“Thus far has the Lord helped us.”
History of the First Christian Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa
Hollanders were flooding into Sioux County in 1893 at a fantastic rate. The following notice appeared in the Doon Reminder of 1893:
Sixty Hollanders arrived in Hull from their mother country on Saturday. Fully two thousand Holland people have taken up their residence in Sioux County since January 1st.
Most of these people were poor, common people who saw no hope of improving their lot, nor the lot of their children in the Netherlands because most of them were not members of the State Church in the Netherlands.
In the fall of 1893, twelve heads of families of these Hollanders presented a request to the Classis of Iowa of the Holland Christian Reformed Church, that a congregation be organized in Hull, Iowa. Brother D. Moorlag was appointed to bring this request to the meeting of Classis in Orange City on October 4-5. Classis granted this request, placing the responsibility on the Reverend H. Bode, home missionary of Classis Iowa; Reverend E. Vanden Berg, minister at Orange City I; Elders E. Franken of Sioux Center and S. Van Otterloo of Rock Valley.
Since classis granted the request, an organizational meeting was held on October 9, 1893. The importance attached to such an organizational meeting is proven by the fact that this meeting was attended by Reverend A.J. Vanden Heuvel of Rotterdam, Kansas; Reverend William Heynen of Harrison, South Dakota.; and Reverend Jacob Manni of Pella, Iowa.
Apparently those who carried their church papers were accepted as members first. This list includes the following:
Mr. and Mr. B. Otten and 2 children from Grand Rapids, MI; Mr. S. Oelen, Hollandsche Veld, Netherlands; Mr. and Mrs. J. Otten and 3 children from Hollandsche Veld, Netherlands; Mr. and Mrs. H. Gort and 5 children from Hollandsche Veld, Netherlands; Mr. Haveman and 2 children from Hollandsche Veld, Netherlands; Mr. and Mrs. J. Victorie and 5 children from Sioux Center.
Then the ministers present allowed the following, though they had no membership certificates, could become members since they had professed their faith publicly:
Mr. and Mrs. S. Kiel and 5 children, Rock Valley; Mr. and Mrs. D. Moorlag and 1 child, Rock Valley; Mr. and Mrs. P. Donselaar and 8 children, Orange City; Mr. and Mrs. G. Kiel and 5 children, Hull; Mr. and Mrs. P. Bouwman, Orange City.
Three more men then were examined by Reverend Bode and made confession of faith. They were A. Duin, J. Prins, and L. Bouma. Thus when the church was organized, there were twenty three communicant members and forty baptized members. The minutes state that several others had planned to be there but didn’t make it. Apparently human nature hasn’t changed much.
The consistory, consisting of two elder and two deacons, was then elected. B. Otten was elected for one year as elder, and S. Oelen for ½ year. D. Moorlag was elected for one year as deacon and H. Gort for ½ year.
The church services were first held upstairs above the Davidson Operahouse which later became a Presbyterian Academy. Soon though, the place of worship was moved to a small white schoolhouse which stood where the present Public School now stands. Then on September 24, 1894, Roelof Niemeyer was appointed to investigate various possible church sites. On October4, Mr. Niemeyer reported to the consistory.
Since several places were available, the consistory decided to let the congregation vote on them. So on December 20, 1894 the congregation voted to try to buy lots 4, 5 and 6 in block 9 which belonged to a Mr. W. Baurch of Ashton, Iowa. Since no one knew the asking price, a committee was appointed to offer not more that $1400 for the property. The next minutes inform us that the gentlemen of the committee bought the property for $1100. The survival of the church was assured.
So, in the spring of 1895 plans were made to build a church. A contract was awarded to a carpenter name Mooi for $1730 with the understanding that the church be completed that summer.
On March 7, 1895, the president of the consistory reported promises of $1600 for a church building. So, they started with a substantial amount of the money on hand. The men appointed to the building committee were P. Bouma, A. Bleyenberg, R. Niemeyer, Mr. Vis, and T. Vredevelt. This committee decided to contract the job to be completed by July 1. The job of painting was given over to the building committee. Then as now, committee work had its rewards.
At first, ordinary wooden kitchen chairs were used for benches, but the chairs were tied together with a board underneath. Later benches were purchased. This was an improvement, but old-timers do remember a time when the benches were inadvertently varnished with a varnish apparently made by Karo Syrup Company because members found themselves stuck to the church benches when they tried to get up at the end of the services.
In the original church building, the pulpit stood on the west side. Then men sat in the side pews, and the women and girls sat in the center pews, down the center of which ran a dividing board which could not be looked over while sitting. The young single men would sit to the rear behind their fathers or with their fathers while the young ladies sat with or behind their mothers. And although some old-timers no doubt recall only the good points of this arrangement, al least one remembers a minister of that time warning a young man from the pulpit that if he didn’t behave, the minister would call his name from the pulpit. This seating arrangement remained in effect until Reverend Jonker came in 1911. He suggested the present method of sitting by families, but while husbands and wives began sitting together, young men through the years did not always sit with Dad and Mom.
Ushers were first introduced then when the seating arrangement changed. Herb De Jong and John Kiers were the first ushers in our church.
About this time, the young men of the church canvassed the church for money for gas lamps so that evening meetings could be held. Not everyone felt the need for this “extravagance” but the persistence of the boys paid off because lights were installed.
Sermons in the early days of our church were longer than now-some say as long as an hour and a half. Some of the early ministers would have an elder read the ten commandments for the service, thus conserving his wind and voice for the sermon. The offerings were taken in black velvet pouches attached to long poles. No doubt a few ladeies’ hats were tipped by inexperienced deacons.
Until 1910, there was no organ in the church; instead a Voorzinger would begin the songs at what he thought a comfortable pitch. The singing at the time consisted of Dutch Psalms, of course. Some of the early voorzingser were Mr. Gritters, Reyer Rents, Albert Mulder and C.J. Schaap.
Not every interesting facet of the early church can be mentioned. But some items that old-timers recall are these:
· The minister’s wife sat on a separate, fancy chair, not on one of the regular church benches.
· There was no budget – someone went around with a horse and buggy to collect the minister’s salary.
· Weddings were often solemnized in the Sunday afternoon church service.
· A drinking pail and cup stood in the back entrance for those who needed it.
· There was no church bulletin – all information was imparted by announcements.
· When the minister’s cow went dry, the farmers would take turns trading to him a fresh cow.
· A church bell was purchased from the Methodist church which stood where Edwin Koele now lives at 1020 Maple Street.
· Three church barns stood just west of the church at the corner of 2nd and Main Streets.
· Families who came from several miles ate their dinner in church on Sunday and then drove home after the afternoon service.
These items about life in the early days of our church do not tell the whole story, but perhaps they give you a glimpse, at least, of life in those days.
Our church grew rapidly in the years from 1907 – 1924. The 1907 Yearbook lists Hull as having 82 families, 160 members, and 419 souls. The 1925 Yearbook lists our church as having 173 families, 416 members, and 843 souls. In addition to this, our church had the largest number of catechumens, 398, of any church in either classis Sioux Center or Classis Orange City in 1925.
The Hollanders settling in Sioux County brought with them definite convictions and expectations regarding education. They were accustomed to having their own private, religious schools in the Netherlands so they were determined to establish Christian education in this land also. Our church and its Ministers were in the forefront of this effort from its earliest beginnings right on through to the present.
The first organizational society meeting was held in March, 1909, for the purpose of electing a school board which could be responsible for beginning a Christian school in Hull. B. De Jong, C.J. Schaap, C.R. Bos, A Faber, A. Brummel, A. Brunsting, and Rev. H.J. Heynen, our pastor at that time constituted the first school board. In May of 1912 a building fund drive was conducted in both the Reformed (RCA) and the Christian Reformed church. Land was purchased, a two-story building erected and dedicated on September 1, 1913. The following day classes began with Miss Della Vanden Hoek teaching grades one through four; and Mr. Henry Van Zyl, principal, teaching grades five through eight. Thus Hull Christian was born and Christ-centered education afforded to Christian families of our community and church for the past eighty years.
By 1918 a goodly number of people in Sioux County were agitating for a school for Christian secondary education. Rev. Weersing, then our pastor, and Rev. De Leeuw, pastor of the First Reformed Church, first urged a private secondary school be established. [Such a school had existed in Hull from 1886 till 1908 begun and supported by C.L. Davidson.] However, a secondary school operated by society won the greater support. Our consistory was requested to call a meeting of all the people interested in an academy in Sioux County. The meeting in October, 1918, directed the leader to prepare a constitution. This was ratified in January, 1919, and a school board was elected. Thus was born Western Academy, now known as Western Christian High School. For many years our pastors served as president of Western’s board. Our congregation besides giving tireless support to this school also opened their homes and hearts to many young people who boarded in Hull because their families lived too far off to commute daily. God has used the vision of our church for Christian education and the commitment of his people here to bless his church far beyond the limits of Hull and Sioux County.
During the 1920s controversy broke out at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids over doctrine of common grace. The effects of this controversy were felt in most Christian Reformed communities. Several families left our church at this time and began the Protestant Reformed Church. Our growth was interrupted and our love was tested. We did not reach our peak in membership again for several years.
By September, 1940, however, the need was felt for rooms for society and catechism use. It was decided to dig a basement under the existing building. This was done with volunteer labor from many of our members. Farmers with shovels, tractors and horses came to dig. The basement provided space. About fiver years later, ceramic tile was put on the walls of the basement. This was one of the last improvement projects for the old church building. For in 1950 the congregation turned down a consistory proposal to put new woodwork in the church sanctuary. Instead they passed a proposal to begin a building fund by raising $6,000 a year.
These were the days of World War II. For those too young to remember, it is hard to imagine the sobering impact of this war on a church even in a small town in Iowa. We feel something of this impact today when some of our young men are serving in the armed forces. In those days, a total of fifty-nine young men served over the span of a few years. Two of them, Merle G. Klay and William Vander Kooi, did not come back. So, it is little wonder that for those that served as well as those that stayed home, World War II was a sobering experience. Those that served saw a bigger world, sometimes a tempting world, but usually an evil world. Its evil was proven by the immorality around them. It was proven more emphatically to some by the blood that was shed to prevent the world’s evil men from enslaving their fellowman. For those that remained at home, WW II was time for worry and for prayer; it was a time of sad farewells and of happy reunions. But always life in those days revolved around the letters, the phone calls, the passes, the furloughs of loved ones in service.
In 1952, when Rev. Van Deelen came to our church, services in the Holland language were finally discontinued. Now, thirty-four years after English services were begun in 1918, all worships services and catechism classes were in English. Then as now love sometimes requires that we “make haste slowly.”
In the Spring of 1953, a study committee was appointed to explore supporting a missionary. A fresh concern for the lost was stirring among us. At that time, our committee recommended not to support a missionary because of “lack of manpower.” They recommended rather that we “stimulate missionary interest among our young people, especially in sermons.” Since that time three young men from our church have gone into the ministry. Also, since the mid-1950s, our church supported, either fully or partially, missionary personnel in Home and Foreign Missions.
Already in 1958, the eventuality of building a new church was discussed. It was realized as well that the site of the old church would be inadequate because of the lack of sufficient parking area.
In May of 1962, the consistory found that the parsonage needed extensive repairs. Rather that spending large sums for repairing and remodeling the old parsonage, the consistory recommended acquiring a new parsonage. At this time the beautiful and commodious home of James Hymans on 5th Street became available. The purchase of this property would at the same time give us a good site for a new church building. The property was purchased in June 1962.
At the annual congregational meeting held in December of that same year, the consistory was empowered to appoint an architect and a building committee to begin working on plans for a new church edifice. The spring of 1965 was set as the target for the beginning of construction. Mr. Siebron Eppinga, who offered his services, was appointed as our architect. Mr. Eppinga was a son of the congregation and was architect for De Paul University in Chicago.
Construction on our new, and present, church building began in late spring of 1965. This project took 15 months to complete and inspired our people to generous giving and willing volunteer labor. Rev. G.J. Rozenboom, our pastor during this time, led us in appropriate services of dedication held July 27-28, 1966. His remarks then, still challenge and direct us today:
“Our living Lord, who is yet walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks (His church), now calls us to make these new facilities serve their intended purpose. May we regularly and joyfully bring our thanks and praise to God as we worship in this sanctuary. May the Gospel of our Lord and Savior go forth continually from this pulpit beseeching men to be reconciled to God. May earnest prayers ascend to the Throne of Mercy. May the sacraments be so administered as to signify and seal God’s grace. May teaching in the classroom nurture our children and youth, and reach out to the untaught. May Bible study in our various organizations strengthen, encourage and admonish us to duty and devotion. And may songs to our Redeemer’s praise never cease to echo within these walls.”
“If this structure is to be a church building, we must be a church-a living, spiritual church, Let us on this occasion reconsecrate ourselves wholeheartedly to His service….”
In 1967, Rev. Willard H. De Vries became our pastor. He led us in 1968 to celebration of our seventy-fifth anniversary. We paused then to reflect and review our beginning and our progress. During this time the building committee turned its attention to improvements: a new P.A. system with the volume control in the janitor’s pew, shades for the west windows in the sanctuary, and resurfacing of the west parking lot. In 1969 our debt on the church organ was $5,000 and on the building $64,642. Pastor’s salary at that time was $6,700 plus $600 for his utilities. During the winter months of December, January and February the second worship service was held in the afternoon rather that the evening. Pulpit exchanges were promoted with local ministers of the Reformed Church in America, especially in connection with the annual fall commemoration of the Protestant Reformation.
Rev. John Fondse became our pastor in 1972. During his tenure “Grow Groups” were organized throughout the congregation. These Bible study groups met once a month on Sunday night after the service. A song service just before the evening worship service was initiated. The second communion service was discontinued and a brief vespers communion service was held before the evening service for those unable to attend and partake at the morning service. Our choir received permission to sing an anthem at special worship sevices and at one service on alternate Sunday. Occasionally seasonal cantatas were presented on Sunday evenings after the regular service. Our young peoples also began sponsoring an Easter sunrise service with refreshments afterwards.
Speaking of Easter, on Easter Sunday night, 1978, our church was burglarized. Entry was made through the southwest basement door. The cash loss amounted to $600. Insurance recovered the loss, 60% of the door lock, and cleaning up the debris. Still an unsettling reminder that churches too can be targets for the criminally minded. The same year the consistory made work of having all recorded minutes of elders’ deacons’ and consistory meetings microfilmed and filed at Heritage Hall at Calvin College.
We numbered from 195 to 199 families. We also found ourselves ministering to numerous college students during this period as well. 70 to 80 students from Dordt College would regularly attend our Sunday services. Our eldership was increased in number to ten.
Our first mortgage note from the Iowa State Bank of $78,000 was finally and fully retired. The balance due on our building debt had also been reduced to $27,745. Bibles and hymnals were purchased for the balcony, and new carpet was installed in the nursery.
Our members, like most citizens during this time, were grieved by the legacy of the Viet Nam War. In 1976, our church sponsored the refugee family of Cam Van Sinh consisting of eight members. Our deacons made all the arrangements including housing and job placement.
An annual Fall Mission Emphasis Week challenged us to be engaged in our primary work of making disciples and promoting the proclamation of the gospel to all people. Special programs were planned for various groups and Home missionaries as well as Foreign missionaries were invited to participate.
Rev. Fondse left us in March, 1979, for Holland, MI. Mr. Robert Tigchelaar, a seminarian, served us that summer. And later that year Rev. Marvin Heyboer became our pastor.
Responding to the continuing interest and participation of Dordt students in our worship services the consistory requested that at least 12 families be prepared to entertain Dordt students with refreshments after our Sunday morning worship service each week. Some time later the consistory considered financing the use of Dordt vans for transporting students to and from our Sunday worship services. This matter was resolved by the students themselves.
The Dobson films on the “Family” were shown after the evening service on consecutive Sunday evenings beginning in September 1979. Women’s organizations of the church were asked to serve lunches at funerals. The former Zion Lutheran Church building in Hull was purchased for $8,000 for use as a Cadet Clubhouse. The consistory also went on record with a decision that our delegates to Classis have the freedom to make their own decisions on all questions that come up at the meetings of Classis.
Our entire lower parking lot required resurfacing. This time five inches of wire reinforced concrete was put down for the cost of $38,341. A special congregational meeting was held to seek approval for the reestablishment of a building fund quota to be set at $2.00 per week per family to pay for this and other grounds expenditures.
In 1981, our membership reached 200 families. During the next year a special service was planned called, “Share the Gospel.” Each family was requested to invite a non-attending or seldom-attending person to this special service. A Mission Emphasis week was held in July, 1982, with missionary, Rev. J. Dekker, keynote speaker. Rev. Dekker and his family were forced to leave Guatemala with only the possessions they could carry.
In September of 1982, our church first cooperated with the local Kiwanis Club on a community worship service. The service promoted the Club’s international project, “Share Good Health” and emphasized our concern for the depressed and down trodden. The offering raised $9,800.
We also entered into our first experience with “staff” during this time. Mr. Merwin Rylaarsdam was appointed as youth minister for a year from April 1984 to April 1985. When Rev. Heyboer left us in 1984 for Ripon, CA, Rev. Boertje was asked to serve as interim pastor. During this interim our pulpit Bible was replaced with one of the New International Version.
Rev. William Renkema became our pastor in January, 1986. Our pastor in 1986 also observed the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination and his family held an open house to which the congregation was invited.
Our council decided to establish a new Psalter Hymnal fund as the new denominational Psalter Hymnals were due to come out in 1988. Replacement throughout our sanctuary and balcony would be a sizeable expense. Memorials and gifts to this fund were invited. Then a hostess supper was held for the purpose of raising money for this fund. Receipts from this supper along with the money already in the fund provided enough that the new Psalter Hymnals could be purchased. “Sing a new song to Jehovah.”
Also during this period our congregation was divided into several Care Groups. The goal is to strengthen the bonds of love and Fellowship. “Now they will know we are Christians by our Love.”
Radio phones were purchased and installed for our shut-ins. Enabling these to listen in to our worship services and worship in their own homes concurrently with the congregation.
Pastor Renkema took a call in August, 1991 to Coopersville, MI. Rev. Roger Bouwman, accepted our call in August, 1992 to serve as our next pastor.
Our church has been involved in many significant ministries and special projects over the years. The following highlights a few:
Summer Workshop in Missions was organized in 1960 by the Yong Calvinist Federation. The first team spent a summer in Salt Lake City, UT, under the leadership of Rev. Vogelzang. Two of our young people, Sharon Harthoorn and Art Van Wyhe, volunteered to serve on this team.
Mr. William Groeneweg and Mr. John B. Te Slaa volunteered to serve as representatives of the CRWRC and report on the conditions in the country of Bangladesh.
Our church sponsors a Bible study for the clients of Hope Haven each Monday evening during the fall and winter months. Lois Ribbens coordinated this ministry for many years. The current coordinator of the Friendship Bible Study is Diane Bonestroo.
Women of our church participate with others in our community so sponsor a Good Friday service for the community each Good Friday morning.
We participate in the outreach efforts of the Midwest Evangelism League, specifically literature distribution at the Clay County Fair and a canned food drive each Fall for the area Gospel Missions.
In 1993, our congregation celebrated 100 years of God’s grace. The theme selected for our anniversary celebration was taken from I Samuel 7:12b … “Ebenezer, … Thus far has the Lord helped us.” This theme gave us hope for the future, knowing that with the Lord helping us, we would go forward in faith.
The handicap accessibility for restrooms was first discussed in 1993. In 1994 the name of our Classis was changed to Classis of the Heartland. 1995 was the purchase of the Nellie Cuperus property for $18,000. The house was sold to Clarence Van Voorst for $8,600 so the final cost to the church was $8,400. The same year approval was given to support a church plant in Lincoln, Nebraska.
In 1996 it was noted there was too much noise from young people in the balcony, so an elder was appointed to sit up in the balcony for a number of weeks. Rev. Bowman served our church until 1996 and Rev. Carl J. Klompien became our next pastor. A pictorial directory was published in 1997.
A clavinova was purchased in 2000 and placed in the balcony. It was during this year that discussions began about church renovation and the voting /casting of lots for council members. The voting/casting of lots for council members was approved in 2001. The following year council approved the renovation plan for the church to be done in three phases with the cost to be $976,300. This was defeated by the congregation. A new proposal for $350,000 to enlarge the narthex area, put in an elevator, and new restrooms was approved in December. An airlock was also to be installed under the bell tower.
In 2003, a call was issued to Kevin Schutte to begin a church plant in the Kansas City area. During this year, “church night” was moved from Thursday to Wednesday evening and Rev. Klompien announced his retirement from fulltime ministry to begin in July 2004. In 2004, our church established a Pastor of Visitation position and Rev. Klompien still continues to serve our church in this way. Approval was given to place a United States flag and a Christian flag in the church sanctuary.
In 2006, discussion on an audio/visual project was approved and Rev. Paul Hansen, who was serving at First CRC of Lynden, WA, accepted our call and was installed in July. The next year began our channel 77 for the live television viewing of our worship services and a church website was setup.
Final payment on the renovation project was made in May of 2008. A new baby grand piano was purchased in December of the same year. In 2009, Hope CRC signed a lease agreement for the use of channel 77.
In 2010 the church was shingled with steel shingles. At the December congregational meeting, a vote was taken to purchase a pipe organ for approximately $500,000. This was defeated and the council will look to the congregation for direction on a new organ.
Congregation members continue to be encouraged to serve in our church, in our community, and abroad. This might include local agencies, as well as a program like going to the Banquet in Sioux Falls or one of our local missions or traveling overseas or in the states for mission and evangelistic work. The Church exists for outreach. It is a natural extension of our joy in Christ and reflects what we have been given in Christ. The opportunities listed below reflect that joy and inheritance.
The Banquet- This opportunity comes only once a year, in Sioux Falls, but allows us the privilege of not only helping provide the “banquet”, the food, but to serve the banquet. All ages are invited and can participate.
Sioux Falls/Sioux City Gospel Missions- These events occur more frequently than the banquet. During this opportunity for outreach, people have a chance to sing, pray, present the gospel, but most especially live the gospel for people who have so much less than we do.
Prison Christmas Cards- Obviously takes place only at the holiday season and enables our congregation to share through a holiday greeting the good news of God’s work in our lives through Christmas cards.
Samaritan’s Purse- This is a non-denominational organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. “Operation Christmas Child” is a project that our church participates in every year. Shoe boxes are filled with items such as toys, pencils, pens, colors, toothpaste, t-shirts, etc. and then shipped to needy children all over the world.
Missionary Letters- Each week someone is reminded that they have the opportunity to write one of our missionaries and let them know we are thinking about them and supporting them.
Love Inc.- This local agency provides a wide range of services and material to people who have needs. This could be anything from a used washer and dryer, to food, or fixing up their house.
Clothe-a-child- Before the school year starts, we participate with many other churches in providing clothing for kids so they can feel good about going to school.
Mission committee sponsored Mission trips- In January of 2010 and again in 2011, S.A.L.T. (Service And Learning Team) headed off to the Dominican Republic to work on a building churches. In 2009, a group went to Nicaragua with World Wide Christian Schools. God’s work in different locations!
The Hull Food Pantry and the Mid-Sioux Food Pantry- The largest amount of food we provide occurs at Thanksgiving, but this is an all year work that provides for people who have so much less than we do.
May we, through God’s grace, continue to grow, and may God fill us with the knowledge of His will. May we strive to live lives worthy of our Lord, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might.