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Interview with Henry Hoekstra (2)

 MHH:  Now, as far as the congregation itself was concerned, obviously there was considerable division.  And I think that included the church property itself?  What is your recollection of the events subsequent to the schism?

HH:  Well, I don’t think ours ever got to court.  You know, they [the schismatics] went back to the Christian Reformed Church. But they would not take the Hull congregation until the property dispute was settled.  I think my dad was elder then. They had to meet with the committee from their classis and I think the whole consistory of both churches.  B. J. Haan was the chairman.  You know B. J. Haan, maybe?

MHH:  Yes.

HH:  He would always call our church the “Hoeksema Group.”  And my dad corrected him on that.  “We’re not the Hoeksema Group.  We are the Protestant Reformed Church” (laughter).  So that was the end of him calling us the “Hoeksema Group.”  Tim Kooima was telling me that not so long ago.  So, maybe you heard it from Tim too, I don’t know.

MHH:  I think he mentioned something about it.  But the Protestant Reformed did end up getting the building back, correct?

HH:  Yes, they had to buy it back—part of it anyway.  They built a new one.

During the split, or after the split, your dad taught catechism in Hull in the old town hall.  Henry Hoksbergen, deacon Hoksbergen, would light the fire in the coal stove. You know how kids are, we were horsing around before your dad came.  And he opens the door: “Sounds like a bunch of heathens in here” (laughter)!  We were rowdy.

MHH:  That sounds like something he would have said.

HH:  Yes, they really appreciated that he was there. I remember going to hear him preach.

One time we went to Doon and it rained and rained.  We hardly made it home.  I think we had 8 inches of rain that Sunday.  We finally made it home, and after we went over the road, it washed out a couple hours later.

MHH:  Wow. But the membership of your family basically stayed in Hull?

HH:  My immediate family, my brothers and sisters?  One of them moved to Michigan, but the couple that moved to Michigan are no longer in our church.  That would be Pete and Dorothy.  But the rest of them all stayed.

MHH:  Those were definitely difficult years, though.

HH:  Oh, they were, they really were.

MHH:  Lots of divisions in families and a lot of hard feelings.  I’ve heard a few stories.

HH:  I know there was the Vis family. They were members there—John Vis, Bill Vis, and Rev. Pete Vis.  You maybe don’t remember him at all?

MHH:  No I don’t.

HH:  He always, he was really quite Reformed even through the split time.  My dad always said he was still a good preacher.  But Rev. DeJong—he was conditional theology man.  He was a Schilder man, through and through.  And I can remember Schilder preaching in Hull, too, once.

MHH:  Oh, really?

HH:  Yes.  I couldn’t understand a word of it, but….

MHH:  Oh, because it was…

HH:  Yes, the Dutch language.  I could speak a little common Dutch language, but not when it comes to scripture.  I’m all lost with that.  I remember it was hot. He had a pitcher of water up there, and he drank water all the time (laughter).

MHH:  What has been important to you in your church experiences and in your church life?

HH:  I do think about it, all right. We’re blessed that we stayed in the Protestant Reformed Church, or that the Lord’s kept us in the Protestant Reformed Church would be the proper way to say it.

As a family, we are really blessed that we are still members in the PR church. We love the PR church.  We really do.  And we pray for the church daily.  We do.

And, of course, for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, too.

MHH:  How would you compare the church of today with the church of your youth?

HH:  Well, in some ways I think the church of today compared to then is, as far as discipline is concerned, I think they’re slower with it.  And maybe, rightly so.  Maybe discipline was a little too hasty in those days sometimes.  It’s always hard to decide—something goes on too long.

What else shall I say?  I think catechism for the young people—is a little more thorough today than what it was when I was young, till we had your dad (laughter).

MHH:  Then it became more thorough?

HH:  I think so. Of course, they still have the same catechism book.  But I think it is a little more systematic today than what it was then.  It all depended on who the minister was that we had in those days too.

MHH:  No, you never do.  We just found that out.

HH:  That’s right.  You go to Trinity [Trinity’s pastor had just accepted a call].

MHH:  Yes, I do.

HH:  I was surprised.

What else?  Young people make confession of faith earlier than what we did.  And that’s good, too. I think it wasn’t really pushed very hard that you should make confession of faith when you’re younger.  And I know, in those days, we went to catechism until we made confession of faith, no matter how old we were. Sometimes kept on going even after making confession of faith.

MHH:  You say that they do it at a younger age.  In your youth, what would you say was a more likely age?

HH:  I think 21–22–23, somewhere in there.

MHH:  That old?

HH:  It varied, too, of course.  I think I was 20, 21.  I’d just joined the army.  I’d been drafted.

MHH:  And, definitely today it’s at a much younger age.

HH:  It is.

MHH:  You feel that that’s a good thing?

HH:  Well, I think it’s fine.  I think so.

MHH:  Was there a reason that they waited in former years until they were older?

HH:  Good question.

MHH:  Curious as to whether you have any thoughts on that.

HH:  Maybe it was a custom, I really don’t know.  But I remember that even after we made confession of faith, we still kept going to Young People’s Society because there was no other society to go to.

MHH:  So, when did the young people or young married couples start to have societies?

HH:  There was Ladies Society and Men’s Society—really all there was. I don’t know when the other societies started. After the split, then I think they started a young adults or young married, whatever they called it.

MHH:  We still have those today.

HH:  Yah, we do.  I went to Men’s Society all my life, and I still do.  So does my wife.  We never did join the young married. We were stubborn, maybe (laughter)?  Well, it really worked better for us.  Somebody had to stay home with the children.  That’s why we kept it the way we did.  We didn’t have to get a babysitter.

Anyway, I always think you could learn from the older gentlemen.  You learn from the old, at least I did when I was back in those days anyway.

MHH:  That makes sense.

HH:  Preaching, for the most part, I think has stayed the same. I think it hasn’t changed.  It better not.

MHH:  Not as far as its essence is concerned.

HH:  Right, that’s what I mean.

MHH:  My last question is: are there any issues that you would like to address or any opinions you would like to express?

HH:  Well, we have the home-school issue today, don’t we? There was a family that came to our churches after they got married.  I think Prof. Dykstra was in Doon when they joined the church.  They met at Dordt.  He was Netherlands Reformed.  She was Christian Reformed.  They home-school their children.  I really never had an issue with it till it became an issue today. I think where we have our own schools, that’s where they belong.  If there isn’t a school, then that’s the way to go, I’d say.  If there is no other school, no other place, that’s where they should be.  Then they can home-school.  But it’s not everybody’s capable of doing it.  And I hope it stays that way.  I have no problem with those that home-school, if they don’t have our own school.

You know, we believe the same faith.  We don’t go off someplace all by ourselves.  I apply it that way. So, we should educate our children together too, as the organic view of the covenant.

MHH:  Well, thank you very much for your thoughts, for your history, for your stories.  It’s very much appreciated.  And this concludes our interview.