History of Our Church
What is the Orthodox Church?
The Orthodox Church is a global community of regional churches with over 300 million members worldwide, and around one million members in the United States. The Orthodox Church has a rich history starting with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Apostles He taught, the believers they baptized, and all the generations of Christians that followed, through 2000 years of history.
Saint Willibrord Orthodox Church is the flame of that ancient light here in Holland, Michigan. We are part of the Orthodox Church of Antioch, which today is still based in the same region where Christianity began (Acts 11:26). The current Bishop of Antioch, our Patriarch John X, is the 161st successor of the Apostle Peter as the leader of Christians in the Antiochian Church. This continuous presence is a testament to God’s faithfulness to His faithful flock, throughout the ages.
The Orthodox Church came to America in 1794 with the first Russian Orthodox missionaries. Raphael Hawaweeny, an Antiochian Orthodox priest from Syria, joined the Russian missionary effort in 1895. He became Bishop of New York in 1904, establishing the Antiochian Orthodox presence in America.
Foundation of Saint Willibrord
Saint Willibrord Orthodox Church began in 2012 with about six families. We were members of different Orthodox churches in West Michigan, all living in Holland, and we desired to form a church in our own town. Led by Fr. Steve VanBronkhorst, we began meeting informally for worship and Bible study in a garage in the spring of 2012. As we became established, we moved to a rented room at Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church in downtown Holland.
In the fall of 2012, we received the blessing of our Metropolitan-Archbishop Philip to begin celebrating the Divine Liturgy together monthly under the guidance of our neighboring parish, Holy Cross Orthodox Church. We celebrated our first Divine Liturgy together on November 7, 2012, the feast day of our patron saint, Willibrord.
We continued to grow throughout the following year, with our monthly Divine Liturgies on the first Saturday of each month, twice-weekly Vespers on Saturdays and Mondays, and weekly Bible study. We joyfully welcomed a steady stream of new members.
Beginning of our full liturgical life
By 2014 we wanted to put down roots in a more permanent place, so we moved to our current location on East 8th Street. We were finally able to make a proper church for ourselves, with an altar, icons, and all the necessities for full worship in the Orthodox tradition.
On February 12, 2014, Metropolitan Philip officially commissioned Saint Willibrord Antiochian Orthodox Church, and gave us his blessing to begin a full, regular cycle of worship. We had the special honor of being the last of the many parishes he commissioned in his lifetime before he fell asleep in the Lord five weeks later.
As we continued to grow, we undertook a major remodeling in 2015 to maximize our space for worship.
Saint Willibrord today
Today we have a flourishing parish community of a several dozen families. From the joy of our children, to the strength of our parents and adults, to the wisdom of our elders, we truly are a family united under our heavenly Father, through the blood of His Son Jesus, and His Holy Spirit—a family that you, too, can join.
Together we strive to grow in our love for God, our neighbors, and one another, as we continue on our lifelong journey to the holiness God desires for us, and growing into the full potential with which He has blessed us.