The history of Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church of Ottawa starts in October 1952, when Albert and Aaf Zuidhof, Dutch immigrants, settled in Arnprior, some 75 km north of the Nation’s Capital. They had come from a country and continent that had recently experienced the extreme trauma of World War II, in order to build a life in Canada, the “Land of Opportunity.” The Zuidhofs had also undergone the painful church struggle of the 1940s and had liberated themselves from the oppression of ecclesiastical structures that went far beyond what scripture, confessions and church allow in seeking to exercise power and control.
Life in the 1950s was hard for most Canadians, and especially for recent immigrants. The latter had to immigrate to where a sponsor or employer was located. They did not have much choice where to live. Transportation and communication were poor. Few had cars and telephones. The roads were poor. Internet, e-mail and fax machines did not exist. And so contact with Reformed liberated families, living far distances from each other, was difficult to establish.
After two years, a few more families moved into the Ottawa Valley. A Canadian Reformed house congregation, under the supervision of Bethel Canadian Reformed Church of Toronto, was established. Regular worship services began to be conducted in the homes of various members.
In 1955, Mr. Zuidhof was elected and appointed as elder within the Ottawa ward. Because the few families were spread over a vast area and transportation was difficult, worship services alternated between Arnprior, Ottawa and Brockville. During this time, the congregation enjoyed some modest growth. Eventually, services were held every Sunday in the central location of Ottawa in the home of one of the members.
Buoyed by the growth and a sense of God’s blessing, the ward moved towards institution as a church. With Bethel Church of Toronto and the classis on side, the Canadian Reformed Church of Ottawa was established on January 4th, 1959. The Rev. F. Kouwenhoven of Toronto presided over the ordination of new office-bearers, and so the church was instituted. The membership on the day consisted of some twelve families and fifty-five members.
Less than two years later, Ottawa received its own minister when Candidate Hendrik Krabbendam accepted Ottawa’s call. He was ordained in October of 1960.
During the first three years, the church enjoyed steady growth. The congregation grew too large to meet in a member’s home and so a Seventh Day Adventist church building was rented for Sunday services.
Sadly, at this time, conflicts arose in the congregation. Differences of opinion on such “hot-button” issues as union membership and Christian day school led to division. Some members left for other churches in the area while some withdrew from church life altogether. In 1964, the Rev. Krabbendam left Ottawa. Over the next dozen years, the congregation dwindled to a record low of thirty-one members. But the Lord was faithful and preserved his candlestick in Ottawa. He used faithful men, sister churches, and visiting ministers, to keep the congregation going.
During the 1970s, the congregation moved from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, to Ottawa Christian School, to Merivale United Church where the congregation, since 1979, still thankfully worships every Lord’s Day.
By 1980, the membership was beginning to grow somewhat again. A new spirit of optimism was in the air. In 1983, after a vacancy in the pastoral office of nineteen years, the church extended a call to the Rev. Gerhard Visscher of Houston, BC. Rev. Visscher served the congregation for three years, leaving for Surrey in 1986.
The congregation was gladdened when Candidate Garnet Peet accepted Ottawa’s call; however, the Lord had other plans for Garnet. Stricken with melanoma cancer, Garnet was called home by the Lord before he could be ordained.
Despite the profound sadness the congregation felt, it pressed to call Candidate George van Popta. He was ordained in October 1987. In 1990, the congregation bought its first real estate, a lot in the village of Metcalfe where a manse was built. The congregation will never forget the tremendous help it received for this in the form of donations from as far away as the Netherlands and much manpower from sister churches in Ontario. Rev. George van Popta left for Taber, Alberta in 1992.
A year later, however, Candidate John van Popta accepted Ottawa’s call to be her pastor. Rev. John van Popta was ambitious in promoting various activities in the church, e.g., a downtown outreach breakfast study group and the Ottawa Reformed Study Centre. In 1998, Rev. John van Popta accepted the call of Coaldale Church. At that time, the Metcalfe manse was sold.
The next minister was Candidate Marc Jagt, who was ordained a day before the church’s fortieth anniversary. At first the bachelor minister lived in a penthouse apartment in Ottawa. However, once he married Jody Vangrootheest in 2001, and the Lord blessed their marriage with children, a new manse was purchased in Barrhaven.
During this time the congregation enjoyed significant growth to a high of 106 members in 2004. In the fall of 2007, Rev. Jagt accepted the call of Taber Church.
Once again, the office of minister was vacant. However, the period was not long. The congregation turned its sights back to a previous minister, the Rev. George van Popta, for whom the call was irresistible. In August of 2008, Rev. George van Popta moved from Ancaster to Ottawa. And so Ottawa’s third minister became its sixth.
The Church at Ottawa celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary on January 4th, 2009. At that time, the church took on the name “Jubilee”—Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church of Ottawa.
Looking back over the history of the Jubilee Church, we can clearly see the hand of the Lord in directing the church to where it is today. While the Lord uses different individuals at various times to perform His will, all the credit, glory, and honour belong to Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.
This is a condensed version of a speech the Mr. Henk Holtvluwer, charter member of the congregation, delivered at the Jubilee Anniversary celebration. Mr. Holtvluwer gratefully acknowledges the help of his wife Susan, his son Rev. Peter Holtvluwer, and the late Mr. Albert Zuidhof.