31. The Organisation of a Reformed
Congregation in a village: Ridderkerk 1574-15841
The foremost acts of the church since the time of the Reformation in the congregation at Ridderkerk.
Caspar Anthuenisz. Gendt from Arnhem was the first to preach here in January 1574. During the time that he preached here the church was completely purged of images, altars and other idols. The aforesaid Caspar served here until April 1575, although he did not live here, but resided in Dordrecht.2 No special order was established in Caspar's time since it was still too early to introduce one although he had wanted to do so. Since the aforesaid Caspar had been duly called to another charge, he departed from here in April 1575 with good order and with affection.
After Caspar left Matthias Pietersz. was called and sent as minister and he came here in April 1575. During Matthias' ministry here, a congregation was established after he had been preaching a long time, but this came about more through the urging of the classis and of the brethren than by his own endeavour. The congregation had no small difficulty with the aforesaid Matthias Pietersz. on account of his unseemly life. For quite some time it therefore insisted that the classis should set matters to right and appoint another pious minister, seeing that affairs with Matthias did not improve. And so it happened about four and half years after Matthias' ministry had begun here. Since there were no signs of improvement and the brethren [at Ridderkerk] continued to complain and to insist strongly on another minister, the classis finally transferred Matthias from here, and this happened in April 1579. The classis promised to provide the congregation at Ridderkerk with another pious minister and until such provision to serve it from their own [number].
In May 1579 Johannes Rochus entered the ministry at Ridderkerk, after the brethren here had duly called him and the classis had given its consent. During the time of Johannes Rochus some sort of order began to be introduced into this congregation. First Cornelis Geertsz. and Maerten Pietersz. were chosen as provisional elders. Poor relief remained, however, in the same state as it had been under popery, since there was no means and also no [men of] substance to bring this under [the supervision of] the congregation, as it should have been.3 At this time they began for the first time to record the names of baptised children and their parents with some witnesses in the way we find in the baptismal register. During Johannes Rochus' time the names of members were first recorded. Thereafter quite good order was kept in the congregation. They also began to record the names of those who married in the way we find in the register. During Johannes Rochus' time Cornelis Pietersz. was also barred from the [Lord's] Supper after protracted admonitions, although no record of the same was kept, as also of some other affairs, as one would certainly have wished. The congregation was further well served by the aforesaid Johannes and had wanted the same to remain, but since he was called to his fatherland Sneek in Friesland and since the classis had no desire to oppose such a reasonable and proper call and promised to provide the congregation here again with another good minister, the congregation regretfully consented to the call of Johannes to Sneek in his fatherland, which occurred in July 1581.
Hubrecht de Rycke entered into service after being duly called by the congregation and by the classis in August 1581. During Hubrecht's time no improvement was made to the order: he continued it as he had found it. He also laboured with admonitions to restore Cornelis Pietersz. (who had been barred from the [Lord's] Supper when Johannes Rochus was minister) to the communion of the [Lord's] Supper, but failed. The congregation was likewise very well served by the aforesaid Hubrecht and it would also have kept him, but since he desired for certain reasons to leave for Maasdam and persisted for a long time, the congregation therefore let the aforesaid Hubrecht leave though not until it had been provided with another minister. So he then departed (the congregation being assured of another minister), taking his leave on the afternoon of 6 May 1584.
Johannes Bisschop4 entered into service on 6 May 1584, having been duly called by the congregation and having received the consent of the classis and the support of the schout and magistrates of Ridderkerk and all the inhabitants. During his time the following transactions were treated.
On 3 June  the consistory met after calling on God's name to discuss the following [business]. First it deliberated about what text the minister should treat in the Sunday morning services as well during the week on Thursday. It was decided to treat Luke's gospel on Sunday and the prophet Haggai on Thursday.5 Secondly, since some children had long remained unbaptised, it was decided that the minister should go with an elder to those who had withheld their children from baptism to admonish these to present their children for baptism so that such contempt of the sacrament might be removed. Thirdly, it also discussed [the case of] Cornelis Pietersz., who had been barred from the [Lord's] Supper when Johannes Rochus had been minister, and it was decided that they would earnestly admonish the same once more and follow Christ's commandment in Matthew 18.6 Fourthly, it was also decided to hold the Lord's Supper on 1 July next and to make this known on 10 June and hereafter to hold the same every four months on the first Sunday of the month. Finally, it is also decided that, since no church meetings had been held in this congregation, a meeting of the consistory shall be held every month and if anything treated in the same meeting is worthy of record that the same shall be diligently noted and if in the meantime any difficulty arise that the time of the meeting may be changed according to the circumstances of the business and they shall hear of this from one another on Sunday.
Source: Kerkeraadsarchief Ridderkerk, 1, pp. 1-6.
1 Ridderkerk is a village in South Holland between Rotterdam and Dordrecht. The Reformed churches in this part belonged to the classis of Dordrecht.
2 As a resident in Dordrecht, the first minister lived some distance from Ridderkerk. To reach the village he would have had to cross the Oude Maas.
3 Though the writer refers to the dyaconie, he had in mind the system of parochial poor relief. In many villages poor relief long continued to be the responsibility of parochial overseers, who were often Catholics, rather than of deacons appointed by the Reformed congregation. At Ridderkerk church-appointed deacons did eventually take responsibility for poor relief, but not until 1588.
4 The fifth Reformed minister to serve Ridderkerk since 1574. He wrote the simple account of the progress of the Reformed church at Ridderkerk. Within a month of his arrival he began to keep records of consistorial business.
5 The series of sermons on Haggai, with its two chapters of 38 verses, continued for about five months and the minister expounded Luke for almost five years.
6 A reference to Matthew 18 vv. 15-19 where Christ tells his disciples how they should deal with sinners.