Our Theological School held its Opening Exercises Sept. 5 with seven young aspirants to the ministry, two professors, and three delegates from the School Committee present.
The fact that there were seven young men on hand to enter our Seminary probably takes some explanation. Last summer our Synod decided to enter pre-seminary students in our school in order to keep our prospective ministers under the influence of our teaching while at college. The faculty had persuaded the School Committee, which in turn assured the Synod that our two professors would be able to give this college education in the pre-seminary subjects. Synod realized that this would mean a very heavy work-load for the two professors, but it was evident that they were eager for it, This eagerness was patently contagious, for six college students expressed their intense desire to acquire the balance of the college education in our seminary. Synod’s decision was influenced by the recognition of two distinct advantages to be had by accepting this plan. The first, and chief, advantage being that our young men would be under our instruction, and therefore under sound and thoroughly reformed influence during their pre-seminary years. The second benefit gained, if all goes well, would be the fact that they would be able to graduate one year earlier than if they would complete their work at college, which would alleviate our present minister shortage sooner.
Opening Day was a joyous occasion for professors and committee members alike. To see seven eager faces around the tables instead of one or two, as in years gone by, gave a needed lift to the whole assembly. Instead of being alone at all classroom activities, our seminarian, Rodney Miersma, was flanked by six pre-seminary students who will share many of his subjects and classroom discussions. The Rector, Prof. H.C. Hoeksema, opened the occasion with devotions, reading the second chapter of Paul’s second letter to Timothy. The fifteenth verse of this chapter was singled out for the basis of his brief address, and it served so admirably to convey an admonition to our prospective ministers, as it originally did to Timothy. The Rector read this passage from the English version for the benefit of those who were not conversant with the Greek, but then treated the original language version to fully explain its richness of flavor.
The verse, “Study thyself to be approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”, was treated in an expository way, giving the young men a first lesson in this art which they are striving to master. The professor told them that they must be diligent (make haste) to study; they must hurry to apply themselves to their work, not to put it off, but to use their talents, their time, their means, to the best of their ability. Further, that the reason for this diligence lay in the fact that they must be ready in the Judgment Day to present themselves before God as having been approved; as having met the test; and as a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. Their mentor then warned them that the motif of entire education must be, not first of all to be approved of their professors, nor of the churches, (although this is all involved) but, “before the face of God.” The implication of this admonition, the speaker told them, was that a student could be less than diligent; he could be lazy; he could waste his time; because his instructors would not be able to watch him at his home work; but the sober fact is that God, before Whose face they must be approved, knows all.
The Rector went on to explain that the element “word of truth” referred to Christ, Who is the Truth, according to His own testimony. He is the revelation of the God of our salvation, which revelation is set forth in the Holy Scriptures which shall be the subject of their studies. The speaker further said that the activity of “rightly dividing” was literally a “cutting straight,” and involved an exposition of the Word of God which allows for no deviation; it means cutting straight in Dogmatics, hermeneutics, homiletics and all the rest of the studies of a serious minded seminarian. The professor, in the name of the faculty and the Theological School Committee, said that it was their prayer that this word of the Apostle to Timothy might be the motto of the student body throughout their school years, and their work in the ministry at the completion of their schooling.
Prof. H. Hanko then stood before the neophytes and re-iterated the sentiments expressed by his colleague, and promised the young men that they would do all in their power to make their work, though arduous, to be enjoyable to them. His welcome, too, was warm and friendly and met with like response. It was very plain to see that faculty and students were genuinely glad to see one another, and were anticipating the year with undimmed pleasure.
Rev. VanBaren, of the School Committee, then spoke briefly to the students, expressing his best wishes and encouraging them to find many thirty-hour days in which to meet the requirements of their instructors, which, to this observer, might be necessary if the first assignments were a barometer of the future. Rev. Van Baren closed this convocation with a prayer of thanksgiving for the evidence of God’s grace upon us and a petition for a continuance of His favor on our Seminary in the future. Yea, verily, our school was. off to a good start!
The Theological School Committee has the full responsibility of the Seminary upon its shoulders, and carries this responsibility to the Throne of Grace from whence all blessing flow. But the committee desires to share this responsibility with the membership of all our churches. We crave that a constant remembering of the needs of our students may rise up to heaven from each of our pulpits, our consistory meetings, our societies, our family worship devotions, and from our bedtime prayer sessions. In order to make such intercessions more intelligently it may be well to make you a little better acquainted with these would-be ministers, who really are the property of us all. They areour students!
Rodney Miersma is our lone seminary student, with a three-year course of studies laid out for him. He is married and lives at 1008 Worden St. S.E. in Grand Rapids, Mich. His parents are Mr. and Mrs. Henry Miersma of Rock Rapids, Iowa, and are members of our Doon Church. Rodney was baptized in our Edgerton church and remained there until coming to Doon some three years ago. He has completed his pre-seminary training at Dordt College, and has embarked on his last stint of formal education. Needless to say, he is happy to have the fellowship of several underclassmen in his quest for the training designed to prepare him for what is probably the highest calling among men.
Marvin Kamps is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Kamps, Sr. of Hudsonville, Mich. He was baptized in our Creston Church and is now married, the father of three children. Marv has completed two years of pre-seminary training at Calvin College, has now enrolled in our school with the prospect of graduating after four years, then to stand ready to be called to labor in our churches.
Ron VanOverloop, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon VanOverloop of Hudsonville, was baptized in Hudsonville some nineteen years ago and has been a member thereof ever since. He, too, has had two years at Calvin College and expects to take up his labors in our churches after a four-year drilling in the courses set up for him which will serve to make him a fit instrument in the hands of the King of His Church to be an under-shepherd in the flock of Christ.
Wayne Bekkering is the only one of the seven students who was not born and reared in a Protestant Reformed home. His baptism was in a Reformed church, and he received his early training there for eight years. The next ten of his formative years were in a Methodist church, but the following six years again found him in a Reformed communion. The last two years his membership had been in a local Chr. Ref. Church. His religious training, in his own estimation, was scant and very sketchy, entirely unlike that of his fellow enrollees in our school. His first contact with our people came through a fellow laborer at his work who gave him pamphlets and other material which opened his eyes to many of the fundamental truths of Scripture formerly denied him. He remembers that it came as a distinct shock to him to learn that God does not love everybody as it had been told him in his childhood. He has had the equivalent of three years in college, the last two at Calvin. At college he became acquainted with one of our young men—Marv Kamps—and through his influence began to appreciate the Protestant Reformed awareness of the absolute sovereignty of God, and the expository preaching practices in our churches. He is now a member of our Southwest Church. Wayne is 25, married, and has one child. His graduation date is a long hard four years in the future, but he is eagerly anticipating the way of preparation towards this goal.
Jim Slopsema is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Slopsema, Jr.; with his parents is a member of Southeast Church where he was baptized and instructed in his religious training. His academic history includes three years of college, the last two at Calvin. 1972 is the magic number in his planning, for his prescribed course of study which has been laid out for him by the faculty is also the four year span of diligent enterprise of attaining the material and necessary grades to pass the test required of ministers who labor in our denomination.
Ed Lotterman, nineteen year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Don Lotterman of our Southwest Church, was born, baptized and raised right there and his membership is in that church today. He is one year behind the above mentioned students in that he has had but one year at Calvin. He, with his colleagues, has joyfully placed his roots in our seminary, his to be a stiff course of study for the next five years.
Mark Hoeksema, son of Prof. and Mrs. H.C. Hoeksema, is the seventh on this list of prospective ministers in our denomination. He has been raised in an environment most probable to encourage a young man to strive for the ministry. To be a son and a grandson of a minister should arouse one to an alertness for the call to be likewise occupied in his life work. Whereas the other six may look to the future somewhat starry eyed, Mark knows that the lines do not always fall in pleasant places for the head of the manse. Faithful ministers of God’s word share with the prophets of old the heartaches and disappointments attending their labors in God’s vineyard. But then this student, with experiences unlike his colleagues’, also knows that God’s grace is sufficient to His servants in all their way. Mark, like Ed Lotterman, has had one year at Calvin and is looking ahead to 1973, if the Lord tarries.
As you probably know, our school has been housed in one of the basement rooms of First Church. But because of this year’s increased enrollment, and the different scheduling of classes involved in combination pre-sem. and seminary courses, another room had to be utilized. First Church supplied this necessary addition adjacent to the original one. The new room will have to serve multiple duties: serving the school as well as societies and committee meetings. The chalk board, tables and chairs were purchased by the school committee and are intended to be moved to the seminary building when it materializes.
The Theological School Committee commends these seven earnest young men to your highest esteem, remembering the admonition of the Apostle Paul to give double honor to those who labor in the word and doctrine, although theirs is yet in the preparatory stage. And their word to you is that of the same apostle as he said to the Thessalonians, “Brethren, pray for us.”