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            For the old and the new in this place, O God, we thank you.

            For all who have gone before us, we offer praise for their faithfulness.

            For all gathered here now, we seek renewed commitment.

            For all who will follow us, we trust the grace of God's promises.

            Praise God in the sanctuary,

            Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. 

On November 2, 1997, with this litany the congregation that was gathered at Hope Christian Reformed Church to celebrate its 35th anniversary responded to God’s Call to Worship. The theme of the service was “Surprised by God’s Grace,” and the first three of Hope’s pastors each presented a meditation on the blessings of God’s grace to the world and to this thirty-five-year-old church: Henry Vellinga, Russ Palsrok, and Bill Lenters.  

Henry Vellinga, on June 25, 1961, led the first service of a group of twenty-three worshipers with an old, donated, orange upright piano for accompaniment and a bar for a pulpit in the Hollister model of Medema Construction’s “El Vista” homes in Oak Forest. The young congregation began planning to build on property on 151st Street which had been donated by the John Medema family. Hope Church, twenty families embracing eighty-one baptized or professing members, was formally organized in a service at Second Roseland Christian Reformed Church on June 26, 1962. The original church building, consisting of a sanctuary, a kitchen, and meeting rooms, was dedicated on the fifteenth of March, 1964, during several days of celebration. That initial building is now the fellowship wing of Hope, serving coffee, cake, and conversation, Gems and Cadets. 

After Hope became a calling church, with 40 families and 182 members, it officially called Henry Vellinga as its pastor: the service of installation was held on January 10, 1965. With a church growing up to one hundred eleven families by 1972, the congregation purchased a new Allen organ and expanded its evangelism ministry to include week-day Bible story time, Bible studies, senior citizen organizations with other Oak Forest churches, and a community aid program called Fish—Hope was seriously ecumenical in this way. In addition during this time, the church offered partial support for Harry and Thelma Boonstra with Wycliffe Translators in Peru. Hope was also interested in establishing relationships with the larger Chicago area: as the calling church for Pullman Christian Reformed Church, it called and on December 15, 1972, installed Rev. Harold Botts as its minister. During this time, Hope also developed relationships with Roseland Christian Ministries and its pastor, Tony Van Zanten. 

On May 12, 1974, Hope broke ground for a new sanctuary and on the Third Sunday of Lent, March 2, 1975, the people worshiped for the last time in the old building. Midway through the service, while the organ played the “Agincourt Hymn,” the men, women, and children joined in a joyful procession down the hallway into the new sanctuary. The festive day’s liturgy and meditations marked the last service in the old sanctuary as a time to look back with praise, confession, and prayers of intercession. They marked the first service in the new sanctuary as a time to look forward with confidence in God and a renewed commitment to his work. 

As a leader in the movement to get the denomination to allow women into church offices, Hope first chose women as adjunct elders and deacons to serve on the consistory in May, 1977. Three years later in March 1980, after intense study and discussion, the consistory submitted an overture to the Synod of the Church asking that the offices of deacon, elder, and pastor be opened to women. Ten years later, on grounds of conscience and justice shaped by submission to the Word of God, Hope elected women for the first time to the office of elder as well as that of deacon. In addition, over the years Hope has invited women pastors, seminarians, and interns to share its pulpit with the congregation. 

Russ Palsrok was installed as Hope’s second pastor on August 14, 1983, and worked at helping the church re-examine its goals and find new ways to minister to congregation and community. Five years later, on August 7, 1988, Bill Lenters was installed as its third pastor. During his tenure, the church completed the addition and remodeling of an atrium, replacing the garden that was there, the consistory room, two offices, and a pastor’s study. When Bill left in 1999, the congregation was ably served by two interim pastors, Evelyn Diephouse and Vern Guerkink. During Evelyn’s ministry, on the Second Sunday of Easter, April 22, 2001, the new Verkade pipe organ was dedicated. The principal organists, Dora Diephouse and Lynn Hollender, played, and the choir sang “The Lord’s My Shepherd” and Alec Rowley’s “Praise”: “ To the Master of music and loveliness: Praise, power, dominion for ever.”  

Roger Nelson was installed on the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, on August 4, 2002, as the church’s fourth pastor. Informally, administratively, and in his visually constructed sermons, he has encouraged a more comprehensive participation of musicians, liturgists, readers, and teachers, of young people and students, of truck drivers, electricians, painters, house builders, accountants, and men and women of whatever vocation, of mothers and fathers and singles, of young people and of children to participate with God and with each other in the work of the Kingdom inside and beyond the walls of the building. 

As Roger pictured for the people in Hope’s sanctuary in a recent sermon, after a visit to Elim one morning during the week: “in the middle of all that, I saw teachers and aides and nurses and recreational therapists and administrators following Jesus in loving and serving these vulnerable children who are often pushed out to the edges. And I was reminded that Jesus didn’t start at the center; he started in the hinterland. He didn’t start in Jerusalem; he started in Galilee. He didn’t call the powerful politicians; he called poor fishermen. He didn’t gather the celebrities; he gathered the common. He didn’t inaugurate his kingdom on the steps of the capital, but in the back of a barn, on the side of a beach, and on a splintered cross. Following Jesus in someway means following Jesus to the fringes, to the poor, to the common.”

Contact Info
Hope CRC
5825 W 151st Street, Oak Forest, IL US 60452
Phone: (708) 687-2095