Ben Wigger is an elder in the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.

The writer of this profile of First Church in Grand Rapids is Mr. John M. Faber of “see you in church” fame. You readers will probably enjoy something from a long-time writer for this rubric. 

Our history goes way back to 1924 when the common grace question was before the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, which in 1926 resulted in our beginning as a Protestant Reformed Church. When Rev. Hoeksema left his old church he led some 300 families with him. Ninety-two families remained with the Eastern Avenue Church. Characteristically, from then on they were called “The Ninety-Twoers.” It was decided by the court that we must vacate the building on Eastern Avenue because it belonged to the denomination. 

We met temporarily in the Franklin Community Building across the street from our new building site, but soon began worshiping in the St. Cecilia Building downtown. What a sight that was every Sunday to see hundreds of family members traipsing downtown each morning and evening! Walking? Of course. Hardly any family owned a car then. 

When the new church was a-building, the basement was first prepared, so that we could worship there, for a rent saving. That basement had a flat cement floor with many square pillars supporting the superstructure. These pillars blocked the view of two or three persons, each, so that any sleeper could hide from the view of the minister. But what a great nuisance for the wide awake worshipper! 

When the new church was finished and church-going was normal again, the congregation grew steadily. At one time we had 370 Sunday School children with 26 teachers and 2 helpers! We sent 155 of our young men to the armed service in 1945; and in that year our two ministers conducted 27-funerals: We kept our pastors for long periods: Rev. H: Hoeksema for 45 years, Rev. R. Veldman for 5 years, Rev. H. De Wolf for 9 years, Rev. C. Hanko for 16 years, Rev. G. Van Baren for 12 years. Our present pastor, Rev. Joostens, is now serving his ninth year. 

We weathered another congregational split in 1953. And, as usual in any split based on a doctrinal issue, the members who stay are not all “choosers” as much as “followers.” That became evident when many of the former “followers” of Rev. Hoeksema became “rejecters” in ’53. This time the doctrinal issue was on the little word “if,” which introduced the conditional theology. One minister and two-thirds of the people left us and we, the one-third, met in Christian High School auditorium until we learned that we could return to Franklin and Fuller again. To get an idea how this affected our church rolls: we dropped from 487 families to 170: 1,912 souls shrank to 587. The veteran Rev. H.H. weathered this storm also with the conscientious help of Rev. Hanko. After Rev. Hanko’s taking a charge in California, we were vacant for a while. After Rev. Hoeksema’s translation into his heavenly rest, the Rev. Van Baren came over to help us out of a slough of despondency and inner strife. By this time we no longer had Dutch services. Can you imagine that for years in our early history we had two English and two Dutch services each Lord’s Day? 

A worthwhile project which began many years ago, and is still presented each Sunday afternoon, is the radio broadcast of the Reformed Witness Hour, which we share with all our people and many outsiders. Even in the turmoil of ’53 we were able to “put it on the air.” The program was originally “live” in the church auditorium. One memorable time when a visiting minister from the Netherlands was preaching the afternoon sermon, he was so longwinded that we were forced to carry the planks for the choir platform down the aisle while he was orating. We set up the stand, the choir members posed thereon, the director with baton raised; and at the Dutch “amen” the choir came on the air with its “Thou, O God, art God Alone” at exactly 4 pm! 

The declining neighborhood forced us to sell our church, and while waiting for a new church, we again met in St. Cecilia Building downtown. No teeming sidewalks this time; only a full parking lot. 

Our present constituency? Many senior citizens (some in nursing homes, but others in retirement apartments); architects, bankers, grocers, office workers; working mothers in teaching, in business offices, and, last but not least, in child rearing! 

Now we are worshiping in a new edifice on Michigan Avenue, near the intersection of I 196 and the East Beltline. The vaulted roof seems to hold up pretty well under the burden of debt resting upon it. The basement is under the whole building, folding partitions providing classrooms for Sunday School, catechism, and society meetings. That leaves enough room for a huge room suitable for congregational meetings and banqueting. The consistory room is square and roomy, with air-conditioning, as is also the nursery which has proved to be an extremely useful adjunct in the floor plan. An elevator was installed, according to law, and is very useful to our seniors who park their cars on the lower level . . . . but why go on? Why don’t you pay us a visit so we can . . . . see you in church. 


In other news: Rev. Dale Kuiper has accepted the call extended to him from our church in Lacombe, Canada. 

Rev. Jason Kortering has declined the call extended to him from First Church in Grand Rapids to serve as a missionary to the saints of Jamaica.

And lastly Prof. R. Decker has been extended a call to be the pastor of our congregation in Holland. 

Rev. R. Cammenga from Loveland writes that this year’s Young Peoples Convention was a great success. It was close to a record as far as size. Nearly 300 young people attended from across the country, Canada, and even Great Britain. 

Tapes of the three convention speeches are available. Cost is $4.00. The tapes can be ordered by writing to the address of the church. 

Convocation exercises for the seminary were held September 9 at Southwest Church. Prof. Decker spoke on “Committing the Truth to Faithful Men”. Prof. Hoeksema introduced the students, one in seminary and six in pre-seminary, and the seminary building was open afterward for anyone interested in browsing.