The history of the village of Dutton goes back to 1875 when it was first platted out. Situated on the Central Michigan Railroad, at that time Dutton was approximately eleven miles from Grand Rapids by rail. The village quickly grew in size, including a school, grain elevator, railroad depot, general store, and two churches by 1914.
Dutton was a long way from the nearest Christian Reformed churches — East Paris, Kelloggsville, and Cutlerville. It was almost impossible to attend worship services twice on Sundays, let alone Sunday School and catechism classes regularly. Already at this time the Kelloggsville church was holding catechism classes at the homes of the Spoelstras and the Huizengas who were members of the Kelloggsville church. The classes were conducted by one of the elders.
In 1914 Classis Grand Rapids East began doing missionary work in the area with Rev. J. R. Brink as home missionary. In the Dutton area there were several families that were eager to have a church of their own in the vicinity. The means of transportation in those days was the horse and buggy, and although the horseless carriage was beginning to make its appearance, they were useless on the country roads.
When Rev. Brink began working in Dutton, steps were taken to canvass the area and meetings were held to petition classis to establish a mission station in Dutton upon approval of the consistories of Cutlerville, East Paris, and Kelloggsville churches. At the May 19, 1915 meeting, the classis was presented with the petition from seventeen families in the Dutton area to be permitted to establish an English-speaking church, the first Christian Reformed Church congregation in a rural area to be an all English-speaking congregation. Classis granted the request.
The first few meetings were held at the Kraft School which was at the corner of Kraft Avenue and 68th Street. Shortly thereafter meetings were held in the Church of God which was owned by Rev. and Mrs. Woodward and was located on 68th Street about one-quarter mile east of Hanna Lake Avenue. On June 17, 1915, an organizational meeting was held. Rev. Brink preached a sermon based on I Peter 2:4 and 5. The election of officers was held and Mr. C. Bishop and Mr. M. Huizenga were elected elders and Mr. P. Van Till and Mr. T. Wiersma were elected deacons. Rev. Vander Ploeg, of the Kelloggsville church, read the installation form, thereby forming the first consistory.
The records are not clear as to who were the charter members, but at the twenty-fifth anniversary of the church it was reported there were sixteen families with twenty-two confessing members and a total of sixty-seven souls as charter members. At the time of the fiftieth anniversary there were four charter members: Mrs. Arthur Bajema, Mr. George Huizenga, Mr. John Huizenga, and Mrs. Al VanderLaan.
From the date of organization until June 12, 1917, services were held in the Dutton Church of God, but the congregation was soon faced with a building problem as they were notified to vacate the church and horse shed by February 1, 1916. Dutton decided to build their own sanctuary. A building committee was appointed and authorized to buy one and a half acres on the northwest corner of 68th Street and Hlanna Lake Avenue. Unfortunately, the purchase price was not recorded in the consistory minutes. The basement of the church was constructed by Mr. F. Monseau with the help of men from the church. The church itself was built by Mr. Jake Karsten for approximately $3,500. Construction was started in 1916 and completed in 1917. A horse and carriage shed large enough to hold twelve rigs was soon built along side of the church.
Dedication of the new sanctuary took place on June 12, 1917, almost two years to the day from when the church was organized. The ministers of the mother churches, Rev. J. DeHaan of East Paris, Rev. M. Schans of Kelloggsville, and Rev. J. Post of Cutlerville, spoke at the service as well as Rev. Brink, and D. Flietstra, who was working in the congregation during that summer.
From organization in 1915 until September 1921 the pulpit was filled by classical appointments, professors from Calvin, emeritus ministers, reading services by the elders, and in the summers by five different seminary students. The congregation, now almost six years old, increasingly was beginning to feel the need of a minister of their own.
The first minister to occupy the pulpit was Rev. John Medendorp, who began his ministry with the church in July 1921. He and his bride lived in the Charles Wabeke bungalow on Kalamazoo Avenue until the parsonage was completed just west of the church. The records show that at the end of Rev. Medendorp’s ministry we had grown to thirty families with sixty-two confessing members. In November of 1926 Rev. Medendorp accepted the call to be pastor of the Christian Reformed Church in Rusk, Michigan.
After a vacancy of eleven months candidate Marinus Arnoys accepted the Lord’s call to come to Dutton. He arrived with his bride and he entered this ministry with much enthusiasm. His first consistory meeting was on September 20, 1927. He labored faithfully for a period of three years, during which time he captured the hearts of the congregation, especially of the children and youth. Several professions of faith were made during his ministry. All too soon the time came in which Rev. Arnoys announced acceptance of the call extended from the East Leonard Church of Grand Rapids. By this time the congregation had grown to thirty-five families with eighty-four confessing members.
Attempts were again made to secure another pastor and hearts were gladdened when Rev. Joseph Vande Kieft accepted the call. He arrived with his family and began his labors in Dutton on July 12, 1931. Rev. Vande Kieft’s ministry was during the depression and extended into World War II. In 1932 he offered to lower his salary by $400, an offer which was accepted by the consistory. Rev. Vande Kieft was granted a six-month leave of absence in 1942 to be a chaplain in Louisiana. During the war years, joint prayer services were held with the Ada and East Paris Christian Reformed Churches.
Throughout Rev. Vande Kieft’s pastorate several changes were made. In December 1934 the congregation decided to have individual communion cups. In December 1937, the subsidy from Classis Grand Rapids East was discontinued. In January of 1940 a new pipe organ was purchased. In June 1940 song service for ten minutes before the evening service was approved, a tradition that continues to this day. Also in June 1940, a 25th anniversary celebration was held. Rev. Vande Kieft’s pastorate ended on December 4, 1943.
At the congregational meeting of January 5, 1944 Rev. Fred Handlogten of Allison, Iowa, was extended the call to serve our church. The call was accepted and he arrived with his family to begin his ministry in May 1944. Shortly after Rev. Handlogten’s arrival, the congregation experienced a historic date. On June 15, 1944, a mortgage burning ceremony was held inside the church. On December 10, 1947, the time of worship services was changed to morning and evening year round. Prior to this time services were held in the morning and evening during the summer months, but morning and afternoon during the winter months. The original church building was enlarged to its present size during Rev. Handlogten’s ministry. Services were held in the Pine Rest Chapel when our own building could not be used. Also during his ministry, a Mission Society was formed whose purpose was neighborhood evangelism through the distribution of Bibles and Christian literature. During his ministry the congregation experienced growth both in numbers and spiritual depth. Rev. Handlogten left to serve the congregation of Montello Park Christian Reformed Church in Holland, after serving faithfully for eight and one half years. On November 16, 1952, Rev. Handlogten gave his farewell to the congregation.
Several calls were sent out during the fourteen months of vacancy. Rev. Rein Leestma of the Plainfield Christian Reformed Church was extended a call and accepted. He arrived with his family and was installed on February 11, 1954. It was during Rev. Leestma’s stay in Dutton that two important decisions were made: the inception of Dutton Christian School, and the Caledonia Christian Reformed Church. Early in 1959 Rev. Leestma accepted a call to the West Leonard Church of Grand Rapids.
After a short vacancy the Lord provided us with a new pastor, Rev. Charles Steenstra of Chandler, Minnesota. The installation service took place on April 7, 1959. Rev. Steenstra quickly grew to he loved by the congregation, especially for his deep care and concern for the children and teenagers in the church. Five brief years later we had to say goodbye to Rev. Steenstra, his wife and four children as they left us to serve the Faith Christian Reformed Church of Holland.
Five months ensued before God sent Rev. Bernard Kok to be His undershepherd at Dutton. Rev. Kok and his wife came to us from the Christian Reformed Church of Cochrane, Ontario. He was installed on September 9, 1964. It was during Rev. Kok’s stay that the congregation celebrated fifty years of serving the Lord in Dutton. Also during this time Dutton’s second daughter congregation began its existence, the Lakeside Christian Reformed Church. Rev. Kok is fondly remembered for the comfort he brought to many of the elderly of the congregation. His period of service in Dutton was five years, as he retired in 1969 after forty years in the ministry.
By 1968 Dutton was faced with severe growing pains. The old church was just too small. After some deliberation it was decided not to enlarge the church but to build a new one. Land was purchased just north of Dutton Christian School and a ground-breaking was held on November 26, 1970. Dutton was without a pastor for part of this time. Rev. Peter DeJong accepted the call to serve God in Dutton and began his work in January 1970 after saying his farewells to the Sarnia, Ontario church. He arrived with his wife and four of his children; and a year and a half later moved to the new parsonage.
Work on the new church and parsonage progressed rapidly and the new sanctuary was dedicated in September 1971. Part of the new building is a combination gymnasium/educational wing which is shared with Dutton Christian School. The cost of the new church was kept under $200,000 because members of the church donated materials and labor. The old church and parsonage were sold to the American Reformed Church.
During Rev. De Jong’s pastorate we celebrated Dutton’s sixtieth anniversary in 1975. We were privileged to have all our former ministers present at that program. In the span of his forty years of ministry Rev. DeJong served as a Navy chaplain in World War II, and as a missionary to China. Rev. DeJong faithfully served the Dutton congregation for ten years and retired in 1980.
After a vacancy of over a year, Rev. Warren Lammers accepted the call to serve our congregation. He left the Ellsworth, Michigan Christian Reformed Church and was welcomed to Dutton with his wife and four children in August of 1981. The congregation experienced a rapid growth in numbers during his pastorate as many covenant children were born, and many new families moved into the area. He also had a deep concern for the spiritual welfare of those he came in contact with, whether in the church or in the community, and served as chaplain for the Dutton Fire Department. In January 1989 we said farewell to Rev. Lammers and his family. He was called to serve the Lord in the Christian Reformed Church of Blyth, Ontario.
Eleven months later we warmly welcomed Seminarian Paul Murphy to serve our church as stated supply. Pastor Murphy and his wife joined our congregation on January 1, 1990, when he delivered his first sermon for Dutton. Soon thereafter he completed his training and was ordained and installed as our minister. Rev. Murphy’s preaching on the whole counsel of God encouraged and fed the congregation as Dutton withdrew from the Christian Reformed denomination in 1992. Dutton remained independent for a numbers of years before formally joining the Federation of United Reformed Churches in 1997.
In the summer of 1998 Dutton hired Mr. Rick Miller as an adjunct to Rev. Murphy for the purpose of assisting with the teaching of some catechism classes, as well as visiting members of the congregation including the sick and shut-ins. After a year and a half Mr. Miller received a call to pastor the Cutlerville Independent Reformed Church. When that church disbanded in 1999, Dutton extended a call to Rev. Miller to be our associate Pastor, sharing the preaching and teaching duties with Rev. Murphy.
In summer 2001, Rev Murphy announced God’s calling to leave the pastorate at Dutton and journey to New York city as a full time church planter/missionary. With sadness the congregation bade farewell to the Murphy family. We held a farewell program with songs and skits to remind them of the country living in West Michigan, compared to life in the big city of New York.
Only a few months later Rev. David Klompien accepted our call and along with his family journeyed to Dutton from Idaho. Rev. Klompien and Rev. Miller shared the pulpit and pastoral duties until August 2011. Rev Klompien had accepted a call to the Preakness Valley United Reformed Church in Wayne, New Jersey in late Spring, and planned his farewell sermon for August 21st. In God’s perfect timing Rev Miller also accepted a call to the Bellingham Washington United Reformed Church in late July, and in order for his children to start the new school year there, also ended up preaching his farewell sermon that same day. After a period of 14 years with 2 ministers, Dutton was again without a pastor.
Rather than continue with 2 pastors, Dutton decided to call only one minister and in May 2012 God led Rev Brian Najapfour to accept the call to shepherd Dutton. Rev Najapfour, originally from the Philipines, was installed in October 2012. He and his wife welcomed their first child in January 2013.
We as a congregation are grateful to God for His faithfulness to Dutton over the years, and look forward to serving Him here in Dutton until He returns. To God be the glory!