Dutch Services Come to an End

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As the Christian Reformed Church continues to move away from its traditionally Dutch roots, two traditions are coming to an end in western Michigan.

The 50th and last annual Frisian-language worship service and a final Dutch Songfest are both planned for May 21.

Rev. Louis Tamminga, 76, preached at the first Frisian service held in 1957, and he will preach at the last one. Fifty years ago, when he was a seminarian fresh from the Netherlands province of Friesland, Tamminga and some friends put a modest ad in The Banner and were surprised when about 500 people attended their Frisian service.

“The lives of these immigrants is a stage in history that is just disappearing. It leaves you a little sad or nostalgic,” said Calvin College professor Henry Baron, one of the event organizers.

Dick Gootjes has noticed a similar nostalgia at the Dutch Songfest, which began 20 years ago. As the organist, his front-row seat has enabled him to glimpse many tears when a favorite hymn brings back childhood memories.

“A lot of people are going to miss it,” he said. “We’ll go out in a blaze of glory and even have a double dose of windmill cookies afterward.”

The Frisian-language worship service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday May 21 at Grand Rapids’ Brookside CRC, and the Dutch Songfest will be at 8 p.m. at Hillside Church in Cutlerville.

About the Author

Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who lives in the woods with her artist husband James and their five children in Hillsborough, North Carolina. They are members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham.