April 14, 1949 is now a very important date in the history of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Kalamazoo. That day is important because it marked the occasion of the dedication of the new church edifice which the congregation had recently completed. That day is also important because it marks the end of an era, an era in which the congregation met in several meeting places all of which were distinguished by their inadequacy in meeting the needs of the congregation and by their stifling influence on the development and growth of the Protestant Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The dedication of the new church edifice was done in a dedicatory service characterized by simplicity but nevertheless highly inspirational. Rev. H. Veldman, the pastor, introduced the service with Scripture reading, prayer and a word of welcome to the many friends of the church who expressed their interest by their presence at this service. Mr. S. De Young and Mrs. A. Vermeer favored us with a vocal duet. Rev. R. Veldman proceeded to make some pertinent remarks in connection with the dedication of the pipe organ and Miss J. Oranje played two selections by Bach. At the conclusion of the organ dedication, Mr. C. De Boer, chairman of the building committee, gave a brief outline of the activities of the building committee and then proceeded to present the keys of the church edifice to the pastor. The pastor, speaking in the name of the congregation and the consistory, responded and expressed gratitude for the splendid work of the committee.
The dedicatory address was given by Rev. H. Hoeksema and was centered on the theme Ebenezer “hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Rev. Hoeksema drew a striking parallel between the situation confronting the people of God in the days of Samuel and the cause of the Reformed truth and faith in Kalamazoo, In unmistakable language he outlined the hardships that faced the congregation from the time it was organized, the difficulties that always seemed to harass the cause of God and the duty of all those who profess the Reformed faith to forsake their errors. The speaker stated that all the difficult history of Kalamazoo was the work of God ultimately and that He used it as the best means to the highest good that it might become plain that God was always aiding His people in spite of the human appraisal of events in Kalamazoo. All in all, this address will long remain in the minds of those who attended this service and serve as an inspiration and reminder of the duty and calling which we have in the church of God.
After the dedicatory address, Rev. G. M. Ophoff led the congregation in the dedicatory prayer and the service was very fittingly concluded with the singing of the doxology:
May the grace of Christ the Savior,
And the Fathers boundless love,
With the Holy Spirit’s favor,
Rest upon us from above.
Thus may we abide in union,
With each other, and the Lord,
And possess in sweet communion,
Joys which earth cannot afford.
The service was preceded by an organ prelude and concluded by a postlude played by Mrs. C. DeVries, one of the regular organists of the congregation. After the service a social gathering was held in the basement of the church and refreshments were served by the Ladies’ Aid Society.
The completion of the church edifice marks the end of an era, and before we close that history a word of recognition is fitting. Humanly speaking, much of this was made possible by the selection of the building committee that gave generously of its time and energy, a committee that was devoted to the task given to it by the consistory and the congregation. Confronted with difficulties that at times seemed insurmountable they proceeded with the execution of their mandate in prayer and faith that God would open the way for them so that they might complete the work set before them.
We also want to recognize the co-operation of the congregation as a whole. Many tradesmen of the church donated a sizable portion of the labor required resulting in the completion of a pleasant and pleasing building costing much less than the true value of the building.
In addition the congregation was helped in many ways by its friends in other Protestant Reformed churches and by several individuals and business firms in the Kalamazoo area who were glad to assist us in various ways.
The completion of our church edifice also opens up a new era for the congregation. Whether there will be a numerical growth in the future, we cannot say. From the human perspective, we expect to grow both from within and without. However numerical growth is hardly a good criterion for judging the condition of a congregation. In the new era before us we can however expect to grow in the favor and grace of God. Everything that we have in Kalamazoo is of the Lord and may He watch over us and keep us. Our duty in the new era before us is to keep our garments clean, to remember that we have been clothed with the righteousness of the Lord. We know that the edifice of wood and stone which is ours must perish eventually and that we must seek the eternal church whose builder and maker is God, and finally come to that blessed state of the redeemed whose shout of triumph is always “Ebenezer”!