PRC Archives – H. Hoeksema’s Inaugural Sermons 100 Years Ago Today


Today is leap day in this leap year of 2020. And this date of February 29 marks a significant event that relates to Protestant Reformed history (though the PRCA would not be officially formed until five years later): the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the inaugural sermons of Herman Hoeksema after he was ordained as minister of the Word in Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.


These sermons (two of them, one in Dutch, one in English) were soon published under the title of one of the messages, “Ik Wil Dat, Gij Weet” (“I will that you know”) en “I’ll Cry” by J. Hoorn, a publisher on Eastern Ave. in Grand Rapids, MI (see photo above).


The Dutch sermon that was published (morning service) was based on Colossians 2:1-3, the opening words of which text form the title (“I would that ye knew” KJV). The English sermon that was published (evening service) was based on Isaiah 40:6-8, as you will see from the above first page.


Both of these sermons were featured in a fairly recent issue of the PR Theological Journal (April 2013, vol.46, #2, pp.80-109), including the first translation into English of that first sermon. The editor of the PRTJ introduced this featured article in these words:

Recently Miss Agatha Lubbers, long-time educator in the Protestant Reformed Christian schools, came into possession of a booklet containing the two sermons preached by Rev. Herman Hoeksema on the first Sunday after his installation as minister of the Word and sacraments in the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One of these inaugural sermons was in Dutch and the other in English. She immediately took it upon herself to translate the Dutch sermon. Struck by its message, as well as by the accompanying English sermon, she brought them to me. We gave the Dutch sermon to Mr. Marvin Kamps. Having read Miss Lubbers’ translation, Mr. Kamps produced his own, which we include in this issue of PRTJ. The sermons are stirring! They encapsulate Hoeksema’s entire ministry. And they serve as a powerful reminder to the Reformed minister today concerning the nature of his calling. You will want to read both sermons.

And Miss Lubbers (my high school church history teacher among other things!) provided her own introduction to these “HH” sermons:

It was on Tuesday, February 24, 1920 that the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema, one of the “founders” and theological leaders of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, was installed as minister of the gospel in the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church (at that time generally called the Eastern Avenue Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerk). Rev. Herman Hoeksema, a young, vigorous, and industrious 34-year-old man, who had been ordained in the 14th Street Christian Reformed Church of Holland in 1915, received and accepted the call to be the pastor of Eastern Avenue.

Rev. Hoeksema reports in one of his writings that he had been very busy in Holland. In Holland he had established himself as a minister who loved the gospel and who was an exciting preacher. It is perhaps worthy of note that during those years he served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Calvin College (Curatorium) and was the main speaker at the dedication in 1915 of the new Calvin College Building on Franklin Street campus. He was also a regular contributor to the Banner.

Rev. Herman Hoeksema was installed in Eastern Avenue CRC to take the place of Rev. J. Groen. The building is still standing today on the same site, though with some changes. The congregation is reported to have consisted of approximately 450 families. Rev. Hoeksema, in his first Sunday morning service, called upon the Lord and the Consistory “to help him in the work of this large congregation.” It was reported that the work of catechism instruction and the leading of Bible study societies had been largely neglected.

On this historic date, it would be worth your while to read these sermons. They will make for edifying reading on this last day of the week – and great preparation for the Lord’s Day tomorrow. Want a taste of one of these sermons? Here you go:

Everywhere Holy Scripture lays heavy emphasis on this growth in knowledge. Really, there is no better proof of the intent of God as regards His relation to His people, than the existence of sacred Scripture itself. Indeed, Scripture does not merely offer a limited, very narrow revelation of the God of our salvation. It does not inform us only of the fact that there is in the blood of Christ reconciliation with God for our souls. It does not present, that which men in our day regard as sufficient, a gospel on a postage-stamp-sized sticker. But Scripture reveals to us the full counsel of God, it gives us insight into the full redemptive plan of deliverance, and it presents to us all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. And there can be no two ways about it, that God the Lord absolutely has not bestowed in His wisdom this Bible so that we should let it lie ignored, or so that we can choose to take from it what pleases us and at the same time leave be what does not suit our taste; but God gave it to us so that we should submit to the whole of the Bible, so that we should appropriate the whole of the revelation of God, and so that in this way we should mature in the knowledge of God, who is life.

Time and again Scripture lays emphasis on that fact. In the Old Testament the complaint is made that the Lord’s people perish for a lack of knowledge. In the new dispensation the apostles proclaimed the full, rich Christ, and Paul preaches the whole counsel of God. The church is admonished not to loiter in the first principles but go on to perfection. She must know what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of God. She must grow up into the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. For, of course, this is eternal life, that they may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Nota bene: I wish to thank current church history teacher at Covenant Christian HS, Mr. Dan Van Uffelen, for reminding me of this anniversary and encouraging me to make this post today, as well as for the pictures he provided. And yes, we do have original copies of these published sermons in the PRC archives.

PRC Archives – A Missionary’s 1949 Expense Book


For our latest PRC Archives post, we focus on a unique item from the PRC’s Mission Committee’s materials found today in an envelope – a collection of expense reports from PRC ministers who traveled for missionary work in the late 40s and early 50s.


The one we feature is from December 1949 and was filled in by Rev. Andrew Cammenga, PRC home missionary at the time. The little booklet that was used for these expenses is also unique, being a handy pocket-size, monthly “traveler’s expense book” – “Beach’s ‘Common Sense'” – published by Beach Publishing Co. of Detroit, MI.


A glance at the pages shows various entries for mileage, meals, laundry, and hotels. And special entries for mission labors: hall rentals, advertising, phone calls, etc. And, when you see the numbers, you will realize that they reflect the times – three meals a day for under $5.00! Others showed train and airline fares (including a flight from Chicago to Grand Rapids for $9.37!).


Another small treasure from the past. I keep telling people when they see all those gray and tan archive boxes on the shelves that they only look boring on the outside. Inside are wonderful tidbits of historic tales! Come and check them out yourselves some day!

Published in: on January 16, 2020 at 10:10 PM  Leave a Comment  

PRC Archives – The Early Years: Communion Wine and Curatorium Report

Kevin R. putting in place in the new archives room the last of our “official” archive boxes.

Today we feature a couple of fascinating items out of the PRC archives – both from the early years. Both were discovered yesterday while sorting through and cataloging old Theological School Committee (TSC) files, which Bob Drnek has been working on, in part because he is TSC secretary and has a personal interest in the history of the seminary and its committee. 🙂

For years these files had been stored in a cabinet in the seminary building, but this summer we decided they belonged in the archives, both for better protection and for preservation. And we are glad we made that decision, because these are a valuable part of our history and because there are some real treasures here!


GMO-faculty-report (2)

This first item is a report of the rector of the seminary, at the time Rev. George Ophoff (the professors, as they still do, held this administrative position by rotation), to the Curatorium, the “committee” that oversaw the seminary prior to the formation of the TSC. Writing on behalf of the faculty, Ophoff reported on the work that was being done both by the professors and the students, as you will see. But the brief report breathes the spirit of Ophoff. Don’t waste words, get to the point, and if there isn’t much to say, make sure you indicate that “something was also accomplished.” We think this report dates from the 1930s but are not sure as yet.


This second item is even more fascinating. Remember the Prohibition Era, when alcohol was mostly prohibited and strictly controlled?! Well, most of us know about this age only in name, since it goes back to the early years of the 1900s in this country. What you may not know (I didn’t!) is that churches had to fill out a special form to gain permission to use wine for communion (the Lord’s Supper)!

So, what you see above is such a form (stored away in the seminary’s early history files) filled out by the clerk of our Hudsonville PRC to purchase two gallons of wine from a U.S. government-approved, wine supply house in Milwaukee, WI! The date? May 24, 1928!

Amazing! Can you imagine?! No wonder, given the times, they ordered by the gallon! I’m also guessing that that “domestic Muscatel” was a rather cheap, red wine. Anyone have memories of these times?

Published in: on December 12, 2019 at 3:54 PM  Leave a Comment  

Recent PRC Seminary Images (Inside and Out!) – November/December 2019


Since our last PRC Seminary update in pictures, much more has happened that has been captured in photos. So, in this post we bring you up to date with a selection of images from the last month.


Yes, we did have an early snow in the middle of November – always pretty and exciting, especially for those of our number from Mexico and Australia who don’t get exposed to a lot of this white wonder. 🙂 But then things returned to normal – gray skies and green grass!


As usual, our friendly turkey and deer neighbors make their appearance, including a nice buck – a little unusual.


On the plant side of things, Mrs. Judi Doezema’s Thanksgiving cactus broke out in full bloom just in time again – always a treat in our entry way.


Our Friday brat/burger lunches are always special, especially when wives, children (including new babies!), and friends join us. And sometimes we have a guest give a talk on something, as Mr. Rick Noorman did recently on PR Christian School teacher training.





On Wednesdays during devotion times we often have area PRC ministers give a chapel talk, as Rev. N. Decker (Grandville PRC) did this past week.


In other exciting news, we recently had our final building inspection on the new addition and were approved, so we could finally start moving the PRC archives into their new home upstairs. Over the last two weeks about 2/3rds of the boxes have been moved into the new room. Kevin Rau has been my willing and ready moving partner!

Out of the old room downstairs…


Around the outside with our carts…


And into the new room!


And due to the extra space at this point, we have a better home for our rare books and Dutch titles as well as lesser used magazine boxes from the library.


And our other archivist assistant, Mr. Bob Drnek, has also moved upstairs into the archives “research room” to continue his work of organizing and cataloging.


So grateful for the new archive room(s)! We have plenty of room to grow (tripled our size with the Spacesaver shelving)!


Finally, in the physical education department, our ping pong team continues to practice for the seminary winter olympics. 🙂


PRC Archives: A 1953 Event in Photos


It’s Spring Break week here in chilly Michigan, and while others may be playing hard in warmer climes, we are going to create our own warm fun – with a PRC history/archives photo trivia post.

These are some more pictures donated recently by John Buiter (Hope PRC), and your only clue is that this event took place in the summer of 1953. The rest is up to you! Guess the event and identify the ministers and others in the group photo. And, of course, where the event was held that year!


I realize there were serious and significant things going on in the PRC in that year, but we can still celebrate the special fellowship and fun these members had that summer.

Published in: on April 4, 2019 at 4:22 PM  Comments (1)  

PRC Archives: 1951 Young People’s Convention

These wonderful pictures came in from Mr. John Buiter (my former grade-school principal at Hope PRCS!) this week, as part of a donation to the PRC archives. John was a member of Oaklawn PRC in Illinois at the time, though he later moved up to Grand Rapids, MI for teaching and administration, and later belonged to my home church at Hope PRC in Walker.

John’s fine collection of photos included some from the 11th annual PR Young People’s Convention held in August of 1951 in…? You tell me! It’s really not hard if you look closely. But that church – isn’t that a beauty?! I previously did a post on this PRYP’s Convention after a member donated the group picture from this convention.

It seems John also had an eye out for a certain young lady at this convention too, a peach named Thea, whom he would later marry. You will find her in one of these pictures too. But you will need a good eye for that. Let’s see who can locate her.

I am guessing you can identify some of the people in these photos (there were many more, so maybe we can post more later). Some names appear on the front. And I see one of our older ministers in there too – can you identify him? Have fun!

And thank you, John, for thinking of the archives!




Published in: on March 21, 2019 at 9:45 PM  Leave a Comment  

PRC Archives: Some New/ Old Pics – Two Churches and a Minister

Hope PRC (Walker, MI) donated some pictures to the PRC archives this week (along with some documents) and we have been enjoying them at seminary.

Many are from the 1980s and include several from PRC synods (hosted by First-GR, Hope, and SW PRCs), a PR Christian School convention (at Covenant CHS in Grand Rapids, MI), Hope’s early involvement in Singapore, and a PRYP’s Convention they hosted. There are also some individual photos of ministers and churches, and it is some of these I feature here today.

The minister is easily recognized – Rev. Marinus Schipper (1906-1985). He served the Protestant Reformed congregations of Grand Haven, MI, Second (later SW) in Wyoming, MI (twice), South Holland, IL, and SE in Grand Rapids, MI. Rev. Schipper was a powerful preacher and I remember well hearing him in my home church of Hope as a young man.

But perhaps we can make you guess which church he is in in the photo to the right below.


We also have two pictures of old PRC buildings, and these we will make into a mystery photo-guess for you. Here they are – see how you do!

I have to admit, I did not recognize either of them and had to receive help from a certain professor. If I mention him, it may give away the answers. That’s the only clue you get! 🙂


If you recognize them, let our readers know!

Published in: on March 14, 2019 at 8:28 PM  Comments (10)  

What’s New in the PRC Archives? December 2018 *(Updated)

With a few new donations in the last few months, it is time to give a brief update on some treasures that have come into the PRC archives located in the PRC Seminary.


This old framed picture was donated by the D. Westra family recently. Perhaps some of you recognize this former organist of our First PRC in Grand Rapids – Mr. James Jonker, a talented musician who was playing the organ in church in his teens (Don Doezema, a friend of James in high school and college estimates that he is 17 years old in this picture.), was called home to glory in his early 20s. This photo is a real keepsake and we thank the Westras for donating it.

revhdanhofWe also received this past week from Rev. Jerome Julien (a local retired URC pastor and friend of the PRC) a set of old bulletins from the early days of Rev. Henry Danhof in the Protesting First CRC of Kalamazoo, from 1927 on.


These early bulletins were quite extensive, including an article on a current doctrinal topic or current event, as well as significant church news, including, of course, the common grace debate taking place in the Christian Reformed Church and in the newly formed PRC.


I have scanned the front and back covers of the initial bulletin here (No.1 – notice the “Introductie”, I.e., “Introduction”), which is not dated, but the first one that is (No.3) is Sunday, March 6, 1927. The early ones were heavy on Dutch, with a mixture of English thrown in, typical of the CRC and PRC bulletins at the time.


Mention of Kalamazoo PRC leads me to highlight an unusual and very special donation we just received this week from the Rust family, through Prof. H. Hanko, a friend of the family. It is a collection (some bound, some loose; some in Dutch, some in English) of hand-written prayers that Mr. John Rust wrote out and prayed in his role as elder for many years in our church there. The above image is a sample of two pages from a record book that contains several of these beautiful prayers. If you enlarge the image, you will see for yourself the Reformed piety of this faithful servant of the Lord (now in glory). We thank the Rust family for this wonderful gift to the archives!

A friend also pointed me this week through Facebook to a lady who has a special Holland (MI) history Facebook page, and a photo was recently posted there of the original building of the First PRC of Holland when it was being built – with this date attached: October 26, 1938! A gem! Thank you for pointing me to this!

Sadly this church site was lost to the PRC during the Schism of 1953, but the members survived, even thrived and later rebuilt in two places. She now has her presence on the northeast side of Holland. And the old building shown here still abides, we are told, in relatively fine shape.

**Don’t forget that we are ALWAYS ready and willing to receive your archival items – whether they be documents (of all kinds!), pictures, tapes, etc.! We are headed for our 100th anniversary as a denomination (1924/25 – 2024/25). Let’s make sure we can display as many items from our history as possible!

Nate P. and Matt VO from Bosveld doing work at seminary this week.

Speaking of PRC archives and buildings, we may also report that some work was done this past week on the new addition at the seminary that will house the PRC archives. Some demo work had to be done on the exterior of the west side of the seminary, so that the block walls can go up. That will probably take place next week. In the mean time, the newly poured floor continues to harden!

Demo completed and ready for new wall to go up!

Published in: on December 13, 2018 at 11:05 PM  Leave a Comment  

PRC History: G. Vos, H. Hoeksema, Wm. B. Eerdmans, Sr., and the original “Triple Knowledge” (1956)

For our PRC history/archives feature today, we turn to the pages of the Standard Bearer, where back in 1956 one finds an interesting exchange between Rev. Gerrit Vos (PRC minister) and Mr. William B. Eerdmans, Sr. (important Reformed book publisher), involving Rev. H. Hoeksema and his important work on the Heidelberg Catechism published under the general title of The Triple Knowledge (the discerning Reformed reader will recognize the reason for this title).


Without giving too much away, we will say here that Eerdmans was the original publisher of this series of ten individual books covering the entire 52 Lord’s Days and 129 Q&As of the “Heidelberger.”. But the work was interrupted by a significant event in Hoeksema’s life, such that he thought the work on the Catechism might never be completed. But, in God’s good providence and with the support of Mr. Eerdmans, it was.


As you will see from the picture above (I have an original ten-volume set), the first book in the series, In the Midst of Death, was published in 1943. The final volume, The Perfect Prayer, was published in 1956 (cf. pictures below). Hence, the celebration and congratulations in the SB in 1956.


The exchange to which I referred above began with Rev. Vos’ article titled “Congratulations, Plus!” in the Nov.1, 1956 issue of the SB. This is how he began his note of congratulations on the completion of The Triple Knowledge:

First, I wish to congratulate the Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishing Company, and more particularly, Mr. William Eerdmans. This part of my article is sadly overdue. I should have given time and thought to this item years ago.

When the whole world that calls itself Reformed either ignored its most outstanding theologian, the Rev. Herman Hoeksema, or attacked him and his views, God gave us the foremost publisher of Reformed heritage to publish his works. God moved his heart and mind to open the door to the world of publications.

Most of us do not realize the outlay of money and the subsequent risks involved in the publishing of books. I know, for Mr. Eerdmans told me, and showed me the graphs of costs and sales.

And so I wish to publicly thank him at this occasion: a milepost in the publishing of Hoeksema’s books.

You ask: “How come?” Why did this man, versed in profitable printing and publishing matters, risk so much?

Here is his answer, and it is twofold: first, “The Rev. Hoeksema writes for the ages!” And, second, “This is my partial share of working for the coming of the Kingdom!”

And so, congratulations, Mr. Eerdmans, in finishing the publication of the most valuable set of commentaries on the Heidelberger. May God repay you for what you have done for the Reformed Churches in the United States.

But then came a gracious reply from Mr. Eerdmans in the Dec.1, 1956 issue of the SB. Writing “A Few Words,” he told the story of this wonderful commentary and its author:

In his article Rev. Vos quotes a very beautiful passage from Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s Introduction to the first volume of his now completed ten-volume set of expositions on the Heidelberg Catechism, dated June 1, 1943.

These words of Rev. Hoeksema deserve repeating:

“If in God’s inscrutable purpose there are left to me a sufficient number of days to work and labor, I intend to complete the work, the beginning of which I offer to the public in the present volume.”

Then Rev. Vos continues, “Well. dear reader when Hoeksema wrote that sentence God said: Amen! God knew that He would multiply his days in order to give to the Church of Christ this wonderful Commentary on the Heidelberger.”

In 1947 the Rev. Hoeksema had a heart attack. One day I called on him. He laid outstretched in a garden chair on the lawn of his house. After a few words of greeting Herman said: “Well Bill, this looks as though I will never pen another paragraph.”

At that time he had finished about one third of his Commentary. However the good Lord gave him sufficient healing and strength, so that now, nine years after his heart attack, he has finished the work he in 1943 set out to do.

The friendship between Rev. Hoeksema and me dates from the days we were together at Calvin. We differ, but our honest differences have never broken our friendship. In the spirit of mutual esteem and respect we both proceeded . . . . though with many failures and shortcomings . . . . to keep on walking in the light as we were convinced God gave us to see the light.

Yes, Rev. Vos, I told you that to my way of thinking, Rev. Hoeksema writes for the ages. As a publisher I know that many God-chosen and God-gifted minds have written for the ages.

…And I have a feeling that in the distant future (if the Lord tarries His coming) Ministers and students and laymen will still turn to Hoeksema’s Heidelberger because I consider this work one of the most valuable expositions and documents in that field.

What a wonderful part of the history behind Hoeksema’s HC commentary that is! As Paul Harvey used to say on his special radio program, “Now you know the rest of the story.”


You may also want to know that the new publisher of this work by “HH,” after years of publishing it in three volumes, recently reissued it in its original ten-volume form. Visit the RFPA’s website here for more information.

Published in: on November 8, 2018 at 10:47 PM  Leave a Comment  

American Archives Month – What Are You Doing to Preserve History? (And a PRC Trivia Question)

Did you know that October is known in archivist circles as American Archives month? Don’t feel bad if you were not aware of this and were not celebrating with great exuberance. I probably wouldn’t have known either but for the email reminders I receive from various library and archive sources.

Information Today, Inc. is one such source, and it posted this interesting note to introduce us to what archives involve:

What Are Archives?

Our first thoughts when we reflect on archives, their mission, and their purpose may lead to likening them to a library. This makes sense—libraries are where we find ourselves inquiring about topics, learning, and gathering information. However, archives have a significant uniqueness when compared to a library. While you may pore through books to acquire information at a library, it is less likely that you will find primary sources (or first-account records) on the shelves for your perusal.

Archives are where primary sources bloom. Primary sources—letters, photographs, postcards, recordings, film, maps, and the like—are paramount to archival collections. Archives are a location (physical or digital) where we can connect with historical content as well as current records.

Archives play an integral role in preserving our cultural heritage, ensuring that we have reliable information assets to support individuals’, governments’, and societies’ increasing information needs, such as genealogical records and ledgers. The archive is the entrusted caretaker of these resources.

You may start to see the parallel between archival collections for public consumption and your own personal collections of items. As individuals, when we gather items that hold intrinsic value—for example, when we document occurrences and events in our life or the lives of those close to us—they form meaningful collections of artifacts. A personal collection of artifacts is an archive in its own right.

This is only an overview of what an archive is; the totality goes far deeper. If archives have piqued your interest, October is the time to discover the archival institutions in your area.

One of those wonderful archival institutions is our National Archives in Washington, D.C., a place I have never visited but hope to some day (when I also visit the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian 🙂 ). For more on this amazing archives and its resourceful website, visit the link below. The photo above is from the NA’s collection, showing archive assistants working to catalog items.

Photo: spring 2016 southern exterior view of the MLHC

And for our fellow Michiganders, don’t forget the Michigan Archives (History Center) in our state capitol of Lansing. They always have interesting events going on, along with displays and presentations.

And, as you know by now, the PRC also has her own archives, stored in the seminary’s basement, but soon to have a new home in the new addition off the library being readied for construction this week as we write (trees removed and AC units moved in the last few days). This new home will not only give us more room for our expanding collection, but will also make our denominational archives more accessible and create opportunities for displaying them for public viewing. I am extremely excited for this to become reality.

But for this week, let’s bring a small part of our PRC archives to the foreground and make her history come alive with a little trivia prompted by a question of a reader. That question is this: how tall is the bell tower in the old First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI? You see two images of it here – one from an old bulletin cover (1964) and the other from a more recent trip of church history classes from Covenant Christian High.

I have picked the brains of a few former First PRC members and have a fairly good estimate of the height of that bell tower but not a firm number, and so I would like to hear from you. Go ahead, take a guess! Or, if you have more information from your connection to this majestic church building, please share your knowledge!

Source: American Archives Month | National Archives

Published in: on October 18, 2018 at 10:30 PM  Leave a Comment