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Indiana Church Celebrates 150 Years

Indiana Church Celebrates 150 Years
A tree is a recurring symbol for Munster Church’s 150th celebrations.

The state of Indiana is known (by its own motto) as “the Crossroads of America.” And the 150-year old Munster Church, a Christian Reformed congregation in the northwest part of the state, can trace its history to that travel-minded past. It was the first church in the settlement, where all roads in Indiana intersected on the way to Chicago, springing up as a church home to an influx of immigrating Dutch farmers and others setting down roots.

One of the church’s longest-serving pastors, Johan Monsma, pastored the church from 1926 to 1948. During World War II he was known for writing letters to 25 soldiers who were members or attendants of the church, every month they were at war. The group came to be called, “Jo’s Boys.”

Lugene A. Bazuin, who pastored the church from 1963 to 1992, hosted a radio show called, “Munster Christian Reformed Church’s Evening Service.” That period was considered the church’s heyday due to the hundreds of people reached through the radio program.

“Over the years, the pastors have kept the same vision,” said Pastor Jim Hollendoner, “to be a lighthouse for wayward ships.” While that vision might be carried out differently today—using Facebook and YouTube and a downloadable app instead of the radio—“Loving God, Loving People” has been the mission of the church throughout.

“We don’t schedule greeters because (friendliness is) in our DNA,” Hollendoner said. “I think 150 years speaks to that.”

Trees will have a lot to do with the church’s 150-year celebration. Hollendoner is preparing a sermon series for the month of August on the legacy of the Lord at Munster Church called “Rooted.”

“We are like a family tree,” said Jill Wiltjer, one of the co-leaders of the planning committee. “So many churches have branched off from Munster.”  

Wiltjer and her co-leader, Lisa Schutt, are creating a metal tree display, with plaques to hang from the branches, listing the names of the planted churches. At a celebratory dinner they plan on having in September, guests will receive a commemorative ornament to hang on a tree.

Hollendoner is eager to celebrate 150 years, but says the church should also look forward to the next 150 years. “The only way you can (continue to) be here is by recognizing God’s sovereignty and being in tune with the community.”

Munster is the third-oldest church in Classis Illiana (a regional group of CRC churches). First CRC in South Holland, Ill., and Lafayette (Ind.) CRC were both founded five years earlier, in 1865.

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