Rev. Elco H. Oostendorp, 96, was the oldest minister in the Christian Reformed Church. This careful scholar of Reformed theology, avid reader of theology, and preacher of solid sermons passed away on April 20 from acute myocardial infarction, his mind clear to the end.
Oostendorp was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1911. He grew up in Grant and Zeeland, Mich., where his father, Herman Oostendorp, was a pastor. He attended a Christian school in Grant and Christian High School in Holland, Mich. From his youth on, he felt the call to the ministry. He graduated from Calvin College in 1932 and from Calvin Theological Seminary in l935.
Elco married Cora Branderhorst soon after his graduation and that summer the young couple accepted a call from the CRC of Birnamwood, Wis.
Four years later they moved to Luctor, Kan., to serve the CRC congregation there. Next came a pastorate in Corsica, S.D., where they served till 1950 when they accepted a call to Woody Nook CRC of Lacombe, Alberta. Three more churches were to follow: Parkersburg, Iowa (1955), Second CRC of Allendale, Mich. (1958), and Reeman, Mich. (1972). Oostendorp retired in 1976.
Oostendorp embodied the best of the traditional CRC ministry: preaching twice every Sunday, teaching catechism classes, visiting families and those who were sick, making the rounds in the congregation, and being involved in classical and denominational life.
And he somehow found time to be a great reader of theology and other subjects. He was always well informed about denominational developments and the international missions of the church. Oostendorp was a frequent delegate to synod and served the denomination in numerous committees and study committees.
He is widely remembered for his friendliness and generous spirit. His tall stature was matched by a gentle dignity.
Oostendorp was preceded in death by his wife, his son Herman, and his daughter-in-law Bette. He is survived by his children Mike and Eloise Bos, Bill and Lette Oostendorp, and Doug and Darlene Oostendorp, as well as 15 grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren.