Rev. Howard Spaan has been referred to as the grandfather of the Christian Reformed Church in the state of Oregon.
Spaan, age 91, retired recently after serving 46 years as stated clerk of Classis Columbia, a regional group of churches in Oregon and southern Washington. The classis honored him at a special luncheon during its meeting Sept. 25.
Spaan first served as clerk in 1965 for Classis Pacific Northwest. As the CRC expanded in Oregon, Classis Columbia formed in 1969, and Spaan became its first—and only—clerk until April of this year.
(L-R): Revs. Jelmer Groenewold, Howard Spaan, and D. Vance Hays
Mike Vander Veen
He said he always enjoyed writing the minutes for each meeting. “I do the minutes different than most stated clerks,” Spaan explained. “I always give the context and action behind a motion passed—pastors kept telling me they really appreciate that.”
Spaan has seen Classis Columbia endure many changes over the past five decades. Minutes were first hand-written, then typed on a typewriter, and now sent out via e-mail. Classis meetings used to be all male delegates until female deacons were invited to attend, and later women elders.
Spaan was also part of a “classis renewal” in the late-1970s. “It was hard to get delegates to go back then because they said it was too boring. It was all business and nothing else,” said Spaan.
He was part of two conferences sponsored by the denomination that helped bring a spiritual emphasis to classis meetings, as well as separate prayers for ministries in the Christian Reformed Church.
Spaan is the longest-serving clerk of classis in the history of the CRC.