Rev. Jenna Brandsen,
Rev. Chris DeVos
By Joshua Briggs
In 1847 Holland’s founder Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte established First Reformed Church. As the congregation grew, the need to construct a new church arose. The building was completed in 1857. In 1997 the institution, now known as Pillar Church, celebrated its sesquicentennial. Pillar Church is situated at the intersection of Tenth Street and College Avenue.
On June 25, 1856, Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte dedicated and christened First Reformed Church. At the service, Van Raalte recited Psalm 84:
How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
My King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house:
They will be praising You.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in Selah.
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears begore God in Zion.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob.
O God, behold our shield, Selah.
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better than a
I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of
Then dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
Blessed is the man that trusts in You!
Van Raalte led the church until 1869. Upon his retirement, Reverend R. Pieters assumed leadership of Pillar Church. Pieters led the church until his death in 1880.
Following Pieters death, Wisconsinite Reverend E. Bos accepted the pastorship at First Reformed Church. Bos arrived in Holland in the midst of conflict and division. At the time of his arrival, “the question of affiliation with another denomination arose.” This series of events became known as the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and Christian Reformed Church (CRC) split. After extensive deliberation, Holland’s First Reformed Church decided leave the Reformed Church of America and join the Christian Reformed Church.
During Pieters’ tenure, another divisive question arose. Since its establishment in 1856, Dutch was the church’s official language. As Holland developed, English manifested itself as an emerging medium of communication but First Reformed Church had remained stalwart in its Dutch heritage. Consequently, English-speaking youth were unable to attend the church’s Dutch services. During the pastorate of Reverend E. J. Tuuk, the consistory chose to preach exclusively in English. “The immediate result, an observer noted, “was painful indeed, for seventy-five families left to join other congregations.”
World War II & the 1950s
During World War II, many young men of the Pillar church congregation served the United States. Reverend G. Gritter led First Reformed Church during the global conflict. In total, 131 men from the congregation served; six died. A plaque was placed on the church grounds to honor the servicemen.
Following the end of the war, Holland’s suburban neighborhoods developed and grew. New churches were erected in these neighborhoods and became a source of competition to Pillar Church. During Reverend Yff’s tenure, outreach programs designed to reach the city’s suburban youth were developed.
1960 to the Present
In the 1960s, Pillar Church renovated its parsonage. Members of its congregation also conducted extensive outreach programs for migrant workers.
In 1970, F. Van Houten accepted the pastorate. The congregation at the time of his arrival was primarily composed of elderly members. Van Houten dedicated his time to visiting bed-ridden associates in nursing homes and hospices.
In 1997, Pillar Church celebrated its sesquicentennial. Today, Pillar Church continues to provide a “home and nest” to community members and Hope College students as a union church affiliated with both the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America.