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The Ottawa Ave. Church

After the departure of Rev. Minderman in 1921, a need was felt in both the Division and Turner Avenue NRCs for English services, particularly for the sake of young people and children. These English Services commenced on November 12, 1922 in a rented hall at 350 Leonard Street, N.W. After some weeks, the services were moved to 337 Ottawa Avenue NW in January, 1923.

On April 6, 1923, Classis approved the formation of an organized English congregation. This took place ten days later at the Turner Avenue Church under the leadership of Rev. J.C. Wielhouwer. Initial membership of the English-speaking congregation included forty seven members from the Division Avenue congregation and sixty-seven from the Turner Avenue congregation. The following year the Ottawa Avenue meeting place was purchased to house the new church group.Thus, as a note of clarification, when present-day seniors reminisce, they often speak of the (1) “Division Avenue”, (2) “Turner Avenue”, and (3) “Ottawa Avenue” congregations.

For twenty-five years (1921-1946) pastoral calls were sent in vain. Rev. J.C. Wielhouwer, Rev. J. VanZweden, and others served the congregations as enabled during these years. Moreover, the Lord graciously provided faithful office-bearers to lead the flock. The names of many of the elders who served during this period are: Boerkoel, Boluyt, DeBruyn, DeMaagd, DeMeester, Kamp, Langerak, Quist, Sporte, VanderMale, Van’tHof, VanderJagt, VanDyke, VanZweden, Wielhouwer, Winters, etc.

In the fall of 1946 two congregations (namely the Ottawa Avenue Congregation and the Division Avenue Congregation) jointly placed a call for the fifth time to Rev. William Cornelius Lamain (1904-1984), Rijssen, The Netherlands. This time God gave His servant freedom to accept. Shortly after the arrival of Rev. W.C. Lamain in 1947, the Division and Ottawa Avenue congregations merged to form the “First Netherlands Reformed Congregation” on Crescent Street. The Turner Avenue congregation remained independent until 1987 when it was reaffiliated with the Netherlands Reformed denomination and is now usually called the Covell Avenue NRC.

On February 11, 1947, Rev. Lamain preached a farewell sermon to the church in Rijssen from the apostolic blessing of 2 Corinthians 13:13. On February 21, the Lamain family began their voyage on the S.S. Veendam, which arrived on March 4 in New York. After spending a week in New Jersey, and preaching in the congregations of Peoples Park, Clifton (Passaic) and Paterson, a train trip eighteen hours brought them to Grand Rapids. Here Rev. and Mrs. Lamain arrived with their seven children on March 11, 1947.On March 19, 1947, Rev. Lamain was installed from Ezekiel 3:17 by Rev. John VanZweden, at that time the only active minister of the North American congregations. The next evening Rev. Lamain preached his inaugural sermon for the Grand Rapids congregations based on I Corinthians 3:1 1.

For a long time Rev. Lamain thought the Lord would return him to a pastoral charge in The Netherlands, but these thoughts never materialized. For more than thirty-seven years he was privileged to labor in the United States and Canada to the comfort of God’s people and the upbuilding of the militant church. Before he left The Netherlands for America, he was enabled to believe that the fields in America were also white with harvest. As a farmer must work in harvest time from early morning until late in the evening, so Rev. Lamain labored inthe large North American field for nearly four decades.

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