Richard Rhem ’57
Richard A. Rhem, age 85, passed into Life Eternal at his home on the shore of Lake Michigan on February 23, 2020. Richard was born on February 11, 1935 in Kalamazoo, MI earmarked for ministry from the womb through his father’s prayer for a son. Richard excelled in education at all levels, being honored as Valedictorian at Parchment Junior High; graduating with high honors at Kalamazoo Central High School in 1954; a Summa Cum Laud graduate of Hope College in 1957; and Bachelor of Divinity graduate from Western Theological Seminary (WTS) in 1960, receiving The Systematic Theology and the Sermon Delivery Prizes for the Senior Class. Richard also received a Master’s of Theology from WTS in 1966. Richard received his first call into the ministry for the First Reformed Church of Spring Lake, MI on January 26, 1960, the same day his son David was born. Richard served First Reformed from 1960 to 1964, followed by three years at Midland Park Reformed Church in New Jersey. In 1967, Richard moved his family to the Netherlands and began studying under theologian Hendrikus Berkhof at the University of Leiden, earning a Doctorandus (DRS.) degree in Systematic Theology in 1969. In 1971, Richard returned home to the United States with his life in turmoil. Facing heartbreaking family issues, he received a call to return to the First Reformed Church in Spring Lake. This was a watershed moment in Richard’s faith journey as the grace of God shown to him by the congregation in his brokenness served as a catalyst for the rest of his ministry and his deepening theological probing of God’s grace. The church soon after re-named itself Christ Community Church, and never looked back. The congregation grew by leaps and bounds and became the third largest Reformed church in the RCA. CCC was “the place to be” on Sunday mornings! Richard served Christ Community until his retirement in 2004, a 37-year ministry. Richard was an early supporter of the interfaith movement in West Michigan, actively participating in the Jewish-Christian dialogue in the early 1980’s. Richard led his congregation, exploring the extent of God’s grace that he believed to be inclusive of the whole human family. In 2014, Richard received the first annual Sylvia Kaufman Interfaith Leadership Award from the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). GVSU also houses digital sound recordings of Richard’s sermons and prayers, all of which can be accessed on-line at www.RichardRhem.org . Hard copies of the same and also articles are also available for reading at GVSU’s Special Collections and University Archives. After returning home to Spring Lake, Richard married his beloved, Nancy Dornbos, on Christmas Day, 1972. They celebrated 47 years of marriage together. Together they joined their families of Rick, Lynn (Keith), David (Lori), Jonathon, Susan (Dan), and Joseph (Lana). The family has since grown to include eleven grandchildren-Derek, Catherine, Stephanie, Sarah, Mark, Sam, Sarah, Danielle, Richard, Joey, and Mia; and four great grandchildren-Luella, Porter, Nora, and Isabelle. Richard, or “Bumpa” as the grandkids called him, was deeply loved and will be missed beyond measure. Special family gatherings continued Richard’s ministry as he married his grandkids and baptized his great grandkids, celebrated their birthdays, and read the Christmas story to them every Christmas Day. His special family services and prayers consistently triggered misty eyes as he shared his love for the way of Jesus in the family circle. Richard A. Rhem lived and died with a deep sense of gratitude to the eternal God, revealed in the face of Jesus.