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The Worthington Christian Reformed Church at 1100 First Avenue Southwest is celebrating 100 years this weekend. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

Worthington church marks a century of faith

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Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Dave Vander Kooi may have been a bit reluctant to spearhead the 100th anniversary committee at the Worthington Christian Reformed Church -- it involved 14 months of planning to get to this weekend's celebration -- but he really was the perfect guy for the job. After all, the congregation was founded around his grandparents' kitchen table.

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"They were a young married couple who had just moved to Worthington from the Orange City, Iowa, area, but had recently come from Holland -- he old country," he related about his grandparents. "They were living on Burlington Avenue. There were five other couples who had come up from Sioux County or over from the old country, too. So those six families started the church, and they first met at my grandparents' house on Burlington Avenue."

Those founding couples included his grandfather's brother and his wife and sister and her husband, furthering the family connection.

"My dad wrote a lot about it, wrote a lot of this down," Vander Kooi noted. "Otherwise I wouldn't know this much."

When those Dutch immigrants first moved to Worthington, they attended what was then a Swedish Lutheran church.

"But they couldn't understand the sermons, so they wanted a Dutch minister," Vander Kooi explained. "My grandmother was pregnant at the time with her first baby, my uncle Ben Vander Kooi."

Vander Kooi's grandfather died before he was born, but he remembers his grandmother well.

"She was a very outgoing gal, a lot like my daughters, Kia and Tae," he recalled. "She could sing like a bird and was very creative."

Vander Kooi and daughter Tae Nordby will re-enact the church's beginnings during the centennial celebration this weekend.

"We will be pretending to be my grandfather and grandmother, sitting at the table, contemplating having to go to the Swedish Lutheran Church again," Vander Kooi said. "We'll even have wooden shoes on, and the blue Delft coffee cups on the table, and Tae is pregnant, so she fits the part to perfection. We're going to have a little bit of fun with it."

With so many of its members coming from Holland, Dutch continued to be the language spoken at Worthington CRC until about the time of World War II. Today, there is a new influx of immigrants and other languages spoken at the church, as in addition to the English-speaking congregation led by Pastor Adam Eisenga, there are ministries in the Oromo, Anuak and Lao languages, led by Pastor Andrew Henry and Bounmee Nhotsavang.

Members old and new will gather together to celebrate the church's 100 years of faith. The weekend's centennial activities will include a catered banquet on Saturday evening at the Worthington Christian School.

Services at 9:30 and 1 p.m. Sunday will feature some of the congregation's former pastors, including Laryn Zoerhos, Ron Fynewever and Leroy Christofels. A son of the congregation, Verlyn Schaap, now a missionary pastor in Sioux City, Iowa, will also participate in the festivities.

A potluck luncheon will be served between the services.

For more information, contact the church office, 372-2811.

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
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