The sesquicentennial of Holland also marks the 150th anniversary of Holland's
First Reformed Church. The first church structure built by the early
settlers in the colony established by Albertus Van Raalte was a simple
its site now marked by a commemorative plaque.
THIS BOULDER, WITH
THE FOUR WHITE
MARKERS, DESIGNATES THE SITE OF THE
FIRST CHURCH ERECTED BY THE HOLLAND
COLONISTS IN 1847, THE YEAR OF THE
SETTLEMENT. IT WAS 35 x 60 FEET AND
DID SERVICE UNTIL 1856.
ERECTED BY THE BOARD OF PARKS AND CEMETERY TRUSTEES.
A beautiful new church, named for the stately pillars at its entrance, was built
a decade later. Dominie Van Raalte was pastor until 1867, when he resigned and
was succeeded by Dominie Roelof Pieters. Church controversies in the years immediately
following Van Raalte's death in 1876 led Pillar Church to become a part of the
Christian Reformed denomination.
As part of the recognition
of the 150th anniversary of the congregation founded by Dr. Van Raalte, Pillar
Christian Reformed Church, now led by the Reverend Michael DeVries, held
a series of five lectures on church history, open to all the Holland community.
These lectures were given by members of the A. C. Van Raalte Institute. The
series was introduced by Dr. Swierenga, when he presented the first lecture:
9, Pillar Christian Reformed Church celebrated Dominie Albertus Van Raalte's
founding of the town and church in Holland by holding a "Unity Service" with
First Reformed and Central Park Reformed (originally Graafschap Reformed)
churches. Despite our desire as reformed believers for the institutional
church to be united in Christ, this lecture series deals as much with
divisions and strife in the church as with unity. Every one of the pioneer
of the Holland Colony -- Albertus Van Raalte, Cornelius Van der Meulen,
Maarten Ypma, Seine Bolks, and H. G. Klyn were Seceders from the Netherlands
Reformed Church, the national church. If these leaders and their followers
had not acted on their convictions and seceded in 1834, there would have
been no Holland colony to celebrate today.
In the first four lectures, Drs. Swierenga and Bruins alternated
their presentations, giving the history of church struggles in relation to
the founding of Holland.
The themes of secession and union were discussed in "1834--Netherlands Church
Secession and the Dutch Emigration," "The Union of 1850: Classis Holland Joins
the Reformed Dutch Church," "1857--Secession Again: Origins of the Christian
Reformed Church," and "Secession Yet Again
in 1882: The Masonic Controversy." In the concluding lecture, Dr. Jacobson
discussed the impact of events in Europe and America that affected the course
Van Raalte's life.
of the subject of the Union of 1850 must begin with asking a theological
question: what constitutes a true church? The answer to this theological
question governs the conclusions about the Secession of 1834 and the
Union of 1850.
Holland Classis Joins the Reformed Dutch Church
Hendrik de Cock wrote a pamphlet when he led the secession from
the Hervormde Kerk in 1834, entitled the "Act of Secession and
Return." The key thrust of the document was that the Hervormde
Kerk had become a false church and showed few, if any, marks
of the true church. The issue then is how does one decide whether
a church or denomination is false or true in light of the traditional
Calvinistic criteria of the church: (1) is the Word rightly preached?
(2) are the sacraments rightly administered and (3) is discipline
It has always
been assumed that de Cock was correct in calling the Hervormde
Kerk a false church. In light of John Calvin's criteria, however,
it was not a false church but one in change and transition.
excerpted from the
second lecture in the Pillar Church Sesquicentennial Lecture series,
given by Elton J. Bruins.
1857 -- Secession
the midwestern Reformed Church in America were more willing to accommodate
themselves theologically, ecclesiastically and culturally to their new
environment, whereas the Christian Reformed Church continued to look
to the mother country for leadership and direction. The RCA members acted
as immigrants and CRC members acted as colonists. The CRC desired a transplanted
community, a little Holland, where they could continue life as they had
known and valued it, but with a higher living standard. The CRC remained
an immigrant church until after the First World War, and became, in the
words of Yale history professor Sidney Ahlstrom, "the country's most
solid and dignified bastion of conservative Reformed doctrine and church
Origins of the Christian Reformed Church
excerpted from the third lecture in the Pillar Church Sesquicentennial
Lecture series, given by Robert P. Swierenga.
Van Raalte's Life
Albertus Van Raalte
was gifted with incisive intelligence, the ability to speak and write
powerfully, and strong talent for leadership. In the circumstances of
his life he was a Dutch leader, but in a country that was not Dutch.
Had he remained in the country of his birth, it is possible that he might
have become not only a church leader but a power in his nation's government,
famous in the history of the Netherlands. A tribute to his leadership,
written at the time of his death, took note of his capacity to undertake
even larger roles than those which he had held: "Had he been placed by
Providence at the head of a nation, he would have made a wise and powerful
in the Context of His Times
excerpted from the fifth lecture in the Pillar Church Sesquicentennial
Lecture series, given by Jeanne M. Jacobson.