“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” (Psalm 16:6)
“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out treasures old and new.” (Matthew 13:52)
A Historic Congregation
The Third Reformed Church was organized on September 9, 1867, under the leadership of Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte, founder of the city of Holland, Michigan, and pastor of the First Reformed Church. Considering it necessary to have a Reformed Church in the “western” part of the city, he gave four lots as a site for a new church, and members of the First Reformed Church who lived west of Market Street (Central Avenue) became the nucleus of the new congregation. Although this new church was Holland’s second Dutch-immigrant congregation affiliated with the Reformed Church, it was called “Third” Reformed Church because Hope Reformed Church, a non-immigrant English-speaking congregation, had been founded in 1862.
The first sanctuary of the congregation was burned in the fire which destroyed two-thirds of the city of Holland on October 9, 1871. While a second structure was in process of erection, its framework was demolished in a high wind on January 2, 1873. With financial help of many donors in the East and the Middle West, the present structure was completed in November of 1874. The building underwent extensive restoration as part of the centennial celebration of 1967 and 1968.
Certain characteristics and attitudes have prevailed in the life and work of Third Church through the years. The congregation has developed an avid interest in both the foreign and the home mission endeavors of the Reformed Church in America. It has shared generously in a great number of benevolent programs and, in particular, has supported faithfully the local educational institutions of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary. Many members of the church have, as part of their Christian witness, assumed responsibilities in the political, educational, and business life of the city. Isaac Cappon, who served on the first consistory, was the first mayor of Holland in 1867 and the first president of the school board in 1874.
The congregation has remained theologically conservative in its faith along the lines of the Reformation theology of John Calvin. At the same time it has been especially broad-minded in adapting new procedures and methods in church life and witness. Third Church was the first Dutch-immigrant church in the city to use the English language exclusively in its worship services.
The Third Church building is a handsome and aesthetically pleasing variant of this nineteenth-century Gothic known as carpenters’ Gothic. The liturgical furniture is not original to the construction of 1874 but was placed there in 1952. The furniture comes from St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in New York City. The pulpit was commissioned by Mrs. Robert Todd Lincoln daughter-in-law of President Abraham Lincoln. The Robert Sipe organ, installed in the balcony in 1982 is the third organ in use by the church. It is a vital component of the service of worship at Third Church.
The life and work of Third Church are best summarized by the motto: To Know Christ and To Make Christ Known. Such was the inspiration behind the history and architecture of Third Church in the past and is the influence undergirding the worship, service, and outreach that continues to characterize Third Church in the present.