Hope’s bulletin, which, by the way, is a usual source of general church news for this column, reported that “Classis East as it met in Hudsonville this past week will be long remembered because of the events which occurred there.” One of the events mentioned was that “the congregation of Prospect Park, New Jersey, was officially accepted as being one with us.” The congregation there wasted no time in forming a trio and calling a minister. From the trio, which included Rev. D. Engelsma, Rev. J. Kortering, and Candidate M. Hoeksema, our Prospect Park Protestant Reformed Church extended the call to Rev. Engelsma.
The other event which made the last session of Classis East a memorable one, was the examination and approval of Faith Church’s pastor-elect, Candidate M. Joostens. Two days later (Friday, October 6), in the Jenison Christian Junior High School, the current meeting place of the Faith Congregation, the ordination and installation service was held and Candidate Joostens became the newest minister of the Word in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
In other news, we learn that Candidate M. Hoeksema, who is still assisting Rev. Lubbers in the work in Jamaica, has accepted the call from our Forbes congregation. Rev. G. Van Baren is considering the call to serve as minister in our South Holland congregation. Rev. D. Engelsma reported that one of his services in Houston was attended by 75-80 people. October 14 was Rev. Engelsma’s third and final Sunday in that area. Prof. H. Hanko, we learn from Randolph’s bulletin, has agreed to spend a weekend in “Skowhegan, Maine, on behalf of the Mission Committee, to investigate the situation there.” And, from First Church’s bulletin . . . “the Mission Committee has decided to discontinue labors in Philadelphia for the present.”
Each of the foregoing news items is, in its own right, not only of great interest, but also of obvious significance. Our final item is, perhaps, one of even more profound significance. We refer, of course, to the installation of a third professor in our seminary. The service was held in First Church of Grand Rapids on Wednesday, October 3. That the event was considered to be a notable one, was evident from the size of the audience, which included, incidentally, not only people of the Grand Rapids area, but also a number of individuals from rather distant churches. Since Classis East had met that day, a couple of representatives from our New Jersey Church were in Grand Rapids and could attend the installation service. In addition, the service was attended by a number of members of the two congregations in which Rev. Decker had formerly served as pastor. Some, then, traveled from South Holland, Illinois; and we understand that five families came in a van from Doon, Iowa, in order to witness that installation. (Tapes of the service, incidentally, are available, at $2.50, from Rev. G. Van Baren.)
In a beautiful tribute to Rev. Decker in the Farewell Program at South Holland, the consistory there noted, that, “it seems only such a short time ago that Professor Hoeksema installed Reverend Decker into his office here in South Holland. At that time, Professor Hoeksema made mention of the fact that the lights in the study would be required to burn far into the night. We feel that these lights have burned much during the past four years and that as a result, our congregation has been richly blessed.”
Rev. Decker, now Professor of Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary, will no doubt continue to burn study lights far into the night, for he must continue to work in what Professor Hanko called “another aspect of the official preaching of the gospel.” Professor Hanko based his sermon, that night, on II Timothy 2:15. He noted that the instructions given by Paul to Timothy carried “a sense of urgency, for the days in which Timothy was called to work in Ephesus were, from many points of view, evil days — days characterized by indifference to and hatred of sound doctrine.” And, Professor Hanko continued, “if that was urgent in Timothy’s day, it is increasingly urgent in our day.”
It’s that urgency, certainly, which underscores the gravity and difficulty of the task to which Professor Decker is called. The task is, in fact, such that “no man by his own strength can possibly perform it.” But the task assigned to him is “assigned by Christ, and Him alone.” I’m sure, Professor Hanko stated, “that Rev. Decker is ready to assume his place as professor of theology in our seminary only because of the fact that there is no escaping the appointment of Christ. Christ calls with a calling that cannot be declined.” And then, too, that task which is otherwise humanly impossible becomes possible “by the power of Christ.”
Professor Hanko acknowledged that “it is a very great blessing that the Lord has preserved us for nearly 50 years in the truth of the Scriptures.” And he added that “that gives to us in the Seminary the responsibility to see to it that that Word of Truth continues to be rightly divided.” Involved in that is our responsibility to “be servants of the Word completely . . . to bow before the Word completely . . . as little children . . . We never, we never, we never grow beyond being little children when it comes to the Word of God. That’s the only way to hear, the only way to understand.”
And then, directing his final remarks particularly to our new professor, Prof. Hanko advised, “Take that Word of God with you into our school, for the sake of the church whom God loves, and because you labor, not for any goals in this world but on behalf of the Kingdom which shall dawn when Christ comes.” The sermon was powerful, the installation itself, thrilling, and the social hour which followed, enjoyable. It all added up to what one bulletin predicted would be a “happy occasion.”
And the end result of it all, is that I went off the back page again. Of course, the picture below (which also appeared on the printed program of the Installation Service) doesn’t help matters any. How about it, Mr. Editor-in-Chief, am I excused?