PRC Archives: Introducing Fourth PRC, Grand Rapids, MI

A week ago we gave you a mystery photo of one of the PRC congregations off the cover of one of its bulletins (dated July 17, 1955). Below is now a scanned copy of the full cover and back of the bulletin with the rest of its information (click on it to enlarge).

4thPRC Bulletin-July-1955_Page_1

As you might guess, there was considerable interest in this photo and church, since it looked so “new” to many of us – including myself! And some of you really went to work attempting to find out what building this was and why you were not familiar with it – and also, what happened to it, since we know it is no longer a place of worship among us.

If you have read the comments on this post (the fine print at the bottom of the post), then you may know that some correctly identified it as Fourth PRC, located at 1436 Kalmazoo Ave, SE, in Grand Rapids, MI.

The reason why so much of my generation and younger do not know this building is because it was lost in the schism of 1953, with members loyal to the PRC eventually becoming SE PRC, the congregation we know to this day. The congregation of Fourth, which followed Rev.H.DeWolf, kept the building, and then were absorbed into the CRC in 1961 when the church became Faith CRC. That congregation disbanded in 1978 and the building is now occupied by Faith Temple Church of God in Christ.

I wish to thank those of you who left comments and others who sent me emails about it. The Noormans from Faith PRC (now) have roots in that congregation, as you will see from Dorothy’s comment. Especially I thank Terry Dykstra for his persistent research on Fourth PRC, some of which I have included here. And for the pictures which he sent me of the building as it still looks today – in very fine condition.

4thPRC-2015

I told a few of you that I would love to stop and tour this building – even rummage around to see if there are any PRC remnants left there yet – as archivists/historians are prone to do! Who knows, I may get brave yet and head over there before the summer is out. I think I may have some interested tag-alongs. 🙂

The Antithesis at Calvin College: “An Uneasy Alliance” – John J. Timmerman

Last night I did some more reading in John J. Timmerman’s “semi-autobiography”, Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987). I read his fascinating chapter on the early years of Calvin College (“Golden Branch among the Shadows”), since his father served as a curator of the board of the CRC Theological School. And, of course, Timmerman himself would go on to teach English there for many years.

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanA section at the beginning of this chapter in particular struck my attention. It touches on the “uneasy alliance” that existed early on between two groups in the CRC which understood the antithesis quite differently, especially as regards the nature of Reformed education.

For those new to this word, the antithesis refers to the Christian’s place and calling in this world, namely, that he is by God’s grace in Christ holy, set to be and called to live in spiritual separation from the ungodly world about him.

This is part of what Timmerman says about this “uneasy alliance” regarding the antithesis (I have slightly edited this paragraph for ease of reading):

In 1876 a small, poor, and humble people in a strange land established a theological school, and then successively an academy, a junior college, and in 1920 a college. They were in many ways attached to the culture of their homeland; but they were citizens of an often bewildering new land, and they profoundly believed themselves to be citizens of the kingdom of God. Between this kingdom and the secular world there was a profound antithesis, which demanded a form of education on all levels that would be uniquely designed to meet the demands of both kingdoms.

One group, the descendants of the Afscheiding in the Netherlands [the Reformed church separation of 1834 led by H.De Cock and others], viewed education essentially as a caretaking operation, devoted to the unaltered transmission of the Reformed faith with minimal dilution by worldly culture, and unfortunately sometimes tending to identify the antithesis with ancestral habits. The other group, the Doleantie [the Reformed church separation of 1886 led by Abraham Kuyper], also believed in the antithesis; but they saw education not as flight but as conquest, not safety but bold appropriation of the fruits of common grace, which when properly mediated by the believer required him to modify or conquer the culture around him.

These two impulses for many years lived in uneasy alliance, even at times in opposition, but until the 1930s no word was more pervasively influential at Calvin College, whether in bold prominence or quiet remembrance, than antithesis (pp.28-29).