A Historic Congregation

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” (Psalm 16:6)

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.


The Third Reformed Church was organized on September 9, 1867, under the leadership of Dr. Albertus C. VanRaalte, 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 (CentralAvenue) became the nucleus of the new congregation. Although this new church was Holland’s second Dutch-immigrant congregation affiliated with theReformed Church, it was called “Third” Reformed Church because Hope ReformedChurch, a non-immigrant English-speaking congregation, had been founded in1862.


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 the process of erection, its framework was demolished in a high wind on January 2, 1873. With the financial help of many donors in the East and the Middle West, the present structure was completed in November of 1874. The building under went extensive restoration as part of the centennial celebration of 1967 and 1968.


Certain characteristicsand attitudes have prevailed in the life and work of Third Church through theyears.  The congregation has developed an avid interest in both theforeign and the home mission endeavors of the Reformed Church in America. It has shared generously in a great number of benevolent programs, and, inparticular, has faithfully supported the local educational institutions of HopeCollege and Western Theological Seminary. Many members of the churchhave, as part of their Christian witness, assumed responsibilities in thepolitical, educational, and business life of the city. Isaac Cappon, whoserved on the first consistory, was the first mayor of Holland in 1867 and thefirst president of the school board in 1874.


The congregation hasremained theologically conservative in its faith along the lines of theReformation theology of John Calvin. At the same time, it has beenespecially broad-minded in adopting new procedures and methodsin church life and witness. Third Church was the first Dutch-immigrantchurch in the city to use the English language exclusively in its worshipservices.


The Third Church buildingis a handsome and aesthetically pleasing variant of the nineteenth-centuryGothic known as carpenters’ Gothic. The liturgical furniture is notoriginal to the construction of 1874 but was placed there in 1952. Thefurniture comes from St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in New York City. Thepulpit was commissioned by Mrs. Robert Todd Lincoln, daughter-in-law ofPresident Abraham Lincoln. The Robert Sipe organ, installed in thebalcony in 1982, is the third organ in use by the church. It is a vitalcomponent of the service of worship at Third Church.