This church is not only a wonderful landmark, it is a historically, significant place:
Pillar Church traces its beginnings to the very inception of Holland Kolonie. The well known story of A. C. Van Raalte’s voyage from the Netherlands to America in hopes of building a new home not incidentally includes the forming of a new church. In 1847, the same year in which Van Raalte arrived in Holland, the same group that would later inhabit what it is now Pillar, began building their first church, aptly named Log Church.As the community began to grow and the center of town shifted from the site of Log Church (now Pilgrim Home cemetery) to the shores of Black Lake (now Lake Macatawa), a new church building became a concern. Construction began in 1853. On June 25, 1856, Rev. Van Raalte dedicated the finished work. In 1871, this structure, now known as Pillar Church, was one of only a handful of buildings to survive Holland’s Great Fire. In 1975, Pillar Church was awarded a Michigan State Historical Marker, and after persistent labors by church and community members, Pillar Christian Reformed Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.The legacy of this storied church is, however, much more than just structural. Pillar Christian Reformed Church, though proudly heralded as Van Raalte’s church (he served there until his resignation in July of 1867), has also achieved the dubious distinction of being the church that caused a split in its faith. After a favorable report issuing from Rev. I. N. Wyckoff’s visit to Holland, Classis Holland was invited to join the Reformed Church in America. The classis, of which Van Raalte’s congregation was a part, accepted this invitation on June 2, 1849, and a year and one week later the Synod of the RCA officially accepted Classis Holland. But on April 8, 1857, four churches from Classis Holland seceded and formed the Christian Reformed Church.Pillar did not secede during this initial split, but rather during the Masonic Controversy that boiled over some twenty years later. At a meeting of the congregation on February 27, 1882, by a margin of 86 to 18, Pillar Church voted to leave the Reformed Church in America. To deal with the schism, Classis Holland called a meeting for March 1 at Pillar Church, but when classis members arrived they found themselves refused entrance to the locked church by Elder Teunis Keppel. After deliberation among the United Presbyterians and the Christian Reformed Church, Pillar officially joined the Christian Reformed Church on December 3, 1884. This switch proved much more noteworthy than the one in 1857. Not only did a much larger constituency defect, Pillar’s congregation among them, but the late Van Raalte’s very own church left the RCA for the CRC. In recent years, ill will between these two denominations has been mitigated and merger has been proposed again.
When I ran across it I knew I needed to read and learn more about the background of this historical site. My favorite bit of info was that, common among old Calvinist churches is that many had a rooster on top of the steeple, symbolizing Peter’s denial of Christ. Pretty cool; a new bit of info for me.
Enjoy this photos, with which I am quite pleased: