|Big Star Lake Chapel History|
of this Chapel History is taken from oral history as told to me from the
'sons' & 'daughters' of the original founders/organizers when services first met
informally, and how things progressed over the next 60 years.
| It all started along the ridge of ‘Minising
Point’ and going west - that a few families of the Reformed, and Christian
Reformed Churches (Protestant Denominations) started meeting for prayer
and worship on their lawns back in the early 1940’s. A
few of the names of the early families were Henry Huizingh of the
Huizingh’s Furniture a Grand Rapids family as I mentioned earlier, then
his daughter Judy and son in law Harold Datema.
The Henry and Flora Ryskamp family, and their three sons, of whom
one is Phil
Ryskamp who also provided me with much information on both the history behind
the Chapel and also stories of his childhood at the lake, along with his
current home's mysterious history on the lake. John
and Katheryn Ryskamp and three daughters. Clarence and Ella and
three daughters. Also Pearl Ryskamp who married the Rev. John
Bouwsma, John was also one of the early preachers volunteering his time
when he was up at the lake. Also the families of Mr. Albert Zuidema,
Mr. Henry Holtvluwer, and Mr. Harvey Holwerda. Other early family
names of those worshiping and having services on their property, and when
the weather was not as cooperating - packed their cottages full of people,
were names such as the George and Henry Stob families of Grand Rapids.
few of the early pastors would volunteer their time preaching when they
were vacationing on the lake. The Rev. Simon Vroon from Holland,
would rent a cottage from a James family, and also the Ressique family.
Rev. Leonard Hofman, as mentioned earlier Rev. Arthur Hoogstrate, and Rev. John Bouwsma. I was
told that Henry Ryskamp who was the
Dean of Calvin College in
Harold Datema tells me that in the early days before the Chapel was built, it was a thrilling sight to see all the people walking with their lawn chairs under one arm, and Bibles under another coming from all sides. It was a time to look forward to - those scheduled services, but impromptu and spontaneous singing, and sharing sessions, and the Christian fellowship at those ‘open air’ services on “Holy Hill” as it was jokingly called in the early beginning, and some still is referred to as the ‘un-official’ name of the area.
would like to add a
personal note here**: This may answer the long asked question of “why
is so much
of the lake
populated by families from the Holland and Grand
Rapids area of West
Michigan, more specifically the Christian
Reformed Churches?”. The lake attracted those looking for a nice family place to spend their
vacations and the added attraction of religious services on site
eliminating the need to find a place of worship when Sunday came, and also
spending time with familiar friends and family,
so it must seem that friends attracted other friends and so on...
Around the year 1947 the group of 4 -5
men (cottage owners mentioned above) got together and decided that because
of the growing number of people attending the outdoor services, they
needed a more permanent and larger place to meet when the weather was not
nice enough to meet out on the lawn, then they could invite more from
around the lake to join them in Christian fellowship.
The original land that the Chapel is on was ‘sold’ for $1.00
and the deed was transferred to Mr. Henry Huizingh from the original
owners Mr. and Mrs. McCallum of Hesperia, who also owned
property, and a group of cottages to the north point of 'Minising
Point'. The McCallum’s also
specified that the only restriction would be that the property could only
be used for ‘Religious Purposes’.
The Chapel was built the summer of 1948.
The first of 4 board meetings were held on 18 April 1948 to form
committees to obtain bids/estimates for building the desired 35ft. x 50ft.
Chapel which would seat 300, and also to solicit donations.
At this time there was not enough money to purchase an organ,
or any electronic equipment, so Bertha Grooters was the first pianist
playing the upright piano
for the services.
The Chapel grew quickly. I was told by Maria Wetzel (daughter of Rev. Arthur Hoogstrate) that many times when there was not enough room to seat every one, the pastor would ask the children to come to the front and sit on the raised platform around the pulpit, therefore opening up seating for the adults. So in 1954 the Chapel was once again enlarged to seat 450.
The continued growth did not stop, so once again in 1957 the Board asked C.A. O’Bryon, an Architect, who has a summer home on the lake to redesign the Chapel to seat from 600-650 people, and to improve the appearance of the exterior. Much material and lumber were donated for the new building, as was much of the labor. Gerritt Folkersma supervised the concrete work and Henry VanLaar supervised the carpentry work. Both of these men are from the Grand Rapids area, and also have homes on the lake.
As the Chapel continued to grow, and since the 1957 addition, instead of adding on again, it was decided to extend the services starting earlier in the season on Memorial Day weekend and going through Labor Day weekend in 1970. In 1972 two A.M. services were held on the 4th of July weekend, and also the Labor Day weekend. In 1978 two A.M. services were offered July through the Labor Day weekend.