The Rev. Cornelius Kloppenburg of OudVosmeer, the Netherlands, resisted coming to America when called by several dozen Dutch immigrants in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who were dissatisfied with and unwilling to affiliate with the Dutch Reformed (now Reformed Church in America) or True Dutch Reformed (now Christian Reformed Church) congregations in the area.
"These hungering souls longed to have the pure preaching they had savored in The Netherlands," so they attempted to organize as a congregation - and called Kloppenburg to be their pastor. He declined their call, but when church members learned that he was in Rochester, New York, they extended another call.
At the very least, they hoped he would pastor them as a visiting minister. Kloppenburg came to Grand Rapids in August 1870 to preach to the new flock. Instead of promoting organization, he urged them to affiliate with the least objectionable denomination, but the immigrants were adamant in wanting their own pure church.
Kloppenburg decided to winter in Grand Rapids and pastor the new flock, and on October 30, 1870, the group formally organized as The Reformed Congregation of Grand Rapids. On Nov. 3, the church elected its first elders, and Kloppenburg's church in OudVosmeer, which had replaced him, freed him to accept the call to Grand Rapids.
The congregation initially worshipped in the Swedenborgian Church on the comer of Division and Lyon, but it was eager to have its own building. The congregation purchased a house on Division between Bronson (now Crescent) and Bridge (now Michigan) in 1873; the church building would be constructed behind the home.
Faced with failing health, in May 1975 Kloppenburg suggested that the congregation affiliate with the Gereformeerd Kerk in the Netherlands, which they did.
Kloppenburg's health deteriorated, and by August 1876 he recommended that the congregation consider Cornelius Vorst, a student at the seminary of the True Dutch Reformed Church. Weeks later, on Sept. 6, 1876, the Rev. Cornelius Kloppenburg departed this life.