Terra Ceia church celebrates its 80th anniversary

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2016

PANTEGO – Every church has stories: of its origin, of coming together as a community and many stories of the lives within the church. Terra Ceia Christian Reformed Church is no exception, and as the congregation celebrates its 80th anniversary on Sunday, many of those stories will be retold.

Sunday at 10:30 a.m., church members will host “Celebrating God’s Grace, Our Joy, and His Mercy,” a service and potluck dinner to celebrate the anniversary, and the public is invited to share in its history.

“I think we just wanted to go back and reflect and see where we’ve been with our church and where we’re going in the future — where God’s going to lead us,” said Nancy De Hoog, a member of the church.

That De Hoog and her husband, Earl, met through the church is just one of the stories. Another involves the complicated process of a literal moving of the church from Camp Butner, 20 miles north of Durham, to where it sits in Pantego today. At the time the Army chapel at Camp Butner was offered for sale in 1947, the Christian Reformed Church congregation was meeting in a local school building. It took a team to dismantle and rebuild the church.

Since the congregation has reached out with various programs and projects — youth groups, programs for special needs children — taking care of one another and the larger community.

“Our church family is very strong,” De Hoog said. “You know if anything happens to one, the rest definitely support and help them out, and that’s something that stays very strong in our church community. … It takes everybody. We are a small congregation, and it takes pretty much everyone to keep the projects up and running.”

She said some outside the Terra Ceia community are unaware that while the church’s roots are based in the immigration of Dutch farmers to the area, the Terra Ceia Christian Reformed Church has evolved to a broader membership under the leadership of several pastors, the most recent of which is Dave Weemhoff, who has served as pastor since 2011.

“A lot of people are under the illusion that we are a Dutch church, but we’re really not. … We’re made up of regular people of the community,” De Hoog said. “We have a great pastor right now. We’ve been blessed with a lot of good pastors through the years. … I guess we’re a denomination people aren’t familiar with, but it really is close to Presbyterian. We’re similar to that.”

What has remained since Terra Ceia Christian Reformed Church’s organization in 1936, however, is a real sense of family, De Hoog said.

“To me, that is the biggest draw to the church — the sense of community. That is very important in our church,” De Hoog said.

The congregation is inviting anyone to join that community for the Sunday service and potluck.

“If anyone’s interested, we’d be delighted to have them attend,” De Hoog said. “We’d love to have some new people join us.”

The church — the same building and steeple that were moved there in 1947-48 — is located at 3298 Terra Ceia Highway, Pantego.


A history of Terra Ceia Christian Reformed Church
By Anne Maatman

Terra Ceia Christian Reformed Church celebrates its 80th year with a worship service and potluck on Sunday, October 30, 2016, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The church was organized in November 1936 with 14 communicant members, pastored by Charles Greenfield, who was appointed by the CRC denomination as a mission worker. Today the congregation numbers 50 communicant members plus children; Dave Weemhoff has served as its full-time pastor since 2011.

The Reformed faith focuses on how God calls people into relationship with him, urges people to say yes to God’s offer of salvation in Jesus and offer their lives to God in return. Reformed folk are deeply involved in responding to God’s love in Jesus Christ, believing that salvation is ultimately God’s work from beginning to end.

In the 1930s, families of Dutch descent moved into Terra Ceia at the encouragement of Hendrik Van Dorp, who had been recruited from the Netherlands in 1925 to work as the manager of Broad Acre Ranch. Van Dorp promoted the area to other Dutchmen with words like “mild climate, rich soil, ample rain fall and success within reach.” After two waves of Dutchmen failed at vegetable farming and, later, diking and draining Lake Mattamuskeet, the third wave took root, raising tulips and other flowers and bulbs. Since most were of Reformed persuasion with strong religious backgrounds, they felt a real need to come together for worship, encouragement from God’s Word, and instruction from the Bible. Their first meetings were in a larger home with the men reading sermons from a Dutch sermon book. Later they shared the school building across the road from its current location.

After meeting in the school building for a dozen years, the congregation needed a separate church building. With the help of Congressman Herbert Bonner, the congregation was able to obtain an Army chapel for $1,500 in 1947. However, the chapel was at Camp Butner and would have to be moved 180 miles! After harvest was completed in the fall, the men began dismantling the chapel. Each Monday morning, 10-20 men would leave for Camp Butner, work all week and return home on Friday evening.

FAMILIAR NAMES: A McCotter Trucking Company truck hauls pieces of the Terra Ceia Christian Reformed Church to Terra Ceia in 1948.

FAMILIAR NAMES: A McCotter Trucking Company truck hauls pieces of the Terra Ceia Christian Reformed Church to Terra Ceia in 1948.

Staying at Camp Butner cost the men very little monetarily, since they could sleep in the barracks and the church paid for their cafeteria meals. However, the first bitter night at the camp levied a price of its own. In the cold, drafty barracks there were beds with mattresses, but no blankets; a number of coal heaters, but no coal. The men went to bed fully dressed, but even then they were cold. Some resorted to using mattresses as bed covers, but mattresses don’t stay put very well. Imagine their surprise the next morning when they discovered a huge pile of coal near the barracks. Needless to say, the next evening there was a fire blazing in more than one heater.

It was tedious work, and not without its tense moments: On a frosty morning up on the roof, the men could slide a bit — sometimes quite a bit. But always, the two-by-fours nailed all around the eaves prevented any falls to the ground. Moving the steeple made everyone hold their breath. The steeple was left intact to be lowered down by ropes. Instead of nicely sliding down the roof, it rolled — bumpety bump. Surely the ropes would give way and the steeple would smash to the ground; but, wondrously, it stopped rolling at roof’s edge and was let down safely, reaching the ground in one piece.

The work continued, carefully, board by board, each one numbered as to location, until the entire building could be moved to Terra Ceia…where it had to be reconstructed. The chapel was rebuilt by volunteer labor under the direction of two professional carpenters, who later did the finish work.

More stories from the history of Terra Ceia CRC will be shared at their 80th anniversary event. The congregation invites all to join them in “Celebrating God’s Grace, Our Joy, and His Mercy” on Sunday.