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Historical Directory thumbnails over 150 years of evolving CRC information

Facts on ministries, ministers and professors

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan - The likelyhood is not great that anyone now serving will outdo Rev. L.J. Hulst’s tenure. Hulst who was ordained a minister in the Netherlands in 1849, retired from a charge in the Christian Reformed Church (CRCNA) in 1910 when he was about 85. The Oud-Leusen, Overijssel-born theologian holds the active ministry record at over 60 years. The shortest tenure set decades later was attributed to Rev. C. Negen who died at age 27 in Willmar, Minnesota in 1978, within seven months of his ordination.

The new Historical Directory of the CRC which covers the period of 1857 up to 2003 also reveals that Hulst served the Christelijke Gerefor-meerde Kerk (it was not called GKN yet) at Stads-kanaal, the Netherlands when he took a call from the Danforth Reformed Church (RCA) in Illinois. Hulst joined the CRC in 1882 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during the free-mason controvery.

This information and thousands of other historical thumbnail entries fill Archivist Richard Harms’ 511-page book, a work which has its genesis in the study of Dr. H. Beets (born at Koedijk, Noord Holland in 1869). Ordained in 1895, Beets began to record information on slips of paper - now part of CRC’s archive collection - around the denomination’s golden anniversary in 1907. Several retired ministerial volunteers assisted Dr. Harms in completing this book which required painstaking attention to detail and utmost patience, therefore falling within the perimeters of what in Dutch could be called monnikenwerk (work by monks).

Regional Dutch roots

Hulst, Negen and Beets and 2,773 other ministers are listed in the Historical Directory. Of those, 592 called the Netherlands their place of birth confirming CRC’s Dutch roots. The origin of CRC clergy by region in the Netherlands is another interesting story, raising the question if it proportionately reflected immigration patterns of Reformed folks or the community’s numerical strength at home. Nearly two out of three of these Dutch-born CRC ministers (387) hail from the country’s four northeastern provinces. Over half of these men (199) called Friesland home, followed by Groningen (111), Drenthe (44) and Overijssel (33). More densily populated South Holland came in with 71, North Holland with 58, Utrecht 17, Zeeland 21, North Brabant 7 and Flevo-land 1.

The Historical Directory also lists all the local churches (ministries) by place name, including those now emerging and formerly disbanded. Among the ones disbanded are two in isolated locations in Saskatchewan which failed to take root because economic prospects then were bleak. Information in the Windmill Archives suggest that the oldest one, Edam (1917-1923), attracted its founders largely directly from the Netherlands. By the late 1930s, a party from Edmonton evacuated most of the remaining families of which some resettled at Houston, BC. The other place, Shackleton, attracted Dutch Americans (notably from Illinois) in search of low-priced land across the 49th. They were joined by some new Dutch immigrants as well. By the mid 1930s, many of them already had resettled in Lacombe, Alberta, while others returned to the U.S.


As far as the CRC ethnic roots are concerned, it would be an error to leave the impression that CRC’s roots were exclusively Dutch. They reflected the historical ties pockets of Reformed churches in German border regions had with their numerically much stronger spiritual cousins in the Netherlands. Since people in the region such as Bentheim also spoke Dutch (the late 1800s Germanification policies over time changed that), it is not surprising that their immigrants in the U.S. joined the Dutch Reformed. Others, such as a number of congregations in the U.S. midwest were from East Friesland County, in Germany. Some members of the German groups later held leadership positions in the CRC, including Rev. D.H. Kromminga and his offspring.

In recent decades, churches representing various language groups have joined the CRC. The Historial Directory reflects this fact well. The denomination in thirty years attracted almost as many ministers with the Korean surname Kim (33) as it embraced those with De Vries (34) in 156 years! The Korean names Park (12) and Kang (5) easily best the very common Dutch surnames Jansen (3) and Smit (4) and the Chinese surname Yang (7) nearly matches De Boer (8) over the same periods.


Other frequent Dutch surnames among CRC clergy are De Jong (20), Dykstra (18), Meyer (14), Brink and Holwerda (12 each), Bouma and Kok (11 each), De Young (10), followed by Huizenga, Mulder, Van Dyk, Veenstra and Hoekstra.

The greatest concentrations of ministries (individual entries of congregations, chapels and mission stations, etc., cross referencing names some of these twice) are found in a number of the Michigan centres: Grand Rapids (137), Holland (57), Kalamazoo (40). The de-nomination can be found in most states and provinces; its original 1857 numbers of about 300 families and 1,200 souls now are at 280,000.

Published by CRC’s Historical Committe, the directory is a “handy” reference book for any one keenly interested in CRC and North American Dutch history, church and Christian school libraries and is best used along with CRC’s annual yearbook editions with every five years also provides a list of deceased ministers. The Historical Directory may be ordered from Vanderheide at 1-800-881-0705.