During the months of April and May the Rev. J. De Jong and the undersigned spent approximately four weeks in the Province of Ontario, Canada. The purpose was to make a rather thorough investigation to determine the possibility of working amongst the Holland immigrants there. Both Classis East and West, as well as several individuals, had contacted the Mission Committee suggesting such an investigation and urging that we as Churches labor in Canada, if at all possible. At this time we would like to present some of our findings and conclusions since these have motivated the Mission Committee, in conjunction with the calling Church, to begin work in Canada amongst the immigrants.
There are several thousand Holland immigrants already established in Canada and during the course of this year about 10,000 more’ are expected to arrive. Most of these are settled in the Province of Ontario, although the other Provinces also absorb some; notably, Manitoba and British Columbia. Our investigation covered only the Province of Ontario and of that only a portion. It is evident, therefore, that we contacted comparatively few of the immigrants, although we believe, a representative group. Generally these immigrants are scattered, except for concentrations around such cities as Sarnia, Chatham, Kitchener, St. Catherines and a few lesser groups. There is still much moving about amongst them and a generally unsettled condition prevails. Many of the immigrants also realize that if they are to maintain their Reformed character they will have to concentrate in greater numbers in various centers; this they also hope and expect to do.
The great majority of the immigrants are of Reformed persuasion coming from the Hervormde and Gereformeerde (both Synodaal and Vrijgemaakt) Churches. We found sound convictions amongst those who call themselves Orthodox Hervormde as well as among the Synodalen and Vrijgemaakten. Generally we were best received and able to speak most freely with the Liberated brethren; many of whom had heard of us and were interested in knowing more of our history and position. These families are also scattered with not more than 3 or 4 in any one center. Some of these Liberated brethren have not joined themselves to any established Church in Canada and are very desirous that we should labor there. (Note: We refer here especially to the Christian Reformed Church and the United Church of Canada. The former, having been established in Canada, is laboring diligently to give the immigrants a Church home within their denomination. The existing congregations have greatly increased in number and many mission posts have been established and new fields opened as more men are called to labor. The United Church is also becoming actively interested in this immigration. It is very strong and large in the Province of Ontario; numbering over a million souls there. The United Church of Canada is a heterogeneous union of various Protestant groups which was formulated in 1925. Their labor amongst the Holland immigrants is somewhat handicapped by the language problem since it is a completely English speaking Church. Apparently the United Church has contact with the Hervormde Church in the Netherlands for a letter which had been sent to many of the immigrants stated that confessionally the Hervormde people would find a home in the United Church and that a certain Ds. Smits from the Hervormde Church in the Netherlands would be working in the interest of the United Church in Canada for a period of about 6 months. It was stated that he would call on the immigrants and also hold several services in the Holland language.)
Among those with a sound Reformed background, some from both the Synodalen and Vrijgemaakten realize and admit that they do not receive in the preaching what they did in the Netherlands and are not completely satisfied with present Church life from that point of view. It is a question, however, whether they would break away from the established groups since they have been well received and treated by the established groups and hence feel somewhat obligated, while also enjoying the contacts of the larger groups through the Sunday services and society meetings. Added to this is the fact of the relationship and contact of the established Churches in Canada with the Netherlands. Hence, many membership papers are received directly’ from the Netherlands to an established group in Canada. There is also a close relationship and contact between the Immigration Societies, both in the Netherlands and this country, and the Churches. These are all factors to consider but seem not to be overwhelming. There seems to be no reason why we could not operate in much the same way; though on a smaller scale.
Amongst some of the Liberated brethren there seems to be the tendency to desire a separation, also in Canada, along the lines of the dispute in the Netherlands. This is a danger which would be enlarged if we should enter the field and, since we would appeal to all those who love the Reformed truth, would have to be guarded against. This same danger is seen and realized by the Christian Reformed Church and warned against at every opportunity. In all our contacts we emphasized that we are neither Synodaal nor Vrijgemaakt but Protestant Reformed and would expect so to labor and establish ourselves.
That there is a field in Canada and that this field is increasing should be evident. But that there are also many problems is evident. These problems are mostly of a physical nature and could, perhaps, to a great extent, be overcome, if we were once established in Canada. The greatest of these is the fact of the scattering of the immigrants and the unsettled situation amongst them. It appears that a great deal could be done, to aid those interested, in moving towards centers, by men in Canada. It is also evident that this effort would have to be limited, at first at least, to two ^ three centers not too far apart. It would be physically impossible for us as Churches to work in any more widely scattered areas. Much of this ground work would have to be done and it should not be expected, therefore, that Churches could be organized in the very near future but that our beginnings would be small. Perhaps, at times only “houses” could be served, But we also feel that we have a calling to witness to our truth though it be but in a small way.
Since our visit to Canada and due also to the notices which appeared in De Reformatie, many letters have been received requesting information and advice. Through much correspondence which has been carried on several interested families in Canada, and in the Netherlands from those expecting to enter Canada, have asked us to serve them. Though this represents but a small fraction among the immigrants it is felt we should heed this call. It should be borne in mind that since we as Churches are not first of all interested in numbers but rather in gathering those of true Reformed persuasion, we need not expect great things in Canada or anywhere else. We also feel rather strongly that a work in Canada should have the wholehearted support of our leaders and people and the Churches in their various activities. Thus with God’s blessing and by His grace we may be enabled to witness to the truth He has entrusted to our care; and the issues are in His direction.
This material was treated by the Mission Committee in conjunction with the calling consistory and finally by our Synod. As was reported previously the Synod decided that we should labor in Lynden, Washington and also make provision to continue the work begun in Canada.
The Mission Committee and calling consistory met several times to discuss and deliberate upon ways and means of carrying out this advice of Synod. After much discussion the following was adopted: 1. That the Rev. E. Knott should take up residence in the Lynden area and labor there while the Rev. W. Hofman should reside in Canada and begin the work there. 2. That the Holland speaking ministers of Grand Rapids and vicinity and their consistories be asked to cooperate by alternately assisting with the work in Canada through laboring in the field there. This decision is an attempt to meet the language problem in this field. The decision was limited to ministers in l, is vicinity in an endeavor to decrease expenses and also because it is expected to be but a temporary measure. It is hoped, that if the Canadian field should prove successful, ways and means may be found to call a Holland speaking man for this field. 3. It was lei t to the discretion of the missionaries whether or not they should begin the work in Lynden together. If so, the Rev. Hofman is to accompany the Rev. Knott there for a period of approximately six weeks before beginning the work in Canada. Due to the relative inexperience of Rev. Knott and Rev. Hofman’s knowledge of Lynden it was felt that this might be the wiser course. Since Rev. Knott felt this rather strongly the general sentiment of the Mission Committee and calling consistory was that the undersigned should accompany Rev. Knott to Lynden to begin the work there.
The Knott family plans to leave for Washington during the first week in August. Undersigned will follow by train a week or two later and after getting the work started there will return for his family and seek to take up residence in Canada to work there. Many problems and difficulties have been faced, and, in a measure, met by these arrangements. We realize that many problems still lie unsolved. Both missionaries will, undoubtedly, labor under severe difficulties and handicaps. We earnestly request the prayers and cooperation of all our people in our labors.