The Ridgewood Christian Reformed Church’s first worship service occurred on December 16, 1942, with legal incorporation in 1943. The church was conceived and led initially by the Rev. Elbert Kooistra, a home missionary and former pastor of the Midland Park CRC, along with founding lay leader Abram Van Hassel, president of Magor Car Company of Clifton, which manufactured railroad cars. After renting quarters at Ridgewood’s Christ Church (Episcopal) and many false starts, the congregation in 1949 moved into its current building on Lincoln Avenue whose construction was the young congregation’s first sizable undertaking.
After Kooistra’s service, the church has continued to be led by a series of outstanding preachers and pastors: the Reverends Edward Boeve (1945-1951), Seymour Van Dyken (1952-1960), Raymond Opperwall (1961-1973), John Timmer (1974-1980), Norman Steen (1981-1988), Harvey Stob (1989-1996), Leonard Kuyvenhoven (1998-2002), Craig Broek (2004-2011), and Mary Stegink (2012-). Rev. Stegink is the first woman pastor in the 134-year history of our denomination’s regional body, Classis Hudson. (The Ridgewood church had earlier pioneered in electing the first female Elders and Deacons in the Classis and – in long-ago 1948 – broke with Classis custom by deciding that female members should vote in the congregation’s business meetings.)
This has always been a congregation that enjoys enthusiastic singing and good music. Early on, in an era when many churches relied on amateur volunteers, trained musician Esther Tanis was hired. When she moved from the area she donated to our church the Tellers-Kent pipe organ in her home that originated in a Jersey City Catholic parish. The 1966 re-installation of this instrument into our church sanctuary was another major project. Rehabilitation, revoicing of 1,300 pipes in 21 ranks, and redesign of the organ pipe array at the front of the sanctuary, were completed in 1992. Today’s “blended” worship style incorporates contemporary songs accompanied by piano or other instruments. The front of the sanctuary also features a wooden cross fashioned by the late Jack Lucas, industrial arts chairman at Ridgewood High School, and festive banners designed by members.
Along with customary church services and programs, Ridgewood’s members have consistently sought to reflect the Gospel through service and outreach. Examples include numerous efforts in Paterson, sponsorship of new congregations for Korean and Hispanic immigrants, meal deliveries, food bank collections for Ridgewood and nearby communities, the Baby Bank to provide supplies to new mothers, help with New Hope Community Ministries and other area service agencies, summer Serve projects organized with dozens of visiting teen-agers, and regular second offerings to aid special causes. The church hosts three weekly 12-step meetings, the THEOS seniors group, the Good Soil Korean-American Methodist church, and has provided facilities for the Village of Ridgewood’s weekday seniors programs.
A new era began in 2012 with the arrival of Mary Stegink as pastor and steps to begin implementing improvements in programs and facilities as recommended by the church’s Focus Team with the help of a professional consultant.
For fuller historical material on file with the Ridgewood Historical Society and Ridgewood Library, click here.