Calvary Presbyterian / Abundant Life Christian Church

Finding reliable, accurate historic information about churches can be difficult. Over its lifespan the same building might be bought and sold many times over, hosting different denominations, leaving a sometimes baffling and contradicting paper trail.

Calvary Presbyterian is one of those. The church dates back to 1868, starting out as a Mission Sunday School in a room above a grocery store on Harrison Avenue. The school was moved to a small cottage on Michigan Avenue, and a lot was purchased on Maybury Grand and Butternut streets – approximately where I75 and I96 intersect today.

In 1872, it was decided that a new parish should be established to serve the growing population on the west side of the city. Work on the first permanent building started in 1887, with the new church opening on Michigan Avenue in 1888. This location, however turned out to be less than ideal: by the early 1900's the number of meatpacking plants in the area had skyrocketed, bringing with it the sights and smells of the meat industry and an "influx of Slavic peoples and other foreigners with habits and customs out of tune with English speaking people, such as the members of Calvary Church."

With the land being worth more to the meatpacking industry then it was to the parishioners, plans for a new church were drawn up in 1914, which was to be located at the corner of Grand River and Vicksburg. A temporary building was purchased and moved to the site; ground was broken in 1916, and the cornerstone for the present structure was laid down in 1917.

The old church was sold to Parker, Webb & Co. meat packers. Services were originally to continue at the old church until the new one was completed, however Parker wanted the land sooner to expand their operations. The company offered the church more money and to store the church possessions in one of their warehouses if they would vacate early. The church took them up on their offer. Unfortunately, the warehouse storing the church records later caught fire, with the loss of all records and most of the church items.

Calvary Presbyterian church on Grand River was dedicated on November 17th, 1918. Construction of the church had cost $70,000 and taken two years.

From the years 1900 to 1940 the church continued to grow rapidly, from 665 members in 1912 to 1700 members in 1939. An addition to the church was started in 1932 and finished in 1939, adding classroom space for over 1,000 Sunday school students.

However, as it had happened before in the 1900's, the neighborhood around the church began to change in the 1950's and 60's. Parishioners followed the white flight to the suburbs, and attendance at the church began a steady, irreversible decline. By the late 80's the congregation had dwindled to the point where it was becoming difficult to manage the upkeep and expenses of a large building. Calvary eventually moved to another, smaller building at 7 Mile and Greenview in 1991. The Monteith Memorial Church had been experiencing similar financial problems, and when the church leader retired, the congregation elected to fold, selling the vacant building to Calvary Presbyterian.

It's at this point that the history of the Grand River building becomes fuzzy. After Calvary Presbyterian vacated and moved, the structure was sold to another church and renamed the Abundant Life Christian Center (the name of which is still painted on the outside wall). Abundant Life eventually moved to a new location down the street, and the church was renamed to Greater Faith for Deliverance Church.

Greater Faith operated for an unknown amount of time in the location until a fire in the attic of the church broke out on March 21st, 2009, causing heavy smoke and water damage to the sanctuary. The fire was later found to have been started by a generator located on the roof. While the congregation waited for insurance money to come through to fix the building, scrappers began to loot the structure, stealing pipes, radiators, and even the stained glass windows.