Historical Report

Bethany Christian Reformed Church, Bloomfield, Ontario

Research of minutes and archives

By Henry Nyman

    As the post-war emigration was under way,  Dutch emigrants settled in Canada.   At the synod of the Christian Reformed Church, the report was given that the government of Canada had opened its doors for Dutch immigrants. Many of these are of the Reformed faith.

    The Board of Home Missions was instructed to send out missionaries who could speak Dutch, and to help and minister among the Dutch immigrants. So it was that Rev. Andre came to work in Eastern Ontario.  After several months working with the immigrants he moved into Picton on July 1, 1948 and continued to work with the Dutch immigrants in Eastern Ontario.  He would bring the people together and hold a Dutch service for them.  Groups would meet at various places in Frankford, Picton or Trenton. In Picton the Benson Hall was used.  Rev. Andre would pick up the families and bring them back after the service.  Only those involved can tell how this was appreciated, as they lived in a strange land with a language they did not understand or speak.  Only their God who had brought them across the ocean was still the same.   They could worship him in their own language, with brothers and sisters, and receive new strength for their faith.  That they needed so much to build a home for their family and children.

Bethany Christian Reformed Church

The church was built by the Society of Friends in 1817 on land donated by John Bull and Jonathon Bowerman.  It was taken over by the newly organized Christian Reformed Church in 1948.  It was replaced by a new building in 1962.

    As more immigrants came to Prince Edward County, the Quaker Church was used in July 1948 and officially rented in October 1948.  At that time a letter  was sent to the classis Grand Rapids, asking permission to institute as a congregation. This letter was signed by some thirty names to be presented at the January 1949 classis.

Three children were baptized in 1948. The Christian Reformed Church in Bloomfield was officially instituted on Sunday, March 27, 1949.  Elders chosen were: Br. C. VanEgmond and Br. C. Huizenga.  Deacons chosen were: Br. E. Wemekamp and Br. N. Postma. The first consistory meeting was held April 6, 1949 at the parsonage in Picton, presiding Rev Andre. Chosen for Vice- President was Br. C. VanEgmond and Br. C. Huizenga as clerk and E.  Wemekamp as treasurer. Catechism books were given on Sunday after the church service so the lesson could be learned at home.  Many things were still strange for the new congregation. Rev Andre organized a special meeting one evening to explain the ways, traditions and the history and the mission of the Christian Reformed Church in the U S A and Canada.

     The transportation was not a small problem. In the early days not everybody had a car or could afford one.  Those who had a car would pick up as many as they could.  50% would be paid by the church for extra mileage at 6 cents per mile.

    During July the Quaker church was offered for sale . Collections were held for the building fund.  The Quaker organization was glad to sell the church especially that it would be used as a place of worship, to which it was originally dedicated.   On October 6, 1949 the church was purchased for $2,500.  A mortgage was obtained from the Board of Home Missions, $1500, and a gift of $500; payments would start after 5 years.

    In 1949, five members did profession of faith, and three children were baptized. During 1949, $300 was collected for Home Missions in payment for the minister. $250 was sent for other missions of the church.  To represent our church at the classis meeting in Grand Rapids, Br. C. VanEgmond was chosen, but could not get a visa for the U S A, as was a problem for the immigrants, but he was able to go to the next classis meeting.  Br. J. VanDyk started the young people society.   Br. J. Kuipers and Br. P. Rodenburg were the caretakers.   Both were single men, as was a big group among the immigrants. In 1950  Br. G. Huiskamp was chosen for elder and Br. J. Hoekstra for deacon, to take the place of Brs. C. VanEgmond and N. Postma.

     The congregation of Creston in Michigan sent our congregation a communion set, and text boards as a gift, and a pulpit bible from an unknown giver, presented by Rev Andre. The family E Foster from Northport gave the church a piano.  Rev Andre gave the church a wall clock. A medical insurance was started to help each other in case of sickness.

    At a congregational meeting in February 1950 it was decided to call on Rev. Andre to be our minister, but he declined.  Rev Andre felt that he had to stay with the Home Missions, to work among the immigrants.
    During the summer months a meeting room was built, to the back of the church. The cost was $1000.  Also, oilstoves were placed in the church, but were later taken out because they could not keep it warm. The caretaker  Br. J. Kuipers moved away.  Mrs. Smithstra was the caretaker until John Prakken became our caretaker in early 1951, the job he held until July 1956.

    During 1951 Rev. D. Grasman was called and accepted the call to Bloomfield. He was installed on October 14, 1951. A farewell evening was given to Reverend and Mrs Andre.  The congregation became very close to them. Besides minister he was also taxi, job finder, and translator when something had to be bought. He would bring comfort to those who were sick and poor. In some families there was home sickness. Two families were bereaved during his ministry, an infant child of Mr. and Mrs. Prakken and Mr.  Smithstra who passed away at an early age. During his ministry 18 children were baptized and 10 members did profession of faith.  The members of the Bloomfield congregation gave Rev. and Mrs Andre a trip to the Netherlands.

    In September 1951 Sunday school was started with 15 children. Miss A. Wieringa was the teacher. Also, the choir was started by Mr. W. VanSoelen. Until now Mrs. Andre and Mr. Bill Prinzen would alternate to play the organ or piano during the service. Now Mr. W. VanSoelen was appointed organist and Mr. Bill Prinzen as second.

     In early 1952 another organ was bought for $850.  The old organ was donated to the young people society for use at their meetings. At Sunday school a new teacher was needed.  Miss Wieringa moved away, and Miss Didy Hoven took her place.     During 1952 our congregation was growing in numbers.  The balcony was opened to be used.  This had been closed by the Quakers. This made the seating capacity 300. 1952 was a year of growing.  More families came from the Netherlands than any other year.  Also, many moved away and at one time our number of  families came to 100 but at the end of the year we settled for 70.    More churches were instituted in Ontario.  Classis Ontario was now divided in three; West, Central, and Eastern Ontario. The parsonage still belonged to the Board of Home Mission.

    In 1953 the parsonage was bought for $9112.00. By now the language problem had somewhat eased. A language problem still existed, for English during the week was seemingly different than English spoken in the church. But among our families there was a zealous ambition to be, and become  English speaking Canadians, and a full Canadian church.   Rev Grasman would help where he could. He often spent time to translate the hymns for the congregation, and translate much of the sermon in Dutch.

    During 1953 our church was incorporated as a Canadian church. The name was chosen as "Bethany", The Bethany Christian Reformed church of Bloomfield. Bethany means,"house of unripe figs".   Bethany was a small village near Jerusalem. In older manuscripts it was called Bethabara meaning "House of the Lord", or "House of Bread".  In Jesus time it was the home of Simon the leper, and of Mary  Martha and Lazarus. Jesus made Bethany his Judean home.  The last interpretation was the reason that the name Bethany was chosen. We want Jesus to make this church his home, where people love their Lord, as Jesus friends did.

    During 1953 the church would often be filled. 18 children were baptized and two members did profession of their faith. Many new families came.  Also many would move away to more industrial areas, where especially young people could find work. 1953 ended up with about the same number families as the beginning of the year.

     The budget for 1954 was about the same as it had been for the last three years, at an average of $1.65, per family. The second collection was for other kingdom causes. At the congregational meeting it was discussed what to do for meeting rooms.  Suggested was to build a new church.  This would be under study by the consistory.

     In 1954 Rev Grasman received a call and accepted it, to be the chaplain at the Christian Seamen Home at Hobokken, New Jersey.  A farewell party was given for Rev. and Mrs. Grasman who were with  Bloomfield for the organization of the Bloomfield Christian Reformed Church.  We had grown used to each other. Rev. Grasman would always speak and preach with a deep personal emotion, a minister who took his calling seriously.

    We called Rev. J. Betten from New Westminster, B.C. who accepted our call and was installed the first Sunday in September.

     As we had more children in the Sunday school, the group was divided in two. Miss Didy Hoven would have the group 5 - 9 years old and Rev. Betten 10-13 year old.  In 1954 the number of  families was still at 70. During that year 18 members did profession of their faith, and 13 children were baptized.  The budget for 1955 was set at $2.30 per family.  In 1955 the Sunday school was divided again.  Miss Betty DeVries would help Miss Didy Hoven.  During that year consistory studied the question of meeting rooms.

     Also in the congregation the question was raised; should we not build a Christian day school rather than a new church building?    The property behind the church, belonging to Mr. Jackson was bought. The church in turn sold to Mr. Jackson six feet on the front. Later on it was suggested that this property was not suitable for a church. Therefore we looked for a more suitable property. For the next five years the consistory and building committee, engaged painstakingly in search for a suitable property and plans.

    Mr. J. Van Dyk had taken over the older class of the Sunday school.   In August Mr. J. Prakken, who had been our caretaker since 1951, moved and resigned.  He kept our church clean when there was no water, was called on to open the church, and have the church warm before the service.  During the winter he would add wood to the stove during the service.  This he always did during the collection as if it was part of the service.  Mr. J. Mars would take his place for the time being. A new heating system was installed in the form of a floor furnace. Early 1957 the interior of the church was painted, mostly by members of the young people.  In August Miss Didy Hoven resigned as teacher of the Sunday school.  Mrs. Tichelaar took her place, while Mr. J. VanDyk was still teaching the older group.

    It was during October 1957 that our church finally broke its tradition, so that the women could vote. In 1958 the consistory was enlarged from 4 to 6 elders and 4 deacons. At the congregational meeting a motion was carried to buy a new organ for the church, which also could be used in a new church building.  In March 1959 Mrs. Tichelaar resigned as Sunday school teacher.  Mrs. K. DeVries took her place.
In the summer Mr. J. VanDyk left our congregation to become the principal of the Christian school in Clarkson. For Mr. J. VanDyk and his family an evening was organized where the congregation expressed their thanks to the VanDyks for all the work that he had done in our midst.  Mr. A. Tichelaar took his place as teacher at the Sunday school in 1959.   In 1960 Mrs. Tichelaar was appointed as Sunday school superintendent. Teachers were: Mrs. K. DeVries and Miss Mary Ellen.  Brs. W. Dykstra and G. Rebergen, J. Kempenaar and J. VanGrootheest were the catechism teachers. On November 13 1960, Rev J. Betten preached his farewell sermon in Bloomfield. After 31 years in the ministry Rev. Betten retired.  He worked 6 years in the Bloomfield congregation. He was privileged to baptize 100 children while he was in Bloomfield, and 67 did profession of faith and united 27 couples in marriage.

    The late fifties was a strained time for the congregation.  A lot of misunderstandings due to the building plans, the language and rules of order were stumbling blocks.  It was a difficult time for the congregation; where was our love that we knew in our early years?  The words of the book of  James 3:5 was experienced in the congregation.

    During 1960, 24 children were baptized and 6 members did profession of faith.  1961 was a good year for our congregation after 5 years of struggle to come to a final conclusion to build a new church in Bloomfield.

    Looking back we can see that God carries His plans through.  Even our confusion and decisions against His plan He will use to carry out the path He has chosen for us. That He already planned before we were, even before the Quakers dedicated this ground as a place of worship.  We do not know what the hope was in the prayer of the Quakers in the early 1800 when they built their meeting house.  But we do know that it was God's time in 1961 to build a new church.  Contact was made with the firm Laidlaw construction, who gave us a price for a new church building.  It was accepted to build the church at the property in Bloomfield.  On July 10 a congregational meeting was held to discuss the plans for the new building.  The price would be with furniture included, $72,000. to be built by Church Enterprise [Laidlaw construction] of London Ontario. These plans were accepted.

    During the summer, student minister, Henry DeBolster, came to Bloomfield for 12 weeks.  In the month of August we had our first vacation bible school. This was organized by the Christian school society. 75 children attended this bible school.  Henry DeBolster functioned as supervisor.  It was the last activity in the old church.  The old church was taken down, its lumber was sold at an auction sale on September 17.

     While the new building was under construction, the congregation was privileged to use the facilities of the Bloomfield United church.  Rev. John Zantingh was called and accepted the call to Bloomfield.  He was installed as our minister on September 20.  In 1961, 19 children were baptized and 4 young people did profession of faith.

Bethany Christian Reformed Church, Bloomfield

Bethany Christian Reformed Church, Bloomfield

    On March 17 1962 the cornerstone was laid by Rev. J. Zantingh, assisted by John Hiddink.  The white marble slab is inscribed "Christ is the Chief Corner Stone [Eph 2:20 ], 1962" With the Greek symbols indicating Alpha and Omega [the beginning and the end] with the hope and prayer that Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone of this church, who is the first and the last.    This building, that is the whole body of believers, rests on this Cornerstone.  On April 11, 1962 the new building was dedicated.  After the formal dedication service, greetings were brought from the following personages:  Rev. J. F. Dresselhuis of Belleville, Mr. J. A. C. Roger of the ministerial association, Rev. H. F. Zwann of the United Church of Bloomfield, Arthur Moore, Reeve of Bloomfield, and Donald Baxter of Bloomfield.  Rev. John Zantingh was minister in Bloomfield until December 1964. During the years of his ministry in Bloomfield, the evangelism service at the Outlet park was started. While Rev. Zantingh was in Bloomfield 50 children were baptized and 22 did profession of faith.  Rev P Breedveld was called and accepted the call to Bloomfield, and was installed on June 13,1965. He stayed until September 1970. During his ministry 25 members did profession of faith and 45 children were baptized.

    During the late sixties the church had little change; the vacation bible school was a big success in those years, more participation of the people during the service, members of the army band from CFB Kingston participated several times during the service.  The Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed was said in unison.

    In the late sixties, as young families with growing children became a large part of the congregation, the question was; how fast must we change over to more English in our service, while others preferred a slower pace.

    In 1967 the classis Eastern Canada was divided again in two, and the classis Quinte was formed.  Eleven congregations were in the Classis Quinte.  The Bloomfield congregation was vacant for a little over a year. During that time Rev. Ringnalda from Belleville was our counsellor.  During the summer months John Visser was our student minister.  Rev. R. Praamsma was called and accepted the call. He was installed in December 1971. During the year 1972 a new parsonage was built in Bloomfield.  A building lot was purchased from Mr. M. Jackson. The old parsonage in Picton was sold.  On  March 27, 1974 we celebrated our 25th anniversary.  A committee was appointed by consistory, with the mandate to organize the celebration of this.  Mr. A. Ypma was the president of this committee. At that time our number of families was 78. During that celebration our guest speakers were, Rev. J. Betten, Rev. J. Zantingh, Mr. Robert Carter, Mr. Phil Dodds.  In the first 25 years 300 children were baptized.  Our church journeyed on its journey, a sometimes bumpy path, to serve our Lord in the best way possible.  In the early seventies we had a large number of   Sunday school children, and little time to teach them after the church service.  The teachers asked the consistory for more time.  Suggested was to have Sunday school during the morning service. This was a bigger problem than the teachers had anticipated.  Not everybody was in favour of having the children go out during the service.  It was put on trial for two months.  This was later extended for another month. but it went back to the old after church time, with the promise that the church service be shorter and the noise in the hall be kept at a minimum.  It did not go any further than a promise. [patient people make good teachers ]. In 1972 the congregation of Bloomfield began to support the missionary, Rev. DeBerdt in Japan. To improve on the second service a community service was started.  This was well accepted in the congregation and the community.   For the vacation bible school at the park a S.W.I.M. team was brought in.  This was done for a few years with good results.  Mrs. DeGroot from Trenton was a big support for this program. This VBS was done by the three churches Belleville, Bloomfield and Trenton.  Sometimes it was not always fitting with the park program, who had their own program for school age children.  But through negotiation and goodwill it always came through.

    For the church service the ministers would take turns to lead the service, and sometimes ministers who were on vacation at the park would help. The church service in Bloomfield was a half hour earlier so that the minister could make it on time at the park.  For many years Mr. Egbert Wemekamp who was the president of the evangelism committee did much of the organizing of this program.

    The bible school held in Bloomfield was held in the church, and was always a success.  Sometimes it was hard to get teachers that could give that much time.  This was always done by persons who donated their time and talent for this project.  The VBS was organized by the Christian school society.   Many neighbouring children attended this program.

    Rev. Praamsma left in 1976 and our church was vacant for over a year.  During the first year seminary student Harry Bout was in Bloomfield and during the second year student Jim Poelman was with us.  Our organ that was bought in 1958 was in need of repairs.  It was decided to purchase a new organ. This became a reality in 1978.  The new organ was purchased from the Classical Organ Co.  The price for this organ was $13,300.  It was installed in Oct. 1978.  A plaque was put on the organ in memory of the soldiers fallen for our freedom.  John Coenraads was involved with Henry Wemekamp in the Classical Organ Co.  John donated the bells on the organ. An organ recital was given.  The guest organist was Mr. Maddox, a known organist in this region and organist in the Anglican church.

    During the summer of 1977 student Jim Poelman took the place of minister.  He could not preach in Dutch, therefore the Dutch service was performed by the elders reading a Dutch sermon prepared by ministers.  On the second  Sunday of  September it was John Westervelt's turn to read, but John took sick and Henry Nyman took his place.  Little did we know that this was our last official Dutch service in Bloomfield. That sermon was prepared by Rev. F. Guillaume, on 2 Thess:1-4, "Let no man deceive you",[ laat miemand u misleiden ! ]. The doxology was sung Ps 98 vers 4; "Let all the streams of joyous union now clap their hands and praise accord": [Laat al the stromen vrolijk zingen:]

    Shortly after,  Rev. J. Kuipers came to Bloomfield who did not preach in Dutch, he could converse in the Dutch language, and was able to give pastoral care in Dutch to those who needed this.  When the war in Vietnam came to an end,  refugees known as “boat people”, were looking for a new home in the free world.  Many organizations and churches tried to show compassion by sponsoring these people.  Bethany sponsored their first two families.   In 1979 the family Lam lived in Bloomfield.  Later two more families came to Bloomfield.

    Mrs. L. Sneltjes became our treasurer to take the place of Mr. E. Wemekamp.  Rev. J. Kuipers left Bloomfield for Brampton and Rev. P. DeVries came that same year.

    The combined evangelism societies of Belleville, Bloomfield and Trenton requested to have a new organ and PA system.  This brought on a discussion: is the beach service a service or an  evangelism?  A request was put in the Calvinist Contact for support and ministers who camped at the park.

    For many years we always had two collections during the worship service; the first was for the budget the second collection for other kingdom causes.  To go to one collection was discussed for many years.  Finally it was decided that a box be placed in the back of the church for the subscription envelopes, and have one collection during the service for other kingdom causes.  For a number of  years we have used the Christmas decorations on the wall in the church. They were made and donated by the Bock family. The Easter decorations were made by Mrs Riemersma, art teacher at the Quinte Christian High school.

    Family visiting that was always done by two elders, was done by one single elder.  It saved a lot of time for the elders. In the past with two elders one hour was used at each home.  With one elder it was left to the elder how much time was necessary at a visit.  Also the communion service was discussed and some changes were made.   The tradition was the Lord's Supper was served four times per year, at one time in both services.  This was changed to six times per year; once on Good Friday and once on Pentecost, two times in the evening and two in the morning service. Later this was changed to once every two months and on Good Friday. Only wine was used.  Also, it was always the tradition that visitors coming to our church on Communion Sunday, had to ask permission to participate. The usual questions had to be asked, "Are you a professed member? and not under discipline?"  This was changed to, rather than asking permission, to invite guests in our church to participate and have communion with us. This invitation would now be extended by the minister before the communion, by inviting all those who have professed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, and abide by this profession, are invited to take part in  communion with us.

    In the fall of 1987 the Erwin property came for sale. Our church had the first opportunity to buy this property for $28,500.  It was purchased to extend the parking lot and the house was torn down.  The coffee break club was organized by Holly DeVries and Joanne Veenstra.  Also, the Mens Life and the Mens Breakfast groups were organized.  Lou Terpstra, one of our organists, left our congregation to become the organist at the Presbyterian church in Picton.  We now had three people to play the organ during our worship service; Peter Buikema, Ann Kuipers and Bill Prinzen.  Joanne TenWolde accepted the position of Sunday superintendent and Dena Kamink became the church treasurer.

    As was done in many Christian Reformed Churches, a vision was prepared by Rev. P. DeVries. Consistory was not yet able to accept a vision.  A lot of discussion was put in this: to whom is the vision or a goal?  It was tabled for the time being.

    Beside the support of the Missionary Rev DeBerdt it was decided to support Dr. Bill VanGroningen, campus minister at Queens University in Kingston.  In July 1989 Paster DeVries accepted a call to Emerson Washington. Rev. H. Salomons from Ladner B.C. was called and accepted the call to Bloomfield.  In 1990 new plans were made to build an extension to the church to have more meeting rooms for groups in the church, as well as to make the church accessible to wheel chair persons.  A grant available from the government was obtained. The contractor was Elmer Terpstra.

    A lot of work was put into reorganizing some church groups and study groups.   Some were successful, others were not.  A young couples group was formed called the "Wine and Rose Club" and was going for some time.  Also the Music guild was started and has been a great support for our worship services.  In 1996 Rev. H. Salomons accepted a call to Lethbridge Alberta.  He served the congregation in Bloomfield for six years.  Shortly after their arrival in Alberta Mrs Salomons became sick and passed away three month later.

    Rev. Harrison Newhouse came to Bloomfield, and was ordained in Bloomfield, his first congregation.

    During the fifty years over five hundred children were baptized, and many weddings were performed in this church.  Looking back we are thankful to God for the blessings bestowed on this church.  May our Lord make BETHANY as the name suggests, this church where He meets His friends.  And may His Holy Spirit be with us to lead and guide us, until He comes.