Bethany United Church of Christ

History of Bethany United Church of Christ


The following information was taken from the the centennial flyer that was published October 10, 1976 for the church Centennial.

During the Annual meeting held in January 1964 it was announced that approximately $11,500 had been pledged toward a new Church Building. At a special meeting of the Congregation on February 26th; it was voted to build a new Church. The archchitect"s drawing was designed to use the colored windows from the old Church. These windows were made in Germany in l890. On April 12th, before the Church was torn down, a severe hail storm hit Hiawatha and the windows on the west side of the building were broken; as well as countless other windows in the city. A new design was required so that the windows on the south and east would be sufficient. Malcolm Germann a former member of the Church made this drawing. The wreckers started taking the building down on Monday June 22nd. The cornerstone, held several interesting articles; among them an 1884 silver dollar, an 1883 dime, a copy of the Democrat (a newspaper from Hiawatha,) a song book and a newspaper printed in German.

The Cornerstone of the New Church was dedicated November 8. 1964 the contents included a list of the contents from the first cornerstone (since several items were in very poor condition) a nail from the old Church; an 1884 silver dollar and silver dime taken from the old cornerstone; a color picture of the former Church; a history of the Church from the 1900 Souvenir Edition of the Brown County World; a copy of the Church Bulletin of November 18, 1951 (75th Anniversary); an invitation to attend the memorial of Rev. Hassenpflug on March 19, 1944; a program of the Thanksgiving Service and Dedication of the Parish House Nov. 26, 1922; a 1964 Kennedy 50 cent piece; Hiawatha Daily World of Monday Nov. 9, 1964; Sunday Church bulletin Nov. 8, 1964; and a membership list of the Church.

During the time the new Church was being built the Sunday Services were held in the Parish House. The members anxiously looked forward each Sunday to see what had been accomplished during the week. At last the big day arrived when the Church was to be dedicated. This was April 11, 1965.

The congregation and friends assembled at the main entrance of the Church where the ceremony of the presentation of the keys took place. After this brief service the worshippers followed the minister, choir, members of the consistory and Building Committee into the sanctuary. There was a morning and afternoon service followed by a reception and fellowship hour. The Union Holy Week services were held in this Church the following week; beginning with that evening"s service.

The Church has a seating capacity of 225. The walnut furniture on the rostrum are memorials from 1942 and 1961. The oak pews, which were purchased in 1924 have been refinished in antique oak.

Graphic of emblem on side of church.The emblem on the west side of the Church is known as "The Cross of Victory." This symbol - the Cross surmounted by the crown and all of it atop the orb signifies the kingship of the risen Christ over the world, The orb, representing the world, is divided into three parts to signify the command of our Lord to his disciples; "You shall be witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." "That they may all be one." This text is used for the United Church of Christ rich in the traditions of the past and alive with hope for the future.

A few interesting side-lights about the building of the Church: Church services were held in the Parish House during the building of the Church and when the members were getting the Parish House ready for the services; one of the ladies was cleaning the pulpit chair and in reaching down beside the cushion she found several pieces of glass that had landed there during the hail storm. How lucky for Rev. Fresen that she found the glass glass before he did.

One Sunday when the members went into the new building for the weekly progress inspection they found that the paneling in the front looked as if it had been painted with black shoe polish. The contractor must have heard how shocked the folks were; as we heard later he said he wished he could have kept everyone out until the painting was finished.

Just imagine the thrill and surprise of some of the members when they entered the Sanctuary the morning of the dedication; to see a perfect reflection of the cross on the floor in front of the altar. Mrs. Wentling said that when Reverend Wentling came as a candidate; that was the first thing they saw when they entered the Church that morning. Several visitors have made the same remark. Many members are wondering if this isn"t a good omen; considering the fact that no one knew in advance that this reflection would occur.

Because of the merger of Bethany Church with the United Church of Christ the Constitution and By-Laws had to be revised; therefore a new set of By-Laws were drawn up and accepted in December 1965.

The Steeple was put on the front of the Church in 1966. The Youth Fellowship furnished one of the downstairs rest rooms; also purchased the large Nativity Scene the same year.

The parsonage at 211 Delaware was purchased in 1967 and the former parsonage is used by the Day Care Center for the Handicapped

Another important date in the Church History was the burning of the mortgage on Sunday, September 29, 1968. The Pastor and Consistory deemed it appropriate that Orville Montague, who had been quite involved in the work on the new Church should hold the tray which held the burning mortgage. It was considered an even wiser choice; due to the fact that Orville was also the Fire Chief of Hiawatha. No mishap occurred — a tribute to an efficient Fire Department. This special service also initiated the new Hymnals with a sing-along.

The Women's Guild started the project of improving the upstairs kitchen by purchasing a new sink and hot water heater. The Guild also purchased two tables and twelve settings of silver with Betty Crocker coupons. Maundy—Thursday services were started this year. The Youth Fellowship hosted the Kansas Youth Rally in November of 1970. The Women"s Guild carpeted both stairways to the Parish-House basement. To make the choir seats more comfortable seat pads were put in place.

Several improvements were made in 1972. A new humidifier, two flags and poles were purchased for the Sanctuary; also two public address systems were installed. Shelves were placed in the up-stairs kitchen and thirty storm windows for the Parish House were bought and put in place by the men of Church. A drop ceiling was installed and new paneling put on the walls of the undercroft. This work was done by faithful members. The mortgage on the parsonage was paid off this year. The Youth Fellowship was re-organized in February 1973.

Several additions were made in the furnishings of the Church namely — a Baldwin piano, two coat racks, one hundred adult chairs and twenty—five child-size chairs. A Kimball piano for the Parish House was purchased by Sunday School and Women"s Guild.

Several improvements were made in the Parish House last year. Two furnaces and central air conditioners were installed and the attic insulated. The kitchens were remodeled with new cupboards, two double sinks, two stoves and ovens installed and two primary class rooms built. In addition to helping with the expense of these improvements the Women"s Guild purchased corelle dishes, service for sixty people, also adding to the silver service. The Youth Fellowship carpeted both stairways to the undercroft. The social rooms and other rooms were painted this year. The latest additions to the Church properties are two brass altar vases, two offering plates and an outdoor bulletin board, given as memorial gifts.

As can be readily seen Bethany Church has made numerous changes and improvements which would have been impossible if it had not been for the many, many hours donated by the faithful members of the Church — both men and women. Numerous memorials and gifts have also added to the beauty of the Church.

One of our members — with the longest record of membership is still attending Church regularly. Mrs. George Weidman affectionately known as "Susie" was confirmed in Bethany Church on February 10, 1901.

This Church has reached the Century mark; but there is no end to the history of a living Church, the Body of Christ, "For lo, I am with you always."