|Scotland United Church of Christ
Merge with Jesus | Scotland, South Dakota
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It's all about merging our faith with Jesus and each other.
Bethany Reformed Church
In 1873, Jacob Orth, age 36, arrived in Yankton, Dakota Territory, with his wife, Magdelena, and their
children. He had been a parochial school teacher in the village of Worms, northeast of Odessa, in Chelson,
South Russia. From Yankton, he went northwest to homestead among other Russian-German people in
Odessa Township, nine miles southeast of a settlement that would one day be the town of Scotland.
Seeing the need for pastoral ministry among the settlers, and perceiving his own call to ministry, Jacob went
to Mission House Seminary in Plymouth, Wisconsin, in the autumn of 1874. Magdelena and the children
stayed behind to tend to the homestead through the winter. In the spring of 1875, Jacob was examined by
Sheboygan Classis and was ordained as a minister of the Reformed Church in the United States. He
returned home to his family and began planting Reformed congregations. In 1876 Rev. Orth helped
organize the Friedens Parish, which consisted of the Odessa Reformed Church (southeast of Scotland),
Friedens Reformed Church (also near Scotland), Bethany Reformed Church (in Scotland), Upper Immanuel
Reformed Church (south of Tripp) and Lower Immanuel (north of Tyndall). He also helped plant several
Reformed congregations around the Menno area.
Rev. Orth taught the faith using the Bible and the Heidelberg Catechism (first published in 1563), baptized
many children, performed weddings, and buried the dead for the various congregations. He assisted the
churches in setting up "reading services" so that worship could be held every Sunday in every church - for it
was not possible for him to come to every church weekly. He rotated among the churches, conducting
worship on an itinerant basis. His clothes were not warm enough for making the 40 mile round-trip to the
furthest reaches of the Friedens Parish in severe cold, and in the winter of 1882-1883, he fell ill.
Rev. Jacob Orth died of pnuemonia on March 11, 1883, at the age of 46, leaving behind Magdelena and 13
children. He is buried in the Odessa Reformed Church cemetery, nine miles southeast of Scotland. His
grave marker was put in place in 1954 by surviving members of the youth groups of churches he had
served over 70 years earlier.
After Rev. Orth's death, the Frieden's Parish was reorganized. Upper and Lower Immanuel congregations
became part of another parish, and the Hoffnung Reformed Church near Lesterville (founded in 1882) and
a Yankton congregation joined the Frieden's Parish. Eventually, the name of the Friedens Parish was
changed to the Scotland Reformed Charge.
Rev. Henry Treick began serving the Reformed Parish in 1896. During his years in Scotland, the Eureka
Classis was organized by the Northwest Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States with the first
meeting being held June 7, 1911 in Scotland with Rev. Treick serving as one of the founding ministers of
the Classis. At that meeting, it was decided to establish the Reformed Church Scotland Academy. The
co-educational school was dedicated on September 5, 1915, with an initial enrollment of 96 students coming
from all over North and South Dakota. It's purpose was to provide classes in both German and English
languages for general academic subjects, and biblical instruction with an emphasis on the Reformed faith.
Unfortunately, the life of the Scotland Academy was brief. The United States entered into World War I in
1917, when Congress declared war on Germany, and suddenly the use of the German language was
looked upon with strong suspicion by non-German people. The Academy closed its doors after only a few
years of operation.
The German language continued to remain important for the Scotland area Reformed churches for some
time. Youth were taught the Heidelberg Catechism in both German and English, as evidenced by this copy
of the Catechism, until English became the dominate language of the church. The last class to learn the
Catechism in German was confirmed in 1941 under the pastorate of Rev. Ulrich Zogg.
The Bible, Apostles Creed and Heidelberg Catechism remained at the core of the church's confirmation
teaching ministry through the years. View a photo gallery of Confirmation Classes confirmed by the
Bethany Reformed Church.
In August of 1924, under the pastorate of Rev. Gustave Zenk, the Odessa Reformed Church closed its
doors and united with its sister church, Bethany Reformed Church, in Scotland. The two buildings were
sold and a spacious new church building for Bethany Reformed Church was built and dedicated on August
1, 1926. The old Odessa Reformed Church building was converted into a house and was later moved to
Lesterville where it remains to this day.
In 1934 the Hoffnung Reformed Church near Lesterville was dissolved and its members joined the Bethany
Reformed Church in Scotland. The church's cemetery still marks the location of this former congregation.
The Evangelical Synod of America and the Reformed Church in the United States merged in 1934. The
Dakota Synod of the Reformed Churches, however, waited until 1940 to take part in the merger. A number
of Reformed Churches in the Dakotas did not join in the merger at all, but joined the Eureka Classis, first
organized in Scotland, SD in 1911, which eventually became a separate denomination on its own. The
Reformed Church in Scotland was split by the possibility of the national merger. Rev. Ulrich Zogg, the pastor
at the time, was an outspoken critic of the national merger. Some of the church's members supporting the
Eureka Classis actually padlocked the doors of Bethany Reformed Church in an attempt to sway the rest of
the congregation from voting in favor of the national merger In the end, the church did join in the merger
and they became part of the newly formed Evangelical & Reformed Church. At this point the Scotland
congregation was renamed Bethany Evangelical & Reformed Church. Tensions persisted over this decision
for several years until Rev. Henry Heinbuch was called as the church's pastor, and he helped bring healing
and renewal to the church family.
In 1962, under the pastorate of Rev. Henry Roemer, the members of Bethany Evangelical & Reformed
Church began seriously thinking about reorganizing their church and uniting it with the three area German
Congregational churches of the Scotland Congregational Parish to form a new United Church of Christ
parish in Scotland. In March 1963 members of the congregation voted to enter into union with the German
Congregational churches on the condition that the Heidelberg Catechism would continue to remain
foundational in the life and teaching of the new congregation. On March 3, 1965 the members of the
Reformed church united with all of their German Congregational counterparts for the first time in a
combined worship service in the brand new worship facility built by the four congregations to house the
United Church of Christ of Scotland.
The old Bethany Reformed Church building on Second Street was eventually sold. It currently serves as
the home of Fellowship Baptist Church. The church's bell now resides in the bell tower on our church
campus. The church's baptismal fount and communion table are located in our church and are used to
celebrate the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. The Odessa Reformed Cemetery still marks
the location of this former congregation and is owned and cared for by members of the Scotland church.
View the complete listing of pastors who served the Bethany Reformed Church here.