Vincent’s father served as parson of the Dutch Reformed church in Etten from October 1875 to August 1882. Vincent lived abroad during much of this period and often visited his parents at holidays like Christmas and Easter. On those occasions, he attended services at his father’s church. While staying in Etten for more than seven months in 1881, he went to the church regularly. His friend Anthon van Rappard came to visit for twelve days that June, and they attended a service; Van Rappard made the drawing Reader, which depicted the parson Jan Gerrit Kam of the adjacent town of Leur, who had given a sermon in Etten. Vincent went to church less out of a compulsion to do so than out of politeness, however. He no longer had much affinity for religion, after months of fanaticism that had ultimately brought him little satisfaction.
At Christmas 1881, Vincent’s refusal to go to church sparked an argument with his father:
“I was angrier than I ever remember being in my whole life, and I told Pa plainly that I found the whole system of that religion loathsome, and precisely because I dwelled on those things too much during a miserable time in my life I don’t want anything more to do with it, and have to guard against it as against something fatal.”
Vincent specified the cause of the row:
“Things actually came to a head because I didn’t go to church, and also said that if going to church was something forced and I had to go to church, I’d most certainly never go again, not even out of politeness, as I’ve been doing fairly regularly the whole time I’ve been in Etten."
As a result of the argument, Vincent left Etten for The Hague, where he remained for two years.