“We wish to stress that the work of preparation (for our fiftieth anniversary as churches) should not be postponed, but should begin immediately. A worthwhile celebration will depend to a large degree on very thorough planning and advance work. The occasion is a momentous one—not because of what we are and have done, but because of what our covenant God has wrought for, in, and through, us. Our aim should be to make the thankful commemoration of this anniversary commensurate with the momentous character of the occasion.”
These words are quoted from a synodical advisory committee report which was given to the synod of 1973. That synod also adopted the guidelines which has made up the planning of the Fiftieth Anniversary Committee.
Our Lord has now enabled our churches to enter this anniversary year, 1975. We trust it will be one of sanctified joy in our God.
The question might enter your mind: why 1975? Didn’t our churches begin in 1924? This past year we were reminded from our Standard Bearer that its beginnings date back to 1924. While our expulsion from the Christian Reformed denomination took place in late 1924, our formal organization as a denomination did not begin until 1925. On March 6 of that year the three expelled consistories, Eastern Avenue, Kalamazoo I, and Hope, organized provisionally as Protesting Christian Reformed Churches on the basis of the Act of Agreement. Thereafter, other congregations were organized. And eventually, after our appeal to the Christian Reformed Synod of Englewood, 1926, was rejected, we. organized permanently as the Protestant Reformed Churches and formed a General Classis. Hence, our formal beginnings go back to March 6, 1925.
The theme of our celebration is “Covenant Faithfulness.” Once again we note from the advisory committee: “In searching for an appropriate theme or motto for this celebration, we were guided by the following considerations: a. We wanted to stress the idea that as we look backward over the fifty years of our existence, our motive is to look forward in faith. b. We wanted to find a theme which would adequately express the distinctive aspect of our position and history as Protestant Reformed Churches. c. We wanted a theme which could serve well as a unifying factor for our entire commemoration.”
The Fiftieth Anniversary Committee was mandated to take care of the arrangements so that our churches will be able to celebrate this anniversary in keeping with this stated goal.
As a committee, we desire to share these plans with you so that you may make the necessary preparations to participate.
One of the most exciting things we look forward to is the distribution of our anniversary book. The book will be close to 200 pages and bound in hard cover. Mrs. Homer C. Hoeksema has worked hard as editor of this book. She not only wrote an interesting section on the history of our local congregations and denominational life, but also took care of the publication details. The book will also include a section by Prof. H. Hanko on the history that gave rise to our coming into existence, Prof. H. C. Hoeksema on our doctrinal distinctiveness, and Prof. R. Decker on our world and life view. It should be apparent that the value of this book is broader than a momentary anniversary celebration. We quote from the foreword: “This book is intended to be more than a mere memorial, to be glanced at and stowed away. The various writers have contributed the material with the view to making this a compact and brief summary of all that the Lord has entrusted to us, for the edification of our older members, the instruction of our youth, and as information for anyone who may be interested in the heritage entrusted to us. We cherish the hope that this memorial will be found in the homes of all our people, and will be presented to our covenant youth at the time of their public confession of faith.”
The financing and distribution of the book will be handled by the Committee for the Publication of Protestant Reformed Literature. Notices will soon appear in the Standard Bearer for the sale of this book. Estimate for the price runs about $4.95. It is possible that the committee will make the book available to our consistories for presentation to our young people at a reduced rate. Last report is that the book is at the printer and if the binder can process it on time, it should be ready for distribution in March.
Sunday, March 2 has been designated as Anniversary Sunday. Our consistories have been contacted and the suggestion has been made that the sermons on this day be a fitting commemoration of our anniversary. Different texts have been suggested, both emphasizing God’s faithfulness and our calling to be faithful. Possibly the one service can emphasize God’s faithfulness and the second one our calling to be faithful. The idea of having such a Sunday is that it is not only the Sunday closest to the beginning of our churches, but that we may be guided in our celebrating by the Word of God. This should set the key-note for our anniversary year.
We also suggested to the Federation of Protestant Reformed Young People that they plan a special “singspiration” that evening in the Grand Rapids area. We would also suggest by this article that this idea be carried out in our churches in other parts of the country. Surely, God’s covenant faithfulness is worth singing about and it would bring to a fitting close this special day.
The annual synod of our churches will be meeting in Hull, Iowa beginning on June 11. The reason for meeting in Hull is connected with our anniversary. In the first place, it will give the mid-west opportunity to share in the anniversary on a denominational basis. The second reason is that Hull is the oldest congregation in the west, having been organized also in March 1925. The pre-synodical service will include a sermon directed to our anniversary theme. A special program for Sunday, June 15 is also being planned.
The really big celebration is for this summer. A great deal of work is going into the planning of the 1975 Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention. This will be an opportunity for our young people to celebrate our anniversary not only, but plans are to include all our people, as many as possible, from all areas of our country to come together for a week of anniversary celebration.
The young people’s societies of our First Church in Grand Rapids have been appointed the host societies. They are working with a sub-committee of the anniversary committee to co-ordinate the activities so that the young people can still have their own convention, but that the families can participate in some things together and other things independently from the young people. Details will eventually be forthcoming.
The important thing for the present is to plan your vacation to be in Grand Rapids, Michigan the week of August 4-8. Think of what this can mean for greater acquaintance and unity among our people. The one thing about young people’s conventions is that our young people from all over the country get to know one another, share like faith for a week, stimulate one another unto godliness through mutual fellowship. Isn’t it a worthwhile goal to try to broaden out on this idea for this year and to include families?
The convention will be on the beautiful Knollcrest Campus of Calvin College. We have been informed that Calvin dormitories will be available not only for the young people attending the convention, but, if desired, also for families. The cost estimate for lodging is $3.00 per day for adults and half price for children. Meals will also be available for those desiring at a cost of $1.30 for breakfast, $1.70 for lunch, and $2.50 for dinner. In the event that you are a camping enthusiast, provision will be made to locate a campground in the vicinity and try to keep our people together as much as possible.
If you are thinking about the possibility of going to Grand Rapids this summer and might like to use any of these facilities, you should write Rev. G. Van Baren soon and he in turn will make the necessary reservations.
To whet your appetite, how would you like to attend an old fashioned “field day”? You might just be able to do that in August 1975. Talk this over as families and as interested members of your congregations and see if we can’t get participation from almost all our churches.
One final note—we also plan to bring to a close our anniversary year by sharing our blessings with others. The month of October will be our “Anniversary Radio Month”. Rev. M. Schipper will be the speaker D.V. The purpose of this endeavor is two-fold. The first is to tell others outside our churches that God is faithful in preserving His truth and covenant and that we rejoice in being able to testify of this to the whole world. The second purpose is to announce the Reformation Day Rallies in our local areas which will be an invitation to those in our communities to come and rejoice with us in the Reformed faith which God has graciously preserved for us and our children. It is possible that our professors will be able to tour the country and present these lectures. These details have yet to be finalized.
In summary, we look forward to an eventful year under God’s blessing. If we are to exalt ourselves, our pride will ruin all our efforts. Rather let us exalt in our God, for He is faithful and by His grace alone enables us to continue in the faith of our fathers. Let him that glorieth glory in the Lord.