Fifty years after the creation of an etching to commemorate the Heidelberg Catechism, Gerrit Van Dyke, 91, is still distributing the artwork—one print at a time.
In 1963, Van Dyke and two other church members from Seymour Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., wanted a tangible way to remember the importance of the Heidelberg Catechism. Reynold Weidenaar, an internationally-known artist and former member of LaGrave Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., created an etching of the city of Heidelberg in copper.
Describing the process, Van Dyke said that a smooth coper plate is etched with a stylus, using acid, and then coated with wax. Once the plate is inked, it can be printed under pressure on to paper.
The intricate print shows the contemporary city of Heidelberg juxtaposed with the Heidelberg of 1643. The text of the first question and answer is written on the bottom.
After several years of selling the prints, the project began to die off, but this year, the 450th anniversary of the document, Van Dyke began framing copies and giving them away to anyone who asked. “I didn’t want interest in this beautiful etching to die out,” he said. “It’s one of my footprints that has been all around.”
He’s sent them to several places across the United States and Canada, even as far away as Australia.
Van Dyke highlighted the etching as a way to tell others about his passion for the Heidelberg Catechism. “At this point in life, people often don’t see themselves as purposeful, but he’s reclaimed this niche for himself,” explained his daughter, Muriel Van Dyke. “It would be so easy to be depressed and passive, but it gives him joy and a purpose.”
Looking ahead, Gerrit Van Dyke will continue to frame the etching and give them out to those around him. “They don’t hear my voice at all,” he said. “It is a silent witness.”