FIRST REFORMED CHURCH - PELLA, IOWA
In 1856, the First Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa was officially organized. It was the first Reformed Church west of the Mississippi River and the mother church of the Particular Synod of Iowa. It was organized by early settlers, who came from the Netherlands to escape severe persecutions experienced in their homeland. Those were difficult and challenging days, but those early leaders were courageous and resourceful people.
On Tuesday evening, August 25, 1953, the cornerstone of this building was laid. "This cornerstone is a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone of the spiritual temple where He is the Architect and Builder", were words spoken at the time of cornerstone was laid. Built for approximately $500,000, this church was dedicated on September 16, 1954.
The sanctuary is laid out in the form of a cross. Appropriately, the worshipper enters at the foot of the cross and sees at the head of the cross the chancel, which is the center of worship. The long section of the cross is the nave, where the main body of worshippers sit. On either side of the nave are the transepts, the arms of the cross. The north transept is reserved for use by the choir and is where the console for the pipe organ is located.
The overall dimensions of the church proper are 173 by 80 feet; the chapel and educational wing are 66 by 40 feet. The tower rises 56 feet above grade line and houses the bell from the old church that was cast in 1856. The steeple is 36 feet high topped by a ten-foot cross, making the total height from grade line to the top of the cross 102 feet. The sanctuary 80 by 52 feet and has a seating capacity of approximately 1,000 including transepts and gallery. By opening the windows at the rear of the sanctuary and using the foyer and rear area, an additional 200 people can be accommodated. There are 315 windows in the church, of which 53 are stained glass and are protected on the outside by crystal sheet glass. One of the first views worshipers have entering the sanctuary is the three large windows rising in east over the chancel area of the sanctuary. This is called the Invitation Window.
THE INVITATION WINDOW
This impressive window grouping, which forms a background for the sanctuary has acquired two names by which it is known. The artist who designed the window has called it "The Invitation Window", which expresses its main theme. Members of the congregation affectionately call it "The Pioneer Memorial Window", dedicated to the fits and memory of members of First Reformed Church, whose life and example contributed to the strength of the church in earlier days.
In the center panel the majestic figure of our Lord is seen, with the Apostles in the side panels receiving his "Great Commission", as recorded in Matthew 28:19. Mary, the mother of Jesus, has replaced Judas. Peter kneels at Jesus' right, John at his left. The other Apostles are: Andrew, James, Philip, Bartholomew (Nathanael), Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus (the Less), Thaddeus (Judas, the brother of James), and Simon (Zelotes).
In the extreme top is the Descending Dove, symbolic of the Holy Spirit; directly below, the Lamb on the Book of Seven Seals. The small cross below the feet of Jesus is inscribed with the points of the compass, recalling the words, "Go ye into the world."
Other symbols of the Apostles appear on the side panels. The Keys and the Inverted Cross in the upper left are for Peter. The Chalice below is for John. Paul is represented by the Book and the Sword in the upper right panel; while the Cross Saltire below it is the type on which Andrew died. Below these, and across the panels, are symbolic items from the "whole armor of God" - the Shield of Faith, the Anchor of Hope, and the Flaming Heart of Love. Across the base of the three panels, one sees people of various nations and colors listening to the message of the Gospel as read by the missionary from the Scriptures.
Directly below the Invitation Window is a wood carving designed after Michelangelo's famous painting "The Last Supper". The three-dimensional relief carving recreates our Lord's final supper with his beloved Disciples. It is fitting that this should be located beneath the Invitation Window and behind the Communion Table, from which the invitation comes to "Take. Eat. Do this in remembrance of Me."
THE TRANSEPT WINDOWS
The center panel in the South transept reveals the Holy Spirit in the form of the Descending Dove, and below it the Cross with the Wheat and Grapes, symbolic for the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Savior. The side panels contain Tablets of the Law of Moses representing the Old Testament, and the Open Bible representing the New Testament. The three panels in the North transept contain various musical instruments of praise, and seem to say, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."
THE SANCTUARY WINDOWS
The North windows of the sanctuary, beginning at the entrance and looking toward the Invitation Window, depict scenes from the Old Testament story. In successive panels of four, they portray:
The Creation: Genesis 1:1
The Tree of Knowledge - Genesis 3:3
Abel - Hebrews 11:4
Noah - Genesis 6:18
Abraham - Genesis 22:12
Isaac - Genesis 24:63
Jacob - Genesis 32:24
Joseph - Genesis 50:20
Moses - Exodus 3:5
Ruth - Ruth 1:16
Samuel - 1 Samuel 3:10
David - 1 Samuel 14:14
Isaiah - Isaiah 6:8
Jeremiah - Jeremiah 1:9
Ezekiel - Ezekiel 3:15
Daniel - Daniel 1:8
The South windows, beginning at the entrance to the sanctuary, extending to the transept and looking toward the Invitation Window, portray the New Testament story. In successive panels of four, they reveal:
The Annunciation - Luke 1:28
The Nativity - Luke 2:7
The Presentation - Luke 2:22
Christ in the Temple - Luke 2:46
Baptized by John - Luke 3:22
Blessing the Children - Mark 10:14
Calling the Disciples - Matthew 4:20
The Woman of Samaria - John 4:10
Healing the Sick - Matthew 8:16
Feeding the Five Thousand - Matthew 14:20
The Good Samaritan - Luke 10:33
The Prodigal Son - Luke 15:17
The Triumphal Entry - Matthew 21:5
The Crucifixion - Luke 23:33
The Resurrection - Matthew 28:6
The Ascension - Mark 16:19
Our church is rich in symbols; many of which will be recognized and understood immediately, while others may benefit from a brief explanation. As Protestant Christians we recognize the danger of making symbols central in our worship activity, but we know also of their value in helping to establish within ourselves a worshipful attitude.
"To exalt a symbol or an act is idolatry, but to be directed by them to the reality of God is worship."
Life is so constructed that you and I must be subject to someone or something. When we make our confession of faith in Jesus Christ, we are making our confession of faith in the only Person worthy of such devotion. It's not a matter of worshipping or not worshipping, but a matter of deciding what or who shall be the object of our worship. And when we honestly pursue that question, we know that there is no one who is even comparable to Jesus Christ. He is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords.
Thank you for being part of our heritage here in First Reformed Church.