Pillar Church is a dual-affiliation congregation of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC). This was the first church established by those who settled the city of Holland in 1847. It was originally established as an RCA congregation by Reverend Albertus VanRaalte, but in 1884, after significant tension and a painful split, became a CRC church. After 130 years of division, in the fall of 2012 Pillar Church re-established itself around a vision of reconciliation. The church where two denominations once divided is now a symbol of unity. Reconciliation is one of our key values. To see a TEDx talk about reconciliation given by Pastor Jon Brown and Pastor Chris DeVos titled "Collaboration Across our Differences" click here.
Raising Up Leaders
We are blessed to be on the corner of 9th and College, essentially on the Campus of Hope College. We consider it a gift, and take seriously the opportunity to join the Hope College community in raising up students for leadership in the church and around the world. We are excited by the number of students who worship with us each Sunday, join us for Bible Study on Wednesday nights, serve in ministry with us, and participate in the prayer partner program. Raising up young men and women for leadership in the church is another one of our key values.
Redeeming the City
Holland is another gift to us. It’s our heart's desire and hope that as a church strategically located at the center of our downtown area we will share in the continued work of restoration in our community: so that those who are hungry might receive food, those who are thirsty might be given something to drink, those who aren't ready for school may be helped, and those who don't believe in Jesus Christ would meet him. Collaboratively working towards redeeming our community is a third value.
Renewing the Church
With these things urging us forward we are excited to experience renewal as a church. We believe God has chosen the Church to carry out his purposes for the world so the health and vibrancy of the local church is not a selfish endeavor but God's desire for us. Worship of Father, Son and Spirit is central, a commitment to the Word is foundational and a longing to grow all things into Christ is our objective.
Pillar Church History
This congregation began when 53 Dutch immigrants, under the leadership of A.C. Van Raalte, arrived in Holland in February, 1847, fleeing religious persecution. The king of the Netherlands tried to establish a state church and anyone who called for reform was considered a threat to the crown.
Upon their arrival, these devout pioneers worshiped outdoors until a small log chapel was built. Meeting together to worship and restore their faith was important as these pioneers suffered all the hardships associated with adapting to a wilderness environment. By 1854 the membership grew too large for the log chapel and a larger church was built. In 1856, Dr. A. C. Van Raalte dedicated this structure.
Each week, one sermon was taken from one of the fifty-two Lord’s Days in the Heidelberg Catechism. Psalms were sung acappella. No hymns were used until 1934. Elders sat at the front of the church and evaluated the sermon. Shaking or refusing to shake the pastor’s hand indicated if the elder approved or disapproved of the sermon.
After Dr. Van Raalte’s death, Pillar Church began to experience conflict over several things: English language services, Masonic Lodge membership, Communion, education, and whether hymns should be sung as well as psalms in worship. The majority of the congregation voted to secede from the Protestant Dutch Reformed Church (which later became the Reformed Church in America). After being an independent congregation from 1882-1884 the members voted to join the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). In August, 2012, Pillar Church voted to become a dual-affiliation congregation of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC), thus restoring what was split in 1884.
This historic church is on the National Historic Register. It was one of the few buildings to survive the devastating fire of 1871, and is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture. The six pillars were built on site, have a solid cedar post in the center, and the outside is made of tapered boards somewhat like barrel staves. The heavy timbers, including the 16-inch sills and crossbeams, were hand-hewn in the nearby forest. The interior was all wood. The floors, walls, and ceiling were covered with hand planed, painted boards. The exterior cost $2,064 and the interior work cost about $3,000. There were three sets of pews, a wide center pew for the women and children, and one on each side for the men. Six potbelly stoves were used to heat the church. The belfry contained the community bell, which was rung to call people to worship, during the week for meetings, fires, and to mark the workday, and for burials, ringing once for each year of life. The plaque in the sanctuary honoring Dr. Van Raalte was dedicated in 1879, three years after his death. The English translation reads: “In Memory of Rev. A.C. VanRaalte, D.D., First Pastor of this Congregation and Father of our Settlement. A Servant of the Lord, Mighty in Words and in Works.” Over the years, many changes have been made to the building. In 1902 electric lights were added. In 1947, an attempt was made to modernize the building and improve the sound quality. The wood walls and ceiling were covered with acoustical tile. The structure was raised in 1950 to add a basement. That same year the old pump organ was replaced and new pipes were added in 1966. The organ was also upgraded in 1996, 2003 and 2012. The office wing was remodeled in 1988, and it was at that time that the heritage room was added in the basement, which now displays our historic artifacts.