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Sunday worship services return to waterfront

Samantha Lewakowski • Jun 24, 2016 at 3:00 PM

Worship On the Waterfront will kick off its 70th year this coming Sunday night.

W.O.W. is a free summer-long ministry that strives to spread the gospel through song and shared testimony, using Grand Haven's waterfront setting to reach out to the community and summer guests.

The summer tradition began in 1947 when a local florist thought up an idea of outdoor hymn sings for the community and visitors. Over time, the name Vactionland Hymnsings was adopted, and it was considered West Michigan’s biggest Sunday evening attraction.

During the summer of 1965, the hymn sings were moved to Waterfront Stadium. It took on a new name in 1997: Worship on the Waterfront, or W.O.W.

Carolyn Manting of Grand Haven’s First Reformed Church has been involved with planning W.O.W. for the past 20 years.

“The attendance is continuously growing every year,” she said. “I’d say, depending on the day, we have anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people at the stadium.”

Although the general idea has remained the same over the years, additions from time to time help to cultivate the large crowds.

“A new thing that we are doing this year is a 4-5 minute ‘charge’ at the beginning of each worship,” Manting said. “Each Sunday, a local pastor will come out to begin the show with a short Gospel presentation. This way, we still get that testimony and powerful Word along with the music. We also lengthened the time due to the talent wanting more time to perform what they’ve prepared.”

Worship on the Waterfront gained more attention in recent years following the legal battle over the cross that used to sit atop Dewey Hill, across the river from the stadium, on Sundays. The cross was traditionally raised for W.O.W. services, but a ruling by Grand Haven City Council in January 2015 put an end to that practice. In response, local residents brought their own crosses to last year’s opening W.O.W. service

Sunday’s opening act features Grooters and Beal, a Holland-based Christian rock band. It runs from 7-8:30 p.m.

For the complete lineup of musical acts this summer, visit www.worshiponthewarterfront.org.

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