25th Annual Young People’s Convention…South Holland, Illinois…Tuesday through Thursday, August 24-26, 1965…time to meet our young people for a few days again…Such were the thoughts running through the heads of quite a number of our Protestant Reformed young people. Not only the young people, but judging from the find turnout at the pre-Convention Singspiration held at Hope Church, our older members also showed their interest in the activities of their covenant youth. True, even though this was just a little bigger gathering than just young people and the Federation Board apparently didn’t know too much of what was planned for the convention (except that everything would be explained on the church doors…), the singspiration was a good sendoff to a rather successful convention.
Conventioning in earnest began with the bus departure from First Church bright and early Tuesday morning. At least these 50 bus riders arrived in time to register during the afternoon as the host society had planned (along with a few other arrivals.) Anyhow, the rest of us who managed to arrive after the deadline for registering had to elbow our way through the crowds at the mass meeting to receive our big blue badges on which someone had erroneously printed the wrong dates. Good thing it was only the days mixed up and not something else….
Ah, yes, the mass meeting. Few would disagree that the contents were very appropriate and beneficial. Professor Hoeksema’s speech dealing with the nature and contents of the heritage that belongs to us as covenant youth along with some good special numbers from a couple of our societies certainly provided an interesting and spiritually beneficial evening for the young people and adults gathered en masse. But one incident, minor perhaps, will long be remembered by those who were present there. Too bad you can’t just snap your fingers and get a public address system installed and in operation. That would eliminate a lot of fuss and embarrassment to all parties involved, especially when such gallant efforts failed to achieve the desired effect. (Would you not agree, Professor?)
Refreshments and get-acquainted time and games soon passed the remaining time until we all had to leave to make sure we would get home by the twelve o’clock curfew. After all we needed a little sleep before that business meeting so bright and (yawn!) early the next morning.
But in spite of late arrivals business proceeded to go quite smoothly and before we were (most of us that is) fully awakened, business was over and we exited and met a short while later at the swimming pool. Those souls hearty enough to brave the cool air splashed around for a while and finally were forced to shelter, along with the others who came along mainly to watch, by the approach of one of Chicago’s short and sweet thundershowers. After that though, the sky cleared up and pretty good weather prevailed for the remainder of the outing.
Next stop was a forest preserve (and it seems there were so many forest preserves around. Which one is dinner at, drivers?) There finally, we waited around for a bit until Rev. Veldman opened with prayer and we fell upon the food which didn’t seem to last nearly long enough. First-comers managed to get both buns for their hotdogs and a bottle of Pepsi. But don’t stand back too long or you’ll end up eating plain wieners (either roasted or cold…) Then came the time for the big choices. Either you could sit down with a group and talk, or you could stand around doing a whole lot of nothing, or else maybe (as a few couples were seen doing) you could take a walk in the woods to enjoy the beauty of nature (?). Anyway the choice was left up to you; did you make good use of it? Around one, things started to look better: at last there was time for some planned activity. Unfortunately the scheduled round table discussion “fell through”. There is, you know, a great deal of benefit from such discussions not only for those who prepare for and participate in such a group but for members of the audience as well. Our disappointment was soon lost however, when Rev. Schipper began his excellent speech regarding how we are to preserve that heritage entrusted to us. Thank you Reverend, for the added effort you put forth so that even those in the back rows were able to hear you. (Maybe a reward of a new pipe would be in order, no?) It was all too soon it seemed that we finished with this program and ball games were started. For some “unknown” reason the South Holland dominated team representing the West rather soon succumbed to a strong Eastern team (we especially liked that good showing by the pitcher…). Those who did not participate in football or the girls’ softball game did a rather good job of razing the professor-type umpire and the hapless of the players, under the able leadership of Rev. Veldman, of course.
Ball games over, we found ourselves with just about three whole hours for ourselves. Good time it seemed for many to go for a ride and burn up some of their extra gasoline or just to sit around for a while or to do this or that…or whatever else our little hearts desired. Funny, but it seemed that some still needed this time to get just a little better acquainted…
By the time six rolled around finally, all of us were ready for supper. The sight and smell of all those hot dished being carried into the church sparked still higher our growing appetites. And it sure seemed funny how long it took that line to move into the eating room (until of course, we saw those who had headed the line start to exit. That explained a lot.) Then came the task of squeezing the fully fed conventioneers into three buses. (Someone bring along a shoehorn next year- it might help!) After the drivers decided which route was the best way through Chicago’s South Side, we departed to see the wonders of the great (?) city. En route a slight fee was collected for tickets to Prudential Building Observation Deck. (Funny, but I heard there were three different rates for the three buses…) Our drivers dropped us off in front of good old Buckingham Fountain and our group rather promptly managed to spread itself our over a large section of Grant Park. (The drivers and buses disappeared—not to be seen again for a couple of hours.) When our dear fountain failed to light up in all its magnificence, our hosts ushered most of the wandering conventioneers together and led a rather disorderly march to the lobby of Prudential (that’s when we first missed the buses…). Up on “top-of-the-rock”, it was rather warm and dark. It was sad that a mist came off the lake and hid quite a bit of Chicago’s gloriously monotonous skyline. Down forty stories by elevator again, we all exited to the sidewalk and began our long vigil for those buses. Finally after many false alarms, they arrived and the weary convention folks started back to South Holland. (I’ll guess it was a small—very small—percentage that made the midnight curfew that night.)
Thursday’s morning sunlight fell on many sleepy conventioneers at the traditional pancake breakfast. After a rather good meal of fried sausage and pancakes fortified with some good coffee, we met again at the church to finish our business. Primary items were a resolution of the Board and the task of electing the new officers. With the help of four able ballot counters (and a special thanks goes to you!) the many ballots were taken and we found ourselves with almost an entirely new Federation Board. May the Lord bless them in their work during this coming year.
But then a look at the clock told us it was lunch-time again. We had been looking forward to a discussion during the afternoon, but apparently this had to be canceled also because those who were supposed to participate were not notified. This, I feel, was one of the biggest shortcomings of this convention. Not only were there too few of these discussion groups, debates, round tables, etc. on the schedule, but those planned did not materialize. These are ways in which the covenant youth are enriched in the knowledge and experience of their covenant heritage. Perhaps that resolution from the Federation Board will help to cure this aspect. If it is properly applied, it certainly will be a step in the right direction. Maybe then we will know if stronger measures need to be taken in the future.
Anyhow, this left us with another whole afternoon to ourselves. Time for many, it seemed (and in a way I am rather sorry to report this, too) to take off for White Sox Park to lose themselves in a ball game for a few hours. Is this the way for covenant youth to spend their time at a Protestant Reformed young people’s convention?????
In spite of the great time lapse there were still the few habitual latecomers for the picture that evening. Fortunately they all seemed to be on time for the food. Once past the punch-bowl we found ourselves in a large cafeteria decorated in island style. A glance at the West wall showed very plainly what the theme was meant to be—Jamaica. Even though the covers of the menus fooled some of us for a while, there was no mistaking the aroma and taste of the food—so appropriately labeled with island name. Following the feasting the convention theme was summarized by Rev. Van Baren in his address concerning our calling to preserve our heritage as Protestant Reformed young people. After the end of the special numbers, we were shown a series of slides dealing with the trip of Rev. Heys and Mr. Zwak to the island of Jamaica. When the lights went back on again, our new Federation president closed with prayer and then the convention ended with the familiar strains of “God be with you…”
Yes, covenant youth, a glorious heritage is ours. Let us always labor with the single eye and willing heart until one day we may have the crown of eternal life. And may God be with you all until we meet again—at next year’s convention in our Southeast Church.