Fountain Street Church started out as a Baptist church in 1869 and eventually became the independent, liberal and non-denominational church we know today. It may be nationally known for its progressive and inclusive values that are not as common within the religious circle, but the church is also an advocate of human rights and increasing awareness for important social issues. As of late, the majestic FSC is also hosting a series of magical Candlelight concerts that make classical music accessible to everyone.
Conveniently located in Downtown Grand Rapids, Fountain Street Church is only an eight-minute walk from DeVos Performance Center and only five minutes away from the Grand Rapids Art Museum. The 100, 6, 60, 52, 51 and 55 buses all pass nearby the church. However, if you’re getting there by car, the church’s small parking lot is available for elderly and disabled guests. What’s more, on Sunday mornings, you can also use the GRCC parking ramp on Fountain Street and Ransom Avenue.
Facts, Curiosities and Interesting Things about Fountain Street Church
1. The neo-Romanesque structure is actually the church’s second building.
The history of the church goes back to 1824, when a Baptist mission settled in the region, but it wasn’t until 1877 that the church’s first building was constructed. The American neo-Gothic structure unfortunately burned to the ground in May 1917 for reasons unknown to this day. In 1924, a new neo-Romanesque building was completed that would serve as a public auditorium and house of worship, with an incredible seating capacity of over 1500.
2. Fountain Street Church is renowned for hosting famous debates.
Besides its liberal values, Fountain Street Church is known in the States for hosting several famous debates. In 1928, notable lawyer Clarence Darrow debated on whether a “belief in a general purpose of the universe is rational and justified.” This event denoted the start of the church’s inviting national and global figures, like Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Robert Frost, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Kweisi Mfume, Irshad Manji, and Margaret Atwood. Additionally, many notable musicians and artists have performed in the church’s sanctuary including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Zappa and B.B. King.
3. The church boasts incredible architectural features.
With its Romanesque stone columns and arcades, the church’s exterior is breathtaking and quite impressive and its interior does not disappoint either. Among the amazing artwork there are intricate wood carvings and mosaic ceilings, Mercer-tiled floors, detailed murals and rare furniture artifacts. Another highlight of the church is what is known as “Catherine the Great”, the Austin-Allen organ that was first installed in 1924.
The historic church is one of the selected venues for the captivating Candlelight concerts. Chosen for its architectural beauty, history and excellent acoustics, Fountain Street Church offers the perfect backdrop to these intimate classical performances that celebrate the best in music. From contemporary artists and timeless composers to iconic film scores, there is something for everyone. As you’re surrounded by thousands of flickering candles, this season you can catch a tribute to pop sensation Taylor Swift, spooky season classics and a fantastic holiday special featuring Christmas carols and Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”.
What else can you do at Fountain Street Church?
Besides these unique Candlelight concerts, the church has a range of programs, initiatives and events, where you can volunteer, engage with the community and even unleash your inner artist. From children and youth programs to their Adult Choir and Community Life Team, the church’s calendar is always full of enriching activities.
Additionally, there is an Art Committee that organizes art exhibitions every year. Then there’s the Build Guild that helps to construct and restore homes for those in need. Moreover, those that are passionate about the environment can also join the Climate Justice Team that deals with the carbon footprint of FSC community and changing the local political systems on climate change.
Fountain Street Church is a lot more than Grand Rapid’s liberal church. It is a pillar of social rights and a place where the community can gather for worship, art and music. If you want to unwind with classical music and the church’s beautiful Austin-Allen organ in the background, a Candlelight concert at FSC is an intimate and moving experience where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city.