Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Free Reformed Church Instituted in Seattle Area

Written by Leonard W. Wubs and Rev. VanderMeyden
Two reports of this joyous event were sent to the editor for placement. The first one is from the perspective of an elder of the Òmother church,Ó Langley, BC.

The second report is by Rev. VanderMeyden, former pastor of Langley, BC. who was involved in the pastoral oversight of this Òdaughter churchÓ when it was being conceived.

The institution service of the Bellevue Free Reformed Church took place on Friday, September 6th, 1996. This service marked a major milestone in the thirteen years of this home mission station. At least two hundred people attended this service, including of course, the members of the new congregation and others, coming from as far away as Ontario, British Columbia and neighbouring areas. The service was conducted by pastor J.W. Wullschleger of the Langley congregation, representing the overseeing consistory.

The institution service included the reading of Article 27 of the Belgic Confession regarding the nature of the true, world-wide Church. It is indeed amazing to see how God has gathered this local congregation. After the installation of the three elders and the deacon, came the signing of the Form of Subscription. Considering the diversity and backgrounds of the members of this new congregation, much prayer and wisdom will be required by and for this new consistory.

The installation was followed by the sermon, which was based on 1 Peter 5, especially verses 10 and 11. Pastor Wullschleger began by comparing the point of institution to the feelings parents experience when their daughter is about to be married. Through there may be many questions regarding the future, and though the bond of love is strong toward their daughter, yet they know that the past cannot remain unchanged. Certainly, there is great joy in the fact that the congregation has reached the point of maturity, size and stability which will enable it to continue as an independent congregation. He explained how, during the past years, many people have been involved in visiting and helping and how that bond of love has developed.

Pastor Wullschleger reviewed how the Lord brought this congregation together. He described how original contacts between members of the Bellevue congregation and the Langley congregation led to preaching services conducted in various locations in the Seattle area. The dedicated labours of many have been greatly blessed by God to make this institution possible. We were also reminded of how many were drawn through the Banner of Truth radio broadcast.

Pastor Wullschleger emphasized how 1 Peter 5 describes the nature and responsibilities of the newly installed brothers. Of even greater importance is the fact that the true Church is the Bride of Christ and is therefore upheld and perfected for GodÕs honour and glory. We can see this in the words ÒBut the God of all GRACEÉÓ God is the source of any good that is seen in His people. This answers the question of ÒWHO.Ó ÒWho hath called us unto his eternal gloryÓ answers the question Òfor WHAT purpose.Ó ÒBy Christ JesusÓ shows HOW that calling was accomplished. WHEN is explained with the words Òafter ye have suffered a while.Ó ÒMake you perfectÓ describes GodÕs sanctifying work in the lives of those He has called. These words were written as a doxological prayer to strengthen and encourage Christians in their daily struggles against sin. Pastor Wullschleger applied this to them both as individuals and together as a new congregation.

After the service the newly instituted congregation was addressed by representatives of the Free Reformed Churches, as well as others. The common theme of these can be summarized by the exhortation, to remain above all, faithful to the Word of God and to dwell in the bond of brotherly love. If these are evident in the hearts and actions of the members of this new congregation, all other responsibilities and questions will, by GodÕs grace, become clear.

We may be thankful for the evidence of GodÕs work in our midst. Even though the world considers the institution of a new congregation a small thing, yet as Elijah discovered, the voice of the Lord is not always heard in great earthquakes, wind or fire, but often in the small but unmistakable working of His Holy Spirit (1 Kings 19). We were also reminded of this when we sang from Psalm 8, ÒWeakest means fulfil Thy will...Ó May the Lord richly bless this new congregation and fulfil His work in and through them by His abundant grace. ÒTo him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.Ó

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On Friday, September 6th, the number of churches included in the federation of Free Reformed Churches rose to fifteen as four men of the Bellevue, Washington, home mission station were installed as office bearers. This was the culmination of a process of labour and patience which covered some thirteen years. The evening was a reminder of the humbling and yet glorious truth that the Lord builds His church.

As the 7:30 starting time approached the parking lot of the church was filling up and friends from various places and different church affiliations greeted each other. There were several vehicles with members from the three Free Reformed Churches in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia who came to share in the joy of the event. The church building, rented from the Juanita Reformed Baptist Church of Kirkland for the occasion, filled up comfortably.

Rev. WŸlschleger, of the supervising church of Langley, officiated the service, opening the service with the singing of Psalter 227 (ÒO Lord of Hosts, how lovely Thy tabernacles are...Ó). Instead of the usual creed, he read Article 27 of the Belgic Confession, in which the reformed churches confess their belief regarding Òthe catholic (universal) Church.Ó Appropriately Psalter 309 was sung: ÒThe Lord who has remembered us, His blessing will bestow.Ó

The Form for the installation of elders and deacons was read during which the elected brothers rose to assent to the vows of office. Adrian Gunst, Ben Taverne, and Joe Ziering were ordained to the office of elder, and Neal Nieuwenhuis to the office of deacon. The congregation then rose and sang Psalter 345: ÒTo the hills I lift my eyes, Whence shall help for me arise.Ó

For his sermon Pastor WŸlschleger read from I Peter 5 and preached on verses 10,11: ÒBut the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.Ó The message did not only speak of the realistic expectation that a church can expect trials which will bring suffering, but the congregation was directed to the ÒGod of all graceÓ in whom there is such an abundance of grace and strength. He is able to equip for the office and to establish and strengthen us as members of His church. The church will finally bring glory to the Lord to whom it belongs.

After prayer for GodÕs blessing on the new office bearers and the new church, a closing Psalter and the benediction, an opportunity was given for several brothers to give a short address to the newly instituted congregation. On behalf of the supervising church, the Free Reformed Church of Langley, elder Wally Floris warmly greeted the congregation and gave some words of encouragement.

Rev. P. VanderMeyden, being delegated by Synod 1996, addressed the church on behalf of the Free Reformed churches, as well his congregation of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He reflected on some of the development of this work in the past 13? years, of which he was also able to be a part in the first seven years of its history. He expressed appreciation for the cooperation of other ministers like Rev. C. Bos (the former minister of the then Aldergrove congregation), and Pastor Douglas Neff (who was also able to be present at this institution service.) Several of the ministers of the Free Reformed Churches of the east have also come to preach in Seattle over the years. Special appreciation is expressed to Home Missionary Rev. K. Gangar whose work in these recent years has been blessed by the Lord so that the congregation has been brought to readiness for institution. Pastor VanderMeyden welcomed the ÒFree Reformed Church of BellevueÓ to the denomination. It is the 15th Free Reformed church in North America and the 3rd in the U.S.A. He also read from the words of II Peter 3:17,18:ÒYe therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.Ó

This text speaks of dangers and trials which the church faces. In times of opposition the church is challenged to grow either in spiritual life or in doctrinal understanding. He expressed the prayer that the Lord would indeed grant them growth, not merely in number, but more importantly Òin grace,Ó that they may manifest the life of a faithful and ministering church of Christ to His glory.

Rev. K. Gangar also addressed the congregation, speaking of the marvel of the fact that in such a great city the Lord still gathers His church. As of this institution service, Rev. Gangar is released from his charge as Home Missionary in the Seattle area and is available for call. We anticipate that the Bellevue consistory will soon propose to extend a call to him to be their pastor.

This institution received an encouraging recognition from other churches. Letters of greeting had been received from various consistories of the Free Reformed churches. Delegates came personally to bring greetings. Elder Dennis DeVries was on vacation with his wife and could be present to represent the Brantford F.R.C. Rev. Kampen of the Canadian Reformed Church of Port Kells, B.C., conveyed greetings and expressed his hope that one day there would be no need to distinguish between the ÒFreeÓ and ÒCanadianÓ Reformed churches. Rev. Bruce Ray on behalf of the Juanita Community Baptist Church welcomed the Bellevue F.R.C. into the community of reformed churches in greater Seattle and also read from the Belgic Confession Article 27.

Elder Ben Taverne of Bellevue responded to these addresses and expressed the gratitude of the congregation for all the work done by the ministers who had given of their labours for the work in Bellevue, especially for the work of Pastor Gangar. He also conveyed appreciation to the Home Mission Committee for the support received from the churches of the denomination.

After the singing of Psalter 373 as doxology (ÒO Church of our God, sing His praises...Ó), the congregation was invited to the meeting room downstairs for fellowship and refreshments. It appeared that no one turned down the invitation and, even though the evening was wearing on, the basement was full of joyful well-wishing and reminiscing of the past. Old acquaintances were refreshed and new ones started as we enjoyed the treats which were lovingly provided by the Bellevue ladies.

The whole evening seemed to have an atmosphere of warm joy and humble gratitude--a feeling that a day long-awaited and prayed for, had finally come. A mission work has become a church. We rejoice with the Bellevue congregation and pray that the Lord may bless them and make them a fruitful congregation for the glory of the Lord to Whom we owe all praise.

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