W. Michigan woman finds historic church pulpit in Saugatuck antique store

Robert Tomlinson
Three Rivers Commercial-News

Moorepark, Mich. – It had been two years since Park Township resident Mary Doezema had stepped foot in the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion.

It was Doezema’s birthday back in mid-February, and while she was meeting with family in the area, her mother wanted to, as Doezema recalled, “go on an adventure.” Neither woman was looking for anything in particular, but just wanted to have some fun on a special day.

It didn’t take long for Doezema to find something there that was of significant historical value to an old church building right near where she lived.

“We literally just walked in, we had walked 20 feet down the aisle, and saw what looked like a church-related piece of furniture,” Doezema told the Three Rivers Commercial-News. “I just walked up to it, and it had that tag taped to it.”

Mary Doezema and the historic pulpit of the Moore Park Church in Park Township, Michigan, she found at the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion back in mid-February.

That tag read, “Very Ornate Pulpit, found some offering envelopes while cleaning it!” And when Doezema saw what the envelopes attached to the tag said on them, depending on who you asked, she screamed “out of pure delight,” or just made a “blood-curdling scream.”

The envelopes read, “Bi-weekly offering for current expenses, First Reformed Church, Moorepark, Mich.”

What Doezema found was the wooden pulpit of the old church in Moorepark on Wilbur Road, which originally opened back in 1878 as a Reformed church. According to multiple accounts on a recent post about the church on the “You Know You Are From Three Rivers 49093 If…” Facebook page, the church was bought by the Mennonite Church in 1946, and was in operation until the early 1990s, when the church moved south on Wilbur Road to where it is today at the Moorepark Community Church.

Doezema, who bought the old church building in January of 2020 and is currently in the process of renovating it, said she was surprised to see such a historical piece when she found it. She talked with the owners of the antique store, who told her the pulpit was only brought into the store two days prior.

“Can you imagine when you bought the First Reformed Church of Moorepark, Michigan, and that’s what the little envelope says?” Doezema said. “The pulpit, all these people recognize this pulpit. Even if it’s only been 30 years that the pulpit’s been floating around somewhere else, and the guy just brought it in two days ago, what are the chances?”

However, not much is known about the pulpit’s travels ever since the church moved, or when the old pulpit was removed from the church, not even by Doezema herself. Doezema said the antique store owners she talked to told her the sister of the person who brought it in got it from an estate sale. However, the sister recently passed away, and Doezema said the person who brought it in “didn’t know much” about the pulpit.

A separate tag on the pulpit in the antique store said it had been being used as a kitchen island, but Doezema recognized it as a pulpit almost right away, saying she recognized the slanted surface at the top where a bible would have been placed.

A couple of days after she purchased the pulpit, her son helped her move it back into its old home, and it currently sits where it used to sit in the church building, on a raised platform at the back of the church right in front of one of its many stained-glass windows. She said she looks through church salvage items occasionally on EBay as part of her project to renovate the old church, but said after finding the pulpit, she wouldn’t buy any other pulpit.

“It’s the history; it belongs there. It’s part of that church,” Doezema said.

Although the church building is zoned in the township as residential, Doezema said she hopes to use the church building to hold vintage weddings in the future, or as something of a “collective use” by the people who remember and love the church.

“I don’t want to live there, I just wanted to restore it to a space that was available,” Doezema said. “In the meantime, that ultimately wasn’t what mattered most to me, what mattered most to me is I wanted to love the building back to life.”

As for the pulpit, one of the many pieces that bring a church to life, Doezema stopped short of saying it was fate that she found the pulpit, but did call it a “miracle,” given the circumstances.

“The fact that the pulpit and I met on that moment, only because my 93-year-old mother wanted to do something for entertainment, it’s nothing short of a miracle,” Doezema said.