Van Raalte's Primary Purpose in Coming to America


I hope the title I have chosen for my presentation today doesn't strike any of you as too presumptuous, for I certainly do not intend to suggest that the other papers presented at this conference have dealt with insignificant topics. We have heard fine lectures on a great variety of topics, including some others on the work and the person of A. C. Van Raalte. He was indeed a  great pioneer and civic leader, and, as some of the colleagues put it in a recent publication, "an  American patriot." He deserves recognition as the founder of our city and the visionary thinker who established this very college. He was a pretty fair surveyor and real estate agent, an exceptional leader in city planning and land acquisition, an effective politician and diplomat, and an eloquent preacher.

Yet, as Gordon Spykman put it some years ago, Van Raalte "was first and foremost minister of the Word and pastor of his flock." I hope to establish in this paper that it was in this role of minister and pastor, and in his particular understanding of that role, that Van Raalte found his primary purpose in leading his congregation to the United States.