Highland Hills Baptist Church was originally organized in May of 1894, as Holland Baptist Church, under the leadership of its first pastor, Douwe Laansma. On October 22, 1894 Douwe Laansma was ordained and began a long and fruitful ministry, serving the church for 50 years. Holland Baptist Church began to grow, and early into Pastor Laansma’s ministry, the need for a larger building became apparent. On January 26, 1906 a new chapel was dedicated on Quarry Avenue, and rightly named Rehoboth, meaning “the Lord has made room for us” (Genesis 26:22). Eventually this location became known as Quarry Avenue Baptist Church. One of the challenges of ministry in the “New World” was the language barrier - Dutch vs. English.
For a time Pastor Laansma would preach sermons in English in the morning and evening services, then in the afternoon would preach in Dutch. Dutch people from the community would attend their own services in the morning, then travel to hear Pastor Laansma preach in Dutch in the afternoon. In 1943, after several years of discussions, votes, prayers and encouragement, the church finally settled on using English as its primary language for all services.
- “It is my earnest and my sincere prayer that after my departure, my dear church and congregation may be kept by the power and grace of God, faithfully and true to the dear old fundamental truths, which I, although in weakness but with deep conviction, have preached among them. That they may maintain the doctrines of the sovereign grace, of particular redemption, and never to submit to the false doctrine of general redemption and the so-called free will of man."
[Pastor Douwe Laansma, circa 1928]
In 1945 Quarry Avenue Baptist Church called Reverend Robert Dice to be its second senior pastor. Under Pastor Dice’s leadership the church developed an annual budget; updated its Constitution; joined the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches; expanded its missionary program; developed youth and children’s programs such as Boy’s Brigade and Pioneer Girls; Vacation Bible School; as well as putting together various women’s fellowship groups. A church choir was formed to sing during Sunday services, special occasions, as well as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Quarry Avenue Baptist Church continued to grow, and began to look for a new building site once again. Pastor Dice resigned in 1958.
In 1959 Reverend Gordon Cook was called to be the third senior pastor, serving until 1968. During Pastor Cook’s leadership the church began collecting books for a church library; Wednesday night prayer meetings became “Family Night”; Ladies’ Fellowship and Missionary Fellowship merged into Ladies’ Missionary Fellowship. Being a mission oriented church, new missionaries were added to the budget during this time. Communion service at HHBC had always been held at a separate time. During Pastor Cook’s ministry, this church ordinance instead began being remembered once a month, during the Sunday morning service. Also during Pastor Cook’s time as senior pastor, the church purchased a new building site at 1415 Northrup Avenue. The congregation erected a new building, and the first services were held on October 15, 1961. Quarry Avenue Baptist Church became known as Highland Hills Baptist Church. The dedication service took place on October 29, 1961 and former Pastor Robert Dice spoke at the evening service.
In the summer of 1968, Pastor Richard Woodworth began his ministry as the church’s fourth senior pastor. During Pastor Woodworth’s ministry a need for a larger youth ministry was determined. Tom Swedberg served as youth pastor intern from April to September of 1971. David Durning was called to be a full-time youth pastor in July of 1971, serving until September of 1973. William Henderson became the youth pastor in 1976 and served until 1980. During Pastor Henderson’s ministry the AWANA program was started at HHBC. After Pastor Henderson resigned, Mark Blocher joined the pastoral staff and served until 1985. Highland Hills Baptist Church was blessed and more missionaries were added to the Missionary Budget during Pastor Woodworth’s ministry as well. As the church’s youth ministry grew under the direction of the youth pastors, construction for a new Family Center began in 1978 and was dedicated on April 19, 1979. Pastor Woodworth resigned in 1984 after serving the church for 16 years.
In 1986 Pastor Stanley Mohr was extended a call and was installed as the church’s fifth pastor in 90 years. Many young couples were added to the congregation during his ministry and several programs were introduced to develop a closer relationship within the church family. Small groups called “Care Groups” began in 1988. They met in homes for prayer, Bible study and the development of caring relationships. During these years the library was moved to the Family Center; a new nursery was added in 1990; a Migrant Ministry began in 1991; in 1992 Sunday lunches began being served at City View Church as an outreach ministry. Pastor Mohr resigned in January of 1997.
On September 7, 1997 Reverend Dave M. Lamb was installed as the sixth pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church. Dave had become youth pastor during Pastor Mohr’s ministry. While serving as youth pastor, he was ordained on May 2, 1993. While Pastor Dave served as senior pastor, the youth ministry was led by Pastor Chad Coe (1999 – 2007) and pastor Adam Willis (2008 – 2016); Music ministry by Pastor Chad Vitarelli (1996 – 2003), Pastor Mark Warren (2004 – 2010), and Nathan Vaughn (2010-2012).
Under Pastor Dave’s leadership the adult Sunday School program and Care Groups concepts were combined to develop FLOCK Group Ministries (Fellowshipping together, Learning God’s Word, Outreach to the lost, Caring for one another, Kneeling together in prayer).
Pastor Dave resigned in 2012, to serve at Lake Ann Camp.
In 2015, leaving New England to return to the Mid-west, Pastor James Wells was called to be the Senior Pastor. Nate Vaughn also resumed his role as Minister of Worship. Nick Melonas was brought on as Associate Pastor of Student Ministries the year following. Additionally in 2016, Danielle Vaughn joined the staff as Office Administrator and Director of Children’s Ministries.
During this time Heaven’s gracious Hand has been evident in several new ministries and in reinvigorating those operating already. The God Who brought about our beginnings, continues to bless, grow and sustain His church. To Him be the glory!
[Updated 8/13/18 - PW]