea was held on Jan. 27 at East Lansing Junior High School. More than 100 people attended. All Saints Episcopal Church offered the use of its sanctuary for Sunday worship at 4 p.m. On Feb. 3, 1957, 42 people signed a petition to found a Presbyterian Church in East Lansing. By April 14, 126 people had signed the petition to charter the new church. The Rev. Jack Harrison was appointed moderator of the 12-member session. They adopted a constitution providing for a unicameral form of government with a unified budget.
Early meetings were held in the Junior High School auditorium with classrooms for Sunday School. All Saints Episcopal Church allowed the use of their building for family night suppers, congregational meetings and similar needs. Westminster Foundation also supported the fledgling congregation.
The Michigan Presbyterian Board of Church Extension purchased a home at 549 Division Street in East Lansing for use by the incoming pastor and his family. Volunteers from the congregation refurbished the house, getting it ready for the arrival of Rev. Robert L. Moreland, on Oct. 23, 1957. He was installed as the church’s first minister.
In March of 1960, a new manse at 541 Walbridge Drive was donated by Harold and Wilma Smucker Good. The Moreland family moved into it in 1960. The manse was an extension of the church itself as well as a home for the minister’s family. Rev. Moreland had his office at the manse, session meetings and other committee meetings were held there as well as many fellowship and social events. The volunteer church secretary worked out of the manse, although many times the office work was done in the homes of church members. Westminster Foundation allowed the congregation to use their mimeograph machine and other office equipment.
Under the guidance of the church’s first minister, Rev. Robert Moreland, the members of Eastminster developed a philosophy to guide the congregation.
It was decided the church would devote its energies to Christian education and stewardship. It would be a “faith seeking” congregation. This meant that the members would not spend their time giving dinners, holding bazaars and doing similar money raising projects. The people were already involved in the life of the church and did not need projects to bring them together.
The result of this philosophy was the unified budget with all monies going into a central treasury. Members were asked once a year to pledge their financial support for the work of the church. There would be only one stewardship/fund raising campaign annually. Thus, members were expected to be very generous with their giving at that time.
Principles of giving were:
- The primary purpose of giving is growth in Christ.
- Everything belongs to God, and we are obligated to be caretakers.
- Once need is expressed to a membership educated in Christian stewardship, further campaigns should not be needed.
The main functions of the session were to provide for worship, to educate and lead members in Christian stewardship, to provide opportunity for contemplation and annual pledging, to receive contributions, and to administer and distribute financial resources.
The goal of the congregation was to be able to give $1 to others for each $1 spent on themselves and eventually $2 for others and $1 to themselves. The members of the Eastminster congregation began contributing to One Great Hour of Sharing in 1958.
Included in the Eastminster philosophy was that all social activities would be built around a theme of Christian Education. All church functions would be family oriented with a high priority on Christian Education. As an example, the congregation shared Christian love when 15 carloads of Christmas carolers visited area shut-ins and elderly. They then returned to the manse where Martha Moreland had prepared cookies and hot chocolate for a social hour.
The congregation had a strong sense of ministry to Presbyterians at the University as well as the community at large. A major portion of the pastoral calling during the first years of Eastminster was to students in married housing. Many married students, particularly graduate students, were active in the life of the church. As a result, the membership of the church was constantly changing with a core of community members that allowed for continuity and stability.
By the end of 1958, there were 309 children and adults in church school and 325 members of the congregation. There were two full worship services with Christian Education between the two services and an enrichment class for younger children during the second service.
The Church Grows: The 1960s
On Jan. 22, 1961, Eastminster Presbyterian was dedicated to the service of God. The bulletin noted: “Eastminster has grown to nearly 400 members, nurtured an inspired choir, developed a strong church school with two-hour sessions for pre-schoolers and thriving classes for adults, enlisted youth in dedicated Fellowships, formed a Women’s Association with morning, afternoon and evening circles, launched a Couples Club, come to rely on the semi-monthly Voice, and pledged a sixth of current income to the Church beyond our gates.”
By 1961, the church had grown in stature and needs. A 15-member Board of Deacons was created to nurture and care for the well-being of the congregation.
The Rev Harvey Beach was hired in the fall of 1965 as a part-time pastor and Christian Education director to strengthen the youth program. Rev. Beach was also a part-time student at MSU working on a masters degree in speech and drama. He served Eastminster until 1968 when he resigned to become a full time MSU student.
Phase two of the building began, with pledges to the building fund reaching $60,000–$100,000 over its goal at the church’s 10th anniversary.
Rev. Moreland resigned in January 1968 to become assistant to the Synod Executive and Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Detroit. On January 12, 1969, a year later, the Rev. Robert Leas from Franklin, Indiana was installed as the second minister.
Eastminster Day Care
As the phase two of the building was being completed, members surveyed the area to determine how Eastminster might serve the community during the six days of the week the building was not in use on a regular basis. They learned there was a real need for day care for children of students and working parents.
The downstairs facilities of the church met health and fire codes for a day care center. The session and congregation formed Eastminster Community Concerns, Inc. as a separate corporation to handle legal and financial affairs of the day care center.
The church, as a mission to the community, would provide the space, the equipment and the utilities for the day care center free of charge. The professional staff would be financed by fees paid by the families of the children. One member from the congregation served as an official liaison between the church and the center.
Members of the congregation worked long, hard and enthusiastically to ensure the day care center would provide the very best quality of child care available. It was the first day care center in East Lansing and soon became a model for future centers. The Center was licensed by the State of Michigan for 32 children and opened January 12, 1970 with 10 children enrolled. Members of the congregation staffed the kitchen until a full-time cook could be hired. A young member of the congregation built some of the outdoor play equipment as a project for his Boy Scout Eagle Award.
The day care center grew to serve 65 children and needed larger facilities than those readily available at the church. Eastminster Community Concerns, Inc. moved to a new location, independent of Eastminster Church, on Hagadorn Road in the summer of 1981.
The Church Develops: The Busy 1970s
The Rev. Robert Leas resigned as minister September 1, 1971 to pursue advanced training. The Rev. Paul Green, who had just returned from 19 years as pastor of the American Church in Caracas, Venezuela, became interim minister of Eastminster on October 3, 1971. The Presbytery allowed Rev. Green to be considered on an equal basis with other candidates and the committee recommended that he be called as pastor.
On Sept. 24, 1972, he became the third minister of Eastminster Presbyterian Church.
The members of the congregation continued to seek ways to spread their philosophy of service to others. The building was made available to Korean students and their families for worship services on Sunday at 3 p.m. The church provided a scholarship at the Latin America Bible Seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica. Several members volunteered their services to needy people in Appalachia, Mexico and other far away places.
The congregation held services at Provincial House and Burcham Hills as a way to minister to senior citizens and the shut-ins of the community. Tape recordings of the Sunday services were delivered to shut-ins. A sound system was installed in the sanctuary in 1975. For several years, Rev. Green delivered the sign on and sign off meditation at WJIM radio and television. The choir sang and recorded “A Parting Blessing” to be used at the WJIM sign off.
Eastminster in the 1980s
The Rev. Anna Kay Baker was installed at Eastminster on September 27, 1981. She spent 60 percent of her time as Educational Consultant to the Presbytery of Lake Michigan and 40 percent of her time as assistant pastor at Eastminster.
Rev. Baker revived the handbell choir, supervised making Chrismons for the Christmas tree in the sanctuary, was Christian Education director, and preached Sunday sermons on a regular schedule in the life of the church. She resigned in 1984 to join the staff at First Presbyterian Church in Lansing.
The first Strawberry Festival was held as part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Eastminster, an event that would be repeated many times. Supper Club met on the first Friday evening of the month for many years up until 2017. Shrove Tuesday was commemorated with a pancake supper. Women’s Association members represented Eastminster at United Presbyterian Women’s Conferences and held an annual retreat. The Mission Sewing Group was very active.
After serving Eastminster for 17 years, the Rev. Paul Green retired Aug. 24, 1988. In honor of the many years of service both Paul and Kay Green had given to the church, the library-lounge was dedicated to them and named The Green Room on Feb. 5, 1989.
Session voted to sell the manse and provide the minister of the church with a housing allowance.
On June 4, 1989, Eastminster burned its mortgage. After 32 years, the church was debt free.
The Rev. W. Fred Graham served as an interim until a new pastor could be found.
The Rev. Arthur Seaman, from Perry, Iowa, was selected as the fourth minister of Eastminster. He had been a member of Eastminster as a youth and his parents were charter members of the church. He was installed Sept. 24, 1989.
Eastminster in the 1990s
The Rev. Shirley Paxton was appointed associate pastor for Eastminster in 1991. She served in many capacities including taking communion to shut-ins and residents of Burcham Hills, periodically preaching on Sundays, directing Christian Education and teaching adult study groups. Rev. Paxton resigned as Christian Education Director in the summer of 1994. She continues active service to Eastminster as a volunteer parish advisor.
Robin Turner, a member of Eastminster, was named Director of Christian Education in the fall of 1995. Summer Vacation Bible School, which had been discontinued in the late 1970s because of small attendance, again became a part of the church school program. She directed an outdoor living nativity scene at the church during Christmas week 1996.
In 1993, the asbestos on the ceiling of the lower level of the building was removed and permanent classroom partitions were installed in that area of the downstairs.
As of 1997, the church has a membership of 295 with approximately one-third of its budget going to aid others.
Eastminster in the 2000s: Serving the Community
A farewell reception was held for Rev. Seaman in June 1998 who resigned to accept a pastorate in California.
At the time, the church had four retired ministers in its congregation. Hugh Banninga, Fred Graham, Clyde McDaniels and Shirley Paxton became known as the Four Squares. They took turns filling the pulpit on Sunday mornings, teaching adult education classes, officiating at weddings and funerals—in all ways guiding the church while a search was made for an interim pastor. In April of 1999, Bill Love was installed as interim pastor.
On Dec. 1, 2000, Rev. Steven Roberson attended his first service at Eastminster, coming to the congregation from Inverness, Florida. He was installed as the fifth permanent minister in January 2001.
Robin Turner continued as head of Christian Education at the church, overseeing Vacation Bible School and a living nativity each December.
When several of the Nigerian Lost Boys came to live in Lansing, members of Eastminster welcomed the young men, helping them to find housing, guiding them in adjusting to life in the United States.
Rev. Steve Robertson resigned as pastor of Eastminster on Dec. 1, 2003. Rev. Richard Budden became interim minister in May of 2004.
In September of 2005, Eastminster would install its sixth pastor, the Rev. Margie Osborn. It was her first position as head pastor and was the first female head pastor at Eastminster.
Eastminster continues to serve both the community and the nation in mission in many ways, including:
- Five AA groups meet at the church in the evening or on Saturday morning.
- Members of the congregation helped to build a Habitat for Humanity house.
- Once a month, members prepare and serve Saturday lunch at Advent House, a day shelter for homeless individuals
- We aid Haven House in East Lansing which serves homeless families
- Members sort food for the Red Cross food distribution center
- Congregation members participate in the Free Trade Coffee Project, the Heifer Project, the high school and the Agape college youth groups to go on working mission trips
- The church participates in One Great Hour of Sharing and five other special offerings throughout the year. The Presbyterian Women sponsor two additional mission offerings.
Eastminster in the 2010s
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2005 saw the installation of Eastminster’s first female pastor, Rev. Margie Osburn.
UKirk was founded and Neil Myer split his time between the college organization and as Eastminster’s Director of Christian Education.
When she left, Rev. Jeff O’Neill served as interim for a year.
In 2018, Rev. Kristin Stroble joined Eastminster as its lead pastor.
Eastminster in the 2020s
2020 was a year like no other. On March 13, as COVID-19 arrived in Michigan, we shut our doors for what we thought would be a few weeks time.
Eastminster quickly pivoted to providing services online, not missing a single Sunday. Throughout the year, church leadership, church family and staff came up with creative ways to worship and to ensure everyone stayed connected through the time of isolation.