Church statement, circa 1964
To be better able to minister to the needs of students, we desire also to become an established church in the community. Because students do not reside here permanently, mission work which is directed to them, although it is a very essential ministry with benefits extending far beyond the local church, does not result in an established church. A church consisting of members who make their home in the community gives a greater stability to the work of the church and offers a more effective church-home for the students.
For these reasons and because there is no church of Reformed character in the city of Ames, we have purchased property which we believe will serve both the needs of the campus and the community. This property is located about a mile west of campus in the midst of a newly developing section of the city. In addition to the several hundred homes already located there, it is estimated that in the next few years an additional three to five-hundred homes will be built. The city has already constructed a new elementary school to serve this area.
Thus the Christian Reformed Church has an unusual opportunity in the city of Ames. There is no church of a Reformed character in or near this city. Previously our people and those from Reformed churches have had to either travel long distances to attend their own churches or join churches of other denominations. We have now begun our own work in Ames. The beginnings are small, but the challenge is great. We pray that the work we have begun may lead under the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ to the establishment of a Christian Reformed Church in the city of Ames.
Ames Daily Tribune, October 14, 1966
By Joyce Manchester
The Christian Reformed Church, nationally, is a comparative young denomination having just come into being slightly more than 100 years ago, in 1857. The denomination has some 600 congregations in the United States and Canada with a heavy concentration in Pella and Northwest Iowa. The Christian Reformed Church in Ames is located at 3624 Ontario Road and presently are meeting in the basement of the parsonage, but have future building plans at the blueprint stage only waiting for financial readiness...
They were largely descended from a mother church in Holland, The Dutch Reformed, and the creeds are shared by all Reformed churches throughout the world. The theological difference, said the Rev. Arlan Menninga, pastor of the Christian Reformed Church here is small, the practical difference is the Christian Reformed is more conservative in following tradition. The main emphasis of the denomination in the past 25 to 50 years has been on missions , first foreign and now home missions. The home missions work is devoted to the responsibility of overseeing groups of people from the denomination who have no church home.
As for instance the church in Ames is governed by a Home Mission Church, the First Christian Reformed, Wellsburg. The home churches are affiliated with Classis, here it's the North Central Iowa Classis. There are four Classis in Iowa. The Classis meets three times a year, the president being elected for each meeting and only for that meeting. The Home Missions Committee under the Classis administers the business affairs of a mission church. The primary requirements, said the Rev. Mr. Menninga, for a mission church to become a self-supporting church is leadership, financial independence and proof they are ready to assume church status. A local church is governed by elders and deacons with the minister being the teaching elder. To become an elder one must have spiritual maturity and leadership ability. "I'm sure we have qualifications now for leadership here," he said.
The church here began in 1961 when a group of families with Christian Reformed backgrounds felt the need of establishing a Christian Reformed fellowship began meeting first in Alumni Hall and then in the Memorial Union. The group was adopted by the Home Mission Committee of the Classis and the Wellsburg church was appointed as its mother church.
The first regular pastor, although two served previously in a temporary capacity, was the Rev. Mr. Menninga, who came in 1964. The group then began meeting in the parsonage at 3624 Ontario Road. The three and half acre site will contain, in the future, their proposed new church. Presently though the group, who averages between 90 and a hundred at morning worship, are meeting in the basement of the parsonage.
"I consider it the church," said the pastor. "Our church has seen continued and rapid growth," he continued. "In less than three years we have more than tripled in size."
The Rev. Mr. Menninga is a graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. and came here from Mountain Lake, Minn. He and his wife, Joann have four children, Laura, 8, Mark, 6, Judith, 3, and Alisa, eight months.
The Lord's Supper is observed six times a year and during a special week-day service during Passion Week. Baptism by sprinkling is for infants and children and for adults who have never been baptized.
The small, but growing congregation supports a Women's Guild for bible study and fellowship; a student fellowship group who meets for Sunday night supper following the evening worship; an adult monthly discussion hour on Sunday evening, who discuss practical Christianity; a monthly church night program, a varied program for Bible study, inspiration and fellowship. In addition they have Sunday school for all ages and a vacation Bible school.
They have two worship services each Sunday, one at 10:30 a.m. and one at 6 p.m. The center of both worship services is the preaching of the Word from the Bible. Each service also utilizes a lot of congregational singing. "I am proud of the faithful attendance at worship services" commented the pastor. The local church is headed by a steering committee. The congregation is composed of people from the Ames community, university staff, married students and single students.
Ecumenical-wise the denomination has approached like faiths in a preliminary talking stage, namely the Orthodox Presbyterian, German Reformed, and Reformed Church of America.
One indication of becoming more progressive is that at the 1966 synod the previous ruling on regular attendance at the theater was changed to one which "encourages discriminatory use of the film arts." The basic changes have been in techniques used but not the way of presenting the preaching of the Word as the basis of all Christian faith.
TO BUILD CHURCH
Ames Daily Tribune, March 24, 1967
A ground-breaking ceremony was held Sunday morning, launching the construction of the church building for the University Christian Reformed Church at 3624 Ontario St. Following morning worship, the entire congregation walked to the building site to observe the ceremony. The first shovelsfull of earth were turned by Paul Van Soelen and John Verkade who have been in the congregation since its beginning, Dennis Luhrs representing the university students in the congregation, and the pastor, the Rev. Arlan Menninga.
The building was designed by Savage and Verploeg Architects of West Des Moines. It will include facilities for worship, fellowship, and religious education, a kitchen, and a study for the pastor. The exterior of the building will combine the effects of stained wood, brick, marble-chip coating, and hand-split cedar shake shingles. The beginning of the construction marks the end of two years of planning and preparation.
The general contractor, Don Bartholomew of Carlisle, expects to begin work at the site this week. The completed building will be ready for occupancy in about six months.
The Christian Reformed congregation has been worshipping in temporary facilities in the basement of the parsonage for nearly three years. Prior to the completion of the parsonage in 1964, worship and fellowship were held in rented rooms on Iowa State University campus.
...The years spent at a university are often a time of intellectual and spiritual turmoil for the student. He is confronted with conflicting claims to truth and discovers that it is necessary to re-examine past beliefs and answers to the questions of life. As he spends these years formulating his outlook on the world and life, the church must be there presenting him with the claims of Him who is the Truth. University years are crucial years and the church must seize these opportunities to influence the youth of our nation.
The Christian Reformed Church has much to offer university students. Our heritage is that of the Reformation with its rediscovery of the biblical message - a message that has relevance for all of life. It is a message that has significance for the student in every field of study. Many students with a Christian background have had the gospel presented to them in a way that will not stand the challenge of thought found on the university campus. Their churches have not remained faithful to the message found in the Bible. Our church can be of great blessing to such students for we have retained the biblical message - a message which can stand the test of secular opposition.