During his 42 years as an ordained pastor of the Christian Reformed Church, Roger Van Harn estimated he preached 3,000 sermons. His ministry over those years was impacted by several major events in American history. Van Harn died on Feb. 9. He was 86.
A graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, Van Harn was ordained in 1957 and began ministry at Cottage Grove CRC in South Holland, Ill. His next call was to a church-planting ministry as first pastor of Grace CRC in Indian Harbour Beach, Fl., in the shadow of Cape Canaveral. The family arrived the night before Alan Shepard’s historic flight as the first U.S. person in space. The church grew quickly, largely due to the area’s military buildup and population growth following the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Van Harn went on to pastor Olentangy CRC in Columbus, Ohio, a church that, like many in the late sixties, was caught up in the tensions of the civil rights movement. At a time of student anti-war protests, he became campus minister at Ohio State University, just five months after four students were killed at Kent State University, 80 miles away.
In 1976, Van Harn earned a Doctor of Ministry from Trinity Lutheran Seminary and accepted a call to serve Grace CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he stayed for 22 years. During that time he served for several years as president of the CRC Board of Publications and was president of Synod 1984. He retired in 1998 to briefly serve as interim Director of Field Education at Calvin Seminary. Author of nine books, Van Harn also worked for many years after retirement at William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. as project editor of a lectionary commentary series, among other projects.
He is survived by Ellie, his wife of 62 years, their five children, 13 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. He was predeceased in 2006 by their son Philip.