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Pillar Church Lecture Series

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 log building, 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.
1917.

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:

On February 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 pastors 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 of Albertus Van Raalte's life.

The Union of 1850:
Holland Classis Joins the Reformed Dutch Church
An understanding 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.

The Reverend 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 properly exercised?

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 Again:
Origins of the Christian Reformed Church
...Members of 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 discipline."

excerpted from the third lecture in the Pillar Church Sesquicentennial Lecture series, given by Robert P. Swierenga.


Albertus Christiaan Van Raalte's Life
in the Context of His Times
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 ruler."

excerpted from the fifth lecture in the Pillar Church Sesquicentennial Lecture series, given by Jeanne M. Jacobson.