posted October 7, 2011

International Conference to Focus on Van Raalte as “Leader and Liaison”

Scholars from two continents will share a variety of perspectives on Holland's founder and his legacy through the international conference "Albertus C. Van Raalte: Leader and Liaison" at Hope College on Monday-Tuesday, Oct. 24-25.

Featuring presenters from both the United States and the Netherlands, the event has been scheduled in conjunction with the bicentennial of Van Raalte's birth in October 1811.  Two years in the planning, the conference program celebrates the lasting difference that Van Raalte made when he brought his group of Dutch religious separatists to West Michigan in 1847 and continued to play a leadership role for nearly 30 years more.  

"This conference is a recognition that he has had an enduring impact on this community," said Jacob E. Nyenhuis, who is the conference chair as well as director of the A.C. Van Raalte Institute, and has been organizing the event with George Harinck of the Free University (Vrije Universiteit) of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.  "The foundation that he laid for this community was a very solid one and has withstood the test of time." 
Admission is free to the lectures and the public is invited to drop in for any or all of them, although preregistration will assure the availability of seating.   The sessions will take place in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall. 
The Hope conference is actually the first half of a bilateral event that will continue with additional sessions on Thursday-Friday, Nov. 3-4, in Ommen in Overijssel, the Netherlands, where Van Raalte served as pastor from 1839 to 1844.  Nyenhuis noted that both the mix of presenters and the scheduling in two countries reflects the institute's increasing emphasis on international outreach, with many of the Dutch presenters having spent time at the institute as research fellows through support from the Netherland-America Foundation. 
"The conference is an expression of a stronger international vision of the Van Raalte Institute, a vision which over the past five years has been strengthened by the Netherland-America Foundation visiting scholars program," he said.  "The conference involves virtually all of the scholars who have been here as NAF research fellows." 
Nyenhuis is encouraged by - and pleased that the institute can help encourage - greater awareness of and appreciation for Van Raalte in his native land as well.  An evening banquet for registered participants on Monday, Oct. 24, for which there is a fee, will include remarks by Provost Richard Ray and by Gerrit te Rietstap, who is director of a foundation in the Netherlands established to preserve Van Raalte's Ommen home. 
Following introductory remarks at 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 24, by President James E. Bultman, Netherlands Consul General Dr. Hans Heinsbroek, Mayor Kurt Dykstra, and Alderman J.P. Scheele of Ommen, Overijssel, the Netherlands, the conference will begin with the keynote address "Off the Pulpit: Van Raalte as Community Leader" by Robert Swierenga, who is the A.C. Van Raalte Research Professor and adjunct professor of history at Hope. 
An additional 12 addresses will be presented during six sessions running through Tuesday afternoon. 
° On Monday, Oct. 24, from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Hans Krabbendam, who is assistant director of the Roosevelt Study Center of Middelburg in Zeeland in the Nethrelands, will present "Albertus C. Van Raalte as Social Reformer"; and George Harinck of the Free University (Vrije Universiteit) of Amsterdam in the Netherlands will present "Albertus C. Van Raalte and Visits of Emigrants to the Old Country and Dutch Synods."  The session will be moderated by Jon J. Huisken, who is retired as dean for academic services and registrar at Hope. 
° On Monday, Oct. 24, from 1:30 pm. to 3 p.m., Nella Kennedy of the A.C. Van Raalte Institute will present "Twice Torn Asunder: Christina De Moen Van Raalte"; and Leon van den Broeke of the Federating Protestant Church of the Netherlands, Sint Pancras and VU University Amsterdam will present "'Christ as Master Builder, me as a tool': Albertus C. Van Raalte and the Ecclesiastical Organization."  The session will be moderated by Dennis N. Voskuil, who is president emeritus of Western Theological Seminary. 
° On Monday, Oct. 24, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Earl William Kennedy of the A.C Van Raalte Institute will present "Albertus C. Van Raalte's Vision for Christian Education for Children in the Holland Colony"; and Henk Aay of Calvin College will present "A Case for Perception Bias: Jacob van Hinte's Views on Albertus C. Van Raalte and Hendrik P. Scholte as Dutch Immigrant Leaders," which he is co-authoring with Peter Ester, who is with Utrecht University and a senator of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  The session will be moderated by James A. De Jong, who is president emeritus of Calvin Theological Seminary. 
° On Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 9:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., Richard H. Harms of Calvin College will present "Fissures in the Fellowship: Dynamics in the Religious Fragmentation in the West Michigan 'Dutch Colony' during the 1850s"; and independent scholar Janet Sjaarda Sheeres will present "Zo God het behaagt...  God Willing: The Failed Amelia Colony in Virginia vs. the Success of the Holland Colony."  The session will be moderated by Larry J. Wagenaar, executive director of the Historical Society of Michigan. 
° On Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., Eugene Heideman, former faculty member at Western Theological Seminary and retired from the Reformed Church in America staff, will present "The Reverend Dr. A.C. Van Raalte, Preacher and Leader, as Reflected in His Sermons"; and Michael Douma of the University of Illinois at Springfield will present "Writings about Van Raalte: Historiography and Changing Views about the Dutch-American Leader."  The session will be moderated by Donald J. Bruggink of the A.C. Van Raalte Institute. 
° During the conference's final session on Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 1:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m., Jacob E. Nyenhuis of the A.C. Van Raalte Institute will present "A.C. Van Raalte and his Eponymous Institute: An International Vision for Dutch-American Relations," followed by open discussion on the conference theme.  The session will be moderated by Lynn W. Japinga of the Hope religion faculty. 
The conference proceedings will also be made available for further study.  The scholars' presentations will be compiled in a volume that Nyenhuis and Harinck will be co-editing for publication in mid-2012 by the institute's Van Raalte Press and William B. Eerdmans Company of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Cambridge, United Kingdom, as part of the Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America. 
Support for the conference has been provided by the Peter H. and Heidi Huizenga Foundation, J.C. Huizenga, Jim and Ginger Jurries, Suzanne and Herman Kanis, the Dave and Carol Van Andel Foundation, and the Netherland-America Foundation.  Support for the conference in Ommen includes a grant from the American Embassy in the Hague. 
Albertus C. Van Raalte was born on Oct. 17, 1811 in the village of Wanneperveen in Overijssel, the Netherlands, the son of a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church.  Following his own education in theology, at LeidenUniversity, Van Raalte became a leader in the newly formed SeparatistChurch, holding four pastorates between 1836 and 1846. 
In the fall of 1846, he and his small group of followers left the Netherlands and sailed for America.  They traveled via New York and Albany, and wintered in Detroit before reaching West Michigan and establishing the "Holland Kolonie" in February 1847.  The pioneers were soon joined by many other Dutch immigrants, who not only settled in Holland itself but founded additional communities in the region as well as throughout the Midwest. 
Van Raalte continued to work on the colony's behalf for nearly three decades.  He died on Nov. 7, 1876, at age 65. 
Established in 1994, the Van Raalte Institute is located in the TheilResearchCenter at 9 E. 10th St. and specializes in scholarly research and writing on immigration and the contributions of the Dutch and their descendants in the United States.  The institute is also dedicated to the study of the history of all the people who have comprised the community of Holland throughout its history. 
The conference is taking place during a five-day Founder's Festival that is featuring events at sites throughout West Michigan on Friday-Tuesday, Oct. 21-25, beginning with a bicentennial birthday celebration at the Holland Area Arts Council on Friday, Oct. 21,  from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  Additional information about the festival is available online at 
More information about the Oct. 24-25 conference, including fees for those interested in attending luncheons during the two-day event or the Monday evening banquet, is available online at or by calling (616) 395-7678. 
Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.