Why don’t you write about the Classis Meetings anymore, some of our people asked me? And honestly, I did not know what to answer. For no reason at all, we no longer wrote about our Classical meetings, since we became (as churches) East and West. Besides, we did not consider our writings on that particular point of great import. But, we thought, perhaps this time, for I do not make any promises as to the future, we better have a few lines on our last Classical meeting.
On the 5th of March we came together as Classis in our Sioux Center, Iowa Church.
From sunny California and wintry Montana (the brethren assured me it was really spring out in Manhattan—spring, I surmise, as we have it out here in the middle-west) as well as snow-bound Iowa, South- East and North-West, and ice-covered Minnesota, we were delegated to attend to the matters placed before our Classical meeting.
Always a fine opportunity we receive through these meetings, to be together and inform about each other’s well-being and that of our congregations. Meeting twice a year is sufficient to make one long for these occasions. I am sure that has been, until now and let us hope it will continue to be, the desire of all of us. Yes, we are one. Blessed tie that binds us together.
We were twenty strong. Was it Vos or someone else who once wrote, “we waren maar met ons twintigen.” In other words, half of us make the same number, as all of us at that certain time (1928). You say, “Het gaat niet bij het pond,” brother you are absolutely right, but if all other things are equal, I, for one, like to see our churches increase to double the number.
The Californian Churches sent only one delegate, the respective pastors. Oh, yes, before I forget, we also had in our midst the Morgenthau (on a small scale of course) of our churches, Mr. Fred LaGrange.
And let me say at the outset, again we had a splendid meeting and that from every point of view.
To begin with, the president of the former Classis, Rev. A. Petter, opened the meeting after the customary preliminaries. The credentials were handed in, the names of the delegates were read and our meeting was declared constituted.
The chairman of this meeting was Rev. J. Vander Breggen who acquitted himself with grace from his task. Rev. Petter wrote the minutes. The brethren attending our Classical meeting for the first time, signed the Formula of Subscription, whereupon the Chair extended a word of welcome to these brethren.
It is not my purpose to give a detailed report of all that was transacted. In the first place, this is done by our Stated Clerk and secondly, I am writing from memory. To make sure of our writing, we will only give the highlights in a general way (in order that we may play safe), if my writing is a little at variance with that of our Stated Clerk, please remember, his is correct and official.
First of all, the overture of Oskaloosa was taken off the table and the answers of our consistories were read. This overture dealt with the question, whether it was desirable (wenschelijk) to seek (as to the ultimate purpose) connections with other churches. Two denominations were mentioned. A lengthy discussion followed and finally it was decided to place this matter in the hands of a committee for further study and to report its findings at a future Classis. Of course, with a view (if accepted) that it may be sent to a future Synod.
Another important point was placed before us when the Sioux Center consistory asked Classis to share its view in re “the printing of books of Rev. Hoeksema, that his work may be preserved for the future generations”. Quite a lively discussion followed. The brethren agreed without exception, that, with a view to the future, we must by all means try to have this material in print. However, the objection was raised, whether it was correct to have Classis (or Synod) do this work. Did it really belong to Classis or Synod proper? We came to the conclusion, that this was not the case. Besides, such a fund has been established and whereas such a fund already exists and many of our churches have contributed for this cause; Classis ruled to the contrary in re Sioux Center’s overture.
Another point of the Agendum was the report of our annual Church visitation. On the whole every report given was favorable. There is harmony and unity and zeal for the cause. The labors of our ministers are blessed and appreciated. But also in this respect we have not attained to perfection. In fact there are weak spots, weak local conditions, that ought to toe taken care of with a steady hand. The cause of Christian instruction is far, very far, from perfection. We know, there are a few exceptions. Redlands, of course, is our best example and should be our ideal, for Redlands is the only congregation with a school of its own. True it is, certain circumstances made it necessary to take hold of a school of their own, but then, perhaps other circumstances ought to make all of us move in the same direction. And that for our principle’s sake. At any rate, we should not wait for the same circumstances to appear in our congregations in re the Christian School.
We are in perfect accord with Rev. Ophoff when he wrote: “But what we must also understand is that we may be satisfied with nothing less than schools in which the instruction is rooted in and permeated by the truth as we, people of Reformed persuasion, confess it. This should be with us a conviction. If it were, we would soon have our own schools. For then no sacrifice would be too great. We and our children can thrive only on pure food. Isn’t it true that then we find ourselves under the moral necessity of having our own schools? I can’t see it otherwise. The will of God is plain. If we all would only admit this, we would soon have our own schools.” That is the truth and nothing less will do. And therefore, let us get busy and do it, that is, form your own societies and preach and pray and speak to our people.
Another weakness, according to the reports of our Church-visitors, is the fact that some of our churches make light of the obligations in re our Synodical assessments. We find quite a number of them, both in Classis West and East in arrears. When we go through the congregations the remark is quite often made, “Why is our denominational budget so high?” As was pointed out by our Synodical Treasurer, one of the reasons is (perhaps the main reason) because too many of our congregations are lax in paying the assessments. Some of our congregations, I am afraid, have become accustomed to their yearly subsidy. Subsidy from year to year without ever diminishing the requested sum. Of course, I do not forget the fact that some congregations will never toe able to be without support. But there are also those who should try in earnest to get away from it and stand on their own feet. To my mind there are several reasons why no change is ever made. First, and let us call a spade a spade, because the consistory, without discussing or bringing the matter before the congregation, simply fills in the blank, the well-known form for subsidy, and year after year the same amount ds asked. I can even conceive of the fact that in some of the congregations, receiving Synodical help, most of the members, if not all, do not know about it, except for the fact that they heard it from others. The proper way is, to discuss these matters at the annual congregational meeting and to impress upon the minds and hearts of the people the necessity of self-support. An open and frank discussion on these things will bring the desired result in time.
Another reason is, that some congregations do not pay their obligations. In other words, they do not ask, but simply take the support. And as the years roll by, the debt increases more and more, until the sum reaches such great proportions that ever catching up with it is out of the question. This method is as bad, if not worse, than the one mentioned above. In that way the other congregations pay for the ones who do not accept their responsibility.
If the question is asked: “Why are all these things not taken care of and what could possibly be done? My answer is, that one of the reasons can easily toe found in the way of our financing. We take a note or mortgage and agree to pay the annual interest. Sometimes six, seven and in some cases eight percent. When the time for the interest is due (and not before) the congregation is canvassed and the sum necessary is collected or just about collected. Another year’s interest is toeing paid and we are safe again until next year. In that way, I know it to be a fact, some of our churches, as to their actual cost (the actual (price of the buildings) have been paid on interest and nothing was paid off through the years. The better way of course is this, to make a contract with a loan company and let the contract (at six percent) run for a period of ten or fifteen years and by monthly payments at the end of that period the property will be clear.
Needless to say, the ladies took good care of us at our last meeting. Sioux Center entertained us in a splendid way. And needless to say, that the dinner and supper hours, as well as ‘de koffie recess’ was well made use of by the delegates. “Dat hoort er natuurlijk ook bij, zal de Classis werkelijlk compleet en een success zijn.”
At this meeting the delegates were elected for the coming Synod. The Revs. Lubbers, Petter, Yander Breggen, and Vos will go to the next Synod, D.V. The following elders were elected: Jager, Buyert, Mesman and Ryken.
For the first time the Classis was to give advice in re the subsidy for the coming year. About $4,900.00 was asked for and $3,700.00 advised. The final decision lies, of course, with the coming Synod.
Thus we came to the end of our meeting. The customary questions according to Art. 41 of the D.K.O. were asked and one of the consistories asked advice concerning a peculiar situation. Some of our people, while living much closer to the church other than they attend, nevertheless belong to the congregation further away. And to our surprise, something was revealed we did not know or had not heard of before. If the parents of certain parties live, let us say ten or twelve miles away, their children, in order that they may pay them a visit, remain or will join the congregation, although they are much closer to the other. Question was asked, what should and what could be done to remedy this peculiar situation? Of course, besides, there are some, who for some reason or other do the same thing. This cannot be called the orderly way. To our mind, we should not cater to it, but if at all possible, admonish and teach our people in regard to this evil. Classis expressed itself on this matter and although no forthright decision was taken, the consistories were admonished to labor and correct this disorderly way of living. We do not know what the result will be, but we firmly believe if the consistories are willing to take hold of it, much improvement will be the result.
We came to the end of another of our pleasant meetings. Much labor was done and although we are in an imperfect church, yet, we firmly believe that the Lord is blessing our Western Churches. It was decided to meet next time D.V. at Pella.