An honest Reformation celebration

Two long-gnawing questions about Christian Reformed worship converged October 29 at Mountainview CRC in Grimsby, Ontario. On that day the congregation commemorated the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Thus the first question: How do we celebrate that Western world-changing event and era honestly, with critical appreciation but without dipping into pools of syrupy historic half-truths?  

The second worship question is not as old as the first, but about as difficult to do well: How do we use the CRC’s Contemporary Testimony, Our World Belongs to God, not merely reading a few short paragraphs, but incorporating it faithfully and contextually into worship?


The answers to both questions could have resulted in a messy, formless collision. But after one and a half hours of well-paced readings, songs and prayers, some 400 worshipers left the building soberly joyful, well-informed about Christian-based life in Canadian society and hopeful that God will continue to work through people in this world that belongs to him.

Six months earlier
It all started one evening in April when two pastors rubbed shoulders at a choir concert. Rev. Arie Van Eek, former Director of Canadian Ministries, asked Rev. Sid Couperus, lead pastor of Mountainview CRC, “Is anything planned to commemorate the 500th anniversary, celebrating the Lordship of Jesus?” No, not yet. But that put Pastor Sid to thinking. “I did my doctorate at Fuller Theology Seminary on Our World Belongs to God and thought, ‘That could form a framework for the service.’ Our worship committee embraced the idea and we went to work.”

That work entailed dividing the full text of Our World Belongs to God into distinct parts to be read alternately by leaders and the congregation. One of the readers was 95-year-old Rev. Jim Van Weelden, whose voice resonated with joy, authority and challenge. Seventeen invited guests represented Christian ministries, organizations, agencies or vocations informed by pertinent sections of Our World, which they read seriatim.

Living words
Those persons represented Diaconal Ministries of Canada, Beginnings Family Services, Shalem Mental Health Services, Resonate Global Mission, Citizens for Public Justice, World Renew, Redeemer University College, Shalom Manor and Gardens, EduDeo, Christian Labour Association of Canada, Christian Farmers of Ontario, Niagara Association for Christian Education, Indwell and Christian Courier. One person working in the field of science and technology and two local elected officials – Sam Oosterhoff (MPP) and Dean Allison (MP) – rounded out the phalanx of readers (see photo on page 1).

Most fittingly during the brief congregational prayer, Pastor Sid prayed for the ministries of local Lutheran, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches, thus reminding all that a movement that once fractured the church was also developing a wider ecumenical vision.  

  • Jim is a semi-retired Christian Reformed pastor and missionary who now works for Resonate Global Mission ten hours a week as "Member Care Coordinator," which means "Pastor to Missionaries," because where lots of our missionaries work it's inadvisable to use pastor or missionary publicly. That cool job puts a framework to his week, keeps him in contact with hundreds of even cooler servants of Jesus all over the world, compels him to travel to visit them once in a while, though he connects with them via email and Zoom most of the time. The rest of the time Jim reads books--lots of free ones that he "pays for" with reviews. He was acclaimed President of Christian Courier Board of Directors while on his way to that meeting from a long ophthalmologist appointment. As long as God gives his wife Rose and him health, they ride a tandem bike around Niagara and other places in the bikeable months, paddle canoes and kayaks, visit children and grandchildren in the distant places they live because their parents provided them poor role models for stability of residence.

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