In 1966 1st Hamilton CRC was bursting at the seams with over 243 families or 1143 members. Mount Hamilton with 914 members and Brantford with 723 together with 1st Hamilton tried hard to establish a Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster. They were not successful. The 1st Hamilton Committee worked hard but to no avail. In frustration the committee turned to Dundas CRC, then with 540 members, and Burlington New Street CRC, 610 members.
A small steering committee of members from 1st Hamilton, Dundas and Burlington explored the possibility and found 47 families willing to start a CRC church in Aldershot. On October 1, 1969 Aldershot Christian Reformed Church was organized. They had met all summer 1969 in the Flatt Road public school. Under the supervision of 1st Hamilton, with its summer student Henry Getkate delivering most sermons. At the Fall 1969 meeting Classis Hamilton gave its blessing on the formation of the new congregation and itís 49 families each of which came with a dowry of $450.00 paid by their home church. It should be noted that Burlington, short on funds, paid this in three equal annual instalments of $150.00. Immanuel CRC, though not one of the three churches that initiated this new church plant, also supported this effort by paying the $450.00 for the one family that joined the newly formed Aldershot congregation. Immanuel also donated the communion set and baptism bowl; the communion set is still in use.
It soon became apparent that having church in a school auditorium is not ideal. Arrangements were made with the Aldershot Presbyterian Church and before long we shared the facilities with this congregation. Aldershot CRC worshipped at 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM and the Presbyterians at 11:00 AM. This was always a great relationship, even to the point that the Presbyterians considered doing renovations to their building to accommodate the growing Aldershot CRC with its young families.
Property, on Waterdown Road just North of Highway 403, intended to be for Aldershotís church and parsonage turned out to be within the Niagara Escarpment Commissionís jurisdiction and could not be developed. Providentially church members Ann and Betty Tigchelaarís uncle Richard Heida was willing to make some land available on his 100 acre farm along Highway 5 (Dundas Street) and Kernís Road. Eight Acres changed hands for the paltry sum of $2.00; the balance of the farm is now Salem Property. In October 1977 ground was broken for a church and education wing, designed by well-known Hamilton architect Trevor Garwood Jones, with a budget of $435,000.00. In the fall of 1978 the renamed 90 family congregation, now Bethel Christian Reformed Church of Waterdown, occupied the new facilities built by church member Jake Heeringaís Valleytown Construction. A large parsonage was built on the property the following year
In January 1984 a smoky fire started by an electrical short caused $250,000.00 damage. Extensive renovations coinciding with the installation of the custom built $100,000.00 Blair Batty Pipe Organ in 1991 radically changed the internal appearance of the building and added much needed space to the lobby. In 2000 the congregation approved the addition of a two-storey Education wing which increased the lobby space again and more than doubled the number of classrooms and other facilities all at a cost $1,200,000.00. By now the congregation had grown to 139 families.
Aldershot CRCís first pastor was Herman Praamsma, fresh out of Calvin Theological Seminary he served Aldershot from 1970 to 1973. Rev. John Groen became Aldershotís pastor in 1974, now 77 families, and served it all through the change of location and name until 1980. Rev. John Postuma, already in Classis Hamilton at Welland Junction, accepted the call and he served Bethel CRC, now 103 families, until his move to York in 1989. Rev. Andrew Kuyvenhoven, at Aldershotís birth the pastor on 1st Hamilton, served Bethel, now 100 families, from 1989 to 1992 following his ten years as Editor of The Banner. Bethelís most recent pastor Erick Schuringa served from 1993, 117 families, until last June, 144 families, when he accepted a call to Brampton, Immanuel.
Early in 2000 a new Logo is adopted. Created by Ken VanderStoep, it depicts the CRC symbol of Triangle & Cross incorporating the early churchís Fish symbol. The whole is in a fluid design giving a motion like appearance, indicating action, as Ken notes, "Through the combining of these two symbols I had hoped to portray a sense of action, of reaching out and gathering in while retaining a sense of our original identity."
Bethelís congregation has been working hard to live out itís mandate both by its education program and in its outreach. There are a variety of programs underway that draw participants from Bethelís membership and the community around us. Alpha has completed seven courses over four years. Cadets are, according to the Head Councillor "doing very well" about twenty-five boys, from Bethelís membership and from the community meet weekly led by six counsellors. Cell Groups sees over 90 adult single or couple members actively meeting on a regular basis to grow spiritually.Coffee Break Ministry has been a mainstay to about seventy women on a weekly basis. Historically a Wednesday morning program, an additional Thursday evening program began this season coinciding with Gems & Cadets. Discipleship Hour following the morning worship service offers a variety of Education opportunities in the areas of Bible Study, Catechism, Church/Worship/Faith Education and Christian Lifestyle Practices. Effective Parenting empowers parents with specific personal and parenting skills.
Friendship Club is a new ministry for Bethel to people with intellectual challenges or disabilities. Gems presently has thirty girls in the 9-13 years old group that participate. All but eight are Bethel members. Eight councillors lead this part of Bethelís Education Ministry. Ladies Society meets BI weekly for Bible study. This is one of Bethelís longest running programs. Men on the Way helps men build meaningful relationships through BI weekly breakfasts and yearly events. Nursing Home Ministry has been an active part of Bethel since it began in 1969. Presently the focus is on Grindstone Manor in Waterdown and Mount Nemo in Burlington. Prayer Support is obtained on a weekly basis, more often if needed, by having about seventy five percent of Bethelís members on an e-mail prayerchain, others are kept in the loop by telephone. Youth Ministry Programs led by volunteers and two Youth Elders has three segments, Teen Club, Youth Group and College & Careers. Future plans to develop the one hundred-acre property adjacent to Bethel into a full service senior community over the next ten or more years, will add another dimension to Bethelís ministry.
Bethel is a congregation of long time and new Christians who have an excitement and passion for their faith. Many long-term members continue to work hard in various church positions and ministries. Not all are equally excited about some of the developments over the last few years but there are no open conflicts or persistent hard feelings. Our congregation is able to agree to disagree on some items and continue to worship and work together with enthusiasm. We are excited about our journey so far. We believe that we are equipped to continue spiritual growth both as individuals and as a congregation. We can also reach out to our community by continuing our current programs and perhaps developing new ones.
Bethelís welcoming protocol is effective in identifying visitors and seekers. Co-operation with area churches, other than CRC, has resulted in a successful joint summer Bible School program. Bethelís facilities are regularly used for other than "church events."
Bethel is an exciting, vibrant place to be! We believe that this momentum, guided by the Holy Spirit, will continue to spur Bethelís members on as we look forward to welcoming a new pastor in our midst in the near future.
Hans Vander Stoep, Clerk of Council
October 12, 2002
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