Early CRC Life in Orange City, IA – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn his “semi-autobiographical story” titled Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), John J.Timmerman, long-time professor in the English Department at Calvin College (my alma mater), reflects on his early years in Orange City, IA, where he grew up as an adopted son of a CRC minister (Jan Timmerman).

I found his thoughts on his family and church life in NW Iowa in the early twentieth century to be a fascinating look at the nature of Reformed church life in our “mother church”, so on this archive/history day this is part of our history lesson.

Orange City, Iowa, in 1909 was a little town almost lost in the endless prairies. Most of the members of my father’s church were survivers, sturdy people of great faith and superior intelligence who had refused to be conquered by successive waves of crop-devouring grasshoppers.

…The city, as it called itself, was to a large extent a Dutch town. Dutch was spoken in the stores, on the porches, in sermons and catechism classes; even the horses understood some of it. The city paper, ‘Volksvriend’, was a Dutch paper. It was a very civilized city: I don’t remember if it even had a jail; and I never saw a drunk. The congregation was, as my father often said, well above average in intelligence and reading habits, and some of them read Kuyper and Bavinck instead of merely displaying their works. Religion was at the core.

As a little boy, I has no awareness that our church was a citadel of conservative and exclusivistic religion. From the perspective of a boy, we were, as a church and individuals, in the infallible hands of the Lord, God’s eye was upon us, especially during the three Sunday services, devotions at every meal, and evening prayers – but everywhere else also. I remember my mother saying, when some children were missing in a storm, ‘De Heere Jesus zal de kinderen wel bewaren’ (‘the Lord Jesus will surely care for the children’). Life in those days was often harsh: childhood diseases were less curable; pitiful accidents occurred on the farms; great storms ravaged the land; hail wiped out crops. Tornadoes were eerie and devastating. However, nothing – nothing at all – was outside the pattern of the Lord. Religion was a comfort in life and death, and the grave a resting place before glory (7-8).

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. a little light bulb just lit in my mind when i read this …. Orange City, a Dutch enclave … “House of Orange” (always thought that was an odd name for a city, before this)

    Like


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