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The Christian Reformed Church of North America has always been my home. I was baptized by my dad – a CRC minister – in the Christian Reformed Church of Bunde, Minnesota. My earliest memories are of looking through the stained glass from the inside of that church and of walking among the gravestones between the church and the parsonage.
From Bunde, we moved to the CRC in Pipestone, Minnesota, where I remember attending Vacation Bible School and singing songs about Jesus from big orange and green and blue poster boards.
I loved the parking lot of our next church: Trinity CRC in Grandville, Michigan. I roller skated on it in the summers and built forts in the snow piled along its edges during the winters. My piano teacher was the church’s organist, and one Sunday she let me play Sonata in D Major by Michael W. Smith on the organ as a postlude. I would borrow books out of the church’s library, even during the week. I can still remember how warm, bright, and absolutely silent that room was, and how the books smelled when I opened them. Nancy Drew novels. Catherine Marshall’s Christy.
I made my public profession of faith in that church at the age of eleven. I loved Jesus and I desperately wanted to take communion. On the evening of my profession in front of the elders, I wore a plaid kilt with a big silver pin and a royal blue sweater and recited Question and Answer One of the Heidelberg Catechism. An elder told my mom, “I wish you could have been there. You would have been so proud.”
When I professed my faith in front of the congregation (wearing a white flowy skirt and a lavender sweater), my dad gave me my very own NIV Study Bible, a verse (Matthew 17:20), and a hug, because “a handshake just didn’t feel right.” He sang a song in that service: Wayne Watson’s, This One Was Born in Zion. My mom had a cake made for me. On the top of the cake, these words in blue icing: “Keep running the race, Heidi!” and a little pair of red plastic running shoes.
I spent my high school years as a professing member of Bellingham Christian Reformed Church (now Hope in Christ CRC) in the state of Washington. I played piano and flute in the worship services, acted in the Easter plays, and went on ski trips and mission trips with the youth group. I brought my boyfriends to church, ran the overhead projector, and right in the middle of the CRC’s tumultuous 1990s, I experienced the beginnings of my call to ministry. “Have you ever thought of becoming a pastor, Heidi?” my dad asked. I hadn’t until that point. But then I couldn’t not think of becoming a pastor.
Though my membership moved next to Faith CRC in New Brighton, Minnesota, I attended Covenant CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa, during my Dordt College years. I worshipped in the same church as the philosophy professors who continued to shape my reformed world and life view: John Vander Stelt, John Kok, Mark Tazelaar.
I married my first husband – a music teacher from Pella, Iowa – in the sanctuary of Faith CRC in New Brighton, and shortly thereafter, we transferred our memberships for a year to Unity CRC in Prinsburg, Minnesota (5 minutes down the road from where I was baptized). A year later, Layton and I moved to Michigan and were attending Church of the Servant CRC in Grand Rapids when he was killed in a car accident. The night before his accident, we had gone to a Christmas choir practice at COS. Eight days later, I pushed his casket down the center aisle and listened to his high school choir sing Silent Night and a combined choir sing Abide with Me, Fast Falls the Eventide.
A few months before receiving my M.Div. from Calvin Theological Seminary, I started working there as their Pastor for Discernment. I was a member of Faith CRC in Holland, Michigan, at that time. My husband, Tim, was their pastor of youth and education. We both had our classical exams in that church, and we were both ordained there.
We baptized our firstborn at Faith’s font. Afterward, the senior pastor gathered the children around to tell them what our daughter’s name meant. Samara, Pastor Jim told the children, means “watched by God.” He preached a message from Psalm 121: “The Lord will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.” A few weeks after her baptism, Samara was diagnosed with neuroblastoma (a childhood cancer), and the people of Faith CRC held us in all the ways they could. We believe that the prayers of the children of our church were part of the way God watched over and healed our girl.
Our middle-born was also baptized at Faith. Her name, Naomi, means “my gladness.” Tim’s dad (a CRC minister as well) officiated. A few months after her baptism, I took a call to pastor my first parish: the Celebration congregation of Harderwyk CRC in Holland, Michigan. Tim’s dad had served as a pastor to and a missionary from Harderwyk in the late 1970s and early 80s. We have pictures of both of us preaching from the same pulpit – thirty years apart. The Celebration organist would invite little Samara to sit next to her before or after the services. Jane let her press the keys and pull the stops and scoot and stretch to reach the pedals of the 44 rank Wicks pipe organ.
Our youngest daughter, whose name, Zoe, means “life,” was baptized at Harderwyk by my dad. The people of that congregation loved our girls and loved us. We all cried tears of blessing when I accepted a call to pastor Westside Fellowship CRC in Kingston, Ontario.
I’ve pastored Westside for nearly ten years. They also hold the ministerial credentials of my husband, who is a chaplain at Kingston General Hospital. My two oldest daughters professed their faith here a few years ago, claiming as their own the promises made to them at their baptisms. Westside cheered me on as I cycled an 800 km leg of the Sea to Sea in 2017, raising money for World Renew, Partners Worldwide and The Mess, a local ministry. They prayed and cried with me when my mom died of cancer right in the middle of the pandemic. They blessed me to pursue my doctoral studies at Western Theological Seminary – writing a thesis about receiving conflict in the church as a gift.
As of this week, because of what has happened at our synodical gathering and because of our disagreement with the outcomes, we have no idea what is going to happen next. May God watch over us all and give us gladness and life (and wisdom and strength) in the coming weeks and months.