West Michigan

Suffrage and the Christian Reformed Church – I

Suffrage and the Christian Reformed Church – I

It has been a century since the United States ratified and certified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution–in August 1920. The 19th Amendment was in one sense the culmination of more than a century of activism, perhaps most famously associated with the “Declaration of Sentiments” […]

A Great Grandfather’s Memories of Immigrating – Part III

A Great Grandfather’s Memories of Immigrating – Part III

The previous two blog posts started a story told by Dan Poortenga about his great grandfather Peter Oudshoorn. Dan first wrote this story as a paper in a Calvin College history course in the early 1990s. He interviewed his great grandfather and set his story […]

When a Church Building Becomes an Event Venue

When a Church Building Becomes an Event Venue

I’ve long been interested in what happens to church buildings. In the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about this topic again, as I’ve “rephotographed” several Christian Reformed Church (CRC) buildings on the West Side of Grand Rapids. This post includes pictures of these […]

Muck Farms and Dutch Immigrants

Muck Farms and Dutch Immigrants

The Dutch know muck. And they know how to grow vegetables and flowers in it. At least that was my experience growing up. “Muck farms” refers to agriculture in areas where wetlands were drained and the “muck” turned into productive “garden farms,” typically producing vegetables […]

The Weight of History

The Weight of History

The peaceful protest against police brutality Saturday evening in Grand Rapids, and the vandalism and looting that followed over the night of May 30-31, reflected the histories of race, poverty, policing, segregation, and riots in the city. At the national level, “race riots” have left […]

Dutch West Michigan and the Civil War

Dutch West Michigan and the Civil War

In 1862, the founder of the Dutch colonies in West Michigan, Albertus Van Raalte, began to urge the men of his immigrant flock to enlist. He did not spare his own sons, Dirk and Benjamin. Both joined the Union Army in August, serving with other […]

First Netherlands Reformed Church – Ties that Bind and Separate

First Netherlands Reformed Church – Ties that Bind and Separate

A common question about the history of settler societies like the United States and Canada is the degree to which immigrants adapted to conditions in the “new world” or successfully transplanted their “old world” ways. The religious history of immigrants provides valuable case studies to […]

Johannes Groen and Grand Rapids Politics

Johannes Groen and Grand Rapids Politics

In our last blog post, we looked at a general overview of Reverend Johannes Groens’s life and ministry. We saw that Groen was a dynamic speaker who was loved by many who knew him. We also saw that conflict characterized parts of his ministry. In […]

The Life and Ministry of Johannes Groen, 1865-1924

The Life and Ministry of Johannes Groen, 1865-1924

Humble origins and deep piety marked the Dutch Reformed immigrants who came to Michigan in the mid-nineteenth century. So to did a love of learning, especially theology, and an inclination to apply Reformed theology and thought to all aspects of life. All these characteristics marked […]

The Flu Epidemic of 1918-1919 and “Churchless Sunday”

The Flu Epidemic of 1918-1919 and “Churchless Sunday”

“What’s happening is unprecedented!” I keep hearing people say that about Covid-19 (a coronavirus). Some seem to mean that a pandemic like this is unprecedented. Others mean that the public health response—shutting down schools, sporting events, perhaps eventually churches, etc.—is unprecedented. Neither is unprecedented, really. […]