A Complete History of the first 25 years of New Hope Church by Pastor Steve Norden (2009)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” – Hebrews 12:1-2a

Sometime in early 1976: I was interning as a seminary student at Second Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We were having dinner with the Senior Pastor, Jay Weener, when he said, “At some time during your ministerial career, you should consider planting a church.” A seed was planted. The idea of being a church planter took root. Thank you, Jay Weener, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

September 1976 to June 1977: I spent the year between my second and third years of seminary as an intern at Good Samaritan Reformed Church in Gahanna, Ohio. I came to love Columbus. I learned that a Reformed Church could be vital and vibrant in a location that was not traditionally an enclave of the Reformed Church in America. Thank you, Harold DeRoo and Harvey Mast, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

1978 to 1984: Called to be pastor of Youth and Education at Second Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, MI, I was privileged to serve with two of the finest mentors one could ever have. Jay Weener certainly had left his spiritual fingerprints upon my life. Don DeYoung, my other mentor, helped me understand that a church should be intentional about reaching “Christ’s least of these” and being a “big tent” where all are welcomed in the name of Jesus. Without being trite, if one were to look up “servant leadership” in the dictionary, you’d simply find Don’s picture. Thank you, Don DeYoung, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

January 1982: At a Synod of Michigan (now Synod of the Great Lakes) Genesis youth event, I happened to have a random (or providential) breakfast with Dick Welscott, responsible for new church development in the Synod of Michigan (now the Synod of the Great Lakes). In the course of the conversation, Dick said, “We’re ready to plant a new church in Columbus, Ohio.” When I asked how soon they wanted someone in Columbus, Dick told me that they wanted someone there during the summer of 1982. Since Jean and I were expecting our first child (now Billy), I knew that this was an inopportune time. I told Dick, “The timing is not good. Let us know when you’re ready to start a new church somewhere else.” In early 1983 I received a phone call from Dick Welscott letting me know that there had been some glitches in the process. The Synod of Michigan and Holland Classis were still looking for someone to plant a church in Columbus. “Was I still interested?” was the question. As they say, the rest is history. Thank you, Dick Welscott, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Summer 1983:
I had been extended the call to be the founding pastor for a new Reformed Church in central Ohio. After considerable prayer and reflection, I felt God was calling me to Columbus and we made the decision to move. The same day we put our house on the market in Kalamazoo, MI our son, Billy, was diagnosed with cancer. Our world crashed around us. Our plans were put on hold. A phone call came. “Steve, if God wants you in Columbus, God will find a way for you to be there. That’s what we’re praying for. Let’s wait for God’s answer.” Thank you, Ron Lokhorst, for still being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Still summer of 1983 until 1991: Planting a church requires support — financial and spiritual. Holland Classis decided to be the supporting agent for a new Reformed Church in central Ohio. Who would be the flagship? Maplewood Reformed Church of Holland, MI, along with their pastor Dave Bruininks, makes a decision to be the “mother church” for a new Reformed Church in central Ohio. Over the years they offered significant financial and, more importantly, prayer support to a fledgling church. Thank you, Dave Bruininks, and all the saints of Maplewood Church for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Flashback to September of 1953: The Norden family arrives in Yokohama, Japan. For 17 years Steve grows up as an MK (missionary kid) in a culture where the Christian faith is an alien religion. Russell and Eleanore serve faithfully as Reformed Church missionaries until 1991 when they retire. This experience clearly shaped a passion for reaching those who are pre-Christian, spiritually unaware or apathetic. This is one of New Hope’s reasons for being. Thank you, Russell and Eleanore Norden, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Spring 1983 to present: When I received the call to plant a new church in the rapidly growing suburbs of northwest Central Ohio, many wondered what this would mean for the future well-being of our family. After all, there were no guarantees that anyone would want to be part of a new Reformed Church in America congregation. And even if anyone were to become a part of it, there were no assurances of financial assistance for this new congregation beyond the five year timeframe it had been given to become self-sufficient. Especially concerned were Jean’s parents. Still, once the decision was made to move, Jean’s father was present with her at the meeting of the Holland Classis when I was installed as new church development pastor for the northwest Columbus ministry of the classis. Jean’s mother and father drove to Columbus to help with the move, and they have been present for nearly every major event in the life of New Hope Church. Thank you, Stanley and Betty Boven, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses. Without your material support and the support of your prayers, New Hope would not be here today.

February 1984: Alone, on the night that I moved into our new home in Ohio, the doorbell rang. A neighbor stopped by to welcome me, but also to make sure that no one was breaking into the previously unoccupied house. He asked what brought me to Columbus and, when told that I would be attempting to plant a new congregation for the Reformed Church in America, a small denomination of which he was probably unaware, my new neighbor responded that his grandfather was a German Reformed Pastor. This neighbor emerged as a key leader in the life of New Hope and is still with us today. Thank you, Rick Schuster, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

March 1984: A meeting is held in our living room for those who might be interested in a new church. Present is an acquaintance that we had made eight years earlier while I was interning at Good Samaritan Church in Gahanna. This acquaintance also became a key leader in the life of New Hope, presently serving as Elder. Thank you, Barb Lewis, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Interlude: Rick Schuster and Barb Lewis are two of many who have faithfully served as Consistory members, Bethel Bible students, Stephen Ministers, team leaders, committee members, and volunteered in myriad ways to extend the “good news” of Jesus through the ministry of New Hope Church. Thank you, to the hundreds of you, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

September 16, 1984: New Hope’s first worship service was held at Indian Run Elementary School in Dublin with 69 people present.

Spring 1987: A worshipping congregation had been born and was growing. As they grew, they recognized that Indian Run Elementary School in Dublin would be only a temporary home. The question of a permanent worship place was raised, and after careful, extensive searching, property was identified. New Hope’s congregation recognized that without additional financial help, the purchase of 20 acres on Powell Road next to the Columbus Zoo simply would not happen. David Cooke, Bill Dykema, Wally Sparks and I traveled to Holland, MI to appeal to the churches in Holland Classis for financial support. After great deliberation, the President of Holland Classis stated: “It’s time to put our money where our word and our prayers have been. The congregation of which I’m pastor will commit $20,000 toward New Hope’s property purchase.” With that pledge of support, other congregations followed suit. Thank you, Ken Reynen and Fellowship Reformed Church, for leading the way. Thank you saints at First, Third, Rose Park and Trinity Reformed Churches for joining Fellowship and being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Fall 1989 to Fall 1991:
A capital stewardship campaign was held to raise funds for New Hope’s first facility. After unanticipated challenges, ground was broken on Palm Sunday of 1991. Construction was completed and worship held in New Hope’s first “permanent” home that October. Thank you, you faithful band of pioneers who traveled from Indian Run Elementary School to 5115 S. R. 750, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Another interlude – September 1984 to early 1992: When the Norden family moved to northwest Columbus in 1984, I quickly learned that I was not the first pastor to attempt to plant a church in the rapidly growing suburbs. In fact, many churches were being planted, and it was a challenge to identify features that distinguished one church from another. Within months, New Hope and Good Samaritan decided to run a local 30 second ad following “The Hour of Power” television program. Featuring Dr. Robert Schuller, identifying himself as a pastor of the Reformed Church in America and encouraging viewers to find a like congregation, this “commercial” has been without question the single most effective advertising tool in New Hope’s history. Beyond this, the kindness extended to New Hope by Dr. and Mrs. Schuller is beyond compare. Thank you, Robert and Arvella Schuller, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Still another interlude – Easter 1985 to the present:
During our first year in Columbus, one of the few places that we could take Billy was the Columbus Zoo. It was at this time that the amphitheater near the Scioto River was built (Water’s Edge). Early in 1985 I placed a call to the Director of the Columbus Zoo inquiring about the possibility of holding a Community Easter Sunrise Service in the amphitheater. Two weeks before Easter, I received a call from the Zoo director with message, “I think it’s a great idea. Let’s do it.” Even though it snowed on Easter of 1985, the Sunrise Service at the Zoo was a “hit.” Thank you, Zoo Director (at the time) Jack Hanna and Mayor of the City of Columbus (at the time) Dana G. “Buck” Rinehart, for making New Hope’s Community Easter Sunrise Service at the Columbus Zoo a 25-year tradition, for ensuring that you and those who have succeeded you have enjoyed a great neighborly relationship between the Zoo and New Hope, and for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Spring 1996 to August 2008: In May of 1996 a senior at Dublin Scioto High School, participating in the Dublin Schools’ Young Professionals Academy and who with his family were members of New Hope, asked if he could shadow me as part of his curriculum. Over the next several years this young man was involved in the leadership of New Hope as Associate in Ministry, Seminary Intern and then as New Hope’s first Associate Pastor. Today this leader serves as Associate Pastor at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan (the successor to the FIRST congregation of the Reformed Dutch Protestant Church on the North American continent and now Reformed Church in America) and has a bright future as a pastor in the Reformed Church. Thank you, Steve Pierce, for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

1999 to present: New Hope learned that the Columbus Zoo had purchased all the property surrounding New Hope’s. The church had literally become an island in the midst of the Zoo! The Zoo made overtures about the possibility of a property exchange. After years of sometimes agonizing deliberation, New Hope and the Zoo agreed on an exchange and sale of property. A capital stewardship campaign was held during the spring of 2003. Groundbreaking for the new building occurred in August of 2004. On May 15, 2005 New Hope held its first service of worship in its present facility, tripling the size of its physical home. New Hope Preschool opened in September 2005. From its modest beginnings, today New Hope Preschool will gladly welcome over 130 children for the 2009-10 school year. New ministries have been added and a capital stewardship campaign was held in 2007 for the purpose of reducing debt to grow ministry.

From the beginning: When I received a telephone call late one evening in March of 1983 asking me to be the founding pastor of a new Reformed Church congregation in northwest central Ohio, we knew that our lives had changed. To leave a loving, supportive congregation in Kalamazoo to head to an uncertain future was a huge challenge. That challenge was greatly magnified by our two-year-old’s medical condition. Through these challenges and many more, Jean has been strong and solid in her support. As the Norden family has grown, each member has added their own unique contribution to the growth and life of New Hope. Thank you, Jean, Billy, Charlie, and Pieter for being a part of New Hope’s cloud of witnesses.

Each person who is a part of New Hope Church today has taken their place among New Hope’s cloud of witnesses. On Sunday, September 13, we will celebrate New Hope’s past, present and future as we give thanks and glory to God in our worship. There will be one worship service only at 10:30AM. Our guest speaker will be the Rev. Billy Norden, Pastor of Youth and Young Adults at Wyckoff Reformed Church in Wyckoff, NJ. There will be a reception following at 12:00 noon. While there is much for which to give thanks and celebrate, we hesitate to claim that this has been done in our own strength and by our own resources, or even to be self-congratulatory or think that we’ve “arrived.” The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that the great cloud of witnesses has and will continue to fix their eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. So, as we celebrate 25 years of service, faith and discipleship, let us look to Christ, following where He leads and serving as He calls us. And may our voices unite in saying, “To God alone be the glory!”