Roy Sweet reclines in his seat after another Delhi Charter Township board meeting. He’s the township treasurer and recalls the time, 56 years ago, when he was baptized at Holt United Methodist Church.
He’s been a regular attendee ever since.
“It’s really the people who kept me going back. A lot of the same people still go there,” Sweet, who now serves as the treasurer of the town, said. “But there’s been a lot of new faces, too.”
Holt United Methodist, the church that made Delhi Charter Township home for Roy Sweet, is one of 11 churches that reside in the 28.5 square miles that makes up Holt. Quite a few more are located just outside of the town’s official borders.
Just south of Lansing, the U.S. Census Bureau says there was just under 24,000 people residing in Holt as of 2010, when population data was collected most recently. These 11 churches service those 24,000 people.
Driving along Aurelius Road, the midway point of Holt, visitors will pass St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Holt United Methodist Church, Journey Life Church, and the First Presbyterian Church which hosts the local Food Bank. Sweet said that the churches really work at outreach into the town and surrounding areas.
“They really affect the community of the town,” Sweet said. “There’s the Food Bank which is hosted by the First Presbyterian Church, but at United Methodist we also have a Meals on Wheels program that collects food to hand out to those less fortunate in the town.”
Holt United Methodist also runs the local blood drive.
Further into the town is Cedar Street Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Community Faith Church among other smaller congregations. Though there is no way to measure the popularity of the churches in the area, Sweet said the town is gaining popularity in the younger crowd.
Holt is home to one of the four venues of RivChurch, which has a reputation of being a “young people’s” church around Lansing. The median age of Holt is around 30, but at a RivChurch sermon, it’d be hard to tell.
“I love Riv,” said Amy Paruk, Michigan State University graduate of 2015 and frequenter of RivChurch. “There’s always different music and a very diverse group of people there. And I love the messages.”
Paruk lives in Lansing and does ministry work at MSU. She often commutes to RivChurch’s Holt venue when she’s not at Crossroads Church in Lansing.
The churches in Holt often make up for a lack of other community events and happenings one might find in a larger town. At First Presbyterian, there’s tutoring. At United Methodist, there’s Boy Scout meetings, an ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) support group, and an expectant parent’s organization.
Visiting assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at MSU Morgan Shipley said that sometimes a heavy collection of one religion, such as Christianity in Holt, can create an exclusive atmosphere to those who do not believe in that religion. This, in effect, can be divisive.
According to residents like Sweet, Holt is known for its friendly community. Sweet believes this is due to the churches in the area. He may not be wrong.
“One thing that all religious groups share is the sense of responsibility to the community that they are in,” Shipley said. “Regardless of veneration of God, people believe that they are creating homes… They want to create a community that is welcoming even if you don’t believe like everyone else or quite look like everyone else.”