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Petersburg Congregational Church
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. Rev. Hetzler was joined by Rev.
George E. Albright, the Superintendent of the General Conference of German Congregational Churches, to
help organize Petersburg German Congregational Church in January 1884.
The Petersburg congregation managed to construct its first church building in the same year it was
organized. The new church was dedicated on June 15, 1884. This congregation was located four miles
south and four miles east of Scotland. (It was located less than a mile away from Odessa Reformed Church
which also was a forebear of our current congregation.) View the Petersburg Church sanctuary here.
The need for ongoing pastoral service drew the Petersburg Church to forge a working relationship with four
other German Congregational churches: Neuburg Congregational Church, located southwest of Scotland,
First Congregational Church in Scotland along with Simentahl Congregational Church near Kaylor and
Hoffnungstal Congregational Church near Tripp. Together they formed 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.
In 1896 Worms German Congregational Church was founded near Lesterville (six miles south and three
miles east of Scotland) under the guidance of Rev. John Sattler, a pioneer pastor from Odessa, Russia who
also served the German Congregational Church in Tyndall. Members of the new church start purchased an
existing church building and cemetery property from a tiny Lutheran congregation when they closed their
doors and made it the home of the Worms Church. Rev. Sattler married his wife Paulina in 1900. He served
as the church's pastor until his death on September 27, 1925. The Worms church closed its doors in 1929,
and its members united with the Petersburg church. The Worms church building stood abandoned for a
number of years until 1943-1945 when Rev. Richard Reiger convened meetings to discuss what should be
done with the old Worms Church property. The church building was eventually torn down in 1945. An
engraved stone marker continues to mark its location about 100 feet northwest across the road from the
Worms Church Cemetery. The Collection Box that used to stand in the entry way of the old Worms Church
now resides in the lobby of our church and is still used to collect special offerings.
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 Petersburg church
readily adopted the Catechism into the life of their congregation. 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.
In 1962, under the pastorate of Rev. Elmer Bettenhausen, the members of Petersburg Congregational
Church 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 Petersburg 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 Petersburg church building was eventually torn down. It's church bell currently resides in the bell tower
of the United Church of Christ here in Scotland. The picture of Jesus that once graced the chancel at the
Petersburg Church is now located in the lower level of our present building. The church's cemetery remains
at the site of the former congregation and it , along with the old Worms church cemetery, continue to be
owned and maintained by members of the United Church of Christ.
View the complete listings of pastors who served the Scotland German Congregational Parish and Worms
German Congregational Church here.