Interview with Rev. W. Silfhout, Pastor of the Gereformeerde Gemeente, Capelle a/d IJssel
When did you become involved with the Isaac da Costa Fund?
That happened in 1999. According to the statutes, two of the board members had to come from the Netherlands Reformed Congregations. I was asked to be one of these two and had the privilege of serving as chairman until the end of 2004, almost without any interruption. It was good to be in contact with brothers from different church denominations who were driven by the same love for the Jewish people.
What was the reason that the Board for Israel decided to support the building of the church of “Grace and Truth” by means of an interdenominational fund?
The Board for Israel considered that raising money for church construction did not tie in with its mandate. The task of the deputies was, and still is, gospel preaching and diaconal care. Modest contributions to church building do fit within this task, but not when this concerns a large-scale project like the construction of this church in Kanot for the congregation of Rishon leTsion. Moreover, this would exceed the strength of the Board and its supporters by far. Cooperation with other right-wing churches within the Reformed community would also have positive effects for fundraising.
Sometimes criticism can be heard regarding the size and shape of the church and its adjacent buildings. What were the thoughts about this at the beginning of this project?
To some extent, this kind of criticism has been there from the outset, though it was not as strong as later in the process. It was not so much the design, which differs from what we are accustomed to when we think about church building, but it was more the size of the building that raised questions. On the other hand, the idea and the desire that this building could play a central role in the Messianic movement made it necessary to build a rather sizable building. Perhaps, those who took the initiative have not sufficiently reflected on this and explored all aspects as to feasibility.
What function can this building perform, in your opinion, within the Messianic community?
The church in Kanot must primarily be a house of prayer for the congregation “Grace and Truth”. This is the first reason why this church is built. The current accommodation in Rishon leTsion has been inadequate already for years. In addition, the building could serve as a centre for the Messianic movement in terms of conferences and meetings to equip them. Another idea is that this church could function as a place where Christian education will be developed and given to the children of the Messianic Jewish families.
Do you have evidence that there is a growing audience for the Reformed truth in Israel?
There appears to be some room for the Reformed message in Israel. This is evidenced, among other things, by the interest that Messianic Jews show in the Reformed literature that is being distributed in Israel. There are examples showing that people are brought to repentance by reading these books. The fact that the Hebrew translation of the Heidelberg Catechism has been introduced is another significant contribution in this respect.
What would you like to say as a recommendation for the church building project?
Let the building be completed as soon as possible, so that it can be dedicated and used. May this house of prayer in Israel be a symbol of Christian witness in a country that is indeed Jewish but also―to a great extent―secular.