Beginning a new school year
On Tuesday, August 24, 2020 the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary opened its doors for a new academic year. Although we are still under strict mandates in Michigan, we are very thankful that we can meet again in our classrooms. While maintaining the new ‘normal,’ with its emphasis on sanitizing, social distancing, and frequent hand washing, we have been relieved of teaching our classes via Zoom or relying on prerecorded lectures. That was the way in which the 2019-2020 school year ended. We are grateful that we do not have to return to distance-learning measures. Professors and students alike are grateful for our return to the classroom setting.
Our joy over the beginning of the new school year is tempered by the necessity of canceling our scheduled convocation service, the open house that was planned for the newly remodeled seminary building, and the invitation to auditors to join some of our classes. The COVID-19 restrictions have made it necessary to cancel these activities for now. We sincerely hope that we will be able to return to these practices in the future, but as in all things, we wait upon the Lord.
As is usual, with the new year there are changes in our student body.
We had no graduations at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, which is a good way in which to “lose” students. Two students from last year have discontinued their studies. Doner Bartolon and his family have returned to Mexico, in large part because of the declining health of his parents and his desire to serve the church in his native land. Jeremy Helms is pursuing a different career path than the ministry.
We wish both Doner and Jeremy the Lord’s blessing on their future endeavors. We welcomed two new students: Luke Bomers and Arend Haveman. Luke is married to Sydney and together they have two sons, Lewis and Jacob. The Bomers are members of our Hope, Walker, MI congregation. Arend is a single young man, a member of our Trinity congregation in Hudsonville, MI.
Besides our two first-year students, Matthew Koerner and Isaac Peters are our returning second-year students. Matt is a member of Southeast PRC of Grand Rapids. Isaac, his wife Rebekah, and their children, Donnie, Charlie, Bella, and Lillian are members of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPCA), which has official relationships with the PRCA. Isaac is in a special three-year program, as were previous men from the EPC. It is a special privilege of our seminary to be able to train the men of the EPCA, and we are grateful that we may be of service to the EPCA in this way. Isaac, Rebekah, and their children attend our Grace PRC in Walker, MI.
Marcus Wee is our lone third-year student. Marcus and his wife Tze Yan and their two young sons, Asaph and Silas, are members of our sister congregation in Singapore. After graduation, Marcus plans, the Lord willing, to return to Singapore to serve in the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore (CERC). Marcus and his family are under the oversight of and attend Zion PRC in Jenison, MI.
Josiah Tan is in his final year. He and his wife Hui Qi have recently been blessed with the birth of their third child, a baby boy whom they have named Jacob. Jacob joins the other Tan children, Abigail and Caleb. Josiah is currently doing his internship at First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI, under the mentoring of Rev. Cory Griess. He will return to the seminary classroom in the second semester in order to complete his training. It is also Josiah’s desire to return to Singapore in order to serve the CERC.
Six students in the four years of seminary. Three of the six are not being trained for the ministry in the PRCA. The first potential PRCA graduate will not complete his studies for three years. That on top of retirements, new seminary professors, new congregations, mission opportunities, and whatever else the Lord has in store for our churches. The need is great—GREAT!! Let us pray the Lord of the harvest that He sends forth laborers into the harvest (Matt. 9:37, 38). Pray that the Lord will convict capable young men of the call to the ministry and in His providence open the way for their years of preparation. Let this petition go up to God from our family altars, from our Christian schoolteachers in their devotions, and from our pastors in catechism and during the congregational prayers. Let the elders and ministers impress the need upon young men who give indication of possessing the necessary gifts for the ministry, perhaps at family visitation. Let the young people press the call upon their friends who display an aptitude for the pastoral office. And may God never send us in His judgment a famine of the hearing of His word (Amos 8:11).
Faculty and staff
Not only are there some changes in our student body, there are also some changes in our faculty. Last year, synod appointed Prof. Brian Huizinga as the replacement for Prof. Ronald Cammenga. Prof. Huizinga continues to work on his preparations for teaching. Synod 2020 extended by one year his transition into full-time teaching so that he could take a year to study theological Dutch. That special study has commenced. While Prof. Huizinga continues his preparations, including work on his ThM thesis, Prof. Cammenga continues to teach full-time. Prof. Douglas Kuiper is continuing to teach an increasing number of courses, sharing the course load with Prof. Russell Dykstra whom he is gradually replacing.
Besides preparing for and teaching their classes in the seminary, the faculty also serve in other capacities. Two of the faculty are among the three editors of the Standard Bearer. All the members of the faculty regularly contribute articles to the magazine, as well as to the Beacon Lights. In addition, the seminary faculty contribute articles and book reviews to the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. All the professors are kept busy preaching in the churches, usually once and often twice each Lord’s Day. Some of the faculty have the privilege of regularly preaching the Heidelberg Catechism in local congregations that are vacant. Occasionally, we are able we supply the pulpits of congregations outside of west Michigan. We also serve on various standing and special denominational committees, like the Committee for Contact with Other Churches and the Psalter Revision Committee. We are frequently asked to give special lectures, as well as annual Reformation lectures. And all the professors are involved in leading Bible study societies or teaching catechism classes. All these activities keep us connected to the churches and afford opportunity to be involved in the life of the denomination. We have no interest in becoming ivory tower theologians.
The faculty are very grateful for the support staff of the seminary. Miss Sharon Kleyn continues in her capacity as the faculty secretary. Her smiling face and cheerful greeting will be the first things you experience when you walk through the seminary’s front door. In so many ways she assists the professors and students in their work and has proven to be a very valuable member of the seminary’s support staff. Mr. Charles Terpstra continues to serve as our registrar, librarian, and archivist. He wears many different hats at the seminary, besides the several additional hats that he wears in the service of our churches. As our librarian he is constantly seeking to add new and used books to our library’s collection. Our library is constantly expanding. All prospective students are advised to contact him so that as registrar he can assist you with making sure that all prerequisites are met before entering seminary. He can help you map out a program of study in college so that you are able to enter seminary in as timely a fashion as possible.
Mr. Terpstra is assisted in the archives department by Mr. Robert Drnek, who has devoted himself to helping process archival material that has been donated to the denomination. We encourage individuals and consistories to deposit their archives in the newly enlarged archives room at the seminary. Mr. Terpstra can assist anyone who may be looking for material in our archives. And there is a wealth of valuable material contained in the PRC’s archival collection. We are hoping that the denominational archives becomes useful for special studies and research in the PRC.
We want to remind our supporters that the seminary library is open for research and study. We also have a large selection of religious magazines, including back issues, that can be browsed. All our constituency may check out our library books—for three weeks. After three weeks, we impose huge fines, after which all outstanding fines are turned over to a collection agency. Not, of course, true. But we do appreciate it that books that have been checked out are returned in a timely manner.
The churches have provided a beautiful building and a gorgeous setting in which professors and students are able to work. We are very thankful for the trust that the churches have placed in us. We take it very seriously. May we be found faithful as we prepare the next generation of preachers of the gospel for our churches, our sister churches, and those churches with whom the PRCA have relations.