Remembering God’s Servant: Rev. John H. Piersma

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil. 1:21

On December 17, 2004, God called to glory Rev. John H. Piersma. His gain is great loss to his family, to his church family, and to the greater Reformed community.

Had he lived another week and a day, Rev. Piersma would have been 88 on Christmas. For 62 of those years, he was a husband to his dear wife, Genevieve; and for 57 of those years, he pastored ten different Reformed congregations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Alberta.

John Piersma and Genevieve Scholtens met while attending the Grand Rapids Christian High School. They were married on June 19, 1942, at the Alpine Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids. God brought into their home two children: John and Jane.

Rev. Piersma studied theology and philosophy at Calvin College. He received seminary training under Herman Hoeksema and Samuel Volbeda, graduating from Protestant Reformed Seminary in 1943 and from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1947.

In 1947, Rev. Piersma began his ministry in Oostburg, WI, with Cornelius Van Til participating in his ordination service. In 1949, Rev. Piersma was called to the Franklin Street CRC of Grand Rapids, MI, and to the Oakdale Park CRC of Grand Rapids in 1953. In 1956, he accepted the call to Second CRC in Edmonton, AB. In 1960, a call from Grandville Avenue CRC brought him back to Grand Rapids. He served the First CRC in Pella, IA, from 1964 until a 1969 call brought him to Bethany CRC in South Holland, IL. He returned to Iowa in 1977 and served First CRC in Sioux Center until 1981, when he was called to Pleasant Street CRC in Whitinsville, MA. He retired in 1984, but remained active by serving as an Industrial Chaplain for Van Com Corporation in Elmhurst, IL. In recent years, Rev. Piersma ministered to Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Pella, IA, during two vacancies and currently as an associate pastor.

His comprehensive training and life experience, combined with his natural acuteness, contributed to his ability to discourse on nearly any subject with nearly anyone. He could relate well to people of all ages, chatting about sports figures with a youth, discussing the latest theological controversy with an adult, or bringing the timeless comfort of the gospel to a shut-in.

The earthly tent of Rev. John H. Piersma was laid to rest on Tuesday, December 21, 2004. At the funeral service, Covenant Reformed’s Pastor Patrick Edouard read the doxology found in verses 28-39 of Romans 8. He noted that Rev. Piersma’s interest and activity in the wider Reformed community was “truly catholic” in character, transcending denominational lines. Using Revelation 14:13, Rev. Edouard stressed the importance of living a fruitful life and dying in the Lord, as Rev. Piersma had done.

Rev. Piersma never requested to be remembered with flowery eulogies or inflated praise. His only desire was to be remembered.