Hope Church RCA was established in 1862 with a particular identity as the first English-speaking Reformed church in the community; Dutch was spoken in other churches. This founding identity of a pioneering spirit has remained formative for Hope Church throughout its rich history as a place of worship to God and service to community.
Hope Church has been a place of innovation in Christian education, was a leader in welcoming the gifts of women as leaders in the RCA, has led in support for civil rights and for serving those in need. We have been a strong witness to affirming and welcoming varied sexual identities as we minister together as the body of Christ, becoming a Room for All congregation in 2012.
Hope Church is also committed to celebrate multicultural diversity and seek racial justice as we learn from and witness to our community. In 2011, Hope Church committed to a Neighborhood Connections program in collaboration with neighboring churches and businesses, with a staff Neighborhood Connector identifying the assets and needs in our “Washington School Neighborhood.”
Hope Church is a place of fellowship, support, nurture, service, and care. We feel blessed by God to be part of a church where the love and grace of Jesus Christ are lived out through the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit.
History of Hope Church
A historic site marker in front of the church tells this abbreviated version of Hope Church’s long history in the community:
In 1854, seven years after Dutch settlers came to this area, the Reformed Church in America established an English-language preaching mission in Holland. Principals from the Holland Academy, which became Hope College in 1866, served as early ministers. In 1862, the mission became Hope Church, Second Protestant Dutch Reformed Church. The congregation’s ten charter members were led by missionary preacher Philip Phelps, who later became the first president of Hope College. The church and college have been closely associated, sharing the same name and similar seals featuring an ”˜anchor of hope.’ Through the years the congregation’s progressive spirit has attracted people from diverse backgrounds.
In 1860 the Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte, founder of Holland, gave this congregation four village lots on this site. The original 1864 frame building burned in Holland’s 1871 fire. In 1874 a simple brick Gothic Revival church, designed by Carl Pfeiffer of New York City, was built. When razed in 1981 to build the Parish Life Center, its bracketed belfry and thirty-one-foot spire were saved. Clark and Munger of Bay City designed the present Veneklasen brick Flemish stepped-gable sanctuary, which was dedicated in 1902. Major interior renovations were completed in 1947 and 1984. In 1962 an education wing was built. The exterior was restored in 1980.
Charter members of Second Reformed Church were Dr. Bernardus Ledeboer, Allida Goetschuis Ledeboer, Bernardus Grotenhuis, Margaret Anna Jordan Phelps, William Brokaw Gilmore, Henry Denison Post,
Anna Coatsworth Post, Charles Francis Post, Sarah Broadmore, and Elizabeth Welcher Sipp.
These are the pastors by whom Hope Church is honored to have been served:
- Rev. Philip Phelps Jr, 1862-1866
- Rev. Abel T Stewart, 1866-1877
- Rev. Daniel Van Pelt, 1878-1883
- Rev. Thomas Walker Jones, 1883-1888
- Rev. John Talmadge Bergen, 1889-1892, 1900-1906
- Rev. Henry G. Birchby, 1892-1899
- Rev. John M. Vander Meulen, 1907-1909
- Rev. Edward Niles, 1909-1911
- Rev. August F. Bruske, 1911-1916
- Rev. Peter Paul Cheff, 1918-1924
- Rev. Thomas W. Davidson, 1925-1937
- Rev. Marion de Velder, 1939-1959
- Rev. William C. Hillegonds, 1960-1965
- Rev. John R. Walchenbach, Associate Pastor,1963-1966
- Rev. Glen O. Peterman, Senior Pastor, 1966-1976
- Rev. Marlin Vander Wilt, Associate Pastor, 1971-1977; Co-Pastor, 1978-1982; Senior Pastor, 1982-1983
- Rev. Paul R. Fries, Co-Pastor, 1978-1982
- Rev. Marion de Velder, Assistant Minister for Pastoral Care, 1981-1992
- Rev. Marchiene Rienstra, Senior Pastor, 1984-1988
- Rev. Dennis TeBeest, Associate Pastor, 1985-1989; Senior Pastor, 1989-1997
- Rev. Toni Macon; Associate Pastor, 1989-1990
- Rev. Ruth Zwald Staal; Associate Pastor, 1991-1996
- Rev. Delbert Vander Haar, Assistant Minister for Pastoral Care, 1993-1998
- Rev. Arthur Van Eck, Interim Pastor, 1997-1998
- Rev. Evelyn Diephouse, Interim Pastor, 1997-1999
- Rev. Kathryn Davelaar, 1998-2007
- Rev. Gordon Wiersma, 1999-
- Rev. Jill Russell, 2008-
In 2012 Hope Church published a history book of its first 150 years. To order a copy of the book ($15.00 plus shipping costs), contact the church office (616-392-7947).