During the early 1950’s, the First and Second Christian Reformed Churches of Pella began to overflow their building capacities. The councils of the churches decided to explore the possibility of a third Christian Reformed Church. Soon twenty families squeezed into the small seats of the Pella Christian Grade School, with Seminarian John Stek serving as the pastor of this small group during the summer of 1955. Seminarian Stek delivered doctrinal messages of deep thought to a group determined to build a friendly, welcoming church home.
By the summer’s end, over sixty families filled the small space and decided to organize a church. The congregation, which was at this time largely composed of 25- to 45-year olds, next met in the Pella Christian High School gymnasium. Their youthfull enthusiasm created a vibrancy exhibited by sacrificial giving and volunteerism. Classical appointees served as pastors on Sunday and the home economics room at the school became the nursery with playpens brought in each Sunday.
A total of six calls were declined by various ministers until in the last summer of 1956, Rev Marvin and Marie Doornbos were led to accept our call. He became the first pastor of the Calvary Christian Reformed Church with the salary of $4,500.00. A welcome dinner was held for them at the Pella Coffee Shop. Rev. Doornbos was ordained on the evening of September 6, 1956.
As the ultimate organizer, one goal of Reverend Doornbos was to have every member on a committee, which was accomplished with a directed task program. Wanting to be a part of vacation Bible school, Calvary approached the Union Vacation Bible School, comprised of the Pella Protestant churches. The group recommended that we have a separate Bible school for the north side of town. Mrs. Harris (Gladys) Nieuwsma served as superintendant. The first Family Night program, On November 20, 1957, was attended by 241 people.
The enthusiasm was contagious. The women of the church organized harvest suppers for the community with fried chicken, real mashed potatoes and pie for desert. The men were delegated to wash and dry the dishes. Everybody went to Ladies’ Aid and Mens’ Society. Members of the church visited regularly with each other on Sunday evenings after the church service, developing Christian friendships.
Gary Vermeer offered to direct plays with the young people as the cast members. The play “Hans Brinker” was produced in 1955 and “A Man Called Peter” in 1956. The young people used these plays as fundraisers. They would sell the tickets and the three young people who sold the highest number of tickets won an airplane ride to Des Moines and dinner in a restaurant.
During Mission Emphasis Week, displays were set up depicting each missionary’s area. The Mr. and Mrs. Society created an entire Nigerian Village, with Mrs. John (Effie) Vermeer making small round homes set on sand to depict Dr. Den Besten’s work.
Fred Vander Schaaf served as the choir director. He led the hymn sings and helped organize programs for the contributions to the 2:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon radio programs on radio station KBOE in Oskaloosa. By the time Rev. Doorbos left, there were committees for everything and the church was off to a well-organized start.
The early rapid growth of members in Calvary Church was advanced by the disbanding of the Otley Christian Reformed Church in 1958, and of the Pella Protestant Reformed Church in 1961. Thirteen families and two individuals joined Calvary from the Otley Christian Reformed Church and seven families and two individuals came from the Protestant Reformed Church.
Our next pastoral family, Rev. and Mrs. Gerald Van Oyen, soon squeezed their family in the small house on Broadway Street as plans developed to build a parsonage. Rev. Van Oyen brought a more relaxed approach to the ministry with sermons that touched the heart. He excelled in extemporaneous contributions and the work became a little less frantic as the church matured. The Van Oyens had barely moved their lovely maple furniture and antiques into the new parsonage when they accepted a call to another church. The new parsonage was built for a cost of $32,000.
On those pre-airconditioned summer evenings, members set up chairs on the east lawn of the church for the outdoor evening worship services. Retired minister, Rev. William De Jong, once served as pulpit supply, preaching for on the Second Coming. The singing soared to the clouds of heaven, and one could almost hear the trumpets sound. It was an inspiring evening.
Reverend Arthur and Jesse Pontier arrived next. He was doctrinal preacher with a very kind heart for his two beloved children. Punctilious, his services began on the dot, even if several families were waiting to be seated. He was a hard worker, leading societies and young people’s groups. He called on the sick and was devoted to “family visitation”. Careful with funds, he was a joy to the treasurer.
In 1966, eleven years after the formation of Calvary, the congregation had grown to number 865 members. The seating in the balcony and the auditorium had become crowded, so families were alphabetically assigned to sit on folding chairs in the Fellowship Hall. The congregation was surveyed and 82% of the returns favored the formation of a fourth Christian Reformed Church in Pella. Reverend Pontier supported the formation of a new church, and Calvary became the mother church of Faith Christian Reformed Church.
During Rev. Pontier’s stay at Calvary, a Person Witnessing Conference was held, attended by 278 people, including member of the community. From this conference came the outdoor gospel service at Lake Red Rock. These services were originally begun by Wallace & Joyce Van Wyk and John & Edna Boender. They are still held today during the summer months.
Next came the Holwerdas with youngest two of their five children. Rev. Holwerda loved preaching, family, friends and golf. He was an intense preacher, who seldom departed from his carefully created outline when delivering a sermon. The Coffee Break ministry began meeting in church seeking women in the community. Calvary Church celebrated its 25th anniversary with a banquet at Pella Christian High School.
During his pastorate at Calvary, Rev Siebert Kramer, who formerly had been the pastor of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Pella, became our Minister of Calling. Rev Kramer averaged 47 visites per month to widows and widowers and another 23 visits per month to those in the hospital or at home recovering from an illness. Even in his eighties, he drove willingly to Des Moines for sick calls. He and his wife Evelyn were at Calvary for twenty years.
Next came Rev. John Gorter, who came from a smaller church to Calvary with its over 200 families. Rev. Gorter and his wife were a good match, both sincere prayer warriors with humble Biblical faith applied to life. Rev. Gorter loved the Greek language and met regularly with other Greek scholars discussing original Greek works. One day while on an outing with the school children, Rev Gorter had the misfortune of breaking a leg. But this did not stop his regular appearances in the pulpit, as he found it possible to deliver effective sermons while seated in a chair on the platform.
The Care Shepherd program was introduced while he was here, and Lay Shepherds were commissioned. A Children’s Worship service was begun for 3- and 4-year-olds. A survey was done regarding a fifth Christian Reformed Church in Pella.
Rev Thomas and Julie Dykstra then arrived with four lively children. Julie initiated a plan with Bev Roozeboom to successfully re-start the morning Coffee Break groups. It was soon a growing ministry, attracting women for various areas of the town.
During the Dykstra’s ministry, the Youth House and also a house for the Associate Pastor were purchased and remodeled. A new educational wing for the church itself was also completed. Rev. Dykstra, knows as Pastor Tom, spearheaded greater consistorial training and assisted in developing a new statement of “Purpose and Mission” for the church. Praise teams became a regular feature of the service as well as an occasional drama, and there was a children’s message during the service. A portable projection system was purchased and a video tape ministry was begun for the people who were unable to attend the services. Calvary endorsed the forming of a fifth CRC in Pella and voted to support it financially.
In December of 1999, the church van made its first trip to pick up people for the worship services. Later, a mini-bus with a wheel chair lift was also purchased.
Pastor Ty Hogue from Long Beach, California, was hired a Calvary’s first Youth Pastor. While here, he led work trips to Roseland Ministries in Chicago. He immediately formed a good relationship with the young people and encouraged them by arranging many trips to conventions and Bible camp. He also led work trips to Roseland Christian Ministries in Chicago, inviting all members of the congregation to participate.
Pastor Sheldon Starkenburg became the Pastor of Calling while the Dykstra were at Calvary. His humble, caring service soon won everyone’s heart. At first he continued to pastor a small church in Knoxville and also worked as an announcer on a local radio station. In 2002, he began full time work on the Calvary staff, with evangelism and outreach added to his job description. Never one to complain, he serves with zeal and a smile. Senior citizens enjoy regular outing under his supervision.
Pastor Todd Zylstra, a former school teacher, moved back to Pella with his wife Patty and two children. Pastor Todd is a valuable member of Calvary’s staff, ministering primarily to the youth. He plans work trips and meets with young people regularly, encouraging them to become members of the church. Pastor Todd is a good example of a caring, Christian role model for the young people. At the June 2005 meeting of Classis Pella, he was granted a license to exhort.
After an 18th month vacancy, Calvary was happy to welcome Rev. Arthur Van Wolde, his wife Amy and their children to the ministry at Calvary Church. Pastor Art, as he was known at Calvary, was very interested in evangelism. He also enjoyed visiting with people, often before worship services. He presented the young people, who made profession of their faith, with a rock, inscribed with their name and the date of their profession. He also enjoyed presenting the newly baptized infants by carrying the babies around the congregation after the sacrament of baptism. His wife Amy also used her talents, leading the Wee Choir, helping direct the Bible School, and assisting in the Coffee Break Ministry. Calvary enjoyed the youth and vitality that the new pastor brought to the congregation and looked forward to his message each Sunday.
Many changes in worship occurred. In order to accommodate visitors and guest we began two morning worship services. The services later developed into two different worship styles. The 8:45 service being mostly hymns with piano and organ while the 11:00 service being praise songs with a variety of different instruments. The Elders approved allowing children to partake of the Lord’s Supper after the parents and child visit with an Elder. Our worship was also enhanced by a newly designed platform, as well as new projection and speaker systems. The video team began recording our worship services to DVDs as well as broadcasting them on the internet and local cable TV channel. We continued to improve our church facility by getting a new church sign as well as adding an office addition. Elders and Deacons were selected differently as well as two non-council/non-voting members were added to the Administrative Council.
Calvary Christian Reformed Church was thankful to celebrate its 50th Anniversary in many special ways in 2005. Some members of the congregation constructed a float with the 50th Anniversary theme for the Tulip Time parade. Birthdays and anniversaries of Calvary’s members were complied and made into an anniversary calendar. Cookbooks featuring over 900 recipes from member and a booklet featuring Calvary’s history and ministries were printed.
The congregation was challenged to raise $50,000 in six special offerings, with the money to be divided equally between Community Connections, the Pella Christian High School East Campus Building Fund, and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. Calvary kids were also challenged. Calvary kids collected 104 lbs. of nickels, which equaled $565.61 that was given to a Romania Orphanage.
In August, an outdoor service on the church lawn was held to allow long-time Calvary members to reminisce the days before air conditioning. A joint worship service was also held with Calvary’s Mother churches, First CRC & Second CRC.
In September former pastors and sons of the congregation joined us in participating in special worship services as we celebrated 50 years of God’s blessing.
After saying, “good-bye” to the Van Wolde’s in July 2012. Calvary welcomed Pastor Brad Bierma as our next Minister of Worship in August of 2014. Pastor Brad and his family came to Calvary from Grand Rapids, Michigan where he studied at Calvin Seminary. He previously worked in youth ministry in Grand Junction, Colorado and Bellflower, California. Prior to receiving his BA from Dordt College, He spent 4 years in the U.S. Marine Corps as an Air Traffic Controller.
In November 2012 the congregation approved a building expansion plan to add more class room space and a covered entry way to our facility. After a few years of fund raising and construction we are so happy that in January 2016 the new entry way and educational wing is open.
After 6 months Nate Klingenberg’s visa was approved so he can begin his work as Youth Pastor at Calvary. Pastor Nate arrived in Pella on Feb 16, 2017. At the evening worship service on Feb 19 Nate preached his sermon as part of his exam for Classis to become an ordained pastor. On February 24, 2017, Nate was approved to become an ordained Pastor in the Christian Reformed Church by Classis. On March 19, 2017 Nate was ordained as Pastor at Calvary where he will serve as Youth Pastor. We are so excited to have Pastor Nate join our staff!