Let us roll back time to the days when John Tyler was president of the United States.
The year was 1841. Twenty-six states belonged to the union; Michigan had been added in 1837. The population of our nation was 17,069,453, most of whom lived along the Atlantic coast. The territory around the Great Lakes was thinly populated, possibly due to the long struggle between the English and French for supremacy. Then, too, a war with the Indians had finally come to an end at a cost of thirty million dollars to the government and much loss of life.
The city of Detroit was a frontier town of some 9,250 inhabitants, and since Michigan had been admitted to the union, Detroit had been its capital. It was in 1847 that the state government was moved to Lansing, which was at that time a small village in a great wilderness. Transportation and communication were difficult and very slow.
It was in this setting that the Church of Christ came to Detroit.
Thomas Hawley had moved his family to Detroit from Cleveland, Ohio, and they, being members of the Church, began regular worship services in their home. The Church of Christ thus had its beginning in Detroit. This group ultimately became known as the Plum Street Church of Christ, and this church grew in number and spirituality. A widely known leader in the group of that day was John S. Gray, who later served as president of Ford Motor Company.
About forty-two years after its establishment, the Plum Street church began an earnest effort to "spread out" and evangelize the greater Detroit area. A mission was begun on the corner of Fourteenth and Ash Streets in Detroit on May 6, 1883, for the development of the young people of Plum Street. In 1885, a Sunday School was begun in the "Sand Hill" region of the city (located midway between Fort Street and Dix Avenue). This venture was so successful that a vacant store building on Dix Avenue, a few doors west of McKinstry Avenue, was rented, continuing the Sunday School work and enlarging their program to include worship services as well. Soon the store building was inadequate, and in 1887, the Wesley Chapel (Methodist) located on the corner of Vinewood and Dix was purchased for $3,250.
With the purchase of this property, the group became known as the Dix Avenue, and later, the Vinewood Avenue Church of Christ. In 1892, the Vinewood Avenue church numbered about sixty members. In 1907, the old building was remodeled with a basement and brick veneer added.Having outgrown its facilities at 1901 Vinewood, the church began meeting in the new auditorium at 1937 Vinewood.
At that time, James D. Groves, serving as minister, said, "The Vinewood church has had great influence locally and in the world. Thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of dollars have poured through it. Leadership and members have been supplied to other congregations. We believe that multitudes have gone to glory through the local efforts."
From this congregation have gone many families into suburban areas to help build for Christ in the more than forty-five sister congregations that have been established in our great metropolitan area.
In keeping with the ecumenical spirit of our age, we consider it a privilege to share with you these highlights of our history in Detroit, and to give you this opportunity of getting better acquainted with us. Ours is a simple plea to everyone to "let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent." We face the aches, pains and turmoil of our large inner city with nothing but the Gospel of Christ as God's power to save all (Rom. 1:16). Should you be able at any time to attend any of our services, a cordial welcome will await you.