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Bethel Church’s 175 years as a congregation serving Jesus have been remarkable indeed. Many things have changed, but Jesus hasn’t, so we give thanks to him for his abiding love and spiritual presence for us. During the 1840 ‘s, our forefathers were involved with much oppression in Germany and immigrating to the United States was an option that many elected to do.

Many of the settlers came by boat to New Orleans and settled in Evansville. At the year of establishment, James K. Polk was president and Abe Lincoln was a congressman in Illinois. The original church was administered by an itinerant minister from Evansville, the Rev. Heinrich Toelke. He came about once each month for two years. In his absence, the laymen were in charge. One can only imagine coming from Evansville, the dangers associated with this trek. There were streams and a river or two to cross and probably encounters with Native Americans.

On October 27, 1847, Rev. Toelke organized the first church as an Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Church. There were twenty-one families. The first church was a 20 X 25 foot log building close to the present church. Because of a rapid increase in membership, a new brick church was built in 1851. The first confirmation class was in 1851 and had fourteen members.

This church burned in 1856 and a new one built in 1860. The congregation voted to build a bigger church, 50 x 90 in 1900. This church stood until 1934 when it was consumed by fire. Our current church was rebuilt in 1934 and remains to this day. Succeeding Rev. Toelke was Reverend A. Kornbamn 1851-1856.

Other Former Pastors Several persons who grew up at Bethel entered Christian Ministry including The Reverend Donald Buckthal, The Reverend Max Pepmeier, and The Reverend Doctor Donald Bubenzer. The Evangelical and Reformed Church membership lasted until 1963 when Bethel became affiliated with the United Church of Christ. In 2005, Bethel became an independent church which we remain to this date. In 1992, the front exterior of the Church was completely remodeled because of a deteriorating condition. The steeple and bell were removed and repositioned back after the remodeling of the brick facade was completely replaced.

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