“The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Psalm 6:5-6
Although our Heritage Reformed Congregation has only recently been officially incorporated, our historical roots in the Grand Rapids area can be traced back 125 years to the original incorporation of “The Christian Reformed Congregation of Grand Rapids” on October 30, 1870.In the 1850’s-1860’s several dozen Dutch immigrants living in the city of Grand Rapids became increasingly dissatisfied with the local Dutch Reformed and True Reformed congregations with which they were affiliated. These hungering souls longed to have the pure preaching they had savored in The Netherlands. In discussion, they agreed to attempt organization and call the Rev. Cornelius Kloppenburg (1815-1876) of OudVosmeer, The Netherlands. A letter giving a brief description of the flock’s need and extending a pastoral call was written by Klaas Smit. This call was declined. Six months later, however, the fledgling group heard that Rev. Kloppenburg and his family were in Rochester, New York. Repeatedly the little group pleaded with him to come to serve them, if not as pastor, then at least as a visiting minister.
Finally in August 1870 Rev. Kloppenburg preached in their midst. They pressed on him the need to organize and asked his advice. He indicated that they should join the church with which they would have the least objections. The group was, however, intent on organization and appointed a temporary committee for this step.
At this point, Rev. Kloppenburg wrote his consistory in Oud-Vosmeer to inform them he would not be able to return from America by the appointed time. He indicated that he would spend the winter in America. If it was their desire they could, with his blessing, call another minister to fill their vacant pulpit. Learning this, the Grand Rapids group requested that he settle with them at the church’s expense. Having agreed, he preached for them on October 9, 16, and 23, and organized them on October 30, 1870 as “The Christian Reformed Congregation of Grand Rapids”.
The congregation met on November 3 and elected two elders (Klaas Smit and Jan Sinke) and two deacons (Gerrit DeGraaf and Willem Freeze). Since the church of Oud-Vosmeer had called and received another minister, Rev. Kloppenburg finally had freedom to serve the Grand Rapids flock.
Five months after the organization of the congregation, difficulties developed between the minister and the consistory which resulted in the discharge of the consistory. The King of the church, however, did not permit the adversary to destroy His work and, except for one member, kept the congregation together. At a congregational meeting on May 3, 1871, a new consistory was elected consisting of one elder, Cornelius Lindhout, and one deacon, Jacob Bierens. The minister also suggested appointing a “church warden”, and chose C. Femambucq because of his knowledge of the English language.Worship services were held in the Swedenborgian Church located on the comer of Division Avenue and Lyon Street. However, the congregation was eager to have a building of its own and efforts were made to look for a site on which to build. A Mr. Steketee offered to sell his house and lot for $4,000. The sale was concluded on May 22, 1873.
This house and lot were on Division Avenue between Bronson Street (now Crescent Street) and Bridge Street (now Michigan Street). The house was to be used for a parsonage and the space at the rear of the lot was to be used for a church building. The minister moved into the house on October 9, 1873. The church building was erected during the summer and was completed on November 24. Carpenter labor was performed at a cost of $325. The pulpit was made in the elevated Dutch style. The church was dedicated on December 7, with a sermon based on I Samuel 7:12, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”.
In May 1875, Rev. Kloppenburg informed the consistory that his health was failing and that he felt that the time of his departure from earth imminent. He suggested that the congregation affiliate with the mother church, the Christian Reformed Church in the Netherlands, so that they could obtain assistance and counsel. This was approved.
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