In 1957, a committee was appointed by the Federation of Protestant School Societies to investigate the possibility of setting up a Protestant Reformed Normal School, an institution where all Protestant Reformed teachers and prospective teachers would receive their formal training.

This committee, consisting of T. Langerak, G. VanOverloop, T. Newhof, F. Hanko, and Rev. H. Hanko, after much work, came to the Federation with the advice to set up a Seminar instead. This Seminar would consist of all teachers, prospective teachers, and ministers who were interested in establishing a normal school, whose duty it would be to write papers on various assigned subjects pertaining to education. These papers would be discussed, criticized, and filed away until they could some day be used as a basis for instruction in the normal school.

This committee also accompanied their advice with reasons. A few being, that there were not enough finances to institute a normal school, that there were few teachers available to instruct in this normal school, and there was no available material to form a basis for instruction (the Seminar, then would provide at least some material to be used by instructors to teach in this school).

This committee also submitted a list of rules which would govern this Seminar – who would conduct its affairs, how subjects could be provided, when it would meet, where it would meet, and who would lead it. The rules even stipulated “that the Federation advise our school boards to consider for appointment only those teachers who show evidence of having faithfully performed the work of the Seminar.”

In 1959, the committee again investigated the matter of establishing a normal school; this time in particular reference to the matter of its being an accredited school by the State, and the North Central Accrediting Association. If our normal school would not be accredited by the above, our teachers could receive no certificates to teach from the State; and therefore, instruction in our grade schools would be considered invalid. The committee found the stipulations of both the State and the N.C.A.A. extremely stringent, lengthy, and costly. They concluded that it was well nigh impossible to set up this school at this time. However, a recommendation was made that perhaps Calvin College would be merciful enough to recognize and give credit to those subjects taught in our own normal school.

The Seminar then was not the rudimentary plan for the instruction of teachers and prospective teachers; but, rather, it was established as a means to reach a much more desired goal; namely, that of a Protestant Reformed Normal School.

The Seminar, having been in existence now for some five years, has developed into something far more than a means to an end. The end which was an ideal had a tinge of lofty optimism implied in it. A normal school without a corresponding liberal arts program would be like one receiving a Seminary training in only subjects like Catechetics, Hermeneutics, and Church Polity. Professional courses must be based on a knowledge of the liberal arts. The possibility of sending teachers to a college such as Calvin to receive the general training in the arts and sciences and then taking them back to our normal school to “clean up the damage” by some Protestant Reformed methods course would be, to press the analogy, like sending seminarians to Calvin Theological School for Dogmatics, and bringing them back for professional training in the art of preaching and leading catechism. I realize that the figure suffers by being pressed to an extremity; however, we should always remember that What is taught takes precedence of How it is taught. The normal school is not the ideal in our present circumstance.

Through a well-planned program the seminar committee has provided for a thorough study of the problems faced by our schools. The essential questions all teachers in our schools face are first, how can I be an effective teacher, and secondly, how can I make the education in the school distinctly Christian. In our schools which were set up and are maintained on the basis of Scripture as reaffirmed in the Tree Forms of Unity, the teacher is faced with this dual responsibility of distinctive education and real education.

The Seminar has faced this problem squarely in the discussion of a series of papers in the past five years. The History of Education was the first general subject treated. The authors of these papers outlined education among the Hebrews, Greece, and Romans; medieval educational structures and those fostered by the Enlightenment; and finally, the educational pattern of the last two centuries in Europe and America. The next general topic, and the one the Seminar has nearly completed, centers around Educational Psychology and Pedagogy. The first paper in this series, “The Scriptural Principles of Psychology,” was followed by a discussion of the soul, mind, will, and emotions. Papers followed on such subjects as the “Influence of Sin on the Child,’ “Teaching of Moral and Spiritual Values,” “Obedience,” and “The Relation of the Child to the Family and the Church.” At the next meeting of the Seminar the last paper on this subject will be discussed, “Methods of Teaching in Our Schools.”

Seminar was organized to fulfill a need, which was mentioned before in this paper. Somehow it has gone much farther than this. The Seminar has become an opportunity for educational principles to be clarified. It is a place where teachers in service as well as prospective teachers can benefit from the experience of others; a place where our educational system through the contribution of ministers and teachers can have its feet placed squarely on truth. Moreover, it is a movement which shows that Protestant Reformed education is not only an accomplished fact, but a living challenge!

“Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came unto Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover?”  (Matt. 26:17)  So it was that the disciples found themselves present at the last feast of the Passover and first Supper of the New Testament, the Lord’s Supper.  A small beginning, nevertheless, the first of many such suppers to follow in the history of Christendom.  Many books have been written on this subject and many different forms have emerged yet the supper has remained for all churches an important and special event.  As the times near in which we celebrate Christ’s death, it would seem appropriate to reappraise our observance of this sacrament especially as to the proper time of its celebration.  Rather than become involved in the “substance controversy” we will advance the thesis that both this institution and Lenten season would be more meaningful if celebrated in conjunction.

Our churches following the tradition of the Synod of Dordrecht, 1618-1619, have always celebrated the Lord’s Supper every three months as stipulated by the Church Order, Art. 63.  The choice of this interval was purely arbitrary, however the church fathers felt that a weekly observance of the sacrament too closely resembled the Romish Mass and tended to lower the sacrament to the role of the commonplace.  We certainly agree that the sacrament must remain a special event.  On the other hand, the synod felt the sacrament, as a means of grace, should not be withheld from the church for too long a period so as to become a strange and formidable event.  For these reasons the Synod said the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated every two or three months.

The origin of the supper and the time of its institution, however, was not considered to be significant in its celebration, for no mention is made either of celebrating the Lord’s Supper on the day it was instituted or at any time during the Lenten Season.  This seems inconsistent because almost all of the other Christian celebrations (Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day) are held at the time of the year in which they originated.  Then we ask why this is not the case with the Lord’s Supper and would not a change to include the sacrament in the Good Friday service be a change for the better.

Also, we not that in instituting the supper Christ says, “This do in remembrance of me.”  In saying this he might mean that in eating this dinner the church should remember his death so that the supper might never become a mere social dinner like the present day Thanksgiving dinner.  However, the converse of this statement is also a possibility; that is, in the time of remembrance, the church partakes of the Lord’s Supper.  In either case the Lord’s Supper in its commemoratory aspect and the Lenten Season seem to have a natural connection.

We have noted that the church order does not stipulate such a practice but neither does it forbid it.  The fathers wisely left the details to the individual consistories.  On the consistorial level the Good Friday service could be expanded to include the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Tradition should have very little to do with our final decision, for whether or not it is the practice of our church or that of any other to hold Lord’s Supper on Good Friday, this does not prove that this either the Biblical injunction or the spirit of the institution.  To say we have never

Done it, is to advocate a blind conformity to the traditional practices without any attempt to weigh their validity.  One should never feel that the reformers made the only justifiable break with tradition and that any subsequent change is the slaughter of a sacred cow.  It is a protestant heritage that not the tradition of the church but only God’s Word should rule our lives.

If we go once more to the church order we find this qualification to connection with the proper celebration of the sacrament, “that all superstition be avoided…”  By superstition the fathers no doubt refer to the liturgics and formal ceremonies of Catholicism.  Ritualism with its false emphasis on the outward sign is indeed dangerous but the other extreme, a complete neglect of both the ritual and the meaning behind it, is equally bad.  The redeemed Christian who owes his whole life to Christ’s redemptive work can hardly justify an attitude of complacency during the time of the year when He suffered and died that His people might live.  We read of Christ that “when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.  As grateful sons of Him, let us too steadfastly set our faces to Jerusalem, to the cross, to Christ our only salvation.  The Catholics, Lutherans, and the Anglicans seek to concentrate upon the sufferings and death of Christ through fasting and additional partaking of Holy Communion.  We frown on this practice because we say that Christ paid the debt and we have been made free, but we often fail to realize we have put away the awareness of God’s great act of love we should reconsider any castigation of others.

Let us together then go to the Lord’s house on Good Friday and listen to the form for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper.  “Let us consider now to what end the Lord hath instituted his Supper, namely, that we do it in remembrance of him…”  And after Communion we can give thanks to God that “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  Therefore shall my mouth and heart show forth the praise of God from this time forth forever more.”

The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

Continue reading

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

Continue reading

The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

Continue reading

Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

Continue reading

Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

Continue reading

Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

Continue reading

Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

Continue reading