Niekerk Christian Reformed Church
Rev. Martin Bolt, Rev. J. Beebe, Rev. Ouwinga, Rev. J. Scholten,
Rev. B. Van Der Heide, and more
By Judy Stoel
On September 25, 2016, the Niekerk Christian Reformed Church celebrated 150 years of service to God and to the community.
After much discussion in 1866, a number of parishioners from the Graafschaap Christian Reformed Church, who lived further inland, decided to establish a church of their own. Many Sundays during the winter and spring months, the church members found it difficult to travel the five miles on the muddy or snow covered roads with their horses and buggies.
The early church was full of struggle and adjustment. The membership was small and most members were poor causing misunderstanding and tension. The need for a pastor was immediate, but the funds weren’t available. Niekerk decided to join the congregation of the Central Avenue Christian Reformed Church which had been established one year earlier. The two churches placed a call to Rev. J. De Beer of Emden, Oostvriesland, Netherlands which he accepted.
The Central Avenue church had to provide a parsonage and Niekerk had to provide the transportation for the minister to come and preach on his biweekly Sunday. Only a year later
this agreement was rescinded and each church called its own pastor.
Growth and Development
During the 1880s, church membership rapidly increased due to the influx of Dutch immigrants from the Netherlands. Many Dutch communities were established, each named after a province or city in the Netherlands, and each established their own church. When Rev. Welandt arrived in January 1890, the congregation gave him a horse and promised he could keep it if he stayed at the church for five years. Rev De Vries was the first to own an automobile, and during his tenure, Niekerk started a biweekly English service. In 1926, electric lights were installed in the auditorium along with a new floor.
The Great Fire of Holland occurred from October 8 – 11 in 1871. Because so many buildings were constructed of wood, the fire spread rapidly, causing great destruction. While the Niekerk church and parsonage were spared, the congregation felt obligated to give relief to those in need. Money, clothing, and other materials were gathered and financial assistance also arrived from Illinois and New Jersey.
The salary of a pastor in the 1880s was $500.00 per year, plus gifts from the congregation in
the form of chickens and vegetables. In 1890, a janitor was hired for $39 to clean the church and keep the church warm with the wood burning furnace. Wood was provided by the parishioners.
In 1897, a parsonage was built at a cost of $700.00, which included some materials from the old parsonage. The last horse barns were constructed for $300.00 in 1915 and were rented to church parishioners. A few years later, a more comfortable means of transportation took over.
The depression followed closing banks and forced the church to conserve their finances. Rev. Bolt voluntarily reduced his salary.
In the mid-1950s, the organ began to function poorly, so the consistory decided to buy an electric organ. Installed, the “Conn Electric Organ” cost $4,195.00 with a $700 allowance for the old organ. Several delays in delivery proved to be providential; on March 17, 1957, the church caught fire after the evening Young People’s meeting, reducing it to ashes though the safe along with the books of minutes were recovered. The cause of the fire was an overheated furnace. A new church was built, dedicated on May 27-28, 1958, and the new organ was installed. Additions have been added to this structure through the years.
Though many times the church had to struggle, they always felt a need to support missionaries. The first offering for Home Missions was $5.78 and the Young People donated $9.00 for Foreign Missions.
The first bulletin was written by Rev Heyen on July 24, 1938. A mimeograph machine was purchased to reproduce the information so it could be shared with everyone.
After the Vietnam War, the church sponsored a Laotian family. We provided them with housing, jobs and religious instruction. Today, though we worship independently, we still have contact with one another.
Niekerk CRC Today
On September 25, 2016, the church celebrated 150 years of God’s love and grace. Former pastors returned to preach, and the church held an old-fashioned picnic with hot dogs, cake and ice cream, along with good music from extended families to celebrate the abundant goodness of God to us his people.
The current pastor, John Douma, is the 20th minister to faithfully serve at Niekerk CRC. The location is the same, with adapted building changes, but the worship style is different. However, our love and devotion to the Lord is unchanged. Though many things have changed since the organization of the church, the church remains strongly devoted to the Lord.