The Van Raalte Institute of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary are hosting the first half of a two-site conference scheduled in celebration of Dutch and Dutch-American contributions to North America.

The college and seminary are hosting the first part of "Colonial Clergy Conference: Dutch Traditions and American Realities" on Sunday and Monday, Sept. 27-28, at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center.  The conference will continue at First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, N.J., on Saturday, Oct. 24.

The events are scheduled in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's exploration of the East Coast river that now bears his name.  The English Hudson was working on behalf of the Dutch East India Company when he explored the river in 1609.  His voyage ultimately led to the creation of the Dutch New Netherland colony and eventually the founding of New Amsterdam - today's New York City.

Although the conference is occasioned by Hudson's transformational voyage, the event's two locations illustrate and commemorate not only the role of the Dutch in the East in the 17th century but also the impact of the new wave of immigrants to the Midwest in the 19th, according to Dr. Jacob E. Nyenhuis, who is director of the Van Raalte Institute.

"Too often we Midwestern Dutch-Americans tend to think that the 19th-century immigration is the only one that is important for us," Nyenhuis said.  "What we hope to demonstrate with this conference - as well as in other ways - is that our ancestors who settled here were connected to the earlier Dutch settlers by both national heritage and religious faith. By celebrating the colonial clergy at a conference in the Midwest, we hope to awaken a keener awareness of the ongoing traditions that link both us and the Eastern Dutch-Americans to the Netherlands."

The conference at Hope will feature presentations by scholars from the U.S. as well as abroad.  They will discuss historical figures ranging from Bastiaen Krol, an early leader of the New Netherland colony, to Zeeland founder Cornelis van der Meulen.  The activities will begin with a dinner on Sunday, Sept. 27, and continue with a lecture that evening as well as a series of presentations throughout the day on Monday, Sept. 28.

The topics and speakers are:  "John Henry Livingston, 1746-1825," by John Coakley; "Bastiaen Krol, 1595-1645," by Willem Frijhoff; "Gideon Schaats, 1607-1694," by Firth Haring Fabend; "Rudolphus Varick, 1645-1694," by Leon van den Broeke; "Guiliam Bertholf, 1656-1725/6," by Earl Wm. Kennedy; and "Cornelis van der Meulen, 1800-1876," by Hans Krabbendam.

Sponsors of the conference are from the Netherlands and from the East and Middle West of the United States.  In addition to the Van Raalte Institute and Western Theological Seminary, the sponsors include the Collegiate Church of New York; Reformed Church Center at New Brunswick Seminary; Roosevelt Study Center; and the Reformed Church Archives.  A book on the conference papers is planned.

The conference is being organized by Dr. Leon van den Broeke, the Van Raalte Institute's 2009-10 NAF Visiting Research Fellow, and Russell L. Gasero, archivist of the Reformed Church in America.  van den Broeke is also pastor of the Federated Protestant Congregation of St. Pancras and assistant professor of religion, law and society at the VU University of Amsterdam.

The conference at Hope is open to the general public. Registration is $20 for the entire event, with the fee waived for seminary students and retired ministers/missionaries.

More information, including a complete schedule, may be obtained online at Additional information may also be obtained by calling the conference registrar, Karen Schakel, at the Van Raalte Institute at (616) 395-7678.

More information about the October 24 conference in New Jersey may be obtained at

The Van Raalte Institute is housed in the Theil Research Center located at 9 E. 10th St.  The institute specializes in scholarly research and writing on immigration and the contributions of the Dutch and their descendants in the United States, but is also dedicated to the study of the history of all the people who have comprised the community of Holland throughout its history.

The Haworth Inn and Conference Center is located at 225 College Ave., facing College Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets.