After twenty years of parish ministry in three Canadian provinces, Arie Van Eek became the first executive secretary of the Council of Christian Reformed Churches in Canada (CCRCC), a position he held for the next twenty years. Arie’s ministry has been described as broad, courageous, persistent and creative. In his role with CCRCC, Arie reported to and expedited the work of a number of committees, including the Committee for Contact with the Government (now part of the Centre for Public Dialogue).
Longtime chair of that committee, Rev. Bob De Moor, remembers Van Eek as a gifted, visionary and humble leader who worked passionately to promote our denomination’s ministry in Canada. “Arie had a real heart for those treated unjustly within Canada and around the world and that motivated much of his work,” said De Moor.
Arie, 91, died Nov. 7 due to complications from a fall.
Following graduation from Calvin College (now University) and Seminary, Arie studied for another year at Westminster Theological Seminary. Ordained in 1958, he pastored Exeter (Ont.) CRC; First CRC, Thunder Bay, Ont.; River Park CRC, Calgary, Alta.; and Kildonan CRC, Winnipeg, Man. From 1978 to 1998 he served as the executive secretary of CCRCC, the only person to hold that role, as restructuring implemented in 1997 absorbed the CCRCC into the binational denominational structure, making it the Canadian Ministry Board.
“Stepping forth and reaching out characterized so much of what this man did,” said Arie’s son-in-law and pastor, Mike Abma, at Van Eek’s memorial service. “Whether it was in ecumenical relations with other faith communities; whether it was reaching out to what was then called the Indian and Metis community and the development of urban native friendship centers in Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton; whether it was orchestrating refugee sponsorships in churches or bolstering support for Christian education, Arie was a man who stepped forth and reached out.”
Called affectionately by his family “a raging extrovert,” Arie was a born connector who was also theologically motivated into reaching out. “For Arie,” said Abma, “the Gospel was all about God himself daring to step into that space, our human space, so that God himself could reach out to us and welcome us.” One of Arie’s granddaughters said, “I think intentionality and showing up for people are some of the most important things I learned from Grandpa.”
In 1985 Arie was a founding member of Beginnings Family Services, a ministry based in Hamilton, Ont., that supports and counsels pregnant women and adoptive parents. After retirement, he continued to support this ministry and also continued to assist Crossroads Bible Studies among people incarcerated in prison. He remained connected to Christian Reformed ministry in Canada and spoke at the re-opening of the renovated Canadian ministry office in Burlington, Ont., in November 2018. In 2019, Arie received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Calvin Theological Seminary.
Arie started playing trumpet in childhood. While a seminary student he sang in what was then The Back to God Hour Choir. He went on to sing for over 40 years with the Ambassadors Christian Male Chorus and was a member of the Liberation Choir. He enjoyed woodworking and fishing, going to concerts, had an extensive record collection, and loved cars—especially Volkswagens.
Predeceased in 2018 by Ellen, his wife of 64 years, and by daughter Jane in May 2023, Arie is survived by four children and their spouses; 15 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.