About Classis Holland

Our Mission

Classis Holland of the Christian Reformed Church is a diverse community of Reformed congregations, equipping and encouraging the local church and uniting resources to fulfill our calling to bring the love of Christ to our neighbors along the lakeshore from West Olive to South Bend.

Nurture

We seek to create an environment equally suitable for growth and health.

Vibrant

The future of the ministry in connected to the vitality of congregational life.

Gospel-Centered

This is the church’s primary means for transforming lives and conmunities for Christ.

Ministries

This is about the full scope of our work, not just churches.

Redeeming

Our goal is the salvation of all who God calls.

Restoring

We are called to usher God’s shalom into a fallen world.

Bringing Christ’s love and
light to the lakeshore

The History of Classis Holland

The Christian Reformed Church and the churches of Classis Holland have roots in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. We believe we cannot earn salvation through good works and the Scripture is the guide for all of life.

Historically, the CRC originated in the Netherlands but today both the denomination and our classis have members who can trace their ancestry to locations around the globe. In fact, 7 of 37 ministries affiliated with Classis Holland are dedicated to ministering primarily to non-European ethnic minority people-groups.

Coming to America

The story of Classis Holland began with the decision of secessionist pastor Albertus Van Raalte to flee from religious persecution and famine in the Netherlands. Together with his wife, his family, and some forty others, Van Raalte immigrated to the United States. In 1848, they settled in and around what is now Holland, Michigan, establishing a “colony” on American soil that fervently held onto Calvinist doctrine, practical piety, and a strong commitment to living all of life to the glory of God.
It wasn’t easy. Inexperienced and crippled by disease, the settlers faltered under the grueling task of extracting a living from the untamed ground. Only the steady trickle of new immigrants kept their ranks replenished and even allowed for some modest growth in their numbers. Through these first terribly difficult and painful years, the settlers tenaciously clung to their most prized possessions: their faith and the freedom to live out that faith in their daily life.

Separation from the Dutch Reformed Church

The harsh conditions in the fledgling “colony” convinced Van Raalte to seek help from the Dutch Reformed Church. That church had been introduced to American soil over a century before, when Dutch Reformed merchants accompanying Peter Stuyvesant settled in New York, then called New Amsterdam. That line of communication between Van Raalte’s Michigan churches and the Dutch Reformed congregations of New Jersey soon blossomed into a full-fledged merger.
In 1857 a small fragment of four churches, about 130 families, seceded from the new union. Among the reasons they cited were:

  • A perceived lack of sound doctrinal preaching by American pastors;
  • A perceived lack of piety and too much accommodation to American culture;
  • The use of hymns in worship – the seceders insisted on psalm-singing;
  • The practice by the American churches of “open communion,” extending an open invitation to all believers to participate in the Lord’s Supper;
  • The perceived lack of solidarity on the part of the Americans with the secessionist cause in the Netherlands.
  • In 1857, the Christian Reformed Church was born. Listed below are important dates related to the birth of the CRC and the formation of Classis Holland.
1857

March 14

Noordeloos church of Classis Holland left the Reformed Church in America.

March 19

Members of Second Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, organized independent church (now First CRC, Grand Rapids).

April 5

Probable date of a meeting held to form a classis of a new denomination (minutes have been lost). This meeting included the Graafschap Reformed Church, the newly independent Grand Rapids church, Noordeloos Reformed Church, and Polkton (Coopersville) Reformed Church. This is the birth date of the denomination that became the Christian Reformed Church.

April 8

Graafschap seceded from Classis Holland of the Reformed Church, and two ministers resigned as ministers of Classis Holland (Reformed Church)

October 7

Second classical meeting of the new denomination officially recognized the Vriesland church as a member.

1857
1865

October 4

First meeting of the denominational general assembly, held at Graafschap, Michigan. Since 1880 this body has been called the synod.

1865
1871

June 16

First English worship service within the denomination, in the Central Avenue Church, Holland, Michigan, conducted by a minister of the True Protestant Dutch Reformed Church, a Dutch Reformed denomination in the eastern United States.

1871
1882

July 19

Classis Holland organized.

1882
1884

June 16

Ninth Street Church (now Pillar Church) joined the Christian Reformed Church and their church facility, built in 1854, became and remains the oldest worship structure in the denomination (built just seven years after the first Dutch settlers arrived in Holland, MI). In 2012 Pillar became a dual-affiliation congregation with the RCA reuniting after 158 years.

1884
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