|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.
First Congregational Church of Kaylor
One of the first concerns of Russian-German homesteaders settling the Dakotas was a church home. These
Germans were concerned with retaining their German identity. They wanted German churches in which
German was spoken and sung. Most of them, of course, had come from Lutheran and Reformed churches in
Germany, but now in the United States of America, with no government operated and controlled churches,
many of them were reluctant to join themselves to any group that required them to conform to its particular
ritual or governance.
The German Christians held to their independence. The only Head of the Church they recognized was their
Lord Jesus Christ. They were determined that no jurisdiction "above" the local congregation could rule them.
So it was that they referred to themselves as "Congregationalists" and to their association of churches as
in 1882 Rev. Henry Hetzler, a German Congregational pastor from Muscatine, Iowa was assigned to be a
missionary to the Russian Germans in the southeastern Dakota Territory. Upon first visiting the region, Rev.
Hetzler found a great many people already worshipping together in homes under lay leadership. One such
group, composed of 36 individuals, had been meeting in the home of Brother A. Roesner, six miles northwest
of Scotland. On January 9, 1884, Rev. Hetzler gathered them in worship, and they entered into covenant to
establish the first German Congregational church in Dakota Territory. It was named Simentahl German
Congregational Church. In the evening of that same day, Rev. Hetzler met with another group. These 19
people entered into covenant and organized the Hoffnungstal German Congregational Church.
Also in 1884, the Dakota Conference of German Congregational Churches was organized. Representatives
of German Congregational Churches met at Simentahl (the home of A. Roesner), and joined together in
solemn covenant to establish the Conference.
The need for ongoing pastoral service drew five German Congregational churches Simentahl, Hoffnungstal
along with Neuburg, Scotland and Petersburg Congregational together into an organized parish. The
Scotland German Congregational Parish called its first full-time minister, Rev. Hetzler, who had been most
helpful in founding these churches.
A schedule was drawn up for the minister to conduct worship services at the churches of the parish on a
rotating basis. Though the minister was to lead worship in each church once every five Sundays, in severe
winters the members sometimes went through two or three months without seeing their pastor. Deacons of
each congregation led worship and read sermons in the absence of the minister. The worship services were
conducted entirely in the German language.
The Simentahl congregation constructed its first building in 1891. Simentahl German Congregational Church
was two miles north and one-and-a-half miles east of Kaylor. The Hoffnungstal church was built in 1892.
Hoffnungstal German Congregational Church was located six miles north of Kaylor.
In 1904 the General Conference of the German Congregational Church published the German
Congregational Catechism for use among member congregations for faith instruction. The new Catechism
blended ideas from Luther's Small Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism. The Hoffnungstal and Simentahl
churches readily adopted the Catechism into the life of their congregations. The Catechism was taught in
German for a number of years as evidenced by this copy of the Catechism owned by a church member.
Combined Confirmation classes for the Scotland Congregational Parish were held at the First German
Congregational Church in Scotland and were taught by the shared Parish Pastor. The Rite of Confirmation
was held as a joint service at the Scotland City Hall with members from all of the Parish churches attending.
View a photo gallery of the Confirmation Classes held by the Scotland German Congregational Parish.
For some time the members of both churches desired to receive the services of the pastor more often, and so
efforts were undertaken to unite the two congregations. The suggestion was made at the annual meeting of
the Hoffnungstal Congregation on Dec. 14, 1944, that the possibility of a union be investigated. A joint
meeting was later called at which the idea of union was discussed and thought possible and advisable. At this
time a committee was appointed to plan for the union and to investigate the possibility of building a larger
house of worship in the village of Kaylor. This committee investigated various possibilities and finally came to
the decision to buy a church building, to move it to Kaylor and to remodel it into a suitable house of worship for
the new congregation. This step was necessary because of the lumber shortage caused by war conditions.
As a result a church building was bought from the Methodist Church and moved from Springfield to Kaylor. On
October 31, 1945 the building was placed on its new foundation and the work of remodeling was begun.
The two congregations officially voted to unite at a joint meeting held at the Simentahl Church on Dec. 6,
1945. At this meeting it was decided to name the new congegation the First Congregational Church of Kaylor.
Under the leadership of Rev. Richard W. Rieger, the remodeled building was dedicated on April 4, 1948. View
the church's sanctuary here.
Music played an important role in the worship life of the congregation, and the Kaylor Church had a Men's
Chorus who were especially talented and the congregation enjoyed hearing them sing.
In 1962, under the pastorate of Rev. Elmer Bettenhausen, the members of First Congregational Church of
Kaylor began seriously thinking about reorganizing their church and uniting it with the two other area German
Congregational churches of the Scotland Congregational Parish and Bethany Evangelical & Reformed Church
to form a new United Church of Christ parish in Scotland. In March 1963 members of the congregation voted
to enter into union with their sister churches and the Reformed Church on the condition that the German
Congregational Catechism would continue to remain foundational in the life and teaching of the new
congregation. On March 3, 1965 the members of the Kaylor church united with all of their German
Congregational and Reformed 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 church bell of the First Congregational Church of Kaylor now resides in the bell tower on the campus of
the Scotland United Church of Christ. The pulpit that once graced the church's chancel now resides in the
lower level of our church and is used frequently for various programs.
The cemeteries for the old Simentahl and Hoffnungstal churches still mark the locations of their former
congregations and remain under the care of the descendant congregation. The old Simentahl Congregational
Church building now resides in Scotland. It was moved from its rural Kaylor location to Scotland and
refurbished to become part of the Scotland Heritage Museum. Likewise, the old Hoffnungstal Congregational
Church building was also moved into Scotland. It now stands in the downtown district right across the street
from Buche's Grocery Store. The building has gone through so many renovations over the years that one can
only recognize the old church building from the northeast side.
View the complete listing of pastors who served the Scotland German Congregational Parish here.