In the year 1855, five years before Mr. Lincoln became President of the United States, four Dutch immigrant families living in Grand Haven began to gather in each other’s homes to worship their Lord and Savior. They named themselves the Independent True Dutch Reformed Church of Grand Haven. By “Independent” they indicated that they did not desire to affiliate with other Dutch colonist congregations in the area, although they shared many perspectives with those others. Along with other Dutch immigrants coming to West Michigan, they claimed to be the “True” heirs of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands. They were “Seceders,” that is, they were part of a reform group that had parted ways with the national Dutch Reformed Church in 1834. Nearly all the members of the “Seceders” churches came from the humbler classes in the Netherlands – predominantly the tenant farmers class. They came to America in some measure to seek more religious freedom than they knew in the Netherlands; however, they also came seeking a more prosperous way of life. They wanted the freedom to use all of their talents, to worship in the way they chose without government interference, to train their children in the way they decided, and to escape the burdensome social stratification of 19th century Dutch society. They wanted a new life.
We, the heirs of First Church’s history, share many of those same aspirations. We too want to use all of our gifts to the glory of God. We too want and cherish the freedoms we have for worship. We too want to be free from class, gender, and racial prejudices. We too want a new life. We want a life that is rooted and growing in Christ.
Those four original families probably never imagined the congregation that First Church has become. They did, however, set us in a spiritual context that emphasized faith in the one “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20) With our faith rooted and growing in Christ, we may have the greatest aspirations for the future of First Christian Reformed Church of Grand Haven, Michigan. To God be the glory for the things he has done!