The Christian Reformed Church has been active in the San Francisco Bay Area for close to 100 years. This is where the story of our congregation begins:
The Revs. L. P. Brink and F. Stuart from Hanford, CA had attempted Home Mission labors in San Francisco in 1914 and 1919, respectively. Their original mission was to minister to Dutch sailors arriving on a regular basis in San Francisco.
A few years later, Otto DeJong, a 1922 graduate of Calvin Seminary, who was taking post-graduate study at San Anselmo Seminary, located some fellow Christian Reformed Church members in San Francisco and started preaching for them on Sunday afternoons. After notifying Classis Pella (Iowa), to which the California Churches belonged, he tragically suffered a severe attack of appendicitis on the day of his graduation. He was supposed to later vacation in Iowa, but had an emergency operation and died of complications 3 days later. The Ripon, CA Christian Reformed Church had planned to call him as a Home Missionary on the day of that operation, June 20, 1923.
Eventually, Classis Pella declared San Francisco a mission “station” and they invited Seminarian Aren Holtrop to work in the city during the summer of 1923.
Rev. P.J. Hoekenga, pastor of Ripon CRC, was then called to be Home Missionary of California to work in the Bay Area, beginning in January 1924. Sunday Services were first held in San Francisco at the Presbyterian Church on Capp and 23rd Street; then later at the Wesley Methodist Church, on McCoppin St. and Elgin Place, off upper Market Street, where our church was first organized. Mid-week meetings were held mostly at the Pastor’s residence at 65 Scott Street, and sometimes in the homes of members. Classis Pella approved formal organization on July 1, 1924. There were 34 members in full communion, and 33 baptized members, totaling 12 families in all. Many evangelism activities were commenced, including some on “skid row” of Mission and Howard Streets, and with crews off the Holland-American ships docked in San Francisco.
Most of the new arrivals would make their homes in the East Bay, including Alameda and Oakland. This made mid-week travel difficult for church events, although on Sundays the families would bring their lunches across the bridge. Ripon CRC eventually advised the congregation to relocate in Alameda. Preaching services were divided equally between San Francisco and the East Bay; morning and evening were in Alameda with afternoon preaching and meetings in San Francisco. Many problems and disputes arose; some moved and others resigned — all services were finally discontinued in San Francisco in October of 1925.
Services in Alameda were first held at the home of D. Hoek Sr. in the 600 block of Lincoln Avenue. Later all services and meetings were held in the Adventist Church on Verdi Street until May 1927. Inconveniences developed and the Church relocated to the Lutheran Church on Haight Avenue. At that time Rev. Hoekenga was preaching in Ripon in the morning, Stockton in the afternoons, and hurried back to Alameda for an evening service. He died in the Alameda church council room just before the evening service was to begin in 1927. He was 52 years old.
The Church now had 20 families, and was without a pastor for a year. Seminary Student Henry Rikkers worked in the summer of 1928. Trouble in China had forced missionaries to leave, and Rev. Nicholas De Vries accepted our call to come to Alameda, beginning in October 1928.
Rev. DeVries also conducted Services in Stockton, which had become an organized church. Seminary Student Frank De Jong, a brother of Otto De Jong, worked in San Francisco during the summer of 1929, but when he left for school, all services were discontinued. Articles of Incorporation were approved in July of 1929, and a parsonage was built at 1304 Weber Street at an approximate cost of $7000. We were then known as the First Christian Reformed Church of Alameda.
On January 1, 1933, the congregation moved their services to the Methodist Church at the corner of Santa Clara Avenue and Eighth Street. Again, scheduling meetings became a problem. The Lutheran Church, our former meeting place, was for sale at the time and the congregation decided to purchase it and the separate hall for $3000, moving in on June 1934.
Due to finances, we were not a “Calling Church”; however, in December of 1936, we decided to begin the process of calling our own minister, adopt a weekly budget-envelope system, and use the English language for all official services of the church. Later, Rev. De Vries accepted a call to mission work among the Navajos. He preached his farewell sermon in January 1937.
Rev. E. Tanis, then pastor in Hull, North Dakota, accepted the call to come and became our first regular pastor, in 1937. The Boy’s Club was organized in May of 1938, and the Girls Club in October 1939. These continued off and on throughout our history in the form of GEMS Girl’s Club and Cadets Boy’s Club. Growth required enlarging the auditorium in 1938. Beginning in 1940, no more ecclesial subsidies were required, and we became self-supporting. The old, foot-peddle organ was replaced with an electric, orgatron organ at a cost of $1425 in 1941. During the war, we joined the Alameda Council of Churches and our members were involved in teaching Sunday School and preaching services in the housing projects. A service home was opened in 1944 where many enlisted men were served meals and could find shelter. The Alameda Christian School on Pacific Avenue was also opened as a one-room school in 1944. When the war ended, Rev. Tanis accepted a call to the newly organized Immanuel CRC of Ripon, CA in 1946.
The same year, Rev. Conrad Veenstra from Grant, Michigan, accepted our call. For a period early in the school’s history, Navajo children were transported from San Francisco to attend the school. Rev. Veenstra would also help plan the new church building at its present location on Encinal Avenue. By 1951, he accepted a call to Oskaloosa, lowa.
Rev. Harold Petroelje came in 1953 from Waupun, Wis. The new church, built with thousands of hours of donated volunteer labor, was dedicated in 1954. In 1967, a larger parsonage was purchased for the Petroelje’s on Lincoln Avenue. In 1973, the church opened the Small World Nursery School which operated until the mid-eighties. Rev. Petroelje headed our 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1974. Vacation Bible School ran for many summers in a row as the church also implemented an after-school children’s ministry called “Release Time.” We continue to support Convalescent Ministry which provides worship at two elder care homes on the island. In 1981, after serving the Congregation for 28 years, Rev. Petroelje retired to Ripon. The church was served by two interim pastors, G. Kok and R. Boertje.
Rev. Jack Huttinga was called to Alameda in 1982 and served for 10 years. Rev. Huttinga and his wife Evelyn had been serving as missionaries in Argentina. During this time our church suffered a difficult and challenging split over the teaching of one of our members, Harold Camping. Mr. Camping’s “Open Forum” program on Family Radio openly contradicted teachings of the leadership of the church. After a difficult council decision, advised by the Classis to only let ordained elders teach, Mr. Camping and his students informed the church that they wished to leave rather than submit to the authority of the council.
Under Rev. Huttinga the church worked to develop a Congregational Master Plan in 1991. Out of this process came a mission statement using the letters C.R.C. – “Celebrating God’s Love, Reaching Out to Others, Caring for His Family.” Many of the goals were ambitious, and while some were met (Men’s Fellowship, Programs for Young Adults/Teens, a church name change, potluck Sundays, gifts surveys), many remained a challenge. During his tenure, the Coffee Break Ministry was established. This ministry served many women, and historically was especially important in serving military wives stationed at the Alameda Navy Base until the base closed in 1995. “Pastor Jack,” as he became known, was dear to many friends in the congregation. Eventually, Pastor Jack was called to Hanford, CA.
Following his departure, there were several other interim pastors including J. Kok, W. Boelkins and R.Buining. In 1994, Pastor Bob Broekema was called to Alameda. A highlight of his time included the popular living nativity, along with exchanged Christmas Cantata programs with Hayward CRC.
In 1996 we welcomed David Nederhood, a seminary intern, who was ordained in 1997 as pastor of outreach and youth.
A purpose statement was drafted: “we exist to bring glory to God as we grow together by showing the Father’s love, sharing the truth about Christ and shaping lives in the Holy Spirit’s power.” Later came a vision statement: “We are building the bridge of hope to a community that needs Jesus!” In the fall of 1998, a Gen-X Service (SNOW – Sunday Nite’s Other Worship) was added serving teens and young adults in the wider community, as well as the youth of our own congregation. At the close of 1999, Pastor Broekema took a new call. We again requested the help of an interim pastor, Wendell Gebben, to serve as we looked for a new pastor.
In 1999, we also celebrated our 75th Anniversary. Pastors Broekema and Nederhood were heavily involved along with many volunteers in hosting a celebration of God’s faithfulness in the past and his promise for the future. “Beyond this Diamond” was the theme of the 75th Anniversary. In 2000, with Pastor Gebben’s assistance, the search committee, began looking for candidates for the pastor position and the council informed the congregation that we would be returning to a solo pastor structure because, in part, we were unable to afford multiple pastoral staff. Pastor Nederhood accepted the call as solo pastor in the fall of 2000.
Around that time we initiated new “Bridge Event” projects which continue to serve our community today, including our semi-annual block party, participation in the 4th of July parade, and voter appreciation days. We began hosting services for the emerging Korean Community Church beginning in 2001, which continues to meet today under the leadership of Pastor Andrew Narm.
As we look backward, and to the future, “We know that all things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Rom.8:28)