The following was taken from “The Background and History of Abbe Reformed Church from 1869 – 1999” compiled by Helen Zwighuizen outlining how Abbe Reformed Church was formed and highlighting some of the things that were mentioned at the Night of Historical Reflection:
- Dutch worship services began under the leadership of Adolph Hesselink.
- 1847: June 29th
- Congregational Church was organized.
- 1853, April 19th
- Relationship with Congregational society was severed and the church became the Clymer Hill Reformed Church of America.
- Another Reformed Church was organized in Mina and continued until 1887.
Another Reformed Church was organized in Dunkirk and disbanded in 1888
- Church steeple was completed and the bell donated by John C. Post of Buffalowas added.
- 1896: January 13th
- First Senior Christian Endeavor youth program was organized Additional groups were formed in later years – Junior CE was organized in 1912 and an Intermediate CE was added in 1949. Later these groups were referred to as the Reformed Church Youth Fellowship (RCYF).
- First mention of building a new church at the annual meeting held December 16, 1902.
- Women’s Mission and Aid Society was organized.
- 1907: April 25th
- Special congregational meeting was held “to consider the advisability of erecting a new church edifice….The pastor gave a report of his endeavors to obtain subscriptions for a new building, and this report was so favorable that it was decided, without a dissenting vote, to proceed with building.”
- 1907: Summer
- The Baptist Church was rented for $4.00 per Sunday for use while the old church was torn down and the new church was constructed.
- 1908: February 5th
- New building was dedicated to the Glory of God!
- Reformed Church of Cutting was organized.
Sunday School was organized in the Cutting area in 1908 followed by a petition from the Consistory to the Classis to appoint a committee to organize a church in Cutting. Request was granted and the Reformed Church of Cutting was organized. A church was built in 1913 and although it was disbanded in 1919, the building served as the French Creek town hall for awhile and now serves again as the Cutting Community Church.
- New parsonage was built and is still the parsonage today.
- 1916: November 16th
- Hinner pipe organ was purchased
- Young Ladies MissionBand was organized which grew in numbers until 1949 when 2 Circles were formed.
- 50th Anniversary was celebrated October 12th – During the year, new horse sheds were built, the inside of church was redecorated and the outside of the church and parsonage were repainted.
- Church basement was constructed for social and Sunday School purposes.
- Gallery over the Sunday School rooms along the west side of the church was built to add more Sunday School classrooms.
The following was compiled from the timelines and notes developed at the Night of Historical Reflection held on November 12, 2010 and various small group discussions with members of the church over the past couple of months.
- Rev. Gerrit Timmer – Longest pastorate in Abbe’s history – 17 years. Set a standard of discipline for years to come. Wore shirt & tie everywhere he went. Church services would last for 1 ½ hours. Visited every home once a year.
Christian Endeavor would meet at 9pm after Sunday night service – 25+ youth
- Depression Years & WW II; Financial difficulty – borrowed money from bank to pay expenses; Prayers offered for those serving in the war – Albert Neckers, Harold Legters, Pete Schurman, etc. – 37 in all but not one lost his life.
- Release Time Started – Religious Education classes for elementary to Junior High School grades were taught by community ministers beginning in 1943 and are still offered today up to fourth grade.
- Plan for rotation of elders and deacons was established (Jan 9, 1947) with term limits. Elders or Deacons were not eligible for re-election for 2 years. Prior to this, one would continue being reelected every 2 years. Death was the only sure way of not getting re-elected!
First Sound System – consistory authorized Harold TenHaken to purchase and install a microphone, speaker and cable at their meeting on December 26, 1947.
- 1948 – 1951
- Rev. John Muller. Young and vibrant. Strong youth ministry. As many people attended the Sunday night services as the morning (300+).
SummerBibleSchoolstarted – 186 children
John Heil came to Clymer with Rev. Muller & met Thelma Short term – left when he went to be a chaplain in the Navy
- Men’s Brotherhood Organized
Averaged 60 in attendance – group held 2 services at theCountyJail in 1950, blacktopped the driveway in 1951 and painted the basement floor in 1956.
80th Anniversary Marked by Remodeling
Increased Sunday School attendance made it necessary to increase the number of classrooms therefore the Sunday School rooms on the west side of the church were remodeled into two floors with enclosed class rooms. Basement was waterproofed and remodeled to be made suitable for social functions, the kitchen was modernized and the heating system was divided into 3 zones.
- 1952 – 1959
- Rev. B. J. Hoffman. People person, a lot of fun!
Youth met after Sunday night service at 9pm and then would go to Ritz Restaurant or Frank & Vernas for ice cream
Horse sheds were tore down while he was here to provide for more parking space.
- Addition of Education Unit to west end of the church. Various ideas were proposed and investigated before deciding to add on to present building – one plan was to purchase house next door – another plan was to purchase lot across the street, build a new parsonage and use the current parsonage for Sunday School rooms. Addition was 40’ x 44’ and included 20 additional classrooms and new rest rooms
- Abbe. Church became incorporated – papers were signed on September 4, 1959.
- Rev. Tunis Miersma. Church attendance continued to be strong – church was your social life. Invited each family to meet with him at the parsonage after the Sunday night service before children were baptized. Fist membership classes offered in 1960. Baptized the children and married many in our church today. Saw the start up of 2 new churches described below.
- Women’s Guild for Christian Service. RCA Department of Women’s Work deemed that the mission efforts of the ladies should be renamed to the Women’s Guild for Christian Service. Five circles named after women of the Bible were formed.
- 1960’s & 70’s
- Children’s Worship held in basement during second half of morning worship service.
- RCA Organized 2 New Churches: Community Reformed Church inWilliamsville,NY (nearBuffalo) Scenery Hill Reformed Church in Erie, PA. Since we were the closest Reformed Church in the area, our members supported and did a lot of work to get these 2 churches started.
- Items from church in Erie were purchased and buildings/property sold. Church in Williamsville was eventually sold to Wesleyan Methodist church which is still thriving today.
- 1967 – 1974
- Rev. Kelvin Kronemeyer. Youngest minister – Abbe was his first church out of Seminary Young with good ideas but was too much to handle for his first church. Consistory meetings would last well into the night and sometimes would reconvene the next day – meetings were held in basement of parsonage. Mrs. Ellen Kronemeyer was very influential in the lives of the women – very positive and never said a bad word about anyone – started a women’s bible study and the Golden Agers Senior Citizens club which broke up just a few years ago. Family oriented – adopted 2 children while they were here.
- 100th Anniversary marked by Remodeling of Sanctuary & a week long celebration. Building project was discussed for years prior (since 1960) as there was again a need for more classroom space – emphasis was made on making the spiritual goal the determining factor rather than the amount of finances on hand. Various plans/ideas were voted down or post-poned due to other needs (i.e. new heating system). Remodeling was approved to improve the looks & functionality of the sanctuary. Project included a new front entrance, back entrance and lowering ceiling on east and west sides to make new Sunday School rooms. Members volunteered to do some of the work to reduce costs. Services were held in the basement of the church during remodeling.
- 1971, April 23-25
- Lay Witness Mission. Weekend event for the whole church marked by healing and revival. Focus on evangelism – no form of evangelistic service prior to that event. Provided a vehicle for spiritual healing, sharing of faith. People were “Woke Up” – spiritual awakening. Dedication service held on Sunday – front of the church was filled with people who came forward to make first time commitments or rededicate their lives to Christ. Following this event, several from Abbe participated in Law Witness events at other churches
- 1973, September 4th
- Women were allowed to serve on Consistory. Sue Hinsdale was the first woman to serve as a Deacon.
- Cradle Role. Recognition of youngest members from birth to 2 years. Each new born given a pine tree to plant & watch grow as they grow. Linda TeCroney has been doing this since Linnel was born!
- Rev. John “Jack” Buteyn. Young – full of energy & enthusiasm. Strong youth program. Organized 3 youth bike hikes to Slippery Rock, LetchworthState Parkand Watkins Glen – participants had to try out to attend. Youth Choir – lead by Josie TenHuisen, kids would walk from school for practice. Moved to Plano, Texas to work on a new church start in October 1978.
- Rev. Truman Raak. Wore a robe when he preached. Sermons were full of history & historical illustrations.
- Youth Mission Trip to Anville, Kentucky.
- Wee Care Christian Preschool: Approval was granted in October 1986 to Doris Adams, Preschool Director to use the church basement for the Wee Care Christian Preschool (March – May) on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
- Abbe took over the Wee Care Christian Preschool – Mrs. Gordon Damsteegt was hired in August as director.
- First broadcast of morning worship services on local cable station – still continue today.
- Rev. John Zwyghuizen. People person – made you feel important, spoke/waved when met on street. Very community minded. Missionary heart – served as missionaries in Japan. Very good at visitation – visited people in their barns. Love of children – started weekly children sermons. Children in Worship Ministry program developed by Helene Zwyghuizen for ages 2 through 6th Grade, published 2 books, started children’s bulletin, played the harp.
125th Anniversary year long celebration – new pictorial directory was published.
- 1991, November 1-3
- Second Lay Witness Mission. Much smaller scale than the one held 20 years prior.
- Addition of Fellowship Hall completed and dedicated October 27, 1996. Original vote on Sept 6, 1995 failed by five votes due to lack of detailed financial information and people were fearful that since it would be a Morton building it would look like a pole barn. After some revisions were made and a detailed drawing was provided, a second vote was taken on Jan. 10, 1996 which passed with a 74% majority.
Addition was to provide: a place for fellowship before and after church, more space to hang up coats to relieve congestion at back of church, a place for youth activities and men/women activities, nursery space on first floor (previously in basement), kitchen space on first floor, handicap accessible entrance and bathrooms.
Pastor John had us all write our favorite bible verses on the floor in the new fellowship hall signifying we would always be standing on the Word of God.
The debt created by the addition was paid off in July 1998, one year earlier than planned!
Men’s Saturday Morning Prayer Breakfasts & Monday Ladies’ Night Out began
Teens On Fire – Youth attended an “Acquire the Fire” youth event March 1996 in Muncie, IN and changed name from “Community Youth Group” to “Teens On Fire”. Group is a unified youth ministry supported by several area churches.
- 130th Anniversary – new pictorial directory was completed and a documentary of our history was compiled and published by Helene Zwyghuisen.
- New sound system installed.
- 2000 – 2010
- Rev. Walter Jones. Preached the Word of God. Weekly children’s sermons. Christmas Eve Service – annual story telling.
- Elevator to the second floor was installed in the Prayer Meeting Room
- Simulcast Events – ability to broadcast national speakers via satellite into our Sanctuary was added. This has given us opportunities to hold various events open to the surrounding community at Abbe on topics such as marriage, parenting and men and women’s day long retreats.
- 140th Anniversary – new pictorial directory was published.
- A NEW VISIONING PROCESS HAS BEGUN…!
Other People of Note
Other than pastors, the following people were noted and remembered for the impact they made:
- Gertude Gravink – SS teacher, prayer warrior, donation for bells
- Albert Neckers – Sunday School Superintendent for 50 years (Dec. 16, 1900 – 1951)
- Cutch Legters – Elder, Jr & Sr High Sunday School teacher, choir member
- Harold Legters – Elder, Sunday School teacher for 50 years
- Ed Beckerink – Elder, Sunday School teacher
- Gilbert Ton – Elder
- Pete Schurman – Elder
- Clarence Rhebergen – Elder
- Bob Legters – High School Sunday School teacher
- Jim Warnshuis
- Carlisle Neckers – Choir Director & Organist (1935 – 1972)
- Mabel Neckers Schruers – Organist (1906 – 1964)
- Laura Neckers Caflisch – Organist (1914 – 1949)
- Hazel Legters
- Cora Ruslink
- Netty Rhebergen
- Mildred Wiggers
Many noted were those who taught Sunday School for years – the leadership and guidance they provided have obviously made important impressions on the lives of current members.
Other Events of Note
- Ice Cream Socials
- Wax on Snow Socials
- Tureen “Pot Luck” Dinners
- BibleSchoolthat lasted for 2 weeks
- Sunday School Picnics at Mead Park, Panama Rocks, etc (greased pig, chase the chickens and a penny hunt in the sawdust pile were some of the games that were played).
- Sunday School teachers often organized activities outside of church
- Hosting Hope College Choir & Houghton Central College Students
- Christian Endeavor Benediction Prayer…….
May the Lord watch between me and thee while we’re absent from one another.