Thanks to Mr. Cal Kalsbeek for putting this information us!
The beginning of Hope’s existence goes back to 1916. If it hadn’t been for a 1914 decision of the Michigan State Highway Department, Hope might never have come into existence. At that time the farmers located in the hook-like bend in the Grand River had access to the Christian Reformed Church across the river only by means of the state-maintained ferry. The state’s decision to abandon the ferry in 1914 left the believers in the bend with two options, travel long distances by means of horse-drawn carriages or establish a church in the river’s bend. They chose the latter, and began by contacting the CRC Home Missionary, John R. Brink. Under his faithful care they began worshiping in the home (and sometimes under the big tree in the front yard) of Mr. Richard Newhouse where seven families organized as Hope Christian Reformed Church in 1916.
After limping along for five and a half years without a pastor of their own (mostly because they did not feel they could afford one), the congregation decided to call a minister. Their second call was extended to the then Candidate George M. Ophoff who accepted the call, was examined by Classis, and installed as pastor of Hope Christian Reformed Church in January of 1922. Three years later, in January of 1925, Rev. Ophoff was still pastor of Hope, but not of Hope CRC. The CRC Classis deposed Rev. Ophoff and his consistory for refusing to declare “…unequivocally whether he is in full agreement, yes or no, with the three points of the synod of Kalamazoo.” Consequently, those faithful to the truth of particular grace lost their church building and parsonage (plus the outhouse), nearly half of their members, and even the $500.00 the congregation had managed to accumulate. After their deposition, they joined with the churches of Rev. H. Hoeksema and Rev. H. Danhof and became part of the Protesting Christian Reformed Churches. Upon the rejection of their appeal to the CRC Synod of 1926, they adopted the name Hope PRC.
But Hope’s continuation as a congregation hung in the balance due to the lack of membership. During this time, they even considered the possibility of consolidation with Hudsonville PRC. In August of 1926 by the narrowest of margins (one vote), they decided to continue as a congregation. The following years (1926–1945) led to very little growth with the number of families ranging between 7 and 17. Two building projects turned that around: one by the State of Michigan and the other by the members of Hope. First, in God’s providence the same Michigan State Highway Department that served the beginning of Hope by its discontinuation of the Ferry across the Grand River, now contributed to Hope’s survival by constructing the Wilson Avenue Bridge in the early 1930s; thus providing ready access to Hope from people living in the Grandville/Jenison area. Second, Hope’s members recognized the need for their own Christian school to best honor the vows they took at the baptism of their children. Consequently, they built Hope Protestant Reformed Christian School and opened its doors to students in 1947. The effect this had on Hope Church’s growth is evident from the statistics: 17 families in 1945 to 40 families in 1953.
The 1953 split in the Protestant Reformed Churches resulted in the loss of 15 families. However, a significant amount of growth in subsequent years led to the formation of three daughter congregations: Faith in 1973, Grandville in 1983, and Grace in 1995. In addition to experiencing the joys of giving birth to these congregations was God’s blessing in calling eight of Hope’s sons to serve in the Gospel ministry: Prof. David Engelsma, Rev. Kenneth Koole, Rev. Ronald Hanko, Prof. Russell Dykstra, Prof. Douglas Kuiper, Rev. William Langerak, Rev. Nathan Langerak, and Rev. Joshua Engelsma.
Further, over the years the Lord has given Hope the privilege of serving in many areas of gospel outreach. In addition to the continuous activity of Hope’s Reformed Witness Committee, Hope served as the calling church of denominational labors in Houston, Texas (Rev. R. Harbach, 1974–1977), Victoria, British Columbia (Rev. Harbach, 1977–1979), Lansing, Michigan (Rev. Houck, 1979–1982), Singapore (Rev. J. Kortering, 1992–2002 and Rev. A. denHartog, 2002–2005), and Myanmar (Rev. Titus, 2006–present).
Space limitations (we have already exceeded the 700 words graciously allotted by our SB news editor) require that we here conclude our profile of Hope PRC. For the interested reader the complete history of Hope is recorded in the book A Spiritual House Preserved: A Century in the River’s Bend, (available at rfpa.org) which includes a detailed history, profiles of the twelve pastors that have faithfully served us, our busy society life, consistory minutes of interest, oral history accounts, and much more.