When a church has 150 years of history to mark, it’s hard to fit everything into one celebration. Members of East Saugatuck Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Mich., have spent most of 2019 celebrating the sesquicentennial.
The church hosted special worship services beginning in February, recalling major life events of the congregation and focusing on a theme verse of 1 Peter 2:5: "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
Formed in 1869, the church was first known as Collendoorn True Dutch Reformed Church, an overflowing of Graafschap CRC, sometimes referred to as the “mother church of the denomination.” The name changed to East Saugatuck Christian Reformed Church in 1902.
Sisters Judy (Prins) Haverdink and Jean Mans, lifelong members of East Saugatuck CRC, both served on the nine-member anniversary committee, which began meeting in January 2018. Haverdink described one of the year-long projects. After they were lead to the 1 Peter scripture as a theme verse, “and from our rock, Jesus Christ, one thing led to another and we came up with Living Stones testimonies,” she said.
“Living Stones” are cardboard boxes that represent a person instrumental in the faith life of a member of the congregation, said pastor Wayne Bakker. Laying these “stones” ever higher throughout the year was a means of giving thanks for 150 years of Jesus as their rock.
Even as they recognized being built up spiritually, church members also recalled physical buildings of the past. Bakker said the original church building coincidentally burned down at the same time as the 1871 Chicago fire and was soon rebuilt. In 1966, another new building was constructed. In 2000, an addition was made.
The congregation hosted commemorations of these various events in May and August, with congregants sharing testimonies during worship, adding to the Living Stones, and sharing a cookout and ice cream social in a tent on the grounds.
During the weekend of Oct. 26-27 former pastors and members were invited back for a Saturday-night dinner of reflection and Sunday-morning worship service. Bakker said about 375 people attended.
East Saugatuck CRC was also recognized by the denomination with a plaque commemorating its 150 years. This practice was established by Synod 2018. Executive director Steve Timmermans visited the congregation in July to deliver the plaque.