Brief History of the Peoria Christian Reformed Church
The Peoria Christian Reformed Church was organized in the late 1800s by a group of Dutch immigrants who had come to this "new land" for various reasons--some for religious freedom, others for economic reasons and very limited availability of farmland in Holland.
Most families had been attending church in the Reformed or Christian Reformed churches of Pella, Iowa, but as they bought farmland across the Skunk River, they felt the need for a place to worship nearer to the land they settled.
The decision needed to be made as to whether to affiliate with the Reformed or Christian Reformed denomination. After debating the issue, a vote was taken and the decision by the majority was to affiliate with the Christian Reformed denomination.
The first meeting was held in the fall of 1893, and the Holland Christian Reformed Church of Peoria was organized on April 11, 1894. Land on which to build a church building was purchased in June of 1894, and by November of the same year the congregation gathered to worship in their own church building.
As one reads through the history of the church, you are amazed time and again by the faith, courage, and determination of the band of believers and, above all, amazed by God's faithfulness.
The church suffered a devastating blow on June 13, 1918, when both the church and adjacent Christian school were destroyed by fire. The fire was deliberately set by people living in the area who were suspicious and resentful of the Dutch settlers. This was during World War I and the Dutch immigrants still clung to their native tongue, whose similarity to the German language caused suspicion of alliance with the enemy. Resentment also came from the fact that the industrious Dutch were buying up much of the farmland in the area.
There was no thought of disbanding the church. Services were held in the horse barns even during the winter of 1918 and, with joy and thanksgiving, a new church building was dedicated late in 1919 and the 25th anniversary of the church was celebrated.
A slow, painful transition was made from the Dutch language to English. It wasn't until 1945 that all services were conducted in English. Over the years, services were changed from morning and afternoon to morning and evening. The demographics of the area's population also changed as family size decreased and the size of farms increased.
The building that was erected in 1919 still stands today. There have been additions and modifications to the building, an 18-rank pipe organ installed and later renovated, a new heating and air conditioning system installed, stained glass windows refurbished, and an elevator added.
In April of 1994, with joy and gratitude, the congregation celebrated its 100th anniversary. Many pastors and families have come and gone through the years, and the anniversary was a wonderful time to reflect upon the past and look towards the future.
"The fact that Peoria Christian Reformed Church has existed for 100 years is due to the providential care and faithfulness of our God. We can, as a body of Christ in this place, raise our eyes to the words from I Samuel 7:12 inscribed in the front of our sanctuary and say with hearts filled with praise and thanksgiving, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. As God has graciously cared for us and faithfully guided us through the past 100 years, may the Peoria Christian Reformed Church continue to serve Him faithfully in the years to come."
From the Historical Sketch of 100 years of the Peoria Christian Reformed Church, written by Marilyn Vander Linden, 1994. Click here to read the full text.
A more recent narrative entitled “A Short History of Peoria Christian Reformed Church” was written by Calvin Bandstra in 2019. It was included in a photo directory compiled for the 125th anniversary celebration which was held on June 2, 2019.
The following journal articles were obtained from the Calvin University Heritage Hall archives and are posted with their permission.
Pothoven, Garret. "Peoria, Iowa--The War Years." Origins, vol. VII, no. 2, 1989, pp. 9-12.
Schoone-Jongen, Robert. "Flames in the Night: World War I Flares Up in Peoria, Iowa." Origins, vol. XXXVI, no. 2, 2018, pp. 4-12.