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From Contactblad to Messenger: 1954-1994

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Recently it was brought to my attention that this year it is forty years ago that a small, eight-page, stencilled publication called "Contactblad van de Free Christian Reformed Church" (Contact Magazine of the Free Christian Reformed Church) made its first appearance. This publication was a fore-runner of what is now our monthly denominational publication, The Messenger.
As the name indicates, the whole publication was in the Dutch language. It was edited by Rev. J. Tamminga who at that time was minister in Chatham and produced in St. Thomas by Mr. Ab Van Deel Piepers. It lists Mr. J.P. Feyer as Administrator. Only the brothers Feyer and Van Deel Piepers remain with us; Rev. Tamminga having passed away some years ago. Mr. Feyer, who has been a member of the Hamilton Free Reformed congregation for many years, states that after the January 1954 issue, "The issues of Feb.'54 to Aug.'54 had a blue cover and in Sept.'54 the paper was printed at The Mercury Press in Chatham where I worked. It was at that time that the name was changed to 'The Messenger' and the first issue consisted of 4 pages, size 7-1/2"x10-3/4"."

The first meditation in this "Contactblad," entitled "Eben-Haezer" (Ebenezer) is based on 1 Samuel 7:12. Rev. Tamminga, the editor, explains that from time to time the people of God of the Old Testament would raise their "Ebenezers," to commemorate what God had done. Such "stones" were set up to "proclaim the works of the Lord to the generation following. They do not speak of human deeds, but they point upwards, to the dwelling place of God," he writes. "For forty years Israel had sighed under the oppression of their enemies, the Philistines. That yoke of the enemy had become heaver and heavier, so that Israel at last was overcome by them, and a cry was born, a cry from the depths, a cry to God. We read that the whole house of Israel 'lamented after the Lord.' When the people, after Samuel's message to them, came to acknowledge their sin and confessed their sin, the Lord saved them from the hand of their enemies. They defeated the Philistines. It was in commemoration of this event that Samuel erected a stone." The Bible says that Samuel called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. Rev. Tamminga then says: "Ebenezer: is it not fitting that we say that we say this when we look back on the way we have gone this past year and when we look back on our life?"* He continues in this vein, speaking about the year that lies behind.

We can apply these words to the forty years which have gone by since this meditation was first published. Again we quote: "Possibly your way was hedged up with thorns, maybe your path went through the valleys through the deep, but was it more than you deserved? Perhaps you may speak of rich blessings, but did we deserve them? God's mercies stand over against our well-deserved judgment. Where has it brought us?" Rev. Tamminga ends with the admonition: "Ebenezer--the Lord has helped and shall help now too, because of His great Name!"

We who live about two generations later can see with our own eyes that God's promises, of which Rev. Tamminga testified, have proved to be true, especially when we realize that this denominational publication belonged to a divided denomination, the part which called itself "Free Christian Reformed." In another article in this first issue, Rev. Tamminga summarizes the reason for this new publication. He mentions the need for mutual contact and fellowship among the congregations and members. At this time, due to church-orderly disagreements, a split had occurred resulting in the formation of "Old" and "Free" Christian Reformed Churches. This part of our history is not very edifying and still painful to some of the older generation, yet we do, however, want to draw attention to the fact that God has graciously kept His promises to His Church. We have also seen in our church history that the way of reunion and healing is possible.

As we briefly reflect upon the anniversary of one of our present Messenger's predecessors, let us do so with humility and a willingness to learn from our past. We, the descendants of these first Dutch Reformed immigrants, have been richly blessed also, in spite of our sins. We also need to raise our Ebenezers and teach the generation which follows.

Let children thus learn from history's light
To hope in our God and walk in His sight,
The God of their fathers to fear and obey,
And ne'er like their fathers to turn from His way. (Psalter 213)
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