Welcome to Hancock Christian Reformed Church
History of the Hancock Christian Reformed Church
Already by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Dutch families from Rock Valley and Doon, Iowa; Oak Harbor, Washington; and the Netherlands moved to the area in and around Hancock, a small pioneer town in western Minnesota. By 1910 family and small group worship services were held by these new settlers in their homes. As recently as 2005, charter member Jessie Noordmans shared memories of participating with her family and friends in worship services at her family’s kitchen table prior to the organization of the congregation.
On June 21, 1912, a meeting was held for the purpose of organizing a Christian Reformed Church in Hancock. Rev. Lambert Ypma of Prinsburg, Minnesota, and Rev. James Holwerda of Rock Valley, Iowa, were appointed by Classis Orange City to assist this new congregation. Rev. Ypma, who would be church counselor, was appreciated for his ability and good advice. He even assisted the young congregation financially.
Although the denominational name was officially “The Christian Reformed Church,” historical documents and photos from the early twentieth century refer to the Hancock Christian Reformed Church as “The Holland Christian Reformed Church,” the previous name of the denomination. The denomination made this official change in 1890.
Five families and a group of young people signified their desire to become members of the congregation. The members elected it first church consistory. Consistory was the term used for church council in our denomination for many years. Marcus Noordmans and Peter Van Schepen were the congregation’s first elders. Sietse Hoekstra was the congregation’s first deacon. Services continued to be held in homes in the Dutch language.
The First Church Consistory
Marcus Noormans, Elder Peter Van Schepen, Elder Sietze Hoekstra, Deacon
In 1913, three acres of land were purchased from local farmer Andrew McArthur for the building of a church. The basement was dug with volunteer labor. In 1914, the auditorium was erected. Until the congregation had an auditorium in which to worship, groups met in homes and in the German Lutheran Church.
On July 8, 1914, the church was dedicated to the service of the Lord. The congregation from the Prinsburg Christian Reformed Church donated the pulpit furniture. Two members, Sietse Hoekstra and Hessel Hiemstra, traveled to Prinsburg with a flat bottom buggy to pick up the furniture. Traveling conditions were poor. The roads were in bad condition with deep with and tracks. The horses had to lie down and rest. The trip to Prinsburg took a very long day. The return trip took several days. At the time of the new church building dedication in 1961, our congregation donated this same furniture to East Grand Forks Christian Reformed Church, now called Redeeming Love Community Church.
When the church building was erected in 1914, two horse barns, each holding twenty-four teams, were also built. The Dutch were accustomed to having two worship services each Sunday. To save traveling back and forth to their homes, members brought their own dinners and hay and oats for their horses. After dinner, they would hold a second service. When automobiles became more common, the need for horse barns disappeared. The barns were sold in the 1940's.
The congregation increased in numbers as many people moved to the Hancock area from other places. The need for a resident pastor was felt keenly by the congregation. In 1915 the congregation built its first parsonage. In August its first call to a minister was extended.
Rev. Jacob Cupido, 1916-1920
The congregation issued four calls for a minister. Each of these calls was declined. Finally, on the fifth call, Candidate Jacob Cupido accepted the call to be the congregation’s first pastor in October, 1916. By the time Rev. Cupido began his ministry. Young People’s Society was organized with nine members on May 7, 1916.Rev. Cupido labored in our midst until 1920, when he accepted a call to Redlands, California.
Rev. Jacob Paauw, 1921-1926
When Rev. Cupido left for California, the congregation was vacant for a year. The congregation issued five calls for a minister. Each of these calls was declined. The congregation issued its sixth call. Rev. Jacob Paauw accepted the call to become our pastor in 1921, remaining with us for five years. For a time Rev. Paauw served both congregations of Hancock and Brooten. In December, 1926, he accepted a call to the congregation in Holland, Minnesota.
During the Twenties, the congregation grew to as many as sixty families. Several years of bad weather and wet fields led many families to leave the area. Most of these families returned to Iowa. After two unsuccessful attempts in calling another minister, the congregation extended a third call to Candidate Dewey J. Hoitenga, who accepted and came to us in October, 1928. He ministered to our congregation for nearly nine years. During his tenure, the Ladies’ Society was organized with seventeen members. Members hosted the meetings in their homes.
Rev. Dewey J. Hoitenga, 1928-1937
In December, 1928, two months after the Hoitengas arrived in Hancock, Rev. Hoitenga and his wife suffered a family tragedy when his parents and sister were killed in a car accident in Minneapolis. The church family provided comfort and encouragement for the Hoitengas.
Depression years were difficult times for the church community. As Rev. Hoitenga stated, “Nearly every family was impoverished and government relief was no shame.” The pastor's salary could not always be paid, but farmers furnished the Hoitenga family with meat, flour, milk, and eggs. Many people had no work. Food was cheap, but many had no money to buy.
Rev. Hoitenga received and accepted a call to Peoria, Iowa, in 1937.
Rev. Christian Vanden Heuvel, 1937-1940
After a short vacancy of only a few months, Candidate Christian Vanden Heuvel accepted the call to be our minister. He arrived in September, 1937. He ministered here until July, 1940, when he accepted a call to New Holland, South Dakota.
Rev. Hiram Vander Klay, 1940-1944
In October, 1940, Rev. Hiram Vander Klay accepted the call to work among us for four years. In October, 1944, Rev. Vander Klay accepted a call to Goshen, Indiana. These were the years when many of our young men were called to military service during World War II. One, Henry VanHeukelom, gave his life for his country while fighting the Japanese on Leyte Island in the Philippines on October 21, 1944.
Throughout 1945 the congregation did not have a minister. Until this time some of the worship services were still in the Dutch language. In 1946 the Dutch worship services were discontinued.
Rev. Cornelis L. Van Zee, 1946-1960
In the fall of 1945, Rev. Cornelis L. Van Zee accepted the call to minister in Hancock. He arrived in January, 1946. Rev. Van Zee was an avid fisherman and hunter, a true outdoorsman. His wife, Mrs. Anna Van Zee, taught elementary school in Hancock Public School. Mrs. Van Zee now lives in Renville, Minnesota.
During Rev. Van Zee's stay, much discussion was on whether to put energy toward renovating the existing church building or constructing a new one. Because of inadequate facilities for a kitchen, Sunday school rooms, and society groups, the church voted to build a new facility. A building committee was appointed. Members of the building committee were: Ray Ver Steeg, Mark Noordmans, John DeGier, Kenneth Evink, and Jake Van Eps. Rev. Van Zee stayed in our midst until June, 1960.
Rev. Nicholas Roorda, 1961-1965
Rev. Joseph Betten labored in Hancock as pulpit supply from January to September of 1961, when Candidate Nicholas Roorda accepted the call and came to work among us. In the fall of 1961, it was decided to dismantle the old church with volunteer labor. During the fall and winter months our services were held in the Hancock Public School.
The cost of the church including furniture and landscaping was $36,000. Eighty percent of the dimension lumber, such as 2 x 4'x and 2 x 6's, and the sub-flooring used in the present church building was salvaged from the old church building. The remaining salvaged material was sold at an auction in the spring of 1962. The church was constructed with sufficient footings, etc. to allow for brick veneer if future generations would desire this.
On Thanksgiving Day 1961, the congregation gathered at the partially constructed building for the cornerstone laying ceremony. Our first worship service in our new church was on February 25, 1962. On April 5, 1962, the church was dedicated. Rev. Roorda, Rev. Ralph. Bos of Willmar Christian Reformed Church, and Rev. Betten, pastor of Clara City Christian Reformed Church, took part in the dedication service. It was a momentous evening for everyone assembled there.
In the summer of 1962 the church celebrated its 50th anniversary. In his pastoral greeting, Rev. Roorda referred to Psalm 23:1-3:
“These words of the Psalmist are a fitting summary of our experience as a congregation during the past half century. The Lord was a shepherd to those who founded our congregation fifty years ago. We owe these men and women a debt of gratitude for their dedicated labor in establishing our church. God was shepherd in those early years, and he has continued to be a faithful shepherd through both the happy and difficult years that followed.”
In 1965, Rev. Roorda accepted a call to the Pipestone Christian Reformed Church, departing in June of that year. Rita Roorda, a daughter, married a son of the congregation, Mr. Jerry Bolluyt, in 1968. She and her husband are members of the Hancock Christian Reformed Church, celebrating the centennial anniversary.
Seminarian Ron Noorman served the congregation in the summer of 1965.
We extended a call to Rev. Larry Vande Creek. He accepted the call and arrived in August, 1965. He was our pastor until 1969 when he accepted a call to become chaplain at Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Rev. Carl Afman, 1970-1975
After a year’s vacancy, a call was extended to Candidate Carl Afman. He arrived in September, 1970. In September 1975 Rev. Afman left us to become a missionary in Taiwan.
Rev. C. William Flietstra, 1975-1984
A call was extended to Rev. C. William Flietstra. He came to us in December, 1975. During his ministry the parsonage was dismantled, and a new parsonage was constructed by Baas Construction Company of Hancock, beginning in May 1980, at an approximate cost of $50,000.
The congregation gathered for a special ceremony for the burning of the church mortgage on October 22, 1982. It was a time of sharing memories and past reflections.
The evening began with a potluck supper. Following remarks by Rev. Flietstra and congratulatory remarks by Reverend Richard Salge, pastor of Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church and a representative of the Hancock Ministerial Association, the burning ceremony took place with the congregation responding with "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow." Rev. Flietstra closed the ceremony with personal remarks and prayer.
In May, 1984, Rev. Flietstra retired and moved to Pella, Iowa, where he became assistant pastor at First Pella Christian Reformed Church.
In the summer of 1984, Seminarian Tim Koster served our congregation. That same summer a call was extended to Candidate Joseph VandenAkker and he accepted the call to become our pastor.
Rev. Joseph Vanden Akker, 1984-1988
While Rev. VandenAkker served our congregation, the church held its 75th anniversary celebration in 1987. In his pastoral message recorded in the 75th anniversary booklet, Rev. VandenAkker stated:
“In the past, present, and future, our purpose has been and will be to praise God, to serve his children, and to give of ourselves for others in the same way as Christ gave of Himself for us.”
Fire Damage 1987
In the fall of 1987 a fire broke out in the church. A fugitive from the law used the pastor’s office to hide from law enforcement one night. Upon exiting the building, he threw a lit cigarette into the waste basket. A fire broke out. The office and part of the sanctuary sustained significant damage, but the structure as a whole was saved.
During repair of the fire damage, renovations were included in the project. The front of the church was extended with two new classrooms and a new council room in the church basement, and a foyer area and library on the main floor. That summer a roof was added to the southwest tower with a cross placed on top.
In 1988 Rev. VandenAkker accepted a call to Grant, Michigan.
Rev. Gary A. DeVries, 1989-1992
In 1989 Rev. Gary A. DeVries accepted the call to be our new pastor. He remained here until 1992. In 1992 he moved to Rochester, Minnesota, for Clinical Pastoral Education.
Rev. Robert Ruis, 1992-1997
In 1992 Rev. Robert Ruis arrived. He served our congregation until his retirement in 1997. Upon moving to Monterrey California, Rev. Robert and Iva have kept their church membership and Rev. Ruis ministerial credentials in our church to the present day. They now reside in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Rev. Gerald Essenburg, 1997-2001
In 1997 Rev. Gerald Essenburg accepted the call to be our pastor and served the congregation until retiring for a medical disability in 2001. He and his wife now live in congregation until retiring for a medical disability in 2001. He and his wife now live in Brimley, Michigan.
After a two-year vacancy Rev. Bill Ver Sluys became the church’s part-time interim pastor, traveling 138 miles to Hancock on the weekends from his home in Dalbo, Minnesota. In the fall of 2004 Rev. Ver Sluys accepted a call to Redeeming Love Community Church in East Grand Forks and Crookston Christian Reformed Churches in a dual-parish role.
In January 2005 Rev. Harrison Newhouse accepted the call and has served us to the present day.
In April 2005 our last surviving charter member, Mrs. Jessie (Hoekstra) Noordmans died as Pastor Newhouse and many of her children were at her bedside in Courage Cottage, a hospice care home in Morris. On Good Friday, March 25, 2005, Mrs. Noordmans received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper administered by Pastor Newhouse and her son-in-law Rev. Jerrien Gunnink. Fittingly, the Lord’s Supper was celebrated at the kitchen table in Courage Cottage as she had done as a child with her family before the organization of this congregation.
Mrs. Carol Evink, Church Musician for over fifty years
The congregation has been blessed with many servants in worship and ministry. Carol (De Gier) Evink has served as church organist for over fifty years. She has accompanied the congregation in singing psalms, hymns, and now praise and worship songs which have become more prevalent in our worship in recent years.
In the past decade the congregation has been richly blessed with new members and families. There has been an increase in young families and the births of children. The congregation has developed Kid Connection, a Bible learning program, ministering to children of the congregation and community. A new Young Adult Group has formed in the recent years.
Son of the congregation, Harold Hiemstra, became a minister of the word in the Christian Reformed Church of North America. He was ordained in Sibley, Iowa, in 1969. He served four congregations, two in Iowa and two in California. He retired in Modesto, California, in 2001.
While a number of members have honorably served in the military throughout the years, presently Major Chad Ver Steeg is serving in the United States Air Force Reserve.
What does our name mean?
CHRISTIAN identifies us with the person and work of Christ. He is truly God's son, our only Savior from sin.
REFORMED indicates that we stand in the tradition of the historic Protestant Reformation. We accept the Bible as the inspired and authoritative word of God's Holy spirit.
CHURCH indicates that we are part of the worldwide group of people who belong to Christ and proclaim His sovereign rule over every area of life.