East Paris Christian Reformed Church
It was during the so-called horse and buggy days accompanied by poor roads and often deep mud and snow, that our hardy fathers and mothers in the community now known as East Paris, longed very much to have their own local congregation where they could worship their Lord and send their children to catechism. And no wonder! At times the mud was so deep that it was impossible for their horses to pull the buggies the five to seven miles to our Oakdale Park Church or to which ever church they attended. There were times when these hardy folks, as many as twelve of them, would walk the long distance to town.
On January 7, 1902, a get-together meeting was held at the home of Mr. Jan J. Oosterhuis which is now know as 4600 Thirty-sixth Street, for the purpose of trying to organize a congregation. Twenty-one men were present at this meeting. Mr. A. Bisschop was chosen president and Mr. F. Vander Laan, clerk. Committees were appointed to visit four neighboring consistories. These were Oakdale Park, Kelloggsville, Eastern Avenue and Dennis Avenue.
On January 21 another meeting was held at which the committees brought their reports. Three consistories were in favor of forming the new congregation but the Oakdale Park consistory had to be won over by sending another committee. Strangely enough, our mother Church started with only 16 families, but she was afraid that her daughter with twenty-one families would not be strong enough to weather the storms that come to all growing children. She did, however, finally agree.
Names of those who took part in the organization are:
Mr. and Mrs. Allert Bisschop and on child
Mr. and Mrs. Hendrik Vander Laan and two children
Mr. and Mrs. Jan Oosterhuis and six children
Mr. and Mrs. Freerk Vander Laan
Mr. and Mrs. Riemer Feenstra and eight children
Mr. and Mrs. Heine Van Houten and nine children
Mr. and Mrs. Jan Sikkema and five children
Mr. and Mrs. Gelte Timmer and five children
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob U. Oosterhouse and five children
Mr. and Mrs. Willem Vander Houten and seven children
Mr. and Mrs. Adrian Van Sledright and six children
Mr. and Mrs. Henderikus DeWit and three children
Mr. and Mrs. Korneliske Ploeg and four children
Mr. and Mrs. Cornelis Bisschop and two children
Mr. and Mrs. Nikolaas Troost and two children
Mr. and Mrs. Pleunis Wolfert and one child
Mr. and Mrs. Hein DeGoede and four children
Mr. and Mrs. Cornelis Vander Heyden and one child
Mr. and Mrs. Jan Van Heukelum
Mr. and Mrs. Hendrik Koetsier and one child
Mr. Martinus Fylstra
Mr. and Mrs. Riemer Frijling and seven children
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wiersma and four children
Names of those who came shortly after organization
Mr. and Mrs. Johannes Poutsma and children
Mr. and Mrs. Pieter Joppe and children
Mr. and Mrs. Pieter Kloosterman and children
Mr. and Mrs. John Vander Laan and children
Miss Roelina Vander Vennen
Mr. and Mrs. Pieter De Man and children
On February 19, 1902 the Classis met and approved the organizing of a congregation at East Paris. A committee of four, consisting of the Reverends J. Groen and D. Vander Ploeg, and the elders Middelbos and Van Wyk were appointed to effect this organization. The church building owned by our American neighbors, situated at 2935 East Paris Avenue was rented and that is where the organization took place.
On March 4, 1902, a meeting was held at which twenty-two heads of families and one single man were present. Rev. J. Groen first preached a sermon on a text taken from Psalm 84:2-3, after which a consistory was elected consisting of elders A. Bisschop, J. J. Oosterhuis and F. Vander Laan and deacons R. Feenstra and H. Van Houten. The church building of our neighbors was used for morning worship and the school-house across the road for afternoon worship.
The first consistory meeting was held March 7 at the home of Mr. A. Bisschop. An agreement was reached as to how the visiting ministers were to be cared for. Those living on Bowen Road (now 44th St.) were to get the visiting ministers and lodge them. The ministers would come by train to Bowen Station at the corner of Bowen Road and Kalamazoo Avenue. Those living near the church were to take them to dinner and the rest of the people were to take turns taking them home. An amusing incident took place when Rev. J. Hiemenga failed to get off the train at Bowen Station and instead got off at Dutton. When he discovered his mistake, the weather being stormy, he lodged for the night with a farmer. The next morning being Sunday, he walked from Dutton to East Paris. He stated that he found plenty of mud.
This young congregation was soon thinking of building its own church. Already in August of this same year a congregational meeting was called for the purpose of trying to build a church. Permission was obtained to canvass the members of the mother churches to secure funds to erect the building. The members must have worked hard to finish their church that fall because in January, 1903 we read that a house was purchased south of the church for $450.00 and the remodeling cost $360.00. Thus our first parsonage cost the total sum of $810.00. Janitor work was done for the first year gratis by Mr. Wm DeGood. During this time, catechism classes were held at the homes of the elders or in school houses and taught by elders.
It took two and one-half years to obtain an occupant for the parsonage. It was July 25, 1905 that the congregation received notice that candidate Y. P. DeJong had accepted the call to become its first minister. From the beginning Rev. DeJong worked himself into the hearts of our people. He was interested in all their problems, never hesitating to step into a barn to see or help one of his people. All services were held in the Holland language, but we do read of an English service of some kind at the Shaffer school in the evening. There were others who wanted our minister and in the year 1907 he left o occupy the pulpit of our mother church, Oakdale Park.
It was also during the year 1907 that it was decided to build a Chapel eighteen feet by thirty feet, twelve feet high. This was to be built close to the north line of the church property for the purpose of holding consistory meetings, catechism classes and society meetings. Also that year a furnace was installed in the church building. That, again, showed the enthusiasm of the young and growing congregation and it especially showed that our God’s hand was resting upon it for good.
Rev. C. Vriesman served our congregation from 1908 to 1911. All meetings were still conducted in the Holland language. The members felt that the English language was a way that the world might creep into the church.
Rev. J. Robberts served the congregation from 1911 to 1914. There was a desire on the part of a few to use the English language in catechism. This was met with stiff opposition. During this time the first church organ was purchased. It was a pump organ and there were many amusing incident surrounding the hard work in pumping the organ. After Rev. Robberts left, our church was vacant through 19 issued calls. It was during this vacancy that Dutton Christian Reformed Church was organized. Also, in 1916 one English service was begun.
Rev. J. DeHaan came to us from a Reformed pastorate in Kalamazoo. He served the congregation from 1917 to 1919. It was during this time that the first world war was raging. Eight of our young men served our country.
Rev. and Mrs. Herman Heyns came in 1920. Rev. Heyns died suddenly in 1921. Mrs. Heyns later served as our choral director at different times.
Candidate E. F. J. Van Halsema came in 1921 and stayed until 1925. It was during this time that some far-seeing parents began to pray for a Christian school. On January 25, 1923 a Christian school society was opened. It was also during this time that an electric lighting plant was installed. No more kerosene lamps but we are told that the lighting plant did not always work. Rev. Van Halsema could preach well in both the Holland and the English language. He also taught at Calvin College.
Candidate Van Dyken came to us in 1926 and stayed until 1930. He was vitally interested in Christian education. On November 22, 1926 the congregation decided to enlarge the church building. It was to be extended 18 ½ feet toward the east and a full basement was put under the church for meetings.
In March of 1927 a decision was made to sell the horse barns. The horseless buggy took over.
Our Christian school opened September 1, 1927 in the chapel beside the church. It was started with 40 children with Mr. Herbert Husselman as the first teacher. The Christian School society in November 1927 gave a large parcel of ground to the east of the church. A school was built in 1928 – one-room with a large basement.
The first meeting of the consistory in 1928 recorded their minutes in the English language. This language problem had been gradually settled without much friction. There was still a problem with the lighting plant. The lights would go out in the Church and Mrs. Van Dyken would have to rush to the parsonage to put gas in the tank.
Candidate John Vander Ploeg came to us in 1930 and left in 1939. Much happened during this period. There were 69 confessions of faith. It was a difficult time during the depression period. One thing happened that made everyone happy. The electric service began coming from Consumers Power Company. The old lighting plant was disposed of to Mr. H. Meines for $11.00.
On March 4, 1931 it was decided to have an unofficial English service every other Sunday evening. A 15 minute song service and a Bible talk were included in the service. By May of 1933 both morning and evening services were being held in English. The Holland service was held in the afternoon.
(This is from the 50th Anniversary booklet of East Paris Christian Reformed Church, March 4, 1902 through March 4, 1952. The booklet is located in the Grand Rapids Public Library.)
Some Early Consistory Members
Fred Van Der Laan, John Oosterhouse, Albert Bishop, Riemer Feenstra, Henry Van Houten,
Transcriber: Evelyn Sawyer
Created: 3 September 2002