On July 4, 1929, at a Field Day of the Protestant Reformed Churches, Rev. Herman Hoeksema announced, “Last evening a baby was born, weighing nine pounds and showing signs of vigorous growth, for during the night the babe grew two more pounds.” He was referring to the organization of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan.
On July 3, members of the Classical Committee had met with interested people for the purpose of organizing a new Protestant Reformed Church. It was thought that as many as 75 families might be interested in forming this new congregation. However, only nine families appeared. Rev. H. Hoeksema preached from II Timothy 2:19: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” And, “Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Rev. George Ophoff presided for the organization. Two elders and two deacons were installed into office. The next day, two families added their names to the little group. Thus eleven families were constituted as the “First Protestant Reformed Church of Holland.”
The birth of the congregation was soon followed by a severe economic depression. Poverty became the rule of the day, and the little flock was hard pressed to meet their bills. They met for the first five years in a little bakery shop that smelled like bread. The members often left the worship service with flour on their clothing. The first pastor (Rev. Martin Gritters, 1932) used a bicycle to get around town. If he needed to go farther out, he had standing permission to use a member’s car and he knew where the keys were kept. By 1938, the congregation had grown to 29 families and built their own building. In 1947, their third pastor accepted a call to become “home missionary” for the denomination. Concern for mission work would later be seen in many of our pastors.
In December 1947, Rev. Bernard Kok became Holland’s fourth pastor. During his pastorate our denomination was caught up in the major controversy and “split” regarding conditions in the covenant of God. Rev. Kok led the majority of the congregation out of the denomination in 1953, taking the property with them. One member recalls “When the split did occur, we found that those who were faithful to support the truth of the unconditional covenant were in the minority. We were without a pastor, a church building, and all but one consistory member. I recall our first meeting in the Federal School building as we looked about to see which members were present.” In October 1953, a consistory was reconstituted out of that small nucleus and the First Protestant Reformed Church of Holland continued to exist. The small group struggled along: “We used a variety of store fronts for worship services. Things weren’t that plush, but we did the best we could….” The PRC Acts of Synod show that the congregation dropped from 54 families in 1952 to 16 families in 1954.
On February 18, 1965, a new sanctuary was dedicated to the service of the Lord! “This was a great joy…to finally have our own building in which to worship. The entire congregation pitched in to help paint and furnish the church and we took turns with the custodial work.” “Our new church seated around 150. We had only about 80 members at that time.”
Rev. J. A. Heys was our undershepherd from April 1967 until his emeritation in 1980. During this time he was often sent to the mission field in Jamaica as well as to New Zealand to labor on behalf of the churches. In the years following, many of the pastors of the congregation accepted calls connected to mission work. Rev. R. Miersma accepted a call in 1987 to serve a sister church in New Zealand. Rev. W. Bruinsma came from the mission field in Jamaica in 1989. In 1992, with over 50 families, the church began looking to relocate and purchased land. The current sanctuary was dedicated in 1998. The following years saw two more pastors head for mission fields. In 2009, Rev. D. Kleyn accepted a call to labor in the Philippines, and Rev. D. Holstege did the same in 2016. The longest pastorate for our congregation was that of Rev. Heys, for thirteen years. Perhaps Rev. J. Smidstra, our thirteenth pastor, will break that thirteen-year record, D.V.
Our experience as a congregation has been that “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23). Christ continues to be present with the congregation, as is seen by the presence of the three marks of a true church as well as by the marks of Christians (cf. Belgic Confession, Art. 29).
Our membership currently is 67 families. We are the farthest west of all the Michigan PR churches. Although our address is 3641 104th Avenue, Zeeland, MI 49464, we are actually located in Holland Township across the street from Zeeland Township. Thus our name is still correct: “First Protestant Reformed Church of Holland.” You are cordially invited to come visit and worship with us!