“We are gathered here because within six months we hope to see covenant young men and young women, through the covenant faithfulness of their parents and friends, enter through the doors of Covenant Christian High to be taught the matters of their natural life by covenant blessings to be bestowed upon them, through this instruction, by our covenant God.” These were the opening words of Rev. Heys at the date-stone laying ceremony for Covenant Christian High School on April 20, 1968 (Doezema). To this day, these words hold true as hundreds of God’s covenant children have received the blessings of an education centered on God’s word at this school. Truly to appreciate this blessing, we must examine the history of Reformed education and see the hard work of the men and women who made the school possible. The establishment of Covenant Christian High School not only marked the end of a long struggle to establish true Reformed secondary education, but it was also the beginning of a school which has grown, strengthened, and remained a firm foundation for the education of God’s covenant young people for forty-three years.
To understand the purpose and benefit of Covenant Christian High School, we must first understand the importance of Reformed education. Proper education of God’s children is a command of God and a high calling to parents. Article 21 of the Church Order states “The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.” Also, part of the baptismal vow is the parents’ promise to “see these children …instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power.” God establishes his covenant with the children of believers. In order to share in the covenant relationship of friendship with God, children must be brought up in the knowledge of God through an education that is centered on God’s word and the Reformed confessions. This education must not be limited to catechism and Sunday school. According to Professor David Engelsma, we cannot uphold this command and still send God’s children to worldly schools, “five days a week, six or seven hours a day, nine months a year, for some thirteen or more years of their life” (Engelsma). If we did not have Covenant Christian High School or any of our other Protestant Reformed schools, our churches would be filled with poorly educated members who question and change the principles of our churches (Engelsma).
Although our church fathers understood the need for good Reformed education, an important question came up. What is a “good” Christian school? In the years just after the Protestant Reformed churches were formed in 1924, members of the church continued to send their children to the schools of the Christian Reformed church. At first this was a good solution, since they were the best Christian schools available at the time, but as the years went by, church members began to question whether we needed our own PR schools alongside of the CR schools. Some believed that the schools were slowly moving away from the Reformed confessions, and so in the 1930’s a movement to establish our own Protestant Reformed schools began.
One of the main supporters of this movement was Rev. Herman Hoeksema. Even before the Protestant Reformed (PR) churches were established, Rev. Hoeksema preached about the high calling of Christian education, and as dangerous teachings began to creep into the schools, he began to express his concerns. In 1931 and 1932, Hoeksema wrote a series of 11 articles in the Standard Bearer in which he closely examined the Christian Reformed (CR) schools of the day and declared that they were a “failure”. One of the issues that made the schools a failure was the lack of support from the parents for the Christian Reformed schools. This was caused especially by a movement to introduce religious education into public schools. With this in place, the CR schools would seem unnecessary and inferior. Hoeksema warned of mistaking a religious education for a Christian education. He believed that sending children to the Christian Reformed schools would still be better than a public school education. However, Hoeksema was not so much interested in the failure of support for the schools, but rather, the failure of the CR schools to remain true to the Reformed confessions. He argued that the schools that were established by Christian Reformed parents would eventually walk down the same erroneous path as the CR churches did in 1924. Another minister, Rev. George M. Ophoff, shared this opinion and wrote in the Standard Bearer in 1926 about his deep concern for the Christian schools of the day (Lubbers #3).
To give reason for their disapproval of the CR schools, both Rev. Ophoff and Rev. Hoeksema individually critiqued the six principles of the Christian Reformed schools as published in July 1925. Although their critique is too lengthy to include in great detail, the general conclusion was that these principles were vague and subtly supported heretical ideas such as common grace, free will, and Pelagianism (Lubbers #3). After critiquing each point, Rev. Hoeksema wrote his own six points of Reformed education that would properly “regulate the instruction, discipline, and administration of truly Christian schools” (Lubbers #1). Hoeksema’s points are more specific, accurate, and hold firmly to the Reformed confessions (See chart below). It is a testimony to their completeness and agreement with the confessions that Hoeksema’s six points are still used as the basis for all of our Protestant Reformed School societies today.
After seeing the problems with the CR schools, Hoeksema at first encouraged believers to reform the schools according to the specific principles he established in these six points. However, he soon saw that this was impossible due to the common grace movement and the strong influence of other heretical ideas (Lubbers #2). He then began to promote the necessity of forming our own Protestant Reformed Schools. He said that our position should be that “wherever and whenever the Lord makes it possible, or opens the way, Protestant Reformed people should establish and maintain their own schools” (Hoeksema).
Through the work of these ministers and other believers who promoted the establishment of our own Protestant Reformed Schools, God was working to bring about the establishment of CCHS. But before our high school was established in West Michigan, God worked in the believers on the other side of the country to establish the very first Protestant Reformed school. In 1934, First Reformed Christian School began in the basement of the PR church in Redlands. Sadly, after many years of success, the existence of the school ended during the 1953 controversy. However, in 1975, a new society was formed and established Hope Christian School in Redlands once again. Regardless of its early struggles, this school served as a stepping stone towards establishing the other PR schools (Dykstra).
While the PR school in Redlands was busy developing, the believers in West Michigan began to take the first tentative steps towards establishing their own school. On Feb. 5, 1937, a group of men met in the basement of First Church of Grand Rapids and made the decision to start a society for establishing a high school. A few months later, the Protestant Reformed Society for High School education was created. Immediately this group of men began to gather information about the requirements for establishing a high school, but as they learned more over the years, their goal gradually shifted to building an elementary school instead. In a meeting on April 18, 1941, the Protestant Reformed Society for High School education disbanded, and a new society was formed without the specific goal of a high school (Doezema). Through the work of this new society, Adams Christian elementary school opened on Sept. 6, 1950 as a PR elementary school (Dykstra).
Adams Christian School faithfully served the great purpose of educating God’s young children in the fear of his name, but a huge problem remained: the Reformed foundation established in the elementary school was not built upon after the students graduated. Once they graduated, children of believers had to go to other schools that did not support the Reformed viewpoint of the PR churches. It was no mistake that the original society’s goal was to establish a high school. Many believed that the need for a high school was much greater than that of an elementary school, including Rev. Hoeksema. He pleaded for a high school, saying that, “the age when our boys and girls attend high school is the period in their life when they begin to reflect, to think for themselves, when, more than in the years of their childhood, they are able to imbibe and understand definite principles and doctrines, when it is of utmost importance, that…they are guided in the right direction” (Doezema). God’s young people need an education in their high school years that is “based on and permeated with the distinctive doctrines of the Reformed faith as set forth in the Reformed confessions” (Engelsma). With this great need in mind, our Reformed fathers set out once again to establish a high school.
In the late 1950’s the Society for Protestant Reformed Education was established at a meeting in Southwest PRC. Just a few years later, in 1963, the society purchased 10 acres of land near Hope school and church (Doezema). But before the high school could open, the church members had to raise the money for it! The operating budget for the first year was set at $58,931. However, the fundraising goal for the first year was only $38,000. Today, we can almost laugh at how small this amount seems, but back then, raising that amount of money was a monumental task. To achieve this lofty goal, a group of men formed a fundraising group that became known as the “Father Marchers”. They held a walk-a-thon type fundraiser and also performed a “10,000 minute drive” in which 100 father marchers devoted 100 minutes each to calling people for donations. Through these fundraisers and many generous donations, they were able to exceed the $38,000 goal. This group also continued to raise funds for the next few years and basically became the first fundraising committee of Covenant Christian High School (Date box packet).
Finally, after many years of planning and prayers, construction began in 1968 on the first Protestant Reformed high school. The date-stone laying ceremony was held on April 20, and in the fall of that same year, Covenant Christian High School opened its doors to about 60 students in 10th and 11th grade. There were originally six teachers, working under the administrator, Mr. Roland Peterson (Doezema). The school was equipped with one overhead projector, copier, and typewriter (all very advanced at the time). The society also had purchased microscopes, records, tapes, textbooks, and about 400 books to start the school’s library (date box packet). With all these resources, Covenant Christian became the academically sound and firmly Reformed high school that Hoeksema, Ophoff and hundreds of believers had prayed for.
God continued to uphold our high school, and over the years it grew and developed under his gracious hand. In 1969, just a year after Covenant opened, a senior class was added, bringing the total enrollment to 106 students (Dykstra). Also, from 1971 to 2008 there were several additions made to the school:
(Covenant Christian High School)
Not only did CCHS grow over the years, but many new Protestant Reformed schools were also established in West Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois, including another high school. In addition, many of our churches that do not have a PR school today are working to establish their own schools. All of these schools and developments provide the wonderful blessing of a firm education based on God’s word for his covenant children.
Today, in 2011, Covenant Christian School has 227 students, fourteen full time and three part time teachers, academic advisors, counselors, and a library media specialist. Even more amazing, right now the loud noises of construction can be heard outside the school as Covenant undergoes yet another development. Lord willing, in fall of 2012 Covenant will finally add a freshman class, bringing the total enrollment to about 350 students. With these new students will come many changes to the school. Currently being added to the building are six new classrooms, two science labs, additional office space, a larger teacher lounge, locker rooms, and a larger academic support room (Covenant Christian High School). What a gracious God we have that our small school can grow and develop so much!
The establishment of Covenant Christian High School marked the end of a long struggle to establish true Reformed secondary education, but it also was the beginning of a school that has grown, strengthened, and remained a firm foundation for the education of God’s covenant young people for forty-three years. God was working throughout these years, from the early conflicts with the CR schools to the laying of the school’s foundation to the development of the school. He has graciously enabled us to fulfill his calling of covenant education through this high school and the many other Protestant Reformed schools across the country. There is no telling where we would be if we did not have CCHS to give the future members of the church a firmly Reformed education, and there is no telling where God will lead the school next, but we can be assured that God will continue to preserve his young people in firmly Reformed doctrine.
|The Six Points of the CR Schools||Rev. Hoeksema’s Six Points|
|1. The Bible is the Book of books. By virtue of its divine organic inspiration (II Pet. 1:21) it is unique among all books. The Bible is not only the infallible rule of faith and conduct, but also the infallible guide of truth and righteousness. All school administration, instruction, and discipline should be motivated by biblical principles.||1. The Bible is from beginning to end the written Word of God, given by infallible inspiration. All school administration, instruction, and discipline shall be based on it and permeated by its teaching, for we acknowledge that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.|
|2. God is triune (Matt. 3:16, 17). He is the Creator of all that is, the Sustainer of all that exists, and the ultimate end of all things (Rom. 11:36). God who is transcendent (Is. 40) and immanent (Ps. 139) is the absolute loving Sovereign over all (Dan. 4:31); men should seek to do His will on earth as it is done in heaven.|
|2. God, who created and sustains all things and governs them according to his sovereign counsel; who is triune and, as such, lives an eternal covenant-life of friendship in infinite perfection; from eternity chose and in time forms a people unto himself, to stand in covenant-relationship unto him in Christ Jesus their Lord, that they might walk in all good works which he ordained for them, and in all their life in the world should be to the praise of his glory, children of light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.|
|3. Man is a fallen creature (Gen. 3). Though depraved man is nevertheless an image bearer of God (Eph. 2:5), and through restraining grace he is able to do civil good (Rom. 2:14). Though lost in sin, man can be saved through faith in Christ (John 3:16); and through restoring grace, in principle, is able to do spiritual good (I John 3:9).|
|3. From a fallen and wholly depraved human race, and in the midst of a world that lieth in darkness, a crooked and perverse generation, God saves his elect, establishing his covenant with them and their children in the line of continued generations, forming them by his sovereign grace in Christ into a people of himself, that they might be his friends, and, living in every sphere of life from the principle of regeneration through faith, they should show forth his praises and walk as children of light in the world.|
|4. The world is steeped in sin. All aspects of life, individual and family, social and political, industrial and economic, even the animal world, nature, and things inanimate, show the mars and scars, the subversions and perversions of sin (Rom. 8:22). The virtue, order, and beauty which is still present in the world is a manifestation of God’s goodness (Matt. 5:45).|
|4. In the midst of and in distinction from the evil world that lieth in darkness and is perverse in all its ways because of sin, it is the calling of the people of God to live by grace from the principle of regeneration according to the will of God in every sphere of life, individual, family, social, industrial, political, and ecclesiastical, so that they may be children of light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Hence they insist that all education, that must prepare their children for such an all-sided Christian walk in the world, shall be adapted to this purpose.|
|5. The all-embracing objective of the school is to promote the glory of our covenant God: (a) by seeking in humble dependence upon God to equip the pupil for his supreme task, namely, to realize himself as God’s image-bearer (II Tim. 3:17); and (b) by seeking in the same dependence upon God to reconstitute the sin-perverted world by realizing God’s kingdom in all spheres and phases of life (Matt. 6:33). This is possible at least in principle through Christ, who is not only the Creator (as the Logos) but also the Recreator (John 1).||5. It is the objective of the Christian school to furnish the pupil with an education which in all its branches is rooted in the principle of the fear of God as the beginning of wisdom; and thus to co-labor, in its own proper domain, alongside of and in distinction from the home and the church, to equip the pupil with that knowledge and wisdom which is necessary in order that he may be able to walk in the midst of the world worthy of the vocation wherewith God calls his people, and that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.|
|6. In determining the Course of Study to be offered, in preparing the lesson material, in giving the daily instruction, the above purpose shall be consciously present as the all-embracing objective. To accomplish this great task, the teacher must have the fear of God in his heart and the determination to live it out in his profession; and he must utilize to the full whatever light God’s Special Revelation sheds upon the various realms of human knowledge.||6. In determining the Course of Study of the Christian school the principles heretofore set forth should be adopted as a basis for the entire curriculum. And of the teacher, upon whom rests the responsible task of carrying out this course of study, it shall be required that he present a testimonial from a Reformed Normal School. It shall also be required of him that he express full and wholehearted agreement with the basic principles heretofore set forth and that he declare his purpose to make of the teaching profession no stepping-stone but his life-task.|
(qtd. in Lubbers)
“Cornerstone Date Box Packet.” 1968.
Covenant Christian High School. 2009. December 2011 <http://www.covenantchristianhs.org/index.php>.
Doezema, Donald. “Covenant Christian High School.” 1 December 1980. The Standard Bearer. 5 December 2011 <http://sb.rfpa.org/index2.cfm?mode=narrow&volume=57&issue=585&article=5807&book=0&search=Establishment%20of%20Covenant%20Christian%20High%20School&page=1&chapter=0&text_search=0>.
Dykstra, Professor Russell. “Protestant Reformed Schools.” Our Goodly Heritage Preserved. The Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2000. 88-114.
Engelsma, Prof. David. “So Built We the Wall.” 1 October 2001. The Standard Bearer. December <http://sb.rfpa.org/index2.cfm?mode=narrow&volume=78&issue=105&article=646&book=0&search=Establishment%20of%20Protestant%20Reformed%20Schools&page=1&chapter=0&text_search=0>.
Hoeksema, Prof. H.C. “Protestant Reformed Education A Continuing Calling.” 1 February 1966. The Standard Bearer. November 2011 <http://sb.rfpa.org/index2.cfm?mode=narrow&volume=42&issue=900&article=9271&book=0&search=Establishment%20of%20Protestant%20Reformed%20Schools&page=2&chapter=0&text_search=0>.
Lubbers, Agatha. “Establishing Schools to Provide Reformed-Covenant Education (series: 1-9).” 15 November 1998. The Standard Bearer. November 2011 <http://sb.rfpa.org/index2.cfm?mode=narrow&volume=75&issue=167&article=1280&book=0&search=Establishment%20of%20Protestant%20Reformed%20Schools&page=1&chapter=0&text_search=0>.