Early Picture of Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church and the Parsonage
Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church
(Grand Valley West Advance, April 17, 2007)
The Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church will begin its 125th Anniversary celebration on April 22nd and will continue through May 6th.
The congregation was formed in 1882, a year after it left the Reformed Church. The first church building was constructed in 1888 at the corner of Barry Street and 64th Avenue. In 1889, the church purchased a parsonage. In 1890 Rev. Hendrik Haagen, Dieperink Langereis, the first pastor arrived.
The Beaverdam Christian School was opened in 1909.
Construction of the first chapel was in 1912, and a new one erected in 1938.
The church was renovated and an organ installed in 1949.
In 1973, a new church was built at 5166 64th Avenue and was dedicated.
In 2007, Rev. Tyler Wagenmaker is the pastor and has been so since 2000. With the churchís blessing, he was sent to Iraq as chaplain from 2004-2005.
Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church
1882 Ė 1997
The History of our congregation does not go back to the birth of our denomination but traces from a definite period in our denominational growth, namely, the Anti-Masonic movement. The first churches of the "Secession" had already protested against Masonry in the church and it was one of the causes of the return of the old churches from their union with the Reformed Church. Others in the Reformed Church continued this agitation against Masonry. In 1868, the Reformed Classis of Holland and Wisconsin presented testimony against Masonry and asked their General Synod to disapprove of it. This, Synod refused to do. But two years later Synod issued the statement that "the path of prudence lies outside of all oath-bound secret societies." At the same time, however, Synod declared that it could not interfere with consistorial prerogatives of discipline, thus leaving the matter to each individual congregation. The struggle continued for several years and led to the separation of several entire congregations from the Reformed fold. The pioneers of our church were also convinced of the evil of Masonry and sought to use their good influence in combating it but saw their best efforts fail. In the minutes of a meeting held December 3, 1881, we find the following statement: "We declare herewith that we are no longer members of the Reformed Church because we have year after year waited to see what our Classis and Synod would do to purify the church of the offensive sins which rule the church, but they seek to evade and cover them up, so that instead of progressing we are losing ground." This resolution is the official document handed to the consistory, and signed by 24 members there present.
Having thus declared their separation, they, the pioneers, immediately made plans for holding services of their own and finding a new body with which they could unite. Their first services were held in the Sherbourne schoolhouse on January 26, 1882. But they were not satisfied to remain in this independent position. They felt the need to uniting with an organized church denomination and Rev. Hemkes of Vriesland was asked to come and help them. This he gladly did and helped them in word and deed. The next service was conducted by F. Wielandt, then a student.
Because of the great distances and the slow and inconvenient methods of traveling, this group, however agreed to separate into two groups Ė an eastern and a western. The western group gathered at the Zoetermeer (now Huyserís) school or at the home of J. Ebels. The eastern group centered about the Sherbourne schoolhouse. The western group decided to join the church at Zeeland, and thus they disappeared from the scene. The eastern group, however, found some support in union with a group from the Ohio Mills, who had also left the Reformed fold. On March 15, 1882, these two groups met together and prepared a petition signed by 28 persons, which was sent to the meeting of Classis Grand rapids, held April 6, 1882, asking Classis that they be organized as a congregation of the Christian Reformed Church. The Classis granted their request and appointed a committee to perform this task. Rev. G. K. Hemkes, Rev. Vander Werp and Elder J. DeJonge of Zeeland were members of this committee.
This committee met with the people on April 26, 1882. Rev VanderWerp delivered a sermon on Psalm 34"8b. "Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him." After this 34 members answered the questions asked them by the committee in name of Classis and formal organization took place. Plans were made for catechetical instruction, and Sunday School, and for regular services. Although their number was small and they were not rich in worldly goods, yet they felt that this work must be done if the church was to prosper.
In August another congregational meeting was held, and the congregation was then incorporated under the laws of the state of Michigan. Elders K. Swartwolt and J. Ebels and Deacons H. Havikhorst and T. Top are here mentioned as trustees.
Plans for building a church of their own were also made that first summer. Everybody subscribed and the 34 members found they had $515 with which to begin this work. A building committee was chosen, composed of W. Timmer, K. Willemse, E. Elders and Jan Zoet. These men were to have supervision of the work, and everybody was to lend a hand in the actual building. Josiah Westrate was asked to prepare a plan. Mr. Egbert Elders donated an acre of ground.
These matters appear quite simple to us today, but great were their difficulties. Especially the matter of serving as church officers. It required faith and courage to serve as elder or deacon in those days. A great deal of work was required of them. Reading services was the order of the day, catechism classes must be conducted, the sick visited, the straying and wayward must be admonished, and thus it need not surprise us that some refused to serve as elders or at least served only because the work must be done. All honor to those men who so faithfully served. Brothers Swartwold and Scheele first served as catechism teachers, and later H. Dalman rendered yeoman service.
After the church had been built, the thoughts of the people turned to the problem of securing a pastor to lead them in the green pastures of Godís Word. But before this was possible, they must provide a parsonage for the minister and his family. In 1889, money was subscribed for the purpose and the committee reported that $564 was subscribed by 38 members. Plans were made for a building, but were rejected, and other plans drawn up. Attempts were also made to secure land next to the church property for building, but finally the house and two acres of land of E. Elders were purchased. Some additions were made to this house and it served as parsonage until 1906. This property was later sold to the Christian School Society.
Having a parsonage of their own, the congregation began calling a minister to serve them. Rev. E. Breen, then a candidate, was the first to receive a call, but he declined. Rev. P. Kosten, Rev. A. W. Meyers, Candidate a. VanderHeuvel were also called but declined. Rev. H. H. D. Langereis was the man to become the first pastor and he arrived in December, 1890. What patience and perseverance was shown by our forefathers in these years. For eight and a half years they struggled along without the services of a regular pastor, and never did they seem to have lost courage. How great must have been their joy on receiving their first minister. Rev. Langereis served the congregation for about three years, and left for Kalamazoo. To the best of his ability he labored for and with the congregation, and his labors were blest. The young people were not entirely neglected either, for we read of the constitution of a singing school being approved by the consistory.
After Rev. Langereis left, the congregation called Rev. Huisingh, who accepted the call. This zealous servant of God labored here for seven years. Earnestly he worked to build the church of God, and hi work was greatly blessed. Young and old alike received instruction and admonition. The debt with which the congregation was burdened was reduced and financial matters placed on a more secure basis. Numerically, the congregation increased, but also in love, faith and devotion to Godís cause.
Rev. Huisingh left in November, 1901, and Rev. S. VanderHeide was his successor, arriving in our midst during December, 1901. The period of growth under Rev. Huisingh had its result, namely, the church was becoming too small and the organization of societies and an increase in cathechumens made it necessary to provide a convenient meeting place. It was decided, therefore, to build an addition to the church. The gallery was added and the space beneath was arranged for a consistory room. The tower was added to complete the church building. The building committee was composed of M. Vander Wal, James Morren, Gilles Isenhoff, H. Zoet, and C. Spoelman. The young people also were interested, and provided the bell to hang in the new belfry. This proved to be quite an undertaking for them as the first two bells, after considerable experiment, proved unsatisfactory. They put forth much energy in testing the bells. They surely made the Ďwelkin rintí. Rev. VanderHeide was noted for his ability to deal with young folks. The Young Peopleís Society was organized, and also a singing school. The young people rejoiced in having a man who was interested in them and helped them in every way.
Rev VanderHeide left in December, 1903 and after several calls, Candidate S. Volbeda accepted and was installed in September, 1904. During these and following years, immigration from the Netherlands added many members to the congregation. Rev. Volbeda left for Grand Rapids during November, 1905.
Plans were already being made during his pastorate for building a new parsonage and this work continued under the supervision of the consistory, through Mr. C. Spoelman. The old parsonage and lot were sold to Mr. H. Stuit and two acres of land were purchased from H. Zoet for the new parsonage. Again the congregation, as in all building done, helped as much as possible, and many hands making light work, the parsonage was ready when Candidate S. Eldersveld arrived in September, 1906 to serve as pastor.
For some time already, there had been difficulty in securing a precentor (lead singer). Mr. R. Flier, who had served very acceptably for many years, had left, and several others had tried to fill his place, with varying success. Therefore, the congregation now decided to purchase a reed organ. Two new societies were organized during Rev. Eldersveldís pastorate, namely, a Young Ladies Aid and a Society for Christian Instruction. The latter was organized in 1908 and plans were made for building a Christian School. The work of the pastors was responsible for this, but also the coming of immigrants who had seen the good results of Christian education in the Netherlands. The work of our theological professors and the attitude of our major church assemblies gave the people courage. Trusting in the promises of God, they undertook this work in faith, and never have they been put to shame. God has blessed us abundantly in this work also. In 1907, the church had the pleasure of celebrating their 25th anniversary. Rev. Eldersveld left in November of 1909, and immediately the congregation began calling to secure a successor. In March, 1910, Rev. A. Keizer arrived in our midst.
About this time a number of the members left to help found a new church at North Blendon. Immigration continued at a rapid rate, and the places left vacant were soon filled. The consistory room under the gallery proved unsatisfactory, and the congregation decided to make it a part of the auditorium and to build a new chapel. The church also was raised a few feet to improve the conditions for heating it. The work of the pastor was blessed, and many of the younger generation were led to confess Christ. For six years Rev. Keizer larobed in our midst, leaving in March 1916.
Rev. H. J. Heynen was his successor, coming in November, 1916. He labored zealously during these dark days of war and work was not without fruit. Candidate T. DeBoer took up the work Rev. Heynen had left. Rev. Heynen lfet in May, 1918 and Rev. DeBoer was installed in August, 1918. The process of Americanization had now begun. The Sunday School became English, and under his successor, Rev. A. J. Rottier, the process continued rapidly. Rev. DeBoer became Emeritus, and Rev. Rottier became his successor, arriving May, 1920. An earnest laborer in Godís kingdom he proved to be. Evening services in the English language were begun during the summer months. Cathechism classes gradually became English-speaking and societies adopted it also. During these years the pews, which had served for so many years, were replaced and the interior of the church much improved. Rev. Rottier left in January, 1926 and Rev. Heynen again took up the work in November, 1926. Americanization continued and now one out of every four services was conducted in English. The catechism classes and societies were conducted in English. During Rev. Heynenís second pastorate, the parsonage burned, and we were faced with the task of rebuilding. The congregation willingly shouldered this burden, and the consistory, acting through the brethren Gerrit Schreur and Ben Smit, supervised the work. The burden of the work proved too much for Rev. Heynen, and in May, 1929, he asked to be relieved, and became Emeritus. Calls were sent out to several ministers, but no one felt inclined to accept until Candidate J. Geels was called, who accepted and was ordained in our midst in September, 1929. Asain we progressed a step in Americanization, and arrived at the point of having half the services in English. The chapel proved to be inadequate and inconvenient and in 1938, the new chapel was built. Rev. Geels served our church until 1943. His term as pastor is the longest of any of the men who have served us in these one hundred years. His labors among us were blessed and remain in grateful memory. During these years we experienced the trying and difficult times of World War II and many of our servicemen and their families recall his words of council and of comfort. Three young men from our congregation serving in the Armed Forces paid the supreme sacrifice. They were Bernard Steenwyk, Andrew Smit and Harvey Wittingen.
Rev. J. Geels left in May, 1943 and Rev. H. Kooistra became his successor in August, 1943, and served as our pastor until 1953. During his pastorate the church building was renovated and a new organ was installed. The process of Americanization was completed and the last Dutch service was held in the Chapel in December, 1949.
Rev. Kooistra left for California in October, 1953 and for eleven months we were without a pastor. In September, 1954, Rev. Floyd R. DeBoer took over the work, laboring in our midst until 1959. During this time the Daughters of Dorcus were organized in 1954. The church services were changed from Sunday afternoon services to an evening service.
Rev. W. Hekman was installed in 1959 and he served out congregation until May of 1972. During Rev. Hekmanís pastorate two new societies were organized. The Golden Hour Circle was begun as an afternoon society providing Christian fellowship for the older women while the Calvinettes was formed to give Christian instruction for the younger girls. The consistory during this time decided to increase the number of elders and deacons from four to five.
On June 20, 1972, the congregation voted to build a new church. A drive for funds for the new sanctuary was held with overwhelming results. Ground breaking ceremonies were August, 1972. Also at this time, the congregation decided to remodel the parsonage.
In March, 1973, the Rev. A. Rozendal accepted our call and was installed on April 15, 1973. On July 18 and 19, of the same year, our new sanctuary was joyfully dedicated: showing a rich testimony that we had experienced the Lordís blessings. The new church was completed for a total cost of $293,000.
During Rev. Rozendalís stay, the Calvinist Cadets were organized as a society for the younger boys. An organizational meeting was called on September 22, 1976. The consistory once again voted to increase the number of elders and deacons from five to six.
In September, 1978 Rev. A. Rozendal moved to Zeeland and became Emeritus after faithfully serving the Lord and our congregation for five years. During the vacancy the church choir was formed in the fall of 1978. Several calls were sent out and Candidate G. VanGroningen was called and he accepted. His ordination took place in September of 1979.
Joy filled the congregationís hearts in June of 1908, when our Cambodian family safely arrived. After many months of gathering funds, clothing and housing by the congregation, we were all happy to welcome the Kouch family to our church.
Over the past century our church has faithfully supported missions in accordance to Godís will. These include the Home Missions Board, World Missions, Mr. Vennaman, Rev. Botts, Rev. Stegenga, Rev. Schuring, and Rev. Steen.
In April, 1982, during Rev. VanGroningenís pastorate, we were privileged to commemorate our 100th Anniversary. "God Leads Us On" was the theme the church chose for its centennial celebration. Several former pastors, including Rev. H. Kooistra, Rev. F. DeBoer and Rev. A. Rozendal were invited to conduct worship services in honor of the celebration. A Home-coming program was held for all former members and friends. Also, a memorable historical pageant was written and presented by many members of the congregation depicting high-lights of the churchís 100 year history. Also, in 1982, the consistory gave approval to organize a church library.
On August 5, 1984, during a special service of thanksgiving a note burning ceremony was held. After just 12 years, the mortgage on our new church building was paid.
Rev. VanGroningen left Beaverdam on January 15, 1985 to continue his ministry in Rock Valley, Iowa. During the summer of 1985 the Cadet building was built at a cost of $60,000. After a brief vacancy, Rev. David Weemhof was installed on August 4, 1985. He served our congregation until August, 1988, when he accepted a call from Truro, Nova Scotia.
Rev. Tymen Hofman, Emeritus, then became our interim pastor, and served our church from December, 1988 to June, 1989.
In the beginning of the new year 1990, Rev. Jacob Uitvlugt accepted our call, and with great joy we welcomed him to Beaverdam. His installation service took place on February 11, 1990. He served until his retirement in September, 1994. During his pastorate, the time of our evening service was changed from 7:00 to 6:00 p.m.
A growing interest in missions was evident over the years as we sponsored Vacation Bible School in co-operation with Beaverdam Reformed Church. We also began an annual "Mission Emphasis Week" during which various mission interest meetings were held.
During the years of 1992 to 1995 several renovation projects were undertaken. The church building was re-roofed; the furnace boiler was replaced; the historical cabinet was built, and the sanctuary was refurbished at a cost of $33,000. Also, after much deliberation and planning, the parsonage was extensively remodeled in 1995, amounting to $117,000.
After a vacancy of a year, a call was extended to Rev. Daryl Kats of Austinville, Iowa. He accepted our call and was installed on September 10, 1995.
A new sound system was installed in the sanctuary in 1997. Our congregation in 1997 numbers 104 families.
During these 115 years we have experienced the blessings and favors of God. His church in Beaverdam has continued to exist because H cared for it. He has founded and preserved it. Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren have taken the place of the founders and thus we see the covenant blessings of Jehovah continuing from generation to generation. May our posterity also be recipients of these blessings and may Godís church continue in our midst according to His promise that His church shall not fail.
(Compiled by Ben Smit, Marge Petroelje and Betty Schut)
Created: 23 November 2007