Letter from Christchurch, New Zealand

Rev. R. VanOverloop 

100 Sparks Road Christchurch 

2 New Zealand 

February 23, 1978 

Young People of the 

Protestant Reformed Churches, 

c/o The Standard Bearer 

Dear Young People: 

Greetings to all of you in the name of our Lord and Savior. 

It has been two months since we last saw you face to face. We have been busy here in Christchurch, and so it has not seemed as if that much time has already gone by. Yet when I think of you, whom I love in the Lord, it does seem a long time ago that I have seen you. Some of you have written, and I and my family certainly have enjoyed that correspondence. 

I have waited as long as this to write to you because I knew you would want to know what the church is like down here. It is not easy to learn what a church is like in a brief period of time. And it is even harder to describe it to others. It would have been very hasty if I had told you about the church immediately after we arrived here. That is why in my first letter to you (in theBeacon Lights) I told you about New Zealand life in general. 

As you probably know, my consistory (upon the request of the Contact Committee) sent me to labor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Christchurch, New Zealand, and in the Orthodox Presbyterian denomination in New Zealand. 

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Christchurch is a small congregation. The directory of the members shows eight families and six individuals. Most of the families are young (five of the families have been married for less than four years). Therefore, all but one of the six children of the congregation are infants or toddlers. 

Most of the people of the congregation have been members of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand before they joined or started the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Christchurch. (This congregation was organized in December of 1974.) Two families were members of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand. But that the majority of the congregation comes from the Presbyterian Churches, and that their own name includes the word “Presbyterian” are indications that this congregation and the denomination which it joined have adopted as their ecclesiastical ancestry the Reformation in England. There is generally an appreciation for the works of the Puritans.

Before I was permitted to labor within the congregation it was necessary for the Session (consistory) to examine my doctrinal position. A thorough and complete examination was not necessary because the Session has knowledge of the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches. This type of examination is also a necessity in. our churches before one from another denomination would be allowed to preach and teach in one of our congregations. This is a very good way for the church to safeguard herself from heresy. 

Before I could do any work within any of the other two congregations of mission stations in the Orthodox Presbyterian Churches of New Zealand, I had to be examined by the Council of the denomination. (The Council is similar to a Classis meeting in our denomination.) This took place at a meeting of the Council in Wellington on Saturday, February 11. The Council accepted me with my doctrinal position and advised their congregations that I was available to help them when their respective Sessions would see fit. At this time there are no definite plans for any work outside of the congregation in Christchurch. Let me tell you a little about the activities in the church. 

The first day of the week, of course, is the Lord’s Day. The activities of the church begin at 9:45 with Sunday School. Four adults of the church lead these classes. All of the children who attend, with the exception of my two oldest children, are from the neighborhood. The worship services are held at 11:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. The manner in which these services are conducted is with the same solemnity and sincerity that all of you know in your own churches. The order of worship is a bit different from that to which we are accustomed, but we are now used to it. The Trinity Hymnal is used for the songs. 

Every Tuesday evening there is a prayer meeting held in the home of one of the members of the congregation. This is a meeting which is very common among Presbyterian churches all over the world. It is a meeting which I appreciate, for it is a time of rich spiritual fellowship. The meeting is begun with prayers, and sometimes there is also a hymn. Then there is a meditation. The purpose of the meditation is to prepare one for prayer which follows. The meditations are on a text of Scripture or on a Scriptural truth. At this time we are going through the beatitudes of Matthew 5. The meditation is followed with prayer, with different people leading in turns. 

Every other Wednesday evening there is a meeting which is similar to the Mr. and Mrs. Societies that you know. This meeting is held in our home, and we are studying marriage and the home.

Alternating weeks with the couples’ meeting is a doctrinal study class. This is also held in our home, and we are studying together the Westminster Confession. 

Every Thursday afternoon there is a catechism class for the one young person (a 13 year old boy) of the church. This class is held after school at the only Christian school in this city of almost 300,000. My two oldest children also attend this private Christian school. The school has an enrollment of about 650 students, ranging in ages from 5 to 17. 

There is also a catechism class for a young man of the neighborhood who wants to join the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. 

I am going to stop for now. I shall, the Lord willing, write again and tell you more. If any of you desire to write us, you can be assured that your letters will be gratefully received. 

Often we remember you in our prayers. We pray that you will be faithful to God in your work, in school, in catechism, in play, and in whatever you do. Do all things to the glory of God. 

We also covet your prayers. 

May the Lord bless all of us. 

Yours in Christ, 

R. VanOverloop