MHH: I’d like to explore that just a little bit further. What was the thinking or the impetus behind the establishment of the school and the re-establishment in Redlands?
EVV: Rev. C. Hanko was our minister, and he really promoted that. We had DeBoer, then Vermeer, then Kuiper after ’53, then H. Veldman for four years. We bought our church when Veldman was there, just before he came. We bought a Methodist Church and parsonage for $24,000—the whole business. Can you imagine that? It was not big, but it was nice. That’s where Rev. Veldman spent his whole time. Rev. C. Hanko was there seven years. His whole ministry was in that church. That’s where Mrs. Hanko had her stroke. That was quite a thing. Audrey was involved with her. She did her hair every Saturday and she and Barb would go there. Daughter Barb was just a little girl then. She is the first one who got Mrs. Hanko to say, “Barb-y.” She couldn’t talk.
AVV: That was in the Beacon Lights.
EVV: This is just a funny thing. When Jim Van Overloop and Linda Ekema were married, Rev. Hanko said, “Now I present to you: Mr. and Mrs. Jim Ekema” (laughter).
MHH: I was asking about the impetus behind the reestablishment of the school. You were about to make some comments about that.
EVV: Rev. C. Hanko really pushed that. We had several meetings and and Marvin Kamps really pushed that too. We made a decision and we could see our way clear to have our own school. When Marvin Kamps was our minister, we bought this property where we’re at right now. There is 4.7 acres with a great big house on it and several chicken coops (laughter). We bought it for $35,000—that whole property. What we did first was cleared that whole land off. I know everybody in the congregation went home every Saturday with asparagus. Everybody got asparagus. Anyway, we bought that property and fixed up the house. Actually who lived in that house first was John and Judy Kalsbeek. During the ministry of Kamps is when we actually built that school, and he was very instrumental in helping. He worked many a Saturday. He was a very good brick-layer. That was what he used to do. We did that all on our own. Everybody came.
MHH: So you built the school, the actual physical building, while Kamps was there.
EVV: Yes. Then the school started while he was there, and that’s when Jon and Joanne Huisken came. That was in 1976.
Then we built a whole new church. George Joostens was the leader of that, but we had three supervisors—men of our church, and they all had a committee. For two and a half years, all or most of the men of our church went there every Tuesday and Thursday after work and all day Saturday, and we built that whole church we have now. It was quite a thing.
MHH: Did that help to draw the congregation together?
EVV: Yes, it sure did. It really did.
MHH: Is it fair to say that the school has prospered?
EVV: Yes. Right now our school is down to 31 students, but we’ve been as high as 60-some. It’s been a very rough financial year, but we still have three teachers, and there’s a tremendous support from the whole congregation. I dare say a third of what it costs comes from people who don’t have kids in school. So it’s been a wonderful thing. When Rev. [Arie] den Hartog left he said that it had been a tremendous asset to his family to have his kids in a PR school. And the future looks like next year there will be a few more. We’re going to have several marriages this year and next. We have more boys in our church than girls. Those guys are coming to Michigan and finding girls there, but they’re going live in Redlands.
MHH: That was going to be my next question. I’ve noticed that many times people who started out their lives in Redlands end up in other areas of the country and don’t stay in Redlands. Why do you think that is?
EVV: Mostly girls who can’t find their husband here. That’s half of life. Our two girls ended up in Michigan because they couldn’t find somebody here.
MHH: That hasn’t been particularly helpful to Redlands’ congregation.
EVV: No, it sure hasn’t. If everybody stayed in Redlands who grew up there, we’d have a huge congregation.
MHH: How would you characterize Redlands’ congregation? Different congregations have different identities or different things that characterize them, almost like a personality. What would you say would characterize Redlands?
EVV: I would say Redlands is a very close-knit congregation. Whenever anything happens in the church or during the week, just about everybody is there. For instance, we used to have all our picnics in the park in Redlands. Now, ever since we have our own church and school, we have a great big ball field and everything that goes with it. We have everything right there. So it’s just our congregation. And after church on Sundays, people stand around talking for fifteen-twenty minutes. A few people go home right away, but very few. I’d say we are a very close-knit family. There are some problems, but not much. Redlands has been noted as being a very friendly congregation.
Another thing: Redlands is one of the most musical congregations. In our little church, with just a few families, we have a dandy choir. We have a terrific male chorus. I’ve heard your CDs of your chorus [the reference is to the Hope Heralds], and I think we could be right in there with you (laughter).
MHH: As you look back over many years of membership in Redlands, Mr. VanVoorthuysen, how would you compare the church of today with the church of your youth?
EVV: I would say that a lot of especially the older young adults seem to be much more spiritually-minded than when I was that age. They’re very good young adults. They seem to be more interested. I’m just speaking of how I felt in those days. For instance, I don’t think I read the Standard Bearer very regularly. But there are people who read that all the time—people who are in their forties or fifties.They seem to be more knowledgeable. But there’s also the element that there’s so much money that people have all kinds of things and toys of different kinds and are involved with lots of sports. Sometimes I think that’s overdone. I think that there should be less of a lot of that and more time with spiritual things. But overall, as far as people being faithful in church, just about everybody is there both services every Sunday. They have Adult and Young Adult societies, twice a month, and that is well attended by all these young married couples and even people who aren’t married. The ladies’ society is good, but the men’s could be a lot better. But overall, I would say, the spiritual attitude of a lot of our younger people is very good.
MHH: One additional question. Are there any issues related to the churches that you would like to address, or any opinions that you would like to express?
EVV: Redlands has always been a very conservative church. In fact, about four years ago, I was still in the consistory, and we heard people say they would like to recite the Apostles’ Creed and have silent prayer. We never had that in Redlands.
EVV: No. We voted on it, and it was unanimously turned down. They would rather not have silent prayer and recite the Apostles’ Creed.
EVV: So the minister [in introducing the Apostles’ Creed] says, “Everybody say in their heart.” For silent prayer, everybody prays when you come in. You just pray. Sometimes that’s not good because somebody wants to get in [the pew] and they have to wait. I notice that in our church, there are a lot of people who made confession of faith and are supposed to pray before church are not doing it. That’s not good, either. With silent prayer, everybody has to pray. That’s the good. I wouldn’t mind it if we had silent prayer.
MHH: But it doesn’t go over well in Redlands.
AVV: I think it should be brought up again.
EVV: Well, I think it should be brought up again. This happened about four or five years ago. I remember that once Prof. [Herman] Hanko [referring to the organist’s response to silent prayer] said, “I don’t like to have an organist tell me how long I can pray” (laughter).
MHH: Well, I can tell you, as an organist, it’s thirty seconds (laughter).
You mentioned earlier, aside from this recording, that you had a humorous story regarding Herman Hoeksema. I’d like to hear that.
EVV: All right. Your grandfather was in Redlands, and it was during the World Series. I came home for lunch one day, and your grandfather and Audrey’s dad [Thys Feenstra] were in our house. We were one of the few people that had a TV. I walked in and here’s your grandfather and my dad watching the World Series. On the floor was a whole bunch of money. Your grandpa looked at me and just busted out laughing, because he thought that I thought they were betting on the game.(laughter). Well, what happened was that he had just gotten paid from our treasurer—maybe a hundred bucks…
AVV: He had three hundred dollars
EVV: Anyway, he went to our bathroom, and when he bent over to flush, all that money fell in the toilet (laughter). He grabbed that money. Your grandmother said, “I think he lost ten dollars” (laughter). But anyway, he was drying that money on the floor when I walked in.
Another one. After Rev. Kamps was our minister, he and his twin brother Leon, came here once, and he had an old tape of a sermon that Rev.[Gerrit] Vos preached in 1965 in Hudsonville Church. On that tape you can hear the train going by. Anyway, in that sermon, he said, “Vell, here we go again. This is the twenty-seventh time I go through the Catechism.” He had quite an introduction. About half the sermon was about who wrote it. In that sermon he said, “You kick around a little, you buy a new suit or two, and the next thing you’re six feet under on Balsam Street” (laughter). The first time that we came to Michigan to visit, I said, “There’s Balsam Street and there’s that cemetery” (laughter). That’s what he was talking about. We have the sermon on tape, and it’s something else.
MHH: From time to time during this interview, there have been significant contributions made by Audrey VanVoorthuysen. At this point I’m going to give her a chance to make any comments that she would like to make regarding her church life and regarding the church, particularly as it’s instituted in Redlands. So, Mrs. VanVoorthuysen, is there anything that you would like to add or any opinions you would like to express as far as the church is concerned?
AVV: You mean, as I grew up there or so?
MHH: Anything is fair game.
AVV: I know that we lived in practically in the back yard of Rev. Vos’ house, and we were good friends with all them. He used to come to my folks and he would sit on the couch and he would talk about all the problems of the church (chuckle). And a lot of times (you can erase this if you want to) he would say, “Say, shall we have a glass of wine?” (laughter).
I don’t know if you want to tell the story about Pete Vos and Andy and Rev. Vos?
MHH: There’s a story involved.
EVV: OK. Rev Vos liked to play cards—Rook. My brother Andy was a good friend of Pete, their son. They were about the same age. There was a congregational meeting or a consistory meeting, and rev. vos had been playing cards with them. When he got back, he said, “OK, I’m back. Deal me in” (laughter).
Another time: when he left Redlands, he was the minister in Edgerton, Minnesota for three years. On the way to Michigan, Audrey and her folks stopped by Vos. They were sitting around the table and playing cards. Somebody knocked on the door, and he (whoosh), just got all the cards. Then he went to the door and said, “Well, hello, Mrs. So-and-so. What can I do for you?” (laughter)
AVV: How about when they had the consistory meetings?
EVV: Oh, yes. At the end of the year when the new consistory was going in and the old going out, the minister would put on a kind of a little party. We’d have coffee and stuff. Anyway, we had a drug store where Rev. Vos bought his wine, and he went there. That guy’s name was Dutch Winn. Rev. Vos said, “Dutch, I want some good wine, because, I’m having the church board over tonight” (laughter). And that was Vos.
MHH: Mrs. Van Voorthuysen, most of Redlands’ history we’ve covered, and you’ve made some contributions to that along the way. I’ll ask you the same question that I asked your husband: How would you compare the church of today with the church of your youth, and in that connection, feel free to express your opinions on pretty much whatever subject you choose.
AVV: I think Redlands has not changed much in all the years. I think it’s been very conservative. You can tell how the young people have been brought up. They’re right there with us. They’re always in church, and they’re just wonderful. I’m not bragging. They just are. We have two married, and it’s just great. They’re with their parents a lot, and we have a lot to talk about and get along fine. That’s true of with most of them here, and that makes you feel really good. I can’t compare it to the other churches because I don’t know enough about them.
MHH: That bodes well for the future of the congregation.
AVV: Oh, it does. There are so many babies right now. You don’t want to sit in the back part of the church (laughter).
MHH: A further observation now from Mr. VanVoorthuysen.
EVV: I don’t know how old I was, but I know it was before we were married. Rev. Hoeksema preached for us on Easter morning once. He happened to be in Redlands. I never heard a sermon like that. You could hear a pin drop. He was standing on the edge of the pulpit there. It had to do with the garden where Jesus met Mary Magdalene. During that sermon, he said, “Ma-a-ry!” It just ran through that whole church, and his eyes looking right through you. And she said, “Rabboni.” I remember that part. That whole hour just went boom. It was gone. It was just a tremendous sermon. Just unbelievable.
MHH: Obviously you have never forgotten its detail.
EVV: No. I remember him standing there. He was not even behind the pulpit. And when he said, “Ma-a-ry,” the whole church just rumbled (laughter). He was an exceptional preacher.
MHH: This concludes my interview with Mr. and Mrs. VanVoorthuysen. My thanks to both of them