The English Reformed Church is one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam, situated in the centre of the city. It is home to an English-speaking congregation which is affiliated to the Church of Scotland and to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (formerly Dutch Reformed Church). It comes under the Church of Scotland's Presbytery of Europe, and is also known as the Scots Kirk in Amsterdam. The current minister, John Cowie, is also Clerk to the Presbytery of Europe.
The address of the church, Begijnhof 48, indicates its origins. The Begijnhof, an enclosed courtyard, was a 14th-century residence for the sisterhood of the Catholic Beguines, and the church was originally established as their chapel. It was confiscated from the Catholic lay sisterhood during the Reformation. For this reason, the church is invisible from the street and can only be discovered by entering the courtyard through an inconspicuous archway.
As with other city churches, the keys of the chapel were surrendered to the Municipality when Amsterdam sided officially with the Prince of Orange and formally adopted Calvinist doctrines in 1578. The church, controlled by the Beguines, was taken by the city council and closed. In 1607, the church was re-opened for worship when the Municipality presented it to the English-speaking Protestants living in the city. Since then, services in English have continued practically without interruption to the present day.
The Catholic Beguines, deprived of their former oratory and daily Mass, who continued to live in several houses of the Begijnhof, refused to re-enter the chapel as they considered it "desecrated by heresy". The dissenting English Protestants in Amsterdam in the early days of the English Church included a number, who, within a few years of their arrival in the city, left to form a separate congregation in Leiden and to sail via Delfshaven and Plymouth (in England) on the Mayflower to the New World in 1620. These Pilgrim Fathers are remembered in stained glass and memorials both within and outside the church.