Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Dundas Congregation Commemorates its 50th Anniversary

Written by David Vandenberg
On Wednesday, April 26th, 2000, the Free Reformed church of Dundas, Ontario commemorated the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the congregation with a worship service.

Brief History: On February 12th, 1950, nineteen people came together to hear Mr. J. Hamstra (later, Rev. J. Hamstra) to speak an edifying word in the Presbyterian Church at Christie's Corners, West Flamborough. His text was from Psalm 119:54, ÒThy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.Ó Soon, additional immigrant families and single persons, mainly from the Christelijke Gereformeerde churches in the Netherlands were added, and the need to institute a congregation became evident. On April 24th, 1950, ten people met at the residence of Mr. J. Hamstra, under the leadership of Rev. G.A. Zijderveld of the Grand Rapids Old Christian Reformed Church (now Free Reformed Church), with the purpose of forming a congregation. On the evening of April 25th elected office bearers were installed in a public worship service conducted by Rev. Zijderveld. One of the elders, Mr. J. Hamstra, served as a teaching elder, ministering to this early immigrant church for many years.

The beginnings of the congregation of Dundas were very small and seemingly insignificant, but it was the LordÕs will that a people be gathered to form this congregation, the first in Canada, of a denomination now known as Free Reformed Churches. The Dundas congregation has been served by four ministers: Rev. J. Hamstra, Rev. G. Hamstra, Rev. A. Baars, and Rev. K. Hoefnagel, all of them, in their own way preaching the same truths of the Word of God. Presently the congregation is without its own pastor.

Commemoration Evening: Fifty years later, on April 26th, 2000, the congregation gathered to commemorate the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. He not only planted the congregation of Dundas, but also spared, kept and blessed her in His undeserved grace, for the sake of Christ, the King of the Church.

The Dundas Counselor, Rev. G.R. Procee of Hamilton, led the first part of the worship service. His text was from Isaiah 63:9b, ÒAnd he [the Lord] bare them, and carried them all the days of old.Ó The Lord, the faithful God, did bear and carry the Dundas congregation for 50 years! The sermon dealt with GodÕs faithfulness, (1) in the past (2) in the present and (3) in the future. Ezekiel 16 portrays Israel as a premature infant child about to die, but the Lord said ÒliveÓ and Israel came into being. The Lord was with Israel, delivering it from Egypt and keeping it through the wilderness. He gave the people the land of Canaan, but they continually sinned and rebelled against Him and were eventually were brought into captivity. Yet, the Lord, in the multitude of His loving kindness was faithful to them.

The history of the Dundas congregation proves that the Lord has not changed. For 50 years the Lord has carried the congregation through difficulties and blessings, disappointments and joys, through impossibilities and afflictions. Yet we are not consumed! We are not worthy of the LordÕs mercies because of our sin, unbelief, pride and quarrels. It is only because of Christ Jesus that the Lord can have mercy upon us. How we ought to confess our own unworthiness and how we should praise the Lord for His goodness!

GodÕs faithfulness is still the same today. The secret of His forbearing grace in His Church is that Òthe Angel of His presence saved them.Ó He is present in the midst of their affliction and loves His people with an everlasting and unchangeable love. His faithfulness also gives hope and expectation for the future. There is no strength, no worthiness and no ability in His people. He does everything for them and teaches them that without Him, they can do nothing. When the burdens are too heavy, he teaches them that underneath are the everlasting arms and He will carry His people, all the way Home.

Rev. G. Hamstra, former pastor and son of the founding pastor, led the second part of the service. He read from Isaiah 40: 1-11 and gave a brief overview of the early beginnings of the church and explained some reasons why it was felt that a separate church was needed. They felt that generally four important doctrines were not emphasized from the pulpits where the immigrants first worshipped. First, how can we need the remedy of the Second Adam if we are not adequately aware of the consequences of the ÒdiseaseÓ inherited from the first Adam? Secondly, they felt that the love of Christ and the necessity of the Redeemer were not clearly emphasized. The saved are chosen from eternity, but they need to be led to the Saviour. This is the third truth, it was felt, was not emphasized; namely the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit. He shows us our need of Christ and His beauty and all-sufficiency. The fourth truth lacking in other preaching was the emphasis of a life in the fear of the Lord. Our Reformed fathers emphasized Biblical, experiential, Christ-centered preaching.

In the 50 years gone by, we may see that the Lord undertook for the Dundas congregation. In Isaiah 40:11, we read, ÓHe shall feed His flock like a Shepherd.Ó We ought to look to Christ who gives the blessings and comforts. As the perfect Shepherd, He leads and tenderly cares for His flock. He gathers and carries the little ones in His bosom. What a beautiful portrayal we have here of the Great Shepherd who knows all the frailties and weaknesses of His Church. Nowhere did He reveal His grace as clearly as in the cross of Christ, the hope and glory of the Church and the salvation of sinners. How we ought to look to the Chief Shepherd for all our needs. We need His presence and His reviving grace. We need Him to undertake for us, personally and as a congregation.

On behalf of the denomination (synod) Rev. C. Pronk, addressed the congregation of Dundas. It is a miracle that we have been spared for 50 years. In Exodus 3, Moses stood before the burning bush, which though it burned, yet was not consumed, because God was in that bush. This is the secret why the Church survives. It is because of the presence of Christ in her. He says, ÒLo, I am with you alway.Ó He has bought her and laid down His life for her. The Lord takes reasons out of Himself, remembering His covenant. The Angel in the bush (the Lord Jesus Christ) bore the punishment, and therefore the Church is preserved and not consumed.

A letter received from Rev. C.A. Schouls on behalf of the Chatham congregation was received and read. He expressed the desire that the Lord would bless and guide the congregation. On the one side there ought to be gratitude to the Lord for His on-going patience and on the other side a deep sense of unworthiness for all His blessings. Another letter, by Rev. A. Baars, one of the former pastors, commended the congregation to the grace of the triune God. He referred to the opening of the present church building on June 20, 1986, when the text chosen for the service was ÒEbenezerÉ Hitherto hath the LORD helped usÓ (1 Samuel 7:12). It reminds us of our sins and shortcomings, but also points upward to the faithfulness of Him who will never forsake the work of His hands. In the setting up of the stone ÒEbenezer,Ó Samuel exhorted the Israelites not to go astray, but in the future to walk in the ways of this faithful God. The same message is repeated to us this day and will be repeated at every milestone in the history of the congregation!

It was a blessed evening. The Word of God had the pre-eminence. May His Holy Name receive all the honour.

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