Editor’s Note: Over the past few years, Beacon Lights has brought to you profiles of many of the ministers of the Protestant Reformed Churches. We hope you enjoyed them, and it is our prayer that God might use them as a means to guide other young men to serve Him as ministers of the Word. We would also like to do what we can to keep our readers in touch with the different Protestant Reformed churches. The Young People’s Conventions are excellent ways to meet others from the different churches and tie a face and a friend to fellow believers in other geographical areas. Five years ago our churches celebrated 75 years as a denomination and published an excellent book, much of it devoted to giving the history of the various churches. We would like to visit these churches again and publish a series of profiles to bring you up to date. We are in the process of contacting the clerks of the churches asking for someone to write. If you have an interesting story relating to the history or current life of your church, please contact either Kris Moelker or John Huizenga.
The Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland, Illinois is a testament to the faithfulness of God. The beginnings of the church were so humble and the trials so many over the past 79 years that from a human standpoint, this church should not be what it is today. And what is the South Holland Protestant Reformed Church today? It is a lively and growing church of 450 people with nearly a quarter of them under 7 years old.
The church was organized in 1926 with 7 families. This organization was the result of several lectures given by Rev. Herman Hoeksema in the mid 1920’s in the southern suburbs of Chicago. A small group of Reformed believers committed to the truth of the sovereignty of God and salvation by particular grace had been meeting above a hardware store in Lansing, IL for two years. This small band desired a place in the fledgling denomination called the Protestant Reformed Churches.
In August of 1926, Rev. Herman Hoeksema preached a sermon at the organization of the little church on John 6:5, “When Jesus lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?” Jesus said that to Philip to test him, because it was only by the power of God that the multitude was fed that day as described in John 6. While no transcript of Rev. Hoeksema’s sermon nearly 80 years ago exists today, you can envision that he pointed the soon to be established little church to the fact that they also would be spiritually fed by the power of the Word of God. Appointed by the Classis, Rev. G. M. Ophoff pronounced a blessing on the new church, and the South Holland Protestant Reformed Church was born.
Imagine what that was like. An insignificant little group meeting in primitive surroundings was led by the Holy Spirit to stand alone among family and friends and community. For the sake of the truth, they became a church in a denomination that was so small many people in the church world of that day had likely never heard of it. There was no big name seminary with high profile professors to teach large numbers of young scholars to become preachers. There was no other church in the area to help them in any way. In fact, this little band never even had a minister until six years after they became a church.
Think about what it must have been like for Protestant Reformed young people in 1926 to 1932 in South Holland and Lansing, Illinois. Their parents told them they were leaving the churches in which they had been born and in which they had been baptized and in which, no doubt, they had family and friends. They were then led to worship with only a few and without even a full time minister. How do you think they explained that to their friends at school? How do you think they explained it all to their relatives who thought the entire idea of a new puny church a bit odd that argued over a fine point of doctrine like common grace?
But God blessed the little church. A church building in South Holland was erected and by the time it finally received its first full time pastor in 1932, the church had actually grown to 18 families. Under the preaching of Rev. Peter De Boer, the congregation more than doubled to 40 families by 1938.
From 1938 to 1945 Rev. Vermeer was the pastor of South Holland Protestant Reformed Church. During these years, there were internal difficulties within the congregation and some members left the church. From 1945 to 1954, Rev. M. Schipper was the minister in the pulpit of the Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland and the group started to plan for a Protestant Reformed grade school. But the mid 1950’s were not easy years for the church. While the pulpit was vacant, the consistory stood against the DeWolf faction and Classis West. The church had to fight for its name and property in the courts as a result of what you have been taught today was the split of 1953.
There was a series of ministers in South Holland from the mid 1950s to the 1970s. Rev. H. C. Hoeksema, Rev. John Heys and Rev. Robert Decker all served faithfully in the Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland. Is there a higher compliment that could be paid these men, than they served the church as faithful servants? The church increased in numbers during the tenure of the men, two of whom left the South Holland Protestant Reformed Church for distinguished service in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
In 1974, Rev. David Engelsma became the pastor of South Holland. He served in South Holland for nearly 15 years. Again the church prospered under the preaching of Rev. Engelsma. It was during these years that what is now Bethel Protestant Reformed Church in Roselle, Illinois had its beginnings as a mission church largely as a result of the work of Rev. Engelsma. The Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois was formed as a daughter church and is now Peace Protestant Reformed Church.
Following the departure of Rev. Engelsma for the Protestant Reformed Seminary, South Holland was capably served by Rev. Charles Terpstra who left in 1996. In 1998, Rev. Allen Brummel became the pastor in South Holland and he is still in the pulpit today.
In 1999, another church was formed from the membership of the South Holland congregation in the northwest Indiana area. Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church, in St John, Indiana with a very attractive new church building, is comprised largely of members from South Holland who had moved farther south. The Village of South Holland, once a small farming community, is today an urban suburb of Chicago.
The men of South Holland have had an eye to the future as there will come a day in the not too distant future when the South Holland church will be relocated south of its present location. This move will likely be driven by the building of a school for Heritage Christian High School as well as the relocation of the Protestant Reformed grade school to property already purchased in Lake County, Indiana. The church in South Holland owns property in Crete, Illinois which may become the site of a new church when that move becomes advisable or necessary.
What is the South Holland Protestant Reformed Church today? It is a congregation of more than 100 families with many children and young people. It is a diverse congregation with many elderly saints. It is a church with professional people, blue collar people, single adults and married couples, emptynesters and growing young families. It is a church of people who are sinners and can exhibit all the foibles of churches full of people in need of the cross of Jesus Christ.
It is also a church that continues to stand in the Reformed faith as it was given from the time of the great Reformation 400 years ago. It can be stated that the Lord has prospered His church in South Holland. The work of the Lord can be seen in the life of the church. The Word of God is preached every service. There are active societies both for young people and adults, a choir, an Evangelism Committee, faithful men to serve in the offices of the church, and the causes of God’s kingdom receive financial support
Truly it can be said that the Lord has been faithful and good to the Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland, Illinois. Should you have occasion to visit The Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland, Illinois perhaps you will be reminded of Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”