In the Heart of the Valley

First Christian Reformed Church, Visalia, California

Nestled in the heart of Central Valley California is a church that daily exemplifies community and growth. First CRC in Visalia, currently pastored by Rev. George Vink, is a vibrant and active congregation dedicated to serving the community around them while caring for the spiritual growth and well-being of their own members.

First CRC strives towards blended worship. They appreciate the value of their tradition and denominational background but also work towards incorporating new and fresh ideas. It is not uncommon to see a combination of hymns and contemporary songs in their services. During their Christmas Carols service (see p. 37) the congregation sang the Dutch hymn “Ere Zij God” followed by a modern Christmas song. Worship planners at First Church believe that when prepared with discernment, blended worship can be edifying and worshipful for all ages. Weekly services incorporate a full musical band, including piano, drums, bongos, and guitar. The organ is also used in almost every service as well as brass and wind instruments on special occasions. First Church values unity, so though they no longer all fit in the sanctuary, they have chosen to offer two identical Sunday morning services rather than opt to have services of differing styles. Both services have the same content with the same music and musical leadership.

Intergenerational Worship

Worship is not for adults alone; it is for the entire body of Christ. That commitment to intergenerational worship is evident in more ways than just through the choice of music. Children of all ages, teens, adults, and seniors regularly serve as lay leaders by participating in Scripture reading, responsive readings, prayers, drama, and music. Not only does the participation of all ages help to develop community within the church body, it also shows that all members are of equal importance. To help facilitate the worship of all ages, children’s worship is led on a weekly basis for children ages 3-5.

The congregation’s commitment both to worship and to its youth is evident outside of Sunday mornings as well. High school and middle school youth groups meet weekly for Bible study, service projects, and fellowship with each other. Every summer, the congregation hires three or four high school juniors or seniors as interns to serve the church. Some are responsible for assisting worship director Dawn Vink, others work alongside doing administration or construction. This provides a wonderful opportunity for youth to get involved and gain the experience of working in a church setting.


First CRC exemplifies koinonia, the Greek word for the kind of fellowship that runs deeper than a casual relationship. Koinonia describes the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity, a fellowship that is singular in that the three are one. First Church attempts to model this communion within their own church body and also with the community around them. Their website states that they are much more than a loose-knit group of individuals who happen to share a worship service. After each service there is time of fellowship and coffee, which not only enables members of the congregation to grow relationships, but also to welcome and meet newcomers and visitors. Being situated in a beautiful location allows for an annual church campout. Around sixty to seventy people turn out each year with tents and stoves to spend time together in God’s great creation. Their VBS outreach attracts more than 100 children from the congregation and surrounding neighborhood every summer.

First Church is a family that strives daily toward a growing, loving relationship with Jesus Christ and with each other. Members reach out to and serve the community around them while maintaining and growing in their fellowship within their own congregation. Thanks be to God for their partnership in the gospel!

In a Nutshell

Organized: 1965
Members: 893
Services: 8:00 and 9:30 a.m.; 6:00 p.m.
Staff: 9
Statement of Purpose: We are a church family striving for a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. God calls us into love and fellowship with him and with our friends and neighbors. We experience this fellowship as we meet together to

  • learn from God’s Word
  • pray
  • encourage and care for each other
  • educate and train for spiritual growth, service, and witness

We will share the good news of Jesus with our neighbors, all to the glory of God.

An Evening Service of Carols and Memories


We Hear Christ’s Call to Come: Matthew 11:28-30

We Call Others to Join Us: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” CH 249, PH 42, PsH 340, TH 208, WR 182

God’s Word Tells the Place: Matthew 2:1-6

Song: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” PH 44, TH 201, WR 180

God’s Greeting

Song: “The First Noel” CH 265, PH 56, WR 229

Scripture reading: Luke 2:1-20

“Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come” CH 270, PH 40, PsH 337, SFL 137, TH 195, WR 179
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” CH 277, PH 31, PsH 345, TH 203, WR 185

We Share Our Memories

Song of Mary: Luke 1:46-55

Song: “Once in Royal David’s City” CH 286, PH 49, PsH 346, TH 225, WR 183

Song of Simeon: Luke 2:25-32


Scripture reading (unison): John 1:1-14

Song: “Silent Night” CH 253, PH 60, PsH 344, TH 210, WR 186

Christ’s Incarnation: Philippians 2:5-11

We Pray for God’s Blessing

Song of Commission: “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” CH 258, PH 29, PsH 356, SFL 131, TH 224, WR 218

Parting Blessing

Music As We Leave to Share and Tell

After reading Luke’s account of Christ’s birth and singing two familiar carols, congregants were invited to share their favorite memory of Christmas carols using the microphones placed in the aisles. The pastor began by sharing from the mic his own remembrance of singing “Angels We Have Heard on High” around the family pump organ and his mother reaching the high notes for “in excelsis Deo.” There were those for whom Christmas is not complete without singing “Ere Zij God” as it has been sung by generations of Dutch worshipers. Others shared Iowa memories of snow and sleds while a visitor felt free to tell of her love for her favored carol. Laughter echoed in the sanctuary as people shared their memories.

Next a young woman read the Song of Mary from Luke 1, followed by more singing. Then, in the midst of the congregation, an elderly man read the Song of Simeon from Luke 2.

The evening concluded with a reading of Philippians 2:5-11. The worship leader led us in prayer seeking God’s blessing on our continued Christmas celebrations and once again urged the congregation to share the story of Christ’s birth.

A happy family headed to the fellowship hall as the organist filled the place with “Joy to the World.”

—George Vink
Reformed Worship 81 © September 2006 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.