Surrounded by the imposing buildings of the Nationale Levensverzekerings Bank and the Technikon school, between Waterplein and a car park, lies this modest church building. It is the Orthodox Reformed Church, a discreetly traditional church designed by architect M.C.A. Meischke. The church was consecrated on 2 July 1953; the bank had already been built, but there had not yet been any talk of the ambitious plans for the area.
There stands our Church today.
A sign of the Lord’s great faith!
“Let God’s glory rise to heaven,
For how fine it is to praise our Lord”.
This excerpt from a longer poem was published in ‘The Sheep Pen’, the church magazine, to mark the opening of the church. The search for a site for the church and the construction and financing had demanded a lot from the small religious community. In contrast to most of the other religious communities, this church did not replace one that had been destroyed in the war. The Orthodox Reformed Church had split from the Reformed Church in 1944 after a conflict concerning the interpretation of Article 31 of the Synod of Dort. For that reason, they wanted a building of their own and began the search for a site in April 1945. Architect M.C.A. Meischke was appointed in 1946.
Our community is growing by the grace of God. Many lambs are joining the flock, and sufficient space shall have to be found for instruction. A purpose-built church was therefore an urgent matter. A temporary solution had already been rejected because it was too expensive and would only postpone the accommodation problem for a few years. And so the community started to collect money for the building.
A number of sites in the Zomerhof District were initially earmarked for temporary religious structures. These sites were considered and the first to come into focus was one next to the railway viaduct on Teilingerstraat. The site eventually chosen was on Simonstraat, a side street off Schiekade. This was not to the satisfaction of the other reformed church, the Rehoboth Church, which found a home on Noordsingel. In 1954 the Saint Anthony and Rosalia Church (known as the ‘Bosjeskerk’), was built on Hofdijk, but this large Catholic Church was demolished in 1991.
Architect Meischke thought the new site was an improvement, because it was sheltered from the noise of the trains. The first pile was driven into the ground on 28 July 1952, before the site had officially been purchased. The foundation stone was laid by Pastor D.K. Wielinga on 8 November. When construction began, there was still a budget deficit of 120,000 guilders (c. € 54,000) on the total cost of construction of 270,000 guilders (€121,500). This sum was raised by 1200 bonds of 100 guilders (€ 45). Members of the religious community actively sought funding on all fronts; one ‘brother’ had even sold his stamp collection.
The building was solemnly consecrated on 2 July 1953 in the presence of Mayor Van Walsum.
The church building is recessed quite some distance from the building line on Schiekade, thus creating a forecourt. To the north is Simonstraat, where the service entrance to the Nationale Levensverzekerings Bank is also located. The building consists of two volumes that slide into each other: a tall volume with a pitched roof containing the space of worship, and a lower volume containing support spaces such as catechism rooms. The front facade features a rose window with decorative concrete elements and a main entrance and two side entrances. The rear facade contains a central bay of glass interrupted by concrete walls featuring symbolic inscriptions of ‘faith, hope and love’. The nave is 32 x 13.75 metres in size and can hold 600 people. The furniture, the baptismal font and the casing that holds the organ are made of mahogany.
In line with the sober character of the post-war period and the Reformed Church itself, the building is modest is scale and appearance. After all, earthly existence is nothing but a preparation for eternal life:
This building is but for a short period. It is no sanctuary, for that lies above; according to Hebrews 8. The Liturgist, the Servant, is up there beside the Father. We are now waiting to observe His liturgy. You must understand, community, that you are waiting at the gates on every occasion.
The Sheep Pen, 18 July 1953
In 1956 the Algemeen Handelsblad newspaper reported that the church was about to be demolished to make way for an extension to the Nationale Levensverzekerings Bank building: This church building, completed only a few years ago, will have to be demolished and will be rebuilt on a site on Teilingerstraat chosen by the bank directors. However, the bank was extended to the rear, and so the church remained where it was.
The church has been used by the Orthodox Reformed Church since it was built. In 2017 the building was completely renovated, and the interior is now much brighter. Circulation has also been improved. The main entrance has been moved and provides access to a foyer. The layout of the main space of worship remains unchanged, with a central podium from where the service for the roughly 200 churchgoers is conducted.