About Classis Holland
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.
We seek to create an environment equally suitable for growth and health.
The future of the ministry in connected to the vitality of congregational life.
This is the church’s primary means for transforming lives and conmunities for Christ.
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 of the Christian Reformed Church
The origins of Classis Holland began in the Netherlands. Because of famine and persecution by the State Church, a wave of immigration to the United States, initially under the leadership of Rev. Albertus Van Raalte, began in the 1840’s. These immigrants affiliated themselves with the Reformed Church in America (RCA), which also had its roots in the Netherlands.
What follows is a history of Classis Holland (CRC) by decades:
For a variety of reasons, most having to do with practice not theology, churches began leaving the RCA, the first being the Noordeloos congregation followed soon after by the Graafschap church. Some may say this order should be reversed.
In 1865, the first general meeting of the churches that had left the RCA was held at the Graafschap Church.
In 1871 the first English service was held at the Central Avenue Church. It took nearly a century after this first English service before the Dutch language was used for the last time in a worship service in Holland.
These churches also joined our emerging Classis: Central Ave., Niekerk and East Saugatuck.
In 1882 Classis Holland of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), as it was now known, was officially formed. The Harderwyk Church also was formed in 1882.
In 1884, the Ninth Street Church (now Pillar Church) left the RCA to join the CRC. They brought with them their historic church building that had been erected by Van Raalte in 1854.
It remains the oldest church in Holland and a true historic treasure.
South Olive and Pine Creek joined Classis during this decade.
New churches began to be organized to serve an expanding population in Holland and surrounding townships. Among them were Fourteenth Street, Prospect Park, Sixteenth Street (now Providence) and Maple Ave.
In 1922 The Holland Deacons Conference was formed to mobilize the deacons of Classis to support the growing mission efforts of Classis.
The pre-war years saw Classis undertake Sunday School/Chapel ministries in and around Holland. These mission efforts in began 1933 at Mack’s Landing in Allegan County and North End Gospel Hall located on north River Ave. These two were soon followed by Bravo (1935), New Richmond (1936), Fennville (1940) all in Allegan County. Spruce Ave. Chapel, Pigeon Creek Sunday School and West Olive joined this group of chapels in 1947. The North Side Chapel (Calvary) and West Olive became organized churches while all the others, excepting Bravo, have closed.
While many of these locations can be reached in minutes today, back when they were begun they were considered quite remote. It took the dedication of many men and women of Classis to journey each Sunday to bring the Gospel to the people and children attending these chapels.
In 1940s, the Montello Park (1940) and Bethany (1946) churches were organized and joined Classis.
In 1936, Zeeland joined the HDC to form HZDC. They focused their efforts on supplying clothing and medicine for the victims of the war in Europe, particularly the Netherlands
The population growth experienced after the war resulted in many new churches being formed and added to the Classis roles: Hamilton (1950), Holland Heights (1951), Park (1953), Faith and Calvin (1956) and Maranatha 1957)
Other church plants were Kibbe in 1959 along with Saugatuck and St. Joseph in 1965.
The 1970s the HZDC began to reach out in the communities with significant new ministry efforts. However, in 1977, the Holland and Zeeland groups separated with the Holland Deacons Conference (HDC) continuing the programs that had been started. These ministries included fund raising for world-wide relief efforts. The Hospitality House for women experiencing domestic violence was opened. This began the Deacons’ mission of providing residential care.
During this decade the work of the HDC continues with the opening of a home for developmentally challenged adults. My Brother’s House I was opened in 1981, followed by My Sister’s House in 1988 and My Brother’s House II in 1994. These ministries continue to the present.
After the Vietnam War, our communities experienced a large influx of refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. With Central Ave., Graafschap and Niekerk taking the lead, worshiping communities were established for each of these refugee groups.
Two new churches dedicated to reaching the growing, non-Dutch related people of the Holland area were birthed in the 80’s. Lighthouse in 1987 and Sunrise in 1988. These two combined to form Victory Point in 1993.
1989 Buen Pastor Ministry began. A combined ministry with Good Samaritan Ministries, Children’s Resource Network and HDC.
While work among Spanish speakers, both seasonal workers and permanent residents, had been going on for some time, a Spanish speaking church, Iglesia Hispana, was finally organized in 1991.
In 1995, one of the more significant changes in church structure in the Classis took place. The Maple Ave. Church (CRC) and Christ Memorial Church (RCA) “covenanted” together to form a new church, Maple Avenue Ministries. This was the first union (CRC/RCA) church was recognized by both denominations. This union began a slow trend of union churches that continues until today.
My Brother’s House III was opened and Deacons were included as delegates to Classis.
In 2003, Classis underwent a complete restructuring. Teams, focused more narrowly on specific areas of ministry, took the place of committees with broad mandates. Classis meetings were streamlined to accomplish more in less time.
In this decade, two new union churches were established. Pillar (formerly Ninth Street) in 2012 and in 2018, Intersection Ministries, a multi-cultural church.
Establishing these union churches is a historic change in the journey of the two denominations.
Since the split in 1857, the two denominations have walked side by side like parallel lines with out touching each other in significant ways. With the establishing of union Churches, the lines are beginning to converge.