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Translation unlocks access to Dutch classes and church minutes

Van Raalte era records available for study

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HOLLAND, Michigan - Part of the early history of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and the ‘western segment’ of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) so far largely was inaccessible to researchers unfamiliar with the Dutch language. Initiatives led by seven-year old Holland, Michigan-based A.C. Van Raalte Institute is changing that inaccessibility through its ambtious translation programme. The institute has various people working on translating into English minutes of two classes’ and a consistory.

The minutes of RCA Classis Holland, covering the period of 1858 through 1876 all had been written in Dutch and were largely out of view of historians on account of the language barrier. The minutes of the pre-1858 era already had been translated and published in 1950. From 1876 onwards, English was used.The translated minutes currently are being edited. Work on the minutes of Classis Wisconsin is in progress.

Also receiving attention is the Pillar church of Holland, Michigan. The church was instituted in 1847 after Rev. A.C. Van Raalte and his congregation settled in the forests of Western Michigan. The Pillar church united with the CRC upon its secession from the RCA in 1884 as part of Masonic controversy in the RCA. The first fifty years of Pillar CRC are being studied by the recently retired Rev. M. de Vries who concluded his ministry at the church. Colleague Rev. Wm. Buursma is translating Pillar’s early minutes.

Some 1,300 files in the Van Raalte paper collection have been checked for Dutch content and translated. Research on the genealogy and history of the Van Raalte family has proved more daunting and is still in progress.

The A.C. Van Raalte Institute was launched with a gift from Mrs. Elizabeth Bovenkerk Huizenga and her children, now seven years ago. The institute is located at the RCA-affiliated Hope College, an institution founded under the leadership of Van Raalte.