East Martin Christian Reformed Church in Martin, Mich., celebrated 100 years of ministry this summer, starting with 100 tolls of the church bell Sunday, June 27. Larry Tuinstra, 83, and Boaz Katje, 4, served as the bell ringers. Both current members of the congregation, they are the oldest and youngest living descendants of charter (founding) members. The two stood on ladders and used hand-held hammers against the 1,000-pound bell, which now is usually rung electronically. The bell survived a windstorm in 1923 that brought the original church structure down. Since 1985 it has been suspended above the lawn next to the church sign.
Following the bell ringing, former Pastor Jake Weeda led a service of praise and worship. Randall Bouman, a member of the anniversary planning committee, said, “It was great to celebrate and worship our great God for 100 years of his blessing and guidance and love.” Bouman said it was special to worship with former members and pastors who came to visit and to “enjoy too much cake and ice cream and just the right amount of conversation to catch up with all.”
The congregation was first organized as the Christian Reformed Church of Gun River, under the leadership of home missionary J. R. Brink and Rev. M. Schans on June 23, 1921. Following the windstorm, the building was rebuilt and dedicated as East Martin CRC.
Various members of the congregation contributed to the commemorations. Rozalyn Denzel, 16, designed a logo used for the anniversary events. Woodworkers Doug VanDerMeulen and Jim Mejeur built a new podium and designed new artwork for the front of the sanctuary. Other members arranged a photo collage of East Martin CRC’s different buildings over the years and published a booklet of history. Local artist Naomi Martin created a piece of stained glass art from the original 1920 windows of one of the previous buildings.
The celebration continued Sept. 11 with a pig roast. Bouman said the focus was to share God's blessings, enjoy great food, and catch up with old friends. He said the celebrations were blessed by God and were just as the committee had hoped.