Concerning the Reformation Rally, held October 27, 1965, in the Civic Auditorium of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Mission Committee of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America has asked us to write a brief article and place it in The Standard Bearer. It is especially written for the information of those who were not privileged to attend this outstanding event.
It was, indeed, an outstanding event because never before in the history of our churches has an attempt been made on such a large scale to reach those outside of our churches with our peculiar truths as we were privileged to do on this occasion.
But let me begin at the beginning to narrate some of the facts which brought about and helped to realize this rally. One of the members of our churches, whose heart is filled with the love of the truth, wrote to me, suggesting that such a rally be held; and he even suggested that it be held in the auditorium we used. Because the idea was novel, and so different from anything we had ever done as churches, it did not register so deeply at first. However, the thought began to germinate, and more and more we conceived of the possibility of going through with the idea. We conferred with another of our Mission Committee members, who also got carried away with the idea the more he thought about it. We then brought the matter to the attention of the Mission Committee, which, when the plan was laid before it, did not hesitate a moment to act upon it. A committee of three was appointed to act as a steering committee; and we were given full power to proceed to lay the ground-work and plans which would be laid before a broad committee, which would be organized from representatives of eat h of the consistories in Western Michigan, plus a few individuals who were adept in the art of advertising, formation of a massed choir, etc. Also in this broad committee were representatives of the RFPA, Young People’s Federation, the Radio Committee of the Reformed Witness Hour.
We shall never forget the wonderful response shown in that first meeting of the broad committee. There our steering committee was prepared to give them the broad outlines of all that had to be done. And I might add, there was much to be done1 No one, unless he is involved in a project of this kind, can realize all the details involved in the preparation of a program we planned to put on. But, as we said, each member of this broad committee responded admirably to the challenge. And may I add, none ever worked more industriously and efficiently than they did!
Letters were prepared and printed and distributed to all the congregations involved, acquainting all our membership of what we planned to do, and pleading for their cooperation. A little later invitations were printed which were handed out to the various congregations to be distributed again to friends, relatives, and neighbors of our constituency, inviting them to our program. Bill boards, newspaper advertising, and radio spot announcements were used to acquaint the public.
But no one really knew until the evening of the program what the results would be of all our preparations.
Then the time arrived when all was in readiness. Tables were set and placed in the lobby of the huge auditorium, laden with samples of all our literature, which those visiting our program were invited to take with them free of charge. A massed choir of about 120 voices began to assemble behind the curtain on the huge stage. Over 40 of our young people, plus a few deacons, helped to distribute printed programs and usher the people into their seats. And after our organist, Mrs. Fran Lubbers, played the prelude, “A Mighty Fortress,” the curtain on the platform opened and under the bright lights over the stage appeared our choir, uniformly dressed for the occasion.
By this time, we confess, there was a bushel of feathers in our stomach, which registered the nervous tension that had been slowly building up with the eager anticipation we had, to know how large an audience would make its appearance in response to our invitation. Our hearts were filled with joy and thanksgiving when we marched toward the podium to preside over the program, when we cast a glance over a sea of humanity that sat before us.
“Sons and daughters of the Reformation! Brothers and Sisters in Christ!” So we began the program by addressing our audience of approximately 2100 people.
“It is a privilege to welcome you this evening to share with us in the commemoration of the Protestant Reformation of the early 16th century.
“Next Sunday, October 31st, it will be exactly 448 years ago that Martin Luther nailed his protest on the chapel door of Wittenberg, which served as the spark which lit the fire of the Reformation that is still burning.
“We believe that it is incumbent upon us, who, by the grace of God, have received such a rich heritage from our Reformed Fathers, not only to review that treasure with thanksgiving before the face of God, but also by that same grace to renew our purpose to preserve, to develop, and to propagate the principles that Reformation evinced!
“It shall be, therefore, the burden of this program to accomplish exactly that! In one word, it is our hope and prayer that not only our own Protestant Reformed people, but also you who are our guests this evening, will be so impressed by that which you will see and hear, that you will go home presently with the firm resolve in your hearts that the fire of the Reformation shall go right on burning, until the day when the Sun of Righteousness shall appear in His eternal glory!”
Such was literally our introduction, after which we then read the Scriptures of Ephesians 2, and led the audience in prayer, beseeching the throne of grace for God’s indispensable blessing upon our program.
Then followed three selections by the massed choir, under the very able direction of Mr. Roland Petersen, with Mrs. Lubbers accompanying at the organ. It was a masterful rendition! I cannot really convey to you my personal feeling as I listened to these musical offerings. Let me just say, I have never heard anything better. The choir sang: “O Holy Jesus,” by Johann Cruger; “Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs,” by Carl Heinrich Graun; and “Father, Long Before Creation,” Chinese Anonymous. The last number was most beautiful! The words could easily have been written by a Protestant Reformed author, for they expressed truths which are pronounced among us. I watched the audience while the choir sang. What attention! What surprise was written on their faces! That singing was superb!
We then introduced the speaker of the evening: Professor H.C. Hoeksema. The introduction went something like this:
“Our speaker this evening needs no introduction as far as our Protestant Reformed people are concerned. He is well-known throughout our denomination.
“However, for those of you who are our special guests, he may need somewhat of an introduction, at least more than is noted on your program.
“Our speaker tonight is the son of the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema, who departed from us to go to glory last month. Before his father’s last illness and death, our speaker was associated. with his father on the teaching staff of our Protestant Reformed Seminary, where he is now serving.
“Professor Hoeksema has also replaced his father as Editor-In-Chief of The Standard Bearer, a publication which began some forty years ago, prior to the inception of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
“Our speaker received his academic training in the Christian Schools, and at Calvin College of our fair city, and his theological training was obtained in the Seminary where he now teaches.
“He is well informed, an able speaker, and a sound defender .of the truth which was once delivered unto the saints.
“We now present to you Professor Homer C. Hoeksema, who will speak to you on the subject announced on your program: Our Reformed Heritage.”
We will not give you now the contents of his message. The Mission Committee has decided to have this speech printed in brochure form and it will be distributed to all our churches, and to anyone desiring it. Let me just say, that this speech was terrific! It was in our opinion a masterpiece! The speaker showed his audience, first of all, wherein that Reformed Heritage consists. Secondly, he pointed out wherein there is today a general departure from the principles of the Reformation. And finally, he urged that there be a return to these Scriptural principles in doctrine and practice. We urge our readers to obtain the proposed brochure containing this message! We listened to the audience while we listened to the speaker. Not a sound could be heard. It was so quiet that you could hear the proverbial pin drop. We also observed more than one, who were strangers to us, taking voluminous notes. I am sure that even our own Protestant Reformed people never heard a better, more compact, more beautiful presentation than they heard on this program.
Then the choir presented to us three more beautifully rendered selections: “But the Lord is Mindful of His Own,” by Mendelssohn; “The Lord is My Shepherd,” by Noble Cain; and “With The Voice of Singing,” by Martin Shaw. What was so amazing about the singing of the choir was the fact that at most they had practiced no more than seven to ten hours together, and there was no slip-up. Mr. Petersen and Mrs. Lubbers deserve much credit for getting the choir ready for this occasion. But we also know that unless the members themselves had not so faithfully responded, this part of our program could not have contributed what it so nobly did.
We then gave to the audience our closing remarks. We expressed a word of appreciation to all who helped to make this evening possible. We also expressed our appreciation to our guests who honored us with their attentive presence. We reminded all present that they should take with them our literature, which consisted of Standard Bearers, Beacon Lights, and all the different pamphlets produced by our churches, which I am told they did in a goodly amount. And finally we introduced the Rev. H. Veldman as president of our Mission Board, who would lead us to God in a prayer of thanksgiving.
After the closing prayer, the audience was asked to arise and sing the well-known Doxology, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” And under the strains of the Postlude, Bach’s Concerto No. II, the audience was dismissed.
What shall we say in closing these reflections? Let me say, first of all, the whole thing was one grand, thrilling experience! Our people were most responsive throughout. They gave most liberally, so that the expenses, which were great, were not only covered, but there was a rather large surplus which can be used for other meetings of this nature. If there was only one result, it was a shot in the arm to our own people. They could draw only one conclusion: We are not dead, or dying, but pretty much alive! We could successfully produce a positive program in which God and His Word of Truth were highly exalted.
What our program produced as far as the visitors were concerned, God only knows, and only time will tell. We are sure they were deeply impressed, and perhaps many of them who are concerned about the modern departures from the truth went home with hearts that were heavy, but also with the knowledge that God has preserved His truth in the churches to which we belong.
Since this Reformation Rally, the Mission Committee has met and considered the matter of conducting more of these meetings, not only in the Grand Rapids area, but also across the country. In the not too distant future our people will be informed of our further activities.
It is our personal conviction that today, more than ever before, we have a calling to go into every Reformed community to witness to the truth, and to suggest to those, who are concerned about the lethargy, indifference, and even deliberate attempt to lead the church astray, that we are willing and ready to show them the way out.