Who We Are
Second Reformed Church is a congregation of the Reformed Church in America. The word "reformed" comes from the Protestant Reformation which swept across Europe in the 1500's under the leadership of persons like Martin Luther and John Calvin. The Reformed Church came to America in 1628 and has had a continuous ministry. We are a mainline evangelical Church.
- in a God who loves
- in Jesus who saves
- in the Holy Spirit who gives life
- in the Bible as God's Word
- in living the Christian life marked by faith, love, and hope.
A Brief History of Our Church.
Reformed Church in America in central Illinois
The historic roots of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) lie in the parts New York and New Jersey originally settled by immigrants from the Netherlands. Many of these Dutch immigrants possessed a strong faith and desired to worship in churches similar to the Calvinistic churches found in much of the Netherlands. In the early 1800’s the residents of the New York / New Jersey area sought new opportunities in the developing areas of the western US. RCA churches in the east sought to provide places for those moving to the west to worship. Some of the first RCA churches west of the Appalachian Mountains were established in central-Illinois. For example, Fairview Reformed Church of Fairview, Illinois was founded in 1837.
In the central-Illinois region near Pekin, several Reformed Churches were established. Many of these churches were not built in towns, but instead were placed in areas central to the expanding farm population in central-Illinois.
Early RCA congregations established near Pekin (with distances from Second Reformed) include:
Fairview Reformed Church, Fairview, IL (established 1837)(37 miles)
Brunswick Reformed Church, Trivoli, IL (established 1840)(22 miles)
First Pekin Reformed Church, Pekin, IL (established 1843)(1.1 miles)
Washington Reformed Church, Washington, IL (established 1847)(19 miles)
Spring Lake Reformed Church, Manito, IL (established 1854) )(16 miles)
Bushnell Reformed Church, Bushnell, IL (established 1856)(50 miles)
Havana Reformed Church, Havana, IL (established 1865)(39 miles)
Peoria Reformed Church, Peoria, IL (established 1869)(13 miles)
Norris Reformed Church, Norris, IL (established 1872)(30 miles)
First Manito Reformed Church, Manito, IL (established 1879)(16 miles)
Pennsylvania Lane Reformed Church, Mason City, IL (established 1900)(31 miles)
A map of the locations of these early central Illinois RCA churches can be found here. The original location of First Pekin Reformed was 100 Sabella Street. In 1873 the congregation moved into a new building at 301 South 4th Street, near the site of the present Pekin Public Library.
German-speaking RCA congregations organize in the Midwest
For the most part, the early RCA churches in central-Illinois were established to serve Dutch-speaking members. While some of these members came from the New York / New Jersey area, many of the people coming to settle central-Illinois were new immigrants from Europe. In the latter half of the nineteenth century many people of Calvinistic background immigrated to the US from the German province of Ostfriesland. These immigrants from Ostfriesland desired to hear God’s Word preached in their own language. They were faithful Christian people who identified with the teaching and preaching of the RCA. A former Second Reformed pastor, Rev. Wilburt Denekas observed, “these sturdy Germans longed to have the Bible taught and preached in the language which they understood best.” RCA churches were established to serve the expanding population of German-speaking settlers. The new churches were organized into a separate governing body (or classis), established by the RCA for the German –speaking congregations. This classis, the Pleasant Prairie classis, served as the governing body for German-speaking churches all the way from central Illinois to northern Iowa. An early German-speaking RCA congregation in Illinois, Silver Creek Reformed Church, was established (in 1851) in German Valley, IL.
Second Reformed forms in Pekin
In Pekin, the German-speaking population also continued to grow. Under the sponsorship of the First Reformed Church in Pekin, German RCA services were started in homes or other small buildings. Leadership for this initiation of German language RCA services came from Rev. Edward Livingston and E.M Hoff, both from First Pekin Reformed Church and Rev. Klaus Weiland, an RCA pastor that became the first pastor of the new church. The German-speaking congregation was formally organized in 1874 with 56 charter members. As the Dutch-speaking RCA congregation in Pekin had already been established since 1843, the new RCA congregation became known as the “Second Reformed Church of Pekin.” Second Reformed continued to grow and initiated the planting of a new church, Normandale Reformed Church, in the south part of Pekin in 1945.
A history of dedicated leaders
Second Reformed has been blessed with a succession of faithful under-shepherds:
Reverend Klaus B. Weiland (1875)
Reverend Paul Schulke (1876-1880, 1891-1903,1914-1915)
Reverend J.E. Terborg (1883-1889)
Reverend Johan Niehof (1890)
Reverend John DeBeer (1903-1910)
Reverend Frederick C. Bosch (1911-1913)
Reverend August C. Kroesche (1915-1917)
Reverend Wolbert Denekas (1919-1945)
Reverend Jacob C. Boerman (1946-1954)
Reverend Raymond C. VanZoeren (1955-1959)
Reverend Francis C. Dykstra (1960-1968)
Reverend Ralph H. Cordes (1968-1985)
Reverend John W. VanderRoest (1986-1988)
Reverend Harmen Heeg (1990-2005)
Reverend Bradley VanderWaal (2006-2011)
The church building
Soon after the congregation’s establishment, a house of worship was built on the corner of North Sixth Street and State Street, in Pekin. Since the initial construction, major renovations and improvements have been made to the original building. A new Hinners organ was installed in 1903. A basement was added in 1929; an educational wing was completed in 1957; in 1974, a complete renovation took place. A new organ, elevator, and air conditioning were added in the 1990s. In 2006, six more classrooms and new restrooms were added. The tin ceiling in the sanctuary and the bell in the bell tower remain as originally installed.
A first parsonage was constructed at 526 State Street in 1899. A new parsonage was built adjacent to the church building at 500 North 6th Street in 1973.
Other notable historical points
A well known son of Second Reformed Church was U.S. Sen. Everett M. Dirksen. Pekin is home to a library and congressional research center that houses Sen. Dirksen's papers.