At the jointly held synods (general assemblies) of the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America, a symbol of past hurts turned to present blessings became a sermon illustration in the opening worship service led by Rev. Jon Brown and Rev. Jenna Brandsen, pastors of Pillar Church, a congregation with dual CRC and RCA affiliation in Holland, Mich.
The history of Pillar Church includes an 1882 majority vote to leave the RCA, the denomination with which it was then affiliated. Congregants who won the vote are said to have physically barred the minority faction from returning to the church with chains and axe handles. For 130 years the brokenness went largely unmentioned as the continuing congregation became affiliated with the CRC and proceeded with ministry—until it became clear that the church was dying and the congregation began a process of discerning what to do.
“In examining their past, they named division as a significant barrier to pursuing reconciliation,” Brandsen said. Eventually the church decided to become reestablished as a dually affiliated congregation in 2012. As part of the reestablishment service, a unique baptismal font was introduced to serve the church.
Long, wooden axe handles hold a platform for the bowl, and a thick chain surrounds its base. These tools of destruction that had once been employed by some members of the church to bar a minority group have now become symbols of tools of grace. Church members created the font with the words of Isaiah 2:4 in mind, metaphorically beating swords into ploughshares.
Brandsen and Brown wanted to share the image with the assemblies gathered for worship at Calvin Chapel so they brought Pillar Church’s font with them.
“We believe each of us is called to pursue daily acts of reconciliation in our lives and the world, and we hope Pillar’s story can be encouraging to any of us in this journey. Just as we see in Isaiah, God intends to repurpose our weapons of destruction for his tools of renewal!” Brandsen said.
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