by Charles A. Maxfield

December, 1989
Revised, April, 2001



I have written this paper to be part of my application to graduate school. However, there are two important reasons why I have written on this topic.

Having been active for a decade in the North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ, I am concerned about its health and well-being. Those who are active in the Conference could benefit from a fuller knowledge of the Conference's history. They could also benefit from an accurate account of the merger that created the United Church of Christ in North Dakota. As the Conference plans for its future, it is helpful to learn from the experiences of the past.

Believing in the ecumenical movement as an act of obedience to the will of God as found in Scripture, I am deeply troubled by the "ecuphobia" that saps the ecumenical strength of the United Church of Christ today. There is a fear of future church union, which I believe is based on the pain that is remembered from the last church union. Our memories and impressions need to be re-evaluated with the help of an accurate account of the facts. Hopefully, things can be learned from the last union, that can be of help in future unions.

We stand at a time when there is considerable interest in historical circles within the United Church of Christ, in examining the creation of the denomination. Enough time has passed to give us some perspective. Personal interviews must be done now, while key participants are still living and mentally able to recall and tell their story. This paper, telling the story of the union in one geographic area, is a contribution to the current studies of the creation of the United Church of Christ.

I thank the people who were willing to be interviewed: Vernon Bader, Austin Engel, Helmut Maedche, Lester L. "Pete" Soberg--who sent on tape his answers to my questions, and George Steffen--who answered my questions in writing. I regret that Ed Treat was no longer able to respond to inquiries. I also thank the four persons who responded very thoughtfully to my questionnaire to the churches that withdrew. Also George Syms, pastor of the Reformed Church (Eureka Classis) in Minot, was very helpful in getting information for me on the Eureka Classis. I also thank Don Yungclas and Lavonne Hawley, at the office of the North Dakota Conference, for providing me with any help I requested and more, while I did research at the Conference office. I also thank Francis Daugherty at the Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society, and the people at the North Dakota State Historical Society for their help. Lawrence Juell, Conference historian, and his wife Vivian were also very helpful. I also thank Christyann Ranck Maxfield for assistance with research and editing.

I originally wrote this paper in 1989. In revising it, I have not attempted to update it with the history since 1989.


On Friday, October 11, 1963, Jamestown (North Dakota) Congregational Church hosted the Constituting Convention of the North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ. One hundred and twenty-nine ministers and delegates gathered on a beautiful Fall day. They brought many different feelings with them. George Steffen, Pastor of Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church, New Salem, who would be elected Moderator of the Convention, recalled, "It felt like we were agog over a new beginning which would prove mutually helpful to all."1 Lester L. "Pete" Soberg, Congregational Assistant Conference Minister, remembered different feelings: "I detected a feeling of nostalgia. That is, all were concerned for doing things the way they had always been done. And so there was a little anxiety about what might happen."2 Hope and fear, enthusiasm and apprehension, mingled at that Constituting Convention.

If they didn't know it before, it soon became evident to delegates, debating the merits of the union was not the purpose of the meeting. They had come to participate in an elaborate ritual--whose rubrics were written by the lawyers--to create a new legal entity, the North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ. And they had come to celebrate--to sing, to pray, to preach and to listen, to join a parade, to renew fellowship with old friends, and to make new friends.

The union had taken place on a national level on June 25, 1957, when the Evangelical and Reformed (E&R) Church and the Congregational Christian (CC) churches united to form the United Church of Christ (UCC). In 1960 the General Synod of the UCC approved a new constitution and by-laws for the new denomination. From September 1, 1960 to June 1, 1961, each CC congregation and E&R synod was to vote on the new constitution. Then the process of uniting the two groups on the state or regional level began.

In North Dakota the various groups had been discussing this Constituting Convention for three years. A steering committee with several sub-committees had everything prepared, and knew exactly what had to happen. The North Dakota Congregational Conference would become the North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ. The German Congregational Conference, now called the North Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ, would join the Conference as an Association. The congregations of the E&R Synods, Dakota Synod and Northern Synod, would transfer their conference membership to the new conference.

This was the practical legal process that needed to be followed. The Fargo Forum reported:

At one point a delegate at the Congregationalists' meeting moved to postpone consideration of the Constitution until the annual Conference meeting in May. Informed such action would destroy the machinery for unification, the delegate later withdrew his motion.3

There was good reason to be careful about the legal rubrics. During the decade before 1957 the national merger had been delayed by legal injunctions. No church leader wanted the work of the church suspended indefinitely because of some legal technicality.

After opening worship, three separate meetings were held: the Congregational Conference, the German Congregational Association, and the E&R congregations. Each group discussed and voted on the articles of incorporation and by-laws. The E&Rs and the German Congregationalists voted unanimously. The Congregationalist vote was: Yes 107, No 2, Abstaining 9.4 The German Congregational Association was received into the Congregational Conference at this point. Then the "committee of the whole" met, elected officers, and approved the articles and by-laws.

Saturday afternoon, October 12, "The North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ was called to order."5 Articles and by-laws were voted into place. The E&R congregations were received. The Congregational Conference staff was designated "interim staff" until a decision on staff could be made. Boundaries of two associations were set.

On Sunday the event was celebrated in worship.

Those who were there say that most Congregational and E&R people were excited about this new beginning. The anxiety centered around the role of the German Congregational churches: how much power would they have in the new Conference? To this day, those involved remember it as the union of English and German Congregationalists, with the others playing only an incidental role.

In fact it was the union of four groups:

  1. the North Dakota Congregational Conference,
  2. the North Dakota (German Congregational) Association,
  3. churches of the Northern Synod (Evangelical) in North Dakota, and
  4. churches of the Dakota Synod (Reformed) in North Dakota and Canada.
Culturally there was a fifth group: These American Indian churches had always belonged to the Congregational Conference, but also had their own identity, practices and history.

Now, October 13, 1963, they were legally one corporate body. But could they become one people? one community? one family under God? Who were these five groups? What specific gifts--and what problems--did each bring to the UCC? Through what process did they attempt to become one people? Would this experiment in Christian unity work? The following pages are an attempt to answer these questions.



The First Service

The history of the North Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ began eighty-seven years before the constituting convention, when Charles Lemmon Hall attempted to preach to the Indians on Sunday, May 14, 1876 at Like-a-Fishook Village. He reported:

At the first service we had, and the first attempt to give the gospel message, we had tried to do some singing. We had no songs in their native languages yet, but the missionaries to the Dakotas had translated many hymns for the people, Among these was a translation of an old hymn that used to be sung in Sunday Schools years ago. The words ran--'Sweetly sing, sweetly sing.' In Dakota it began 'Ho washte.' However sweetly the song may have been sung by others, I cannot say much for my performance. The young Indians, as ready as any other young people to ridicule and laugh at one, began calling these words at me, from a distance. Fortunately for me, translated, the words meant, 'Good Voice.'6

Charles Lemmon Hall had received a new name: Ho Wašte. The name was given mockingly, but it stuck, and was accepted with pride by Hall. He was "a voice crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord." It was, he believed, a very good voice that brought to people the good news of Jesus Christ. The church Hall established was known to the early generations of its members, not as "Congregational"--an unintelligible word--but as "Ho Wašte."

Three Affiliated Tribes

Like-a-Fishook Village was home to the three affiliated tribes--the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, all farming Indians who lived in large villages along the Missouri River. By the middle of the eighteenth century the Mandan lived at the mouth of the Heart River, and the Hidatsa lived near the mouth of the Knife River. The Arikara, a branch of the Pawnee, had migrated from what is now Nebraska, and by the middle of the eighteenth century were on the Missouri below the Cheyenne River in what is now South Dakota.

The life of the Indians was changed forever by the gifts of the Euro-Americans ("white man"): the horse, smallpox, gunpowder, and alcohol. The small pox epidemics were particularly severe on the Indians who lived in villages. After the epidemic of 1781 reduced the Mandan from nine villages to two, they moved north to the Knife River area. The Hidatsa were reduced to three villages. The Arikara, also reduced in numbers, moved north to between the Grand and Cannonball Rivers. In the epidemic of 1837, almost 50% of the Hidatsa and seven-eighths of the Mandan died, and were reduced to one village each. In 1845 the Hidatsa moved further up river and established Like-a-Fishook Village near the new trading post of Fort Berthold. The Mandan soon joined them. The Arikara moved to Like-a-Fishook Village in 1862.

The Indians of the Three Affiliated Tribes at Like-a-Fishook Village had their own beliefs. Edward Goodbird recalled, "We believed, indeed, that the world and everything in it was alive and had spirits; and our faith in these spirits and our worship of them made our religion."7 Dreams were important, "All dreams were thought to be from the spirits; and for this reason they were always heeded, especially those that came by fasting and suffering."8

Each tribe had a number of "medicine bundles"--a bundle of sacred objects passed on from ancient times. These were sometimes set up like a shrine in a home, and could be the focus of worship. When the keeper of a bundle became old, he or she would sell the bundle to a younger person. The old keeper would teach the new any rituals or songs that went with the bundle.

Suffering was an important part of religion. In the sun dance, and in individual vision quests, "One should be willing to suffer to find his god."9

Charles Lemmon Hall

Charles Hall had a clear sense of his mission. Before setting out, he shared it with the readers of the Iapi Oaye:

I feel that I am going to preach to men, not to a class of beings between men and monkeys. They are degraded men, but men 'for a' that,' and that is just what we may say about ourselves. The Christian Ambassador finds Indians just like other men, and so he shares neither the sentimentalism of the east toward the noble but abused red man, nor the rancor of the frontier concerning the good for nothing and treacherous Indians. He goes to him as a man among men.
I feel that I am going to men whose souls can never find full satisfaction, until they find Christ as their Savior. And the Holy Spirit has gone before me, and will go with me and after me to enforce the message of redemption. What more can we desire? What greater help? What greater honor? What greater responsibility?

The Indians looked upon Charles Hall as a holy man, and he was given the respect any holy man or woman received.

Worshiping as we did many gods, we Indians did not think it strange that white men prayed to another God; and when missionaries came, we did not think it wrong that they taught us to pray to their God, but that they said we should not pray to our gods.11

Hall brought with him the values of nineteenth century evangelical Americans. He was for helping the poor, for good manners, cleanliness, justice, peace, brotherhood, the order of law, and personal religion. He was against liquor, dancing and promiscuous sex. Hall's main concern was saving souls, however he would support government efforts to civilize the Indians. The Indian agent at Fort Berthold at the time of the Halls arrival understood this, and reported,

Their main effort will be to induce the Indians to become Christian men and women. They will, however, co-operate with the agent and Government in all efforts to bring the Indians to an industrious life, and in keeping up a day or any other school.12

Charles Lemmon Hall was born in England in 1847 to a Congregational family. Coming to America before he was seven, he was brought up in the warmly evangelical and mission-minded Broadway Tabernacle Church in New York City. Trained as an architect, he returned to school to study for the ministry, and graduated in 1874 from Andover (Mass.) Theological School. He first served as a "home missionary" to white settlers around Springfield, Dakota Territory.

On February 15, 1876, Hall married Emma Calhoun, who for four years had been a Presbyterian missionary teacher at Yankton Indian Reservation. The following week, February 22, he was ordained. All of the venerable leaders of the Dakota Mission--Congregational and Presbyterian, Indian and White--participated in these two services. When the ice broke on the River, the Halls headed north on a steamboat, as missionaries of the Congregational American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). On May 9, 1876, they arrived at Fort Berthold.

The Development of the Ho Wašte Church

The Indian community had been through tremendous stress in one generation--epidemics--relocation--three tribes living together in one village--the superior strength of whites--new inventions and practices introduced by whites. In the small pox epidemics, many keepers of bundles had died, without passing on the tradition to a new keeper, resulting in the loss of much of their religious heritage. George Wash said, "We seem as a people to have come to a great river; the old ways we cannot follow any longer; there is no way open for us."13 Some elders were willing to have their children go to school and learn English, so they could better cope with this new world.14

In 1878, thirteen Fort Berthold children were taken to Hampton, Virginia, to attend a government boarding school. Prayer meetings were begun among the students. On January 2, 1881, five young people from the three tribes were received into the Christian church at Hampton.15

In November 1881, six boys and one girl were sent to Santee School, a boarding school operated by the Presbyterian and Congregational Dakota Mission in northeast Nebraska. In the years that followed, more children were sent. In this Christian school they had a daily routine of prayers and chapel, classes and work. Under the watchful eye of a loving house-mother, they grew in knowledge, character, self-confidence, industry and devotion. Some of the children became deeply committed to the Christian faith, were baptized, and joined the church.

Ernest Hopkins, later pastor of Arikara Church, was among the first seven to go to Santee. Twenty-three years later he said, "Then we thought after we must go home and tell what we have seen to the people where we were. . . . We told it was better to trust in God that we might see the light."16 The children were the first to profess faith in Jesus Christ and be baptized. They preached to their elders, who had so much more to lose. Otter and Miriam, daughters of Poor Wolf, became Christians at Santee and prayed for their father. Poor Wolf, a Hidatsa medicine man, had been a friend to the missionary. He was a "crier" going through the village to tell people when it was time for church, and he attended worship regularly. He said to Ho Wašte:

You tell me that I must give up conjuring. That will be difficult, for I get presents and pay from the patients I cure. Must I give up going on visits and dances? . . . Must I give up all the Indian songs, which are a part of the life of our people? Must I give up the charms which I have carried on my person for years and which I believe have defended me from evil influences? My body is tattooed to show my allegiance to various spirits. Can I cut these out of my flesh? I have pictures of my father and grandfather and locks of their hair wrapped up carefully. I take these out and look at them and talk to them at times, asking the help of my ancestors. Must I give this up as wrong? For more than 60 years, I have been bound up in these things and yet, I believe you are telling me the truth about God.17

Hall did not come up the Missouri to destroy a culture.18 He came to preach the gospel. Part of that gospel was obedience to the first two commandments: there is only one God; all idols must be rejected. Poor Wolf understood that his whole life was bound up in his religion. Changing gods would mean a total unraveling of the old system. It meant rejecting as invalid the assumptions on which his life had been built. In spite of this, Poor Wolf was drawn to this new "truth."

Finally, in April 1887, Poor Wolf walked out on the prairie with all the sacred objects from his medicine bundle, "All these conjuring things he took out onto a hill, talked to them, told them he did not need them anymore, and threw them away."19 Later he knelt and prayed, "O God of my daughter, be my God also!"20

Hall and the Indians discovered that many of the truths of the Christian gospel were also taught in the Indian religion. Many times, Indians would listen to Hall's preaching, and in amazement declare, "That is just like we have always been saying."21

Charles Hall began a boarding school in his home in November 1884. In 1886, Hall, now a widower, married Susan Webb, who had been house-mother at Santee to Otter, Miriam and the other girls for up to five years. The mission school in the Hall home was modeled on Santee and it grew. The school was in practice an extension of the Hall family, with family life and school life blending together.

The school at Santee had created the church at Fort Berthold. For decades after, the school at the mission would shape the church by training its future leaders.

For those brought up in the mission school, becoming a Christian was not as dramatic a change as it had been for Poor Wolf. Edward Goodbird said, "As I grew older, and began to read books, I thought of myself as a Christian, but more because I went to the mission school, and because I thought of Jesus as my Savior."22 When Goodbird was baptized as an adult, he said,

I thought that this Indian life and these Indian customs of ours cannot long continue. I could see that white men's ways and their ways of thinking about God were becoming stronger; Christian ways are being recognized on this reservation, and they are going to prevail, I thought. When I was baptized, I thought to myself, 'Now I am traveling the new way.'23

For many, accepting the Christian faith was part of accepting the "new way." This did not mean that the Indians were shallow Christians. The spirituality of the new way was pursued as sincerely and devotedly as the spirituality of the old way had been pursued.

The Dawes Act of 1886 granted to each Indian a personal allotment of land. By 1892 the government was pressuring the Indians to leave Like-a-Fishook Village and move to allotments. Several new villages sprang up, the largest being Elbowoods. The boarding school was moved to Elbowoods in 1902 and the Mission followed in 1908. Soon there were congregations in four other settlements. In 1916 a church council was held at which Edward Goodbird, Ernest Hopkins and Leroy Holding Eagle were examined and granted licenses, in order to serve the outpoints. Goodbird was ordained in 1925.

Harold and Eva Case

In 1922 Harold and Eva Case came to Fort Berthold. He was a YMCA worker with no ministerial training. When Susan W. Hall died within two months of their arrival, Charles Hall, now 74, was allowed to travel. He never stayed another winter, and retired in 1924. The Cases were left in charge of the mission.

In 1924 Harold Case began the Annual Fellowship Conference, a three day meeting under a tent, to which people came from all over the Reservation.

The Cases became very active in educational work. They continued the boarding school at the mission. Across the street was a day school, mostly for the children of white agency employees. Both Cases got elected to the school board, encouraged the nearby Indians to go to the day school, and only took those from a distance into the boarding school. In 1931 the young people living at the mission began attending classes at the day school. Children continued living at the mission, being nourished by the family environment and frequent Bible classes. About 1938 the government built dormitories for the public school; the mission dormitories closed. The last remnants of the "Mission School" that had created the Ho Wašte church was gone.


In 1944 the United States Congress passed a law authorizing the construction of a dam that would flood Fort Berthold Reservation. Church leaders were active in the fight against the Dam. Case wrote letters to over 15,000 churches, urging them to ask their Representatives to oppose the measure. It came to nothing. Garrison Dam was built, and in 1953-54 the valley was flooded. Over 90% of the Indian community was forced to move, along with their homes, their churches, their schools, and their cemeteries. The old communities were destroyed, and a large lake divided the reservation into four segments. Placed on allotted lands, many found themselves far from friends, family and tribe. Largely self-sufficient when on the bottom lands, the Indians were forced to shift to a cash economy, for which they had no cash. It was a time of economic hardship and difficult adjustment. It was a time of anger and sorrow. About this time, the President ended the prohibition on the sale of alcoholic beverages to Indians, only aggravating the problems on the reservation.

The churches could no longer be administered by one person in a central location. Three new Congregational Churches were organized, to serve the scattered community. A mixture of ordained and lay pastors, white and Indian, were soon being secured. In 1955, the Board for Home Missions (BHM) of the national church forced the Cases to leave the Reservation.24

On the Threshold of Union

Annual Fellowship Conference, the third weekend in June, was at the heart of the life of the Fort Berthold churches. A big tent, owned by the fellowship, was put up by church people. About twenty-five to thirty small tents were situated around it. People came from all over the Reservation, and relatives came from all over the country, to camp at Conference. From Friday evening to Sunday evening, the people shared in fellowship, singing, meetings, and movies. Harold Case would show westerns, religious movies, or old home movies of Elbowoods. There were activities for children, either a Bible School or games. At a Sunday sunrise service the names were read of those who had died the past year, and prayers were offered. Sunday morning, after baptisms and reception of members, communion was celebrated. It was a great family reunion for the Congregationalists of the Three Affiliated Tribes.25

The Ho Wašte Church loved to sing. Hall in his diary in the early years referred to "Evening preaching for white people," from the Fort, and "Afternoon singing for Indians."26 Although Charles Hall originally intended to translate the Bible into the Indian languages, he and Case published more hymns than Scriptures.

The program of the churches was coordinated by the Fort Berthold Council of Congregational Churches. This council of ministers, church chairmen and secretaries organized the thrift shops in the communities, found work for visiting work camps, and provided training for lay pastors. They set themes and developed programs for Advent, Lenten services in each church, Annual Fellowship Conference, and Vacation Bible Schools. They published Three Tribes Herald, with news of the churches for local members and for supporters near and far. FBCCC also discussed issues, such as unemployment and discrimination. They gave financial help for church members to attend State Conference activities, such as summer camp, youth rallies, and women's retreats.27

Financial matters were handled by the Fort Berthold Administrative Committee (FBAC). Composed mostly of white pastors from near the Reservation and representatives of the Indian community, this was a State Conference committee that administered funds from BHM for work on the Reservation. Traditional Indian values found expression in the churches of FBCCC in strong respect for elders, remembrance of the dead, and give-aways on special occasions. Dreams were obeyed and suffering was a frequent theme.


The Congregationalists

The Congregational Church came to America in 1620, with the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth, New England. Soon afterward a flood of Puritans established Congregationalism as the church of New England. In doctrine they were Reformed--in agreement with the teachings of Jean Calvin, the Reformed churches of Europe and the Presbyterian churches of Britain. Congregationalism differed from them only on the matter of church government. Having suffered persecution at the hands of the hierarchal church of England, they were unwilling to recognize any church body as having authority over the local congregation.

Congregationalism was renewed and shaped by the Great Awakenings. Jonathan Edwards, Congregational pastor in Northampton, Massachusetts, was a leader of the First Great Awakening (ca. 1734-41) and his writings inspired the leaders of the Second Great Awakening (ca. 1795-1835). The Awakenings opened Congregational churches to emotional expression without sacrificing intellectual integrity. The poor gained entrance to the church, and the church became active in good works for the spiritual and material improvement of the world.

Congregationalists established a national organization in 1871. The early Congregationalists had not thought of themselves as a denomination, but as local churches that sought fellowship with all other like-minded evangelical Christians. The missionary societies organized by Congregationalists included Presbyterian and Reformed churches until these other groups established their own societies and withdrew. As New Englanders moved west to settle new territory a Plan of Union was made with the Presbyterians in 1801: these two groups worked together in establishing churches on the frontier. By the 1850s the Plan was breaking down, but varying forms of cooperation persisted across the frontier. In 1871 the Congregationalists accepted the fact that they were a denomination, and created a structure to bind them together more closely.

Early Settlement of North Dakota

In 1864 the Northern Pacific (NP) Railroad was chartered to build a railway from Lake Superior to Puget Sound. It was granted abundant lands along both sides of the railway, to sell to settlers. The railroad reached the Red River at Fargo in 1872, and Bismarck in 1873. The NP was not built west of the Missouri until 1879-81; in the 1880s other rail lines were crossing the state. Immediately settlers came. In 1870 there were about five hundred non-Indians in northern Dakota Territory, all at the fur trading post at Pembina. By 1880 there were about 37,000 people, and by 1890 there were 182,719. Most of the early settlement was in the east, by homesteaders, farm workers, and townspeople. West of the Missouri ranching began on a large scale in the 1880s and was gradually replaced by farming.

Some settlers came from the eastern parts of the United States, but not enough. In order to get more settlers to buy land so the railroad could pay its bills and keep laying rails, the railroad recruited immigrants from Europe. Norwegians were the largest group, settling throughout the state, especially across the east and north. Germans from Russia settled heavily in the south-central and southwest of the state. Germans, Swedes and others also came.

Congregational Empire Building in North Dakota

In 1871, the same year that Congregationalists established a national organization, the Congregationalist American Home Missionary Society (AHMS) commissioned Hiram N. Gates to do missionary work along the NP railway as it moved west. He located at Detroit (Detroit Lakes, Minnesota) in 1872, and in 1873 began to gather churches in Jamestown and Bismarck. The financial panic of 1873, that brought railroad construction to a halt, also halted Congregational work in northern Dakota Territory. Unable to work out an agreement with the Presbyterians to divide the territory, the Congregationalists withdrew.

In 1880 Henry Willard was appointed by the AHMS to organize churches in northern Dakota Territory. In Mandan, the one community on the NP line where he did not find a Presbyterian Church, he organized a Congregational Church, August 29, 1880. On April 2, 1881, a congregation was organized at Wahpeton as the extension of ministry from Breckenridge, Minnesota. David Wirt organized a church at Valley City on August 21, 1881. On November 2, O. C. Clark organized the First Congregational Church of Fargo. William Ewing organized a Congregational church at Pembina in 1881 or soon after, which he served from St. Vincent, Minnesota. By 1885 there were 32 Congregational churches in North Dakota; by 1895 there were 64 English Congregational churches.

A North Dakota Association of Congregational Churches was organized at Fargo, October 16, 1882. It passed a resolution, calling on seminary graduates to, "come and aid us in preaching the gospel, planting churches and forming ecclesiastical institutions and introducing the leaven of the gospel into our growing territory with increasing cities."28 Their hope was, "that we may become the seat of a coming Empire of Christ."29

One of their first items of business in 1882 was discussion of the establishment of a Christian academy; in 1887 Fargo College was opened.

Advocating temperance at every annual meeting 1883-93, the Congregational Conference said in 1889, "as a religious body we recommended the passage of the Prohibition clause of our new Constitution."30 The clause passed. In 1888 the Conference resolved to "call upon the territorial legislative body to enact such laws as shall forbid the sale or giving of tobacco to minors,"31 and in 1890 to "express our satisfaction at the defeat of the Lottery Bill."32 The Conference promoted revival services and strict Sabbath observance.

Congregationalists saw themselves as leaven, shaping a new society. They wanted this new society--this new Territory--to become an "Empire of Christ."

The issue of cooperation versus competition was before the Conference from the beginning. The 1884 Conference minutes report,

Our aim, I trust, is not for mere largeness of numbers, but for usefulness in building up the Master's Kingdom. If any shall aim at denominational supremacy let it not be our aim, but rather so much as in us lies to preach the Gospel of Salvation from sin as widely and faithfully as we are able. For, as with the individual man, so with us as a denomination, we shall find that, 'he that saveth his life, shall lose it, but he that loseth his life, for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall find it.'33

In 1885 a Committee on Comity was created. The following year the committee reported that they had made advances to other denominations to discuss comity, but they were not acknowledged.

In 1902 a North Dakota Home Missionary Association (NDHMA) was organized, to cooperate with the AHMS in its work in North Dakota. This Association made budget requests to the national board, including requests for subsidies for numerous churches. This Association did develop a comity agreement with the Presbyterians in 1903,34 and established a Board of Arbitration to settle disputes between the two denominations.

The strange mixture of cooperation and competition in establishing churches in the west is illustrated by the story of the founding of the Garrison church in 1905. Summer pastor L. F. Spangenberg had been told by the Congregational Superintendent, "that the major denominations in the state had an agreement of comity that a new town would be awarded to the denomination to be first on the field."35 From his base in Mercer County, the summer pastor went to Garrison, and found "five or six store buildings under construction, none of them as yet having a roof on them."36 He made arrangements to have a service on the first Sunday a building was enclosed, and had it announced in the paper. An early snowstorm prevented Spangenberg from arriving on time.

When I arrived on Sunday morning shortly before noon I was informed that the Presbyterian home missionary for that Presbytery had already held a service in the printing office. After the service he started looking for me and found me in the restaurant eating my dinner. He was a fiery Welshman and as he came up to me he lifted his fist and said, 'You have no business here, this is our field and I am going to fight it out.'37

Spangenberg and the Congregational Superintendent believed they had a valid claim to Garrison, even if they hadn't held the first service, so they held Congregational services through the winter. Spangenberg recalled,

In the spring the Eastern offices of both denominations notified their North Dakota representatives that they would have to come to a speedy agreement as to which of the two should serve Garrison or they would both withdraw their missionary support. A public meeting was called in which both presented their case and left it to the people to decide which denomination should occupy the field; they awarded it to the Congregationalists.38

Just as there was a procedure by which a family could homestead and claim a quarter section of land, there was a procedure by which a denomination could stake a claim to a new community. Just as settlers came west to occupy the land, the denominations pushed ahead to fill the empty territory with churches. The Congregational church, with the help of a missionary society back east, their Superintendent in North Dakota, and idealistic seminary students, was doing its part to fill its share of the new territory.

Edwin H. Stickney, a leader of North Dakota Conference from 1885 to 1921,39 assisted in the formation of 215 Sunday Schools and 160 congregations. North Dakota had its highest number of Congregational Churches in 1916: 242 congregations (this includes the German Conference).

Crisis of the Land

North Dakota never became as thickly settled as states further east, but it had too many people for the land to bear. In the drought of the 1930s over 120,000 people left North Dakota.40 The outmigration was most severe from rural western North Dakota. This area, with the least normal rainfall, had been farmed too intensively. Practically whole communities were on welfare. New farming methods were learned, and some farm land was turned back to pasture. The consolidation of land into larger farming units began then, and has continued. The decline and death of some small towns, as services were consolidated into larger towns, has paralleled the consolidation of farms. In the 1940s, when war time jobs were available in the west coast, about 115,000 people left North Dakota.41 Outmigration has continued, slightly less, since then. In addition to the outmigration from the state, a migration from rural to urban areas within North Dakota has also contributed to a depopulation of the countryside.

Consolidation and Self Support

The national Congregational mission boards each appointed and paid directors for their work in North Dakota, thus giving the Conference professional staff; local churches sent their mission giving to the national boards.

There were too many Congregational churches! Much of the population was not English-speaking, and not interested in an English-speaking church. Many of the churches never had regular ministerial leadership. Half of the churches never grew larger than 25 members. Most could never become self-supporting. A. C. Hacke, Superintendent of North Dakota Conference, 1921-1941, assisted in the closing of eighty churches in ten years. Hacke reported in 1927, "the past six years of conservation work, instead of the former period of expansion was the direct agreement with the National office and our own state authorities."42 The policy of retrenchment, begun in 1921, continued for the rest of the history of the Congregational Conference. Surprisingly, the membership of the Conference continued to grow in the 1920s. In this period of retrenchment, Fargo College closed in 1922.

In Hacke's second decade as Superintendent, the 1930s, the massive outmigration from North Dakota began to effect church membership; the Conference declined by nineteen congregations and 184 members.

In spite of the numerous church closings, North Dakota continued to be a conference of small struggling churches. In 1904, the new NDHMA had fifty-five congregations on its schedule to receive aid.43 In 1927, forty-six congregations were scheduled to receive aid.44 The national board was also buying cars for pastors with large parishes.

Under Hacke's leadership, land was purchased for a youth camp at Lake Metigoshe, and Pilgrim Park opened in 1935. The youth camp soon became a center for conference fellowship for all ages.

In 1949, under Marvin R. Brandt's administration as Superintendent (1941-50), the Conference voted to go to self-support. This meant that the churches would send their mission giving to the Conference, which would send a proportion (25%) to the national church, and retain the remainder for the work of the Conference. The Conference would manage its own money and make its own decisions. BHM agreed to give a diminishing subsidy45 to help the process along.

Ed Treat became Conference Minister in 1952, and in 1955 the goal of self-support was reached. At least, the Conference claimed to be self-supporting; support from the national church now came in different ways. In the Fall of 1955, a Director of Christian Education began serving North Dakota and Montana Conferences, supported entirely by the Home Board.

In the summer of 1957, the Conference secured an Associate Conference Minister, with BHM giving a diminishing subsidy.46 Ed Treat reported in 1958,

Until 1955 this Conference was never a Conference in its own right. It was a 'home missionary Conference.' From one point of view, when we remind ourselves of the financial assistance being given us for the support of two staff members, it still is, the difference since 1955 being that we 'work out our own policies and management.'47

On the Threshold of Union

For many members of the North Dakota Congregational Conference at the time of union, the "Conference" was Ed Treat and Pilgrim Park.

A tall, lanky man with a remarkable ability to remember names and events, a gentle manner, and a genuine interest in everyone he met, Edward S. Treat was, "administrator, co-ordinator, record-keeper, dispenser of information and provider of resources." A major task was,

to secure adequate leadership for the churches and to assist this leadership to bring the churches to a closer fellowship with the denomination. The conference minister is a friend, counselor, and pastor of the parish minister. He needs especially to keep in touch with small and remote churches, to support and encourage the churches to a closer fellowship with the denomination.48

Pilgrim Park was the location of youth camps, convocation, retreats, and some committee meetings--in other words, the center of Conference programing. A state-wide youth organization, Pilgrim Fellowship, elected its officers at the Pilgrim Park youth camp for their age group, and also held an annual state-wide youth rally elsewhere, and occasional Association youth rallies.49 The state Women's Fellowship had a summer retreat at Pilgrim Park, and also raised funds--through local church women's groups--for various conference causes, and in 1960 began holding Fall workshops around the state. A state Laymen's Fellowship organized the annual work weekend at Pilgrim Park and held an annual retreat elsewhere. Each summer, about 100 people gathered for Convocation at Pilgrim Park: Conference committees met; special guests spoke; there were activities for the children; fellowship and the work of the Conference were shared. The Conference Minister called it, "a rather unusual opportunity for coordinating and planning the work of our churches in fellowship in the Conference."50

The state conference carried out its work with 15 to 20 committees, which met one to four times a year. The Conference was also divided into four Associations, which handled ministerial standing, and were occasionally the units for regional program activities.

The Conference was a major conduit of funding.51 The Conference received the mission giving from the churches, called Our Christian World Mission. One fourth of this was sent to the national boards, three-fourths ($30,478 in 1962) stayed in the Conference. The Conference received funds from the national church to pay part of the Associate Conference Minister's salary, the salary of the Director of Christian Education, to support Indian Ministry at Fort Berthold, a related Community Relations Ministry, Campus Ministry, aid to local churches, and summer student ministry.52 In 1964, $53,112 came into North Dakota from the national church for ministry.

Stanley W. Voelker reported in 1961 that of all the Congregational churches established in the state, 25% were still going. From 1916 to 1960, the number of congregations had declined by 60%.53 Voelker listed as reasons for the decline of Congregationalism in North Dakota:

  1. Congregationalists were poor evangelists;
  2. Congregationalists had a net loss from inter-marriage;
  3. Congregationalists had fewer children than average;
  4. Congregationalists left the state in larger numbers than other groups.54
The pessimism of Voelker's report was in sharp contrast to the statistics. The table below indicates that the Congregational churches were holding their own relative to the state population.

Time Period ND Population
ND Congregational
membership change
1930-1940 -5.7% -2.6%
1940-1950 -3.5% -0.4%
1950-1960 +2.1% +6.2%

If there is some truth in Voelker's reasons for the decline of Congregational churches, and yet the Conference was growing, what were the reasons for the growth of Congregationalism, in spite of the problems? Originally, Congregational churches appealed to the "English-speaking" segment of the community--that is, to people of primarily British ancestry from eastern parts of the United States. This ethnic segment of the population had declined to insignificance, yet the Congregational churches maintained their numerical strength by adding persons of other ethnic backgrounds. How did the Congregational churches attract these persons? Here are some possible reasons.55

  1. Congregational churches were liberal. A survey of ministers in 1956 reported,

    The Congregational church is often the only liberal and non-liturgical church in the community. Some ministers feel that the Congregational church is the only church in the community relating itself to concrete social problems.56

    When other churches would not bury a person because they were behind in their church dues, the Congregational pastor would conduct the funeral. Congregational pastors were generally active in community affairs. Most Congregationalists welcomed advances in science and learning, and did not perceive them as faith-threatening.

  2. Congregational churches were English. As the second, third and fourth generations of ethnic congregations tried to break away from cultural and linguistic conservatism, some were attracted to the English speaking Congregational churches.

  3. Congregational churches had strong Sunday Schools. Often the Sunday School preceded any church in a town. Organized by Congregationalists, the Sunday School became affiliated with the Congregational Church when it was established. As other denominations organized churches, some persons of other denominational backgrounds (such as Lutheran) stayed with the Sunday School--and church--in which they were already involved. The more progressive Congregational Sunday Schools were preferred by some over the rote memorization of some others.57

In spite of all the problems--in spite of the large number of small struggling churches--in spite of the ongoing process of closing churches--in spite of the difficulty in getting seminary trained pastors--the Conference was holding its own.


Evangelical Synod of North America

The Evangelical Synod of North America grew from two sources:

  1. the Basel (Switzerland) Evangelical Missionary Society, and
  2. the Evangelical Church of the Union in Germany.
Both were the products of German Pietism.58 In 1675 Philip Jacob Spener wrote Pia Desideria, a blueprint for church renewal and manifesto of pietism. Spener lived in a Germany divided into scores of tiny principalities, each with its own religious creed, and in a Germany that remembered vividly the degradation, inhumanity and terror of war. He gave expression to the piety of the people, who saw more holiness in an act of kindness than in purity of doctrine. He quoted Johann Arndt's True Christianity, "Purity of doctrine and of the Word of God is maintained not only by disputation and writing many books but also by true repentance and holiness of life."59 Spener believed,

If there is any project of a union of most of the confessions among Christians, the primary way of achieving it, and the one that God would bless most, would be this, that we do not stake everything on argumentation.60

Pietism deeply affected the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Europe. Lay devotion grew. Institutions were established to meet human need in the homeland, and to proclaim the gospel around the world.

In 1815 Pietists established the Basel Missionary Society to send out missionaries to many parts of the world. They had no intention of carrying the Lutheran-Reformed rivalry to the four corners of the earth; they went out to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Supported by Lutheran and Reformed people of Germany and Switzerland, they established churches that reflected their shared beliefs and emphasized an active devotion to God.

In 1817, King Frederick William III of Prussia by edict united the Lutheran and Reformed churches in his realm. Although a political act for political motives, the union was welcomed by pietists, who had been long struggling to overcome the division of the confessions.

From 1830 to 1845 an average of about 40,000 Germans came to America each year. The greatest settlement was in the Mississippi River Valley. Basel Mission School sent 158 graduates to America to found and serve churches. In 1840, some pastors from Basel organized the German Evangelical Church Union of the West (centered at Saint Louis, Missouri). In 1858 pietists organized the German United Evangelical Synod of the East (centered at Buffalo, New York) and the German United Evangelical Synod of the Northwest (centered at Chicago, Illinois). In 1872 the Saint Louis, Chicago and Buffalo groups united to form the Evangelical Synod of North America.

The Evangelical Synod was composed mostly of Germans from a Lutheran background, practiced a mild pietism emphasizing ecumenism and charitable institutions, was open to scientific learning, and in fellowship with its "mother church," the Evangelical Church of the Union in Germany. Accepting The Heidelberg Catechism, Luther's Catechism, and The Augsburg Confession, the Evangelical Union of the West in 1847 published its own Evangelical Catechism. In 1850 the Union opened a seminary, now Eden Seminary, and in 1861 the Union's first hospital was opened.

Evangelical Colonies in North Dakota

In the 1880s another German immigration flooded America. The Fifth District (Northern Illinois) of the Evangelical Synod organized a German Evangelical Colonization Society on October 17, 1882, to settle new immigrants in the West. Article I of the Society's Constitution stated its purpose, which included:

  1. 1.To acquire, as soon as possible, land in a good and healthful region in a new state or in a territory, where land is still cheap, for the founding of a German Evangelical Settlement.
  2. 2. To bring into existence a German settlement for the organization of a German Evangelical congregation, which shall be connected with the Evangelical Synod of North America. This settlement shall be for persons of limited means, or such other as consider emigration to the West.61

Only persons of the Evangelical faith of good moral character could join the Colonization Society. Members were recruited by Evangelical pastors throughout the Midwest. On April 6, 1883, ninety members reached what would become New Salem, in northern Dakota Territory. The first worship service was held in the open air, Sunday, April 8. The Society appointed H. Gyr to be pastor of the colony's Peace Church. He also became administrator of the Society's affairs at New Salem.

Relations between the Colonization Society in Chicago and the colony in northern Dakota deteriorated. The colonists refused to accept decisions made in Chicago governing the colony. The conflict was resolved when the NP railway recognized the colony in New Salem as owner of the property and responsible for the Society's debt.62

In the Spring of 1885 another Colonization Society was organized in Chicago. Settlers were recruited in the German communities of the Midwest and in Germany. Settlers began arriving at Hebron, northern Dakota, in April 1885. With the assistance of the New Salem pastor, services were held, Saint John congregation was organized November 1, 1885, and was accepted as a member of the Evangelical Synod in 1886. August Debus, who had been born in Germany and educated at Basel Mission School, was pastor of Saint John's from 1886 to 1923. He also taught a German school, gave medical care to the community, and handled the business affairs of the colony.

In 1889 an Evangelical Church was organized in Hankinson, North Dakota, among German settlers, as an extension of Evangelical Synod work in Minnesota. From these three centers, New Salem, Hebron, and Hankinson, pastors reached out to establish nearby congregations.

World War I and Americanization

During World War I these German congregations, looking to the Evangelical Church of the Union as their mother church, were the targets of anti-German prejudices. John Fontana, pastor of Peace Church, New Salem, was put on trial for being pro-German. Church members testified on his behalf, and he was acquitted.

The War brought pressure on the churches to use English in worship. However, the transition was gradual. St. John's began offering an English Sunday School in 1929, but in 1960 was still holding two worship services, one in each language.

On the Threshold of Union

The Northern Synod, based in Minnesota, had 77 congregations, of which six were in North Dakota.63 Four of these, located on the NP line between Mandan and Dickinson, were 250 miles away from the rest of the Synod, yet were active in it.

These churches had been bilingual for decades, and were becoming increasingly English speaking. Confirmation was a high event in the life of the individual and the congregation.

Peace Church in New Salem and St. John's Church Hebron, the third and fourth largest churches in the Synod, dominated their communities, as the table below shows:

City 1960 Population of City 1960 E&R Church Confirmed Membership
Hebron 1,340 650
New Salem 986 811

The Northern Synod was alive with a sense of mission. It supported a nursing home, and cooperated with the Congregational Conference of Minnesota in camping and Christian Education, had committees on missions, stewardship and social concerns, and supported a full time President.

The North Dakota congregations took an active part in Synod life, with an excellent record of mission giving, and several persons serving as officers and on committees. The North Dakota churches composed the "Missouri Valley Region" of the Northern Synod. George F. Steffen, then pastor of Peace Church New Salem, recalled, "We conducted camp for ourselves and the Dakota Synod churches. The women had regular meetings together at least once a year. The region held a Fall regional meeting for information about the denomination's work."64


German Congregationalism in North Dakota, like the Evangelical Synod, was a product of German Pietism. However, it was a more demanding variety of pietism, and came to America by way of German colonies in Russia.

Germans in Russia

The Russian Empire was expanding to the east and south, and could not always find enough loyal colonists to settle newly conquered territory. In 1763, Empress Catherine II issues a manifesto, inviting European colonists to settle in the Volga River Valley. She offered them full religious freedom, exemption from military service, virtual self-government, land and other benefits. Many Germans came and settled.65

Through a series of wars with Turkey, Catherine II and her successors acquired for Russia most of the north shore of the Black Sea (1774), Crimea (1783), the Odessa area (1792) and Bessarabia (1812). Many land owners fled to Turkey, leaving more land open for settlement. In 1804, Emperor Alexander I issued similar decrees, calling for colonists for the Black Sea area in what is now the Ukraine and Moldava. A wave of German immigrants came 1804-09, and then again 1816-37.66

The German colonists were poor farmers looking for a new start. The later waves of immigrants came from a Germany that had been devastated by the Napoleonic Wars. Life on the steppes of Russia was a struggle--with crop failures, epidemics, and attacks by lawless bandits. The colonists looked to religion for the promise of another world that would be better than this one.67

The German colonists were mostly Lutherans, also many Catholics and a few of the Reformed faith. The government promised to provide pastors for the churches, but did not. In the Volga region in 1820 there were 14 pastors for 75 Protestant settlements.68 In south Russia, in 1914, the average Lutheran pastor served ten congregations.69

In the German colonies in Russia, the pastor appeared about once a month or less. On other Sundays the local school teacher read a sermon. Books of sermons were prepared for this purpose. The school teacher, a layman, had received some religious training at the teachers' college, and often became the spiritual leader of the community.

The Russian government established a "General Consistory" in 1819 to govern the Lutheran churches. In 1820, the few Reformed churches were incorporated into this "General Consistory of Evangelical Churches in Russia." Dr. I. A. Fessler, the Superintendent, placed emphasis on liturgy, not piety.70

Pietism among German Russians

Spener believed that lay people should meet regularly in small groups to discuss the Bible, pray together, and admonish one another. In the southwest German state of Württemberg, prayer circles began about 1680, and received legal tolerance in edicts of 1694 and 1707. Pietists in this area became known as "Stundists," for their devotional hours (stunden) during which any lay person could testify or pray.

By 1815 Stundism had been taken to the south Russian colonies by settlers.71 The Basel Mission sent many missionary pastors to the Germans of Russia,72 all of whom promoted Stundism. One of these Basel graduates, Johannes Bonekemper, was Reformed pastor at Rohrbach and five other villages in south Russia, 1824-47. In 1847 a revival broke out in his parish, with disorderly outbursts, and he was dismissed by the Consistory.73 Other forces contributing to pietism among the Germans in Russia included: Moravian missionaries at work in the colonies until banished by the Consistory;74 Millennialists believing Jesus would return soon to establish the Millennium in the Caucuses;75 Separatists from Württemberg led by Eduard Wüst;76 and a "leaping movement" among Mennonites in south Russia.77

So many currents of thought and practice were passing through the colonies that the Consistory had a church law passed in 1857: "Religious meetings which exceed the bounds of family devotions may hereafter not be conducted by laymen without previously notifying the civil authorities and obtaining permission from the Consistory."78

In 1871 the Basel-trained Reformed pastor at Norka, Wilhelm Stärkel, gathered the pietist leaders of the Volga region, and organized the many independent prayer groups into the Brotherhood. Rules were set down for local prayer meetings, to establish order and to keep them clearly within the church. Johannes Alber organized the Brotherhood in south Russia.79 Frequent visitation by the leaders of the movement helped to establish some uniformity of practice.

Prayer meetings were held four times a week, Wednesday and Saturday evenings, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening. The elder of the meeting, called Versammlungsvater, would ask one of the Brethren to take charge of the meeting. Other Brethren assisted him in 'proclaiming the Word.' Following the addresses, the converts kneeled for prayer. The singing of hymns played a very large role in the meeting. . . . The leader closed the meeting with the Friedensgruss (Greeting of peace) recorded in Phil. 4:7.80

Pietism spread among the Germans of Russia through the efforts of many poor and powerless people--at least in worldly terms--for most of whom we don't even know their names. It was a movement of people who, "sought peace in God, and found it."81

German Russians in America

A series of events conspired to make Russia a less desirable place for Germans to live. Prayer meetings were broken up; many Brotherhood leaders felt persecuted by the Consistory. In 1866 the control that the colonies had over their schools was curtailed. In 1871 Germans were made subject to military conscription. From 1880, Konstantin Pobjedonoszev, procurator of the Holy Synod and tutor to two Emperors, promoted the "Russification" of the various nationalities in the Russian Empire.82 In 1890 Russian teachers were placed in German schools. In 1897 it was decreed that Russian would be the language of instruction. Discontented Germans began to think about emigration.

Wilhelm Schauffler, born in Germany and raised in Odessa, went to Andover (Massachusetts) Theological School, and became a missionary of the ABCFM in Istanbul. He returned to Odessa briefly in 1832 and talked about America's religious freedom to a prayer group that met Sunday and Thursday evenings at the home of his brother Gottlob.83 When Johannes Bonekemper was dismissed from his position in 1847, he moved to Odessa, and met with his friends in Gottlob Schauffler's prayer group. Some of the group went to America in 1849 and settled at Sandusky, Ohio.84 Carl Bonekemper, son of Johannes, went to America, attended the seminary of the Reformed Church in the U. S. at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, served a church in Philadelphia, and returned to Russia to serve his father's parish at Rohrbach 1865-76. Then he went back to America.85 Ludwig Bette (also known as Lewis Beaty) had gone to America with the group in 1849 and prospered. In 1872 he visited relatives in south Russia and told them about America.86 So in various ways, Germans of south Russia, especially those connected with pietism, became aware of America.

In 1872 the emigration began with 121 people, mostly relatives and friends of Bette from the province of Odessa. They took a train to Odessa, another train to Hamburg, Germany, a ship to New York City, and a train to Sandusky, Ohio. That winter they sent out a scouting party to find land. They wanted all their land together, good land at a reasonable price. They found it in Dakota Territory. Meanwhile, more emigrants were coming from Russia. When the special train arrived at Yankton, D. T. on April 17, 1873, probably 200 Germans from Russia got off. They began settlement on farms in southeast Dakota Territory.87

The German Russian emigration was heavy from 1872 to 1914. In 1920 there were over 300,000 first and second generation Germans from Russia in the United States. Over 115,000 of these were from south Russia. At least 68,000 of the south-Russian Germans were in North Dakota, and 26,000 in South Dakota.

German Congregational Churches

The Congregational churches, through the AHMS had been working to establish German speaking churches since 1846. Congregational authorities wanted these churches, like other Congregational churches of that day, to be composed of the regenerate. In 1851 the AHMS requested:

All German congregations applying for assistance, and all clergymen and others introducing and recommending such applications, to accompany their requests with specific statements, as to whether the admission of members is made to depend on their giving credible evidence of their having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. An affirmative testimony in this particular will be regarded as an indispensable condition for assistance.88

In Germany, people entered the church through Confirmation. Congregational authorities accepted the practice of Confirmation in German churches, but, "with the understanding that it should not take the place of the experience of conversion."89

By 1865 the Congregationalists had only fourteen German churches, with 432 members, to show for all their efforts.90

Emmanuel Jose, of Odessa, came to Sutton, Nebraska, in 1874. He had been a teacher and was active in the Brotherhood. He was the first German from Russia to join the Congregational Church. In 1875 he was licensed to preach; in 1876 he was ordained.91 Soon he was introducing many of his friends--active in the Brotherhood--to the German Congregational Church.

A flood of German Russians was coming to America; many active in the Brotherhood were joining the Congregational Church; German Congregationalism was soon overwhelmingly German Russian. Among Congregationalists the Brotherhood and its pietism was more than tolerated--one had to be regenerate to be a member. There was no "General Consistory" to meddle in local affairs. The German Russians were free to run their own churches, virtually independent of the rest of the Congregational Church. In January 1884, Jose organized six congregations in southeast Dakota Territory.92 By 1885 there were fourteen.93

German Congregationalists in North Dakota

In 1886 Jose and Superintendent of German Congregational Churches Albrecht traveled through the counties of Campbell, McPherson and McIntosh. They "preached mostly three times a day, lived on chicory coffee and bread and slept in pre-emption shanties, ten feet by twelve."94 On this trip, the first two German Congregational churches in northern Dakota were organized, Gnadenfeld and Eigenheim, near Kulm.95

The German Congregational Church accompanied the German Russian settlement of North Dakota. The congregations were organized into parishes; as new congregations were organized, they were added to a parish. When a parish became large, and another minister was available, the parish was divided in two. On most Sundays a layman read a sermon. The prayer meeting continued as always. The Apostles' Creed was the standard of faith. Confirmation instruction was usually an intensive short-term school. Confirmation was first communion. Brüderfest, regional prayer meetings of the Brotherhood, were well attended. Revivals occurred occasionally. Singing continued to be a major part of every service.

In 1907 a separate German Evangelical (Congregational) Conference of North Dakota was organized.96 Soon this North Dakota Conference had more congregations than any other German Congregational Conference.97

German Congregational Institutions

The German Congregationalists established institutions to sustain their churches, which bound their churches together as a family. At first the churches were dependent on ministers from Saint Chrischona Institute in Switzerland, but an educational institution was needed to train people from the German Congregational churches, to serve the churches as pastors. The German Department of Chicago Theological Seminary met the need 1882-1916. Then came the Redfield College Seminary (1916-32) and Yankton School of Theology (1932-62).98

A religious newspaper, the Kirchenbote, began in 1882, and a Sunday School paper, Segensquelle, in 1889. The German Congregational Publishing Society (1895-1905) became the German Pilgrim Press (1905-23), the Redfield College Press (1923-32), and then the Pioneer Press (1932-62). It published a yearbook, a hymnal, a manual and a catechism. All these publications tended to unify the churches.99 The people sang the same songs, were instructed in the same faith, and organized the churches in the same way.

Cultural Accommodation

From 1930 to 1960 the number of German Congregational churches in North Dakota declined from 49 to 25. As roads improved, small open country churches closed, and people transferred their membership to town churches, which grew. The average membership of a church went up in this period from 57 to 107. As the table below shows, the German Congregational Conference managed to maintain some modest growth in membership, in spite of church closings and declining state population, in the 1930s and 1940s. However, in the 1950s a significant decline had set in.

Time Period ND Population
ND German Congregational
membership change
1930-1940 -5.7% +0.6%
1940-1950 -3.5% +9.7%
1950-1960 +2.1% -12.8%

In the twentieth century the German Congregational churches have had to change. The change involved accommodation to American culture, and the flashpoint was the language issue. Perhaps the stress of this change contributed to the decline in membership in the 1950s.

The early immigrants were slow in absorbing American culture. Once more in a strange land, they found themselves in an entirely new environment, and were thrown again into contact with people speaking a 'strange' language. . . . A considerable number of them, reluctant to adopt American ways, held with great tenacity to their time honored customs, feeling keenly the disintegrating effects of American life upon their institutions.100

In Russia the Germans retained their distinct language and customs, having very little contact with the dominant culture. "The Germans were separated from the natives by social, political, and religious barriers, and were held firmly together by ties of race, language, and religion."101 Their experience was reinforced by their millennial religious views: "Their experience led them to the conviction that the outer world was evil, and that God would eventually destroy it."102 The rejection of that which is worldly--dancing, movies, smoking, fancy clothes, card playing, etc.--was a natural moral response to their experience and theology.

In America things were different. The dominant culture was not hostile, but it was alluring. Young people wanted to be more "American," more like other young people. They didn't see harm in some "worldly" activities, and they spoke English.

For some older people, the struggle over language was a struggle for the faith. "Some identify English with rationalistic belief."103 "To them the word English almost had the connotation of something defiled, unholy, profane!"104

For many years, children in German Congregational Sunday Schools learned German first, then memorized Bible verses. English Sunday Schools were being started in the churches in the 1930s. In the 1940s and 1950s the churches made the shift to English in worship. It was a difficult and emotional struggle. One person reflected much later, "You have a feeling language and a language."105 The issue of the language of worship was not simply one of understanding, but one of expressing feelings. In worship people deal with their emotions, and need to use their feeling language.

We knew the older people could better understand an English sermon than they could a German sermon. We did not know that it didn't feel the same. And they could not understand that we [younger people] had no feeling at all for the German.106

In the middle of the twentieth century the Brotherhood declined. It would not bend on the language issue, and lost the younger generation.

Although German Congregationalism had undergone much change--and much stress--in the mid twentieth century, pietism was still "a source of endurance, modesty, and humility."107

On the Threshold of Union

The German Congregational churches were singing churches:

It was not unusual at any called meeting for the people to be there at least a half hour early. Somebody would holler out a song number, and they would sing that song, and they would sing for a good half hour before every meeting, and even sing some after.108

Worship was a frequent and central part of Conference meetings. Minutes on occasion reproduce sermon outlines and choir anthem titles.

The German Congregationalists were a tight-knit family. Part of this conference family was a cluster of institutions that were reported on at every Conference meeting. These institutions were supported by local churches through mission giving and participation and greetings were shared from these whenever possible. They were:

  1. Yankton School of Theology--the alma mater of most of the clergy;
  2. Pioneer Press--which provided for all of the printing needs of the German Congregational churches;
  3. South America Mission--to German Russians in Argentina and Brazil;
  4. Wishek Home--a retirement home being developed at the time of the merger.
Another thread tying together the German Congregational family was the minister-at-large. Edward Grauman, living in Portland, Oregon, served all of the German Conferences as placement officer and trouble-shooter. He attended each Conference and reported.

The German Conference, in the process of becoming the North Dakota Association, had its by-laws translated into English in 1958.109 They reveal a system that was more connectional than the usual Congregational system.

This Association shall be recognized by all congregations of this Association as the authoritative body to direct and counsel every phase of the work within the association, and to:
  • (a) License candidates for ministry;
  • (b) Ordain candidates for ministry;
  • (c) Discipline the congregations and ministers who are negligent in their duties, and to
  • (d) Counsel the congregations in their duties to finance and send delegates to the . . . Association meeting. . . .110
No congregation shall call a minister from another denomination without consulting the Executive Committee.111
Only ministers of the gospel in good standing, or qualified Christian laymen whose credentials are satisfactory to the Credentials Committee shall be permitted to conduct evangelistic or revival meetings in any of our congregations.

Candidates for the ministry were examined at Conference meeting and often were ordained there as well.

A relationship was developing between the German and English Conferences. Ed Treat came to the German Conference and reported; the German Conference had two representatives on the Board of Directors of the English Conference. Reporting and accounting for denominational purposes were handled through the office of the English conference. Young people from the German Conference were invited to church camp at Pilgrim Park.

The German Conference was still a mission conference. The minister-at-large was paid by BHM, and several churches received aid from BHM. Each congregation had an annual mission fest, at which the people gave generously to missions. Much of this offering was directed to the special German Congregational missions.


German Reformed Churches in the Dakotas

The Reformed branch of the Reformation, led by Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and Jean Calvin (1509-64), went further than Luther in reshaping the church. In 1563 German Reformed leaders summed up their faith in the Heidelberg Catechism, a series of questions and answers memorized in Confirmation classes by Reformed young people for 400 years.

Many German Reformed people settled in colonies in Russia, and later came to America. Most of the small group of south-Russian Germans who came to America in 1849, settled in Sandusky, Ohio, where they became active in a German Reformed church, whose second pastor was Carl Kuss. In 1875 Kuss was sent to Dakota Territory to help the new immigrants and to organize churches. He found Jakob Orth in Sutton, Nebraska, in 1873. Orth had been converted as a teenager in the revivals of Johannes Bonekemper, had been a teacher at Worms, south Russia, for seventeen years, and was active in the Brotherhood. Orth was sent to Mission House Seminary in Wisconsin, and after an intense course of a few weeks, was ordained. Two sons of Johannes Bonekemper served in the Reformed churches on the prairie: Karl, educated at Mercersberg, served in southern Dakota, and Wilhelm, educated at Barmen, in Germany, served in Nebraska. The Brotherhood was an active important part of most Reformed churches in the Dakotas.

The Reformed churches in Dakota Territory refused to request financial help from the Mission Board of the Reformed Church in the United States, "in order not to fall under the consistory, as in the old country."113 This greatly inhibited the growth of the Reformed church in the Dakotas. Some of their pastors, unable to support themselves, left to work for the German Congregationalists.

In 1887 a South Dakota Classis was organized, as part of the Synod of the Northwest. In 1886, traveling missionary Ulrich Reue established his base at Eureka, southern Dakota. In 1887 he founded Rohrbach and Glueckstal Reformed churches in the neighborhood of what would become the border between North and South Dakota. H. W. Stienecher, a minister, homesteaded near Ashley, North Dakota, in 1892, and from there served up to eleven congregations, most of which he founded. In 1911 a Eureka Classis was formed, including Reformed churches in northern South Dakota and North Dakota. The Eureka Classis was strongly influenced by the holiness teaching of Herman Frederick Kohlbruegge (1803-75) of the Netherlands.114

German Reformed Churches in Canada

In 1772, Russia, Germany, and Austria began dividing up Poland. In that year, Austria annexed the province of Galicia, inhabited by Poles and Ukrainians. From 1782 to 1785, many immigrants came from southwest Germany and the Rhineland to Galicia. Among these were persons of Reformed faith, many of whom settled in Josefberg and surrounding villages, about forty miles southwest of the capital of L'vov (Limburg).115

These Austrians from Galicia began settling in Canada in 1891. Philip Doern, in Gretna, Manitoba, wrote to his pastor in Josefberg, Galicia, expressing the need for a Reformed pastor. From Galicia the letter was forwarded to the Reformed missionary who worked with immigrants in New York Harbor, and from there to the Reformed Church in the United States. In 1892, W. Stienecker of North Dakota visited Manitoba. Four years later William Hansen was sent as the first permanent pastor. He arrived in Winnipeg on November 14, 1896, and preached the next day. "I saw tears of joy in many eyes; 'Finally, finally the time has begun when we can live according to our confession!'--This was the essence of their joy."116 Soon other Reformed churches were established across the three prairie provinces of Canada. These churches served a mixture of Germans from Germany, Austria and Russia, but most were from the Austrian province of Galicia. These Canadian churches belonged to the South Dakota classis until 1901, when a Manitoba Classis was organized.

Eureka Classis Schism

The Reformed Church on the northern prairie, part of the Northwest Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States, was a far-flung scattering of mostly small open country congregations117 providing a minimum of services to small groups that were tenaciously hanging on to the Heidelberg Catechism and the German language.

In 1932, a Plan of Union for the Reformed Church in the U. S. and the Evangelical Synod of North America was sent to the Reformed classes. The Eureka Classis passed resolutions against the Union in 1932 and 1933. It was approved by the vast majority, and went into effect in 1934. In 1936 the Evangelical and Reformed Church prepared a constitution and sent it to the classes. This also was not approved by the Eureka Classis, but was approved by the national church in 1938 and went into effect in 1940. At its annual meeting in 1938, the Eureka Classis made its position clear:

A union based upon a federation of confessions is no union at all. It is illogical, indefensible and defeats its true purpose--unity. . . . And without a definite confession, which, in unequivocal terms, pledges its adherents to all the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as the only rule of faith and practice, it is hardly entitled to be called a member of the body of Christ. . . .
The proposed Constitution of the new Evangelical and Reformed Church nullifies the authority of the Heidelberg Catechism as the only standard of the Church, by binding the congregation and its members to a number of standards, which in many respects, are contradictory to each other.

The Classis went on to declare:

Furthermore, since the merged Church, not we, has seceded from its basic principles, we reserve the right to continue to function as heretofore, as the legally constituted Reformed Church in the United States.119

No one took seriously the claims of the Eureka Classis that they were the continuation of the Reformed Church in the U. S., from which the other 99.5% of the church had withdrawn. At a special session, August 16, 1938, the Eureka Classis took bold action:

Be it therefore resolved, that the Eureka Classis serve notice on the Honorable Synod of the Northwest and the merged Evangelical and Reformed Church, that all properties, holdings and rights of the Reformed Church in the U. S. are now legally vested in the Eureka Classis, and therefore said properties, holdings and rights cannot and may not be diverted or transferred to the new organization, called the Evangelical and Reformed Church.120

A legal judgment on March 7, 1947, regarding the claims of two groups to ownership of church property at Scotland, S. D., effectively ended the legal claims of Eureka Classis that the rest of the Reformed Church had left the Reformed Church. However, the opponents of union were actively trying to get every Reformed Church to join them.

On October 16-17, 1940, loyal members of the Eureka, West Canada, and South Dakota classes united to form the Dakota Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. In the light of all the controversy, no effort was made to unite the Reformed and Evangelical churches of the Dakotas into one synod. The Eureka Classis--that part of it opposed to the merger--met in 1940, "officially declared itself to be the continuing Reformed Church in the U. S. (incorporating as such in 1945), and watched the bulk of the denomination dissolve into humanistic liberalism."121

The number of Reformed churches was declining sharply, as rural churches closed and consolidated. Those that were left in the Dakotas were equally divided between the Eureka Classis Reformed Church and the E&R Church. In North Dakota, congregations at Ashley, Lincoln Valley (Sheridan county), Upham and Heil affiliated with the continuing group. Congregations at Wishek, Zeeland, rural Zeeland, Fullerton and Streeter joined the E&R Church.

The controversy was kept alive, and the prospect of another merger--with the Congregational Christian churches--only added more arguments. In 1945 the pastor at Wishek wrote to the secretary of the Evangelical and Reformed Church:

I am unspeakably tired about our church business. Since those of the former Eureka Classis incorporated as 'Ref. Church in the U. S.' a fiery propaganda is going on: anyone who is still Reformed must join this only and real Ref. (Eureka) Church. Peace is gone.122

On the Threshold of Union

The typical church service of worship was conducted in the German language. Following the service, the men and boys of the congregation would gather, on the warm south side of the church building if the weather were cool, or on the north side when the warm Saskatchewan sun beat down particularly vehemently. There, in various small groups, some of the men would light their 'smokes,' and, speaking intermittently in German and English, would talk about what life was like in the 'old country,' or how the new machinery is simply not as well built as it used to be. Meanwhile, the younger boys chasing around the churchyard would converse in English except perhaps when they wanted to be particularly emphatic with a 'cuss' word in German. Inside the church building, like things were happening. The women, who had been sitting on the right hand row of pews facing the chancel remained for a time after the service. They too talked a mixture of German and English as they reflected on some new convenience, or how the new baby looked just like his grandfather from Singles in the province of Hessen, Germany.123

This is a description of Bethany Evangelical and Reformed Church of Wolseley, Saskatchewan, but it could describe any number of churches on the northern prairie. It was familiar, loving, and family. It was also restricted in its vision of mission and ministry--unable to reach beyond its ethnic community--reluctant to let go of the German language--not providing any facilities in the building, such as bathrooms, kitchen or fellowship hall, that would have made more activities possible.124 Bethany Church, like many other ethnic churches, was in decline in 1963.

The Heidelberg Catechism was used in almost all congregations as the basis of the two or three year Confirmation program. The Brotherhood was active in many of the USA churches, and most had Sunday Schools. Some congregations reported Sunday School attendance exceeding the church's communicant membership--indicating that most of the adults were in Sunday School as well as the children. Worship attendance averaged 75% of church membership, and in some congregations exceeded 90%.125

The Synod structure was minimal, with no full time staff. The E&R Church had recently assigned a Christian Education worker to work with Dakota and Rocky Mountain Synods.

The attitude toward society was expressed in the 1961 Report on Stewardship and Christian Social Action: "Christian ideals are somewhat hard to impress upon a non-Christian society, therefore the first duty ought always to be a strong effort to carry out the God given task of teaching and preaching the Gospel of salvation."126




The North Dakota Conference of Congregational Christian Churches (excluding the churches belonging to the Fort Berthold Council of Congregational Churches) in 1960 consisted of 72 congregations. Ten were inactive. The 62 active congregations127 with a resident membership of 6,183, were scattered across the mid-section of North Dakota, from Fargo to Beach, and from Grand Forks to Williston. Congregations were located in 32 of North Dakota's 53 counties. The table below demonstrates the character of the problem of the Congregational Conference. The overwhelming majority of congregations (79%) were in small towns. Ten congregations had half the membership, while half the congregations had a membership of 50 or less. The 62 active congregations in 1960 were organized into 42 pastoral charges or larger parishes, many of which also included churches of other denominations. Only a minority of the congregations (44%) had ordained Congregational ministers, 19% were served by ministers of other denominations, 29% had no minister. With good reason, the Conference minister could write in 1962, "our basic problem in North Dakota . . . is the town and country church."128

German Congregational

The North Dakota Association UCC, in 1960 consisted of 25 congregations, all active.129 With a total resident membership of 2,643, these congregations were located in two clusters in south-central and south-west North Dakota. The largest congregation, in Kulm, had 339 members. While the Association was completely rural, with no congregations in cities, the bulk of the congregations and membership was in moderate size churches (51-199 members). Fully 72% of the congregations had ordained Congregational ministers.

Evangelical Churches

The Northern Synod in North Dakota consisted of large congregations in small towns. Three of six congregations had over two hundred members--two had over six hundred members. Five were in small towns, none in cities. All six were served by ordained E&R pastors.

Reformed Churches

Dakota Synod, one of the smallest E&R Synods130 consisted of 25 congregations scattered across over a thousand miles of prairie, in two states of the United States and three provinces of Canada. Of the thirteen congregations that were transferred to the North Dakota Conference, five were in south-central North Dakota, three in Manitoba, two in Saskatchewan, and three in Alberta.131 With the exception of the Winnipeg church, all of these congregations were in small towns or the open country. They ranged in membership from 180 to 44. A majority of the congregations (7) had no ministerial leadership, while the remainder (6) had ordained E&R ministers.

Fort Berthold Churches

In 1960 there were eight congregations belonging to the FBCCC,132 all located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Their total resident membership was 394. Four of the congregations were in small towns, and four in the open country. The congregations ranged in size from 25 to 90. Leadership was almost evenly divided between ordained Congregational ministers and licensed or lay ministers.

Statistics at Time of Union

Group City of 5000+ small town open country
Congregational 10 49 3
German Congregational 0 20 5
Evangelical 0 5 1
Reformed 1 9 3
FBCCC 0 4 4
TOTAL 11 87 16

Group 200+ members 51-199 members 50- members
Congregational 10 21 31
German Congregational 3 18 4
Evangelical 3 3 0
Reformed 0 12 1
FBCCC 0 3 5
TOTAL 16 57 41

Group 200+ members 51-199 members 50- members
Congregational 3,082 2,165 936
German Congregational 760 1,748 135
Evangelical 1,848 306 0
Reformed 0 1,264 44
FBCCC 0 244 149
TOTAL 5,690 5,727 1,264

Group ordained CC/E&R minister licensed or lay minister minister of other denomination no minister part time supply
Congregational 27/19 4/3 12/10 18/9 1/1
German Congregational 18/11 2/1 0/0 5/2 0/0
Evangelical 6/5 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0
Reformed 6/4 0/0 0/0 7/5 0/0
FBCCC 4/3 3/2 0/0 1/1 0/0
TOTAL 61/42 9/6 12/10 31/17 1/1


Each group brought to the union their own particular strengths and their own particular problems.

The Congregational Conference brought to the union a competent staff, a summer camp, and a quality program, none of which they could afford. They offered these resources to the whole united Conference, and hoped that with the added people and churches, the elusive goal of self-support could be attained.

The Congregational Conference brought to the union its "town and country" problem. The burden of the Conference was how to provide ministerial leadership to the half of its churches with fewer than fifty members. Many of the clergy were reluctant to consider any leadership alternatives to the seven-year schooled ordained minister.

The German Congregational Conference came into the union as a deeply divided close-knit family. In most congregations, the battle over language had been recent and intense. At issue also, was whether they would loose their cultural and theological distinctness. In spite of these deep differences, they were knit together by frequent fellowship between churches, a strong involvement with their institutions, and a shared cultural background. They brought to the united Conference a warm evangelical faith, which they believed would benefit the whole Conference.

The Northern (Evangelical) Synod brought to the union a few large healthy churches in small towns, with a history of mission giving. The distance from the rest of the Synod in Minnesota had been a handicap, and they looked forward to fellowship and work with a Conference in North Dakota.

The Dakota (Reformed) Synod churches in North Dakota were half a family. The Reformed churches of the Dakotas had been split down the middle by the schism of the Eureka Classis. The Heidelberg Catechism and the Brotherhood were still marks of the church on both sides of the split. But too many harsh words had been said, for them to come back together with mutual respect. The new merger, a step further away from their separated brethren, was not an occasion for joy. They brought to the union the faith of the Catechism and the weakness of their diminished numbers and scattered churches.

The Dakota Synod churches in Canada felt that they were neglected by the Dakota Synod. They looked forward to a new Conference that would be closer, larger, more progressive, and hopefully more helpful.

The churches of the Fort Berthold Council of Congregational Churches had recently been through the trauma of relocation. Their main concerns were survival, putting down new roots, and maintaining their fellowship in spite of the Lake. They brought to the union a Christian faith enriched by the spirituality of the Indian way of thinking. They were cautious in their dealings with any white institution--including the Conference--because they had so often been the victims of exploitation.

The groups going into the North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ (NDCUCC) in 1961 had 114 congregations with a combined membership of 13,429, which broke down as follows:

Congregational 52%
German Congregational 20%
Northern Synod (Evangelical) 16%
Dakota Synod (Reformed) 9%
Fort Berthold Council 3%

The new Conference would be truly ecumenical--international, inter-racial, inter-cultural, and theologically diverse. Would each of these elements find expression in the new Conference? Each group had its brokenness--its problems, divisions, and defeats. Christians believe that strength comes from Christ through His brokenness. Could the pain of each community, mutually acknowledged, in some way bring greater strength to this new Conference?


The ministers and delegates who participated in the Constituting Convention, October 11-13, 1963, were living in a rapidly changing world.

For rural North Dakotans, the greatest revolution in life was the coming of electrification. In 1935 only 2.3% of North Dakota farm families had electricity from a central power station. By 1954 about 90% had power.133 A second change was hard surfaced roads. In the decade ending in 1963, the proportion of the state highway system that had hard surface increased from 40% to 85%134 This helped end the isolation of many rural people.

The Constituting Convention of the North Dakota Conference was held six weeks after Martin Luther King, Jr., had declared from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, "I have a dream!" Integration had been spreading across the South. An idealistic President had founded the Peace Corps. Just one week before the Convention, the President had signed a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The Roman Catholic Church was being radically altered at the Vatican Council in Rome. For those who believed that the Spirit of God could be at work through faithful people in the world, making it more like the kingdom of God, these were days of hope and confidence.

For those who saw the world as basically evil, and looked for hope only in the world beyond, there were also events to confirm those convictions. In 1963 the Supreme Court of the United States had brought an end to prayer in the public schools. Movies were becoming more sexually explicit, and the power of local censors was limited by court decisions. "Rock 'n' Roll" was popular; women's skirts were getting shorter; advances in birth control had brought greater sexual freedom.

In the North Dakota Conference, those who faced the world with hope outnumbered those who faced the world with fear. A new church was being created, effected by this changing world, and participating in the change.


Conference Minister Ed Treat, in his annual report for 1961, stated:

We now have an unusual Christian opportunity before us if only we may be characterized by sufficient faith, intelligence, prayer, patience, and wisdom to reap the harvest. The different traditions of the different groups involved offer the possibility of something new and creative.135

The German Congregational minutes from a joint planning meeting held November 1, 1960, reported, "a discussion of ways and means to bring about this merger without too much change within the churches itself."136

These two comments describe the major issue in the union process: one's attitude toward change. It is natural to be cautious in the face of change. Any change is a threat to what one has. But some change can bring something better. Church union brings change. German Congregationalists, struggling against the forces of assimilation in America, wanted to preserve their customs. Henry Vieth, pastor of a German church in Glen Ullin, observed:

At the grass-roots level the Germans were largely interested in preserving their religious heritage and keeping it safe from outside influences. Coming from Europe and the deeply penetrating influence of the Pietistic movement, the Germans conceived of the church first of all as a spiritual brotherhood, with the emphasis wholly upon prayer, preaching the Bible, revivals, and evangelism. It was centered in the future world, not in this one.137

Resistance to change was not a characteristic of just the German churches. Helmut Maedche, Moderator of the German Association 1964-65, observed: "We felt that the German heritage had something good to offer to strengthen the United Church of Christ. [Some of the Congregational Conference leadership] didn't feel that was the case."138

The process of union was long. English and German Congregationalists had been sending representatives to each other's meetings at least since the 1930s. No one expected anything to move rapidly. George Eisenach concluded in 1938:

The members of the German churches do not have common origin with the members of the English churches, and differences in culture, specifically in language and spiritual outlook, do not at present permit intimate Christian fraternity between the two groups: fellowship . . . and a sharing of religious experience, is at present inconceivable.139

For two more decades Americanization continued, and the Congregational Conference struggled to achieve self-support. In 1956 a denominational study of North Dakota recommended integration of German and English Conferences, stating, "The future of the N. D. Conference may depend on the degree to which the integration of the German churches can take place in the years ahead."140

In 1957, Minister-at-large Edward Grauman presented a paper to the German Conference on "Co-operation Between English and German Churches." On November 19 of that year, a joint meeting was held of the Executive Committees of the two conferences. The dialogue had begun for a union of Congregationalists in North Dakota.

Meanwhile, other discussions were taking place on the national level. The Evangelical and Reformed Church, within a year of its adoption of a constitution and incorporation in 1940, began discussions relative to union with the Congregational Christian churches. In 1944 the two national bodies agreed on the process for negotiations. A Basis of Union was presented in 1947, and had been adopted by both national bodies in 1949. A uniting General Synod was planned for 1950. From April 1949 to December 1953, the process was stopped by an injunction brought by a local Congregational church opposed to merger. In 1954 negotiations resumed. The two communities were united at Cleveland, Ohio, June 25-27, 1957. Again in Cleveland, July 6-8, 1960, General Synod unanimously adopted the Constitution and by-laws. Meanwhile, a committee had been established to give advice on boundaries of Conferences.

The Congregational churches of North Dakota, asked to vote on the Basis of Union in 1947 and 1948, had given overwhelming support to the union. In 1956, the Congregational Conference passed a resolution to "heartily endorse" the actions of the national church toward union.

By 1958, representatives of the four groups in North Dakota were having informal discussions. Ed Treat consistently lamented the slowness of the process, but reflected, "marriage will require time and faith."141 In 1959 Treat reported to the Congregational Conference:

I report to you that extensive conversations have been held by representatives of the North Dakota Association of the U. C. C. (German Congregational churches), the two E & R Synods in the state, and myself on these matters. At the present time we are seeking ways and means of developing fellowship and acquaintance--in our 'machinery' our 'theology,' and our 'Christian Witness.' . . . Our present thinking is that there will be one geographical unit in any future Conference or Synod in North Dakota. The trend of thinking has been that this Conference will first seek to 'set its own house in order,' with constant consultation with representatives of the other bodies involved. We will then move forward to actual union.142

This strategy was followed. The other groups were invited to send their children to Pilgrim Park and to the Congregational youth rallies. The women's regional activities were brought together. A joint Steering Committee was established in November 1960, to make the plans for union.

In January 1959 a Conference Reorganization Committee was appointed by the Congregational Conference to "get our house in order." It suggested a consolidation of committees into five departments. In 1961 it gave its report to the joint steering committee. The changes were not adopted until the Constituting Convention in 1963. The idea of the other groups joining the Congregational Conference, which would become the UCC Conference, met with no serious objections. The Congregational Conference was the only one incorporated in the state of North Dakota, the only one holding property, and the only one having contracts with employees. Legally, it was the easiest way to go.

The Church and Ministry Committee of the Congregational Conference was deeply divided over whether or not to accept the academic credentials of the German Congregational pastors. In 1959 they presented the following motion to annual meeting: "Moved that we accept the Yankton School of Theology degree plus a recommendation from the faculty of the school as satisfactory evidence of education for ordination."143 The motion was approved by only a 49 to 33 vote.

The normal requirement for ordination was a four year Bachelors degree plus a three year Bachelor of Divinity degree--or seven years of school beyond high school. Yankton granted a four year Bachelor's degree plus a one year Bachelor of Theology degree. The student received some theology courses during the first four years, but attended only a total of five years. Some Congregational professionals looked upon this as a "short cut," and were determined to uphold high academic standards.

Most of the uniting groups had used a variety of methods in ministerial training. Otherwise there would have been fewer pastors for the churches, and the churches would have suffered. Men who had been school teachers in Russia, the de facto religious leaders of their communities, were ordained with little or no further training by both German Congregational and Reformed churches in the early days. In the Reformed churches in Canada, a candidate sometimes worked with, and studied with a local pastor for a couple of years, and then was ordained. Some Congregational ministers were ordained by vicinage councils. That is, in stead of inviting every church in the Association to come, question, and vote on the candidate, the host church invited only a few friendly neighboring churches to come. The Indian pastors were ordained this way, as was Harold Case. Throughout their histories, the churches of North Dakota have tried to strike a balance between high academic standards and the need to provide pastors for the churches. By accepting the Yankton degree, the Congregational Conference removed an obstacle to reconciliation with most of the German Congregational clergy.

From September 1960 to June 1961, each Congregational church had to vote on the Constitution and By-Laws of the United Church of Christ. Churches voting "no" or abstaining could still belong to the Conference, but would not be members of the national denomination. In the Congregational Conference, five active congregations abstained or did not vote; two voted "no." In the German Conference, one did not vote and three voted "no." At each church meeting, certain documents were read, the vote taken, and mailed to the national church. Although each church had received much literature warning them they would loose their local autonomy, this was clearly not true, and never was a major issue in North Dakota. Many churches, in their printed church histories, mention the date of this vote, seeing it as a significant point in their church history. Austin Engel described what happened at Shell Creek, an FBCCC church.

We read the prepared statements that had to be read, and we voted on it--then a couple of members put on an Indian ceremony involving a war bonnet. There was a clear indication that they felt that this was something new--a new beginning--something that was different from the old--and they were celebrating that in this ceremony.144

Henry Vieth described a very different situation in Glen Ullin, where the people voted "no,"

Actually it seems to the writer that the people in the main have never taken time to really study the Constitution of the United Church and that the vote was taken hurriedly and more in an atmosphere of panic than under the guiding principal of reason and fairness.145

During the same period of time each E&R synod also was required to vote on the Constitution. There was very little opposition or debate in Northern Synod,146 but Dakota Synod approved by only a 20 to 14 vote.147

The national church, recognizing a responsibility to advise conferences and synods on how to determine borders for uniting, laid down some guidelines in 1960.

  1. Conferences and synods are essentially 'state oriented.' . . . This suggests that the state might logically be the basic unit for the realignment of conference boundaries in the UCC.
  2. Conferences ought to be sufficiently large to support a strong and adequate conference staff.
  3. Conference boundaries should be drawn on a basis which will be inclusive of racial, ethnic, and national groups.148

A fourth concern was: "The realignment of conference boundaries should take place wherever possible, with a minimum of discontinuity to existing structures, programs and services."149

This fourth point was being followed in North Dakota, by having the other groups join the Congregational Conference. The national church was emphatic on the third point: in an age of integration, there were to be no separate racial or ethnic conferences. The German Conference must be integrated. The first two points contradicted each other in North Dakota. The preference was for a state conference, but would that be big enough to support a multiple staff? National believed that a Conference needed at least 150 congregations or 30,000 members. North Dakota fell far below that, but the two Dakotas together would meet the criteria. Two meetings were held in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in 1961-62, with representatives of all conferences and synods in the Dakotas. The Congregational Conference reported, "The representatives voted unanimously that 'Conferences should remain within state lines and that a conference be formulated in each state.'"150 However, Dakota Synod did not come to a consensus on the subject of conference borders.151

The BHM report in 1956 had recommended that the conference office be moved from Fargo to Bismarck. The Conference began to deal with this as part of "getting our house in order." Austin Engel remembered this as the most controversial issue during his year as Moderator, 1961-62. Opponents said the change should not be made until the other groups joined. The Bismarck location was closer for all of the other groups, but they wanted the decision made before the merger. Otherwise, in one of the first acts of the new conference, the new members might alienate the Congregationalists from the Red River Valley. The decision to move was made in 1962, and the move was carried out in 1965.

Also in 1962 an agreement was made on mission giving. The general plan was for churches to send their mission giving to the conference, which would send 25% on to national. But the German Congregational churches had their missions they had always supported. It was agreed that of the mission giving from the German Congregational churches, 25% would be sent to the South America Mission for three years, 20% in the fourth year, and 15% in the fifth year. Also, 22% of their giving would go to United Theological Seminary--the successor to Yankton--for five years, then support would be reviewed.

The feeling has been expressed by persons from both Congregational conferences, that German minister-at-large Ed Grauman was of two minds regarding the merger. The possibility of his job being eliminated a few years before retirement may have contributed to this ambiguity. In 1962, the conferences agreed that he be continued in his position until he should reach the age of 65.

The Constituting Convention in 1963 defined the borders of two Associations: Eastern and Missouri Valley. The hope was that each of these Associations would be large enough to maintain a program corresponding to the Conference's program. It was also expressed that each association would include a variety of the uniting groups. In fact, having two associations in stead of the former four assured Congregationalists of majority control in each. The border between associations was not extended into Canada. The Canadian churches, in order to maintain their fellowship with each other, all joined the same association: Eastern.

Vernon Bader, Conference Moderator 1967-68, visited almost every local church in the conference that year, and praised the rich diversity of the North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ.

Our local churches vary greatly . . . from liberals, ultra-conservatives, conservative, Pentecostal; churches that are quite liturgical, churches with hardly any liturgy; the highly social active, the power houses of prayer--all wrapped up in our UCC, for this is HIS CHURCH! In His Church, each individual and each local church has the freedom to accept the shape God gives it and to administer His power into the area we find ourselves. Although we have these great differences, I say that we have truly merged!152



When asked what was the special gift of each group to the new conference, Austin "Jim" Engel, Moderator of the Congregational conference 1961-62, paused a long time. Then he said,

I think the Conference continues to function basically as it did before the merger. The German churches were a fairly small group. The E&R were an even smaller group. And the Indian churches really didn't impact on the Conference much at all. So basically the Conference has gone along with the same flavor, the same style, and the same procedures as it was using before the merger.153

All the persons involved in the Conference at the time, with whom I spoke, shared this view. Engel did say that the German Congregationalists brought a more conservative viewpoint to the Conference, which as a whole became more conservative. Vern Bader, moderator 1967-68, from a German Congregational background, described it a little differently. In his view there were some very conservative German Congregationalists, and some very liberal English Congregationalists, but both pendulums were swinging back, and in the new UCC conference they met in the middle.154

There certainly was much change in the Conference in those years. However, it is difficult to identify any aspect of the life of the Conference after the merger as the contribution of one of the minority groups. On the local level in the 1960s, many Congregational churches, without strong confirmation traditions, adopted programs similar to the Evangelical and Reformed confirmation programs.

Lester L. "Pete" Soberg, Conference Minister 1966-80, recalled that attempts were made to place people from all groups on committees, and to use church buildings of all groups for meetings. The annual meeting was shortened slightly, and an effort was made to include more worship and inspiration, in line with German Congregational preference.

The move from Fargo to Bismarck, and the restructuring of conference committees into a few departments, had been planned before the merger, and now took place. The program of the Conference, centered at Pilgrim Park, of camping, youth, men's and women's activities, went on as usual.

Helmut Maedche, from a German Congregational background, commented,

In our churches we had this family relationship; we knew each other and each other's churches through frequent exchanges. We didn't feel this was there at the beginning of the merger with the English background churches as much as we would like.155

The Nominating Committee report of 1965156 listed 52 persons nominated to be conference officers, or on departments or committees of the cabinet. All four officers were from a Congregational background. The background of all nominees was as follows:157

Congregational 40
German Congregational 4
Northern Synod (Evangelical) 4
Fort Berthold Council 3
Dakota Synod (Reformed) 1

All three Fort Berthold nominees were on the Fort Berthold Administrative Committee. The Congregational group, with less than 60% of the membership, was claiming almost 80% of the positions.

In 1968 the North Dakota Conference consisted of 87 congregations belonging to the United Church of Christ, and four congregations that voted against the UCC but still retained membership in the Conference, for a total of 91 congregations with 11,271 members. By size and location they broke down as follows:

Membership Congregations Members
Number Per cent Number Per cent
200+ 16 18% 5,970 53%
51-199 43 47% 4,383 39%
50- 32 35% 918 8%

Size of Community Congregations Membership
Number Per cent Number Per cent
city 5000+ 11 12% 3,494 31%
small town 69 76% 7,156 63%
open country 11 12% 621 6%

Still a conference of small town churches, the new conference had more of its congregations in the moderate range (50-200 members) than the old Congregational Conference. Leadership patterns were as follows:

Leadership Pattern Congregations Charges
Ordained UCC Pastor 55 34
Lay Pastor 6 3
Other Denomination Pastor 19 15
Supply Pastor 3 3
Vacant 8 6

Fully 60% of the congregations had ordained UCC pastors, an improvement from 54% before the union. The improvement was greatest for the Congregational background churches (from 44% to 62%).


Union wasn't the only item of business before the Conference in those early years. The mission of the church continued to be carried out and advanced in a number of ways.

Wishek Retirement Home

The German Congregational Conference in 1954 created a committee to investigate the legal aspects of starting an "Old People's Home."158 In 1958 the Conference voted to sponsor a Home in Wishek and granted $15,000 to the project.159 The Conference was committed, through whatever means possible, to raise the needed funds for the Home. At the Constituting Convention in Jamestown in 1963, before voting to become an Association of the North Dakota Conference, the German Association voted to continue support for Wishek Home.160

The Wishek Retirement Home began operation on October 19, 1964. When the German Association met in Wishek in June of that year, they voted not to dissolve yet. One of the two reasons was that no agreement had been made with the Conference regarding the Association's obligations to Wishek Home to pay its debt and to assure its future support.161 In January of 1965, the Conference Cabinet accepted the proposal of the German churches that 25% of the total mission giving of the German background churches be set apart for the support of Wishek Home for ten years. Along with this went permission to the Home to solicit support from the churches of the Conference.162 Only after this was approved by the Conference in May, did the Association dissolve in June.

Charles Hall Youth Services

The upheaval on the Reservation following the construction of Garrison Dam, left its mark on the youth of the community. Persons in the Reservation community were concerned about the poor quality of the schools which the young people were then attending, and the need for a stable environment, in the light of the disruption and stress on the Reservation at the time. No doubt, many remembered the old "Mission School" experience and wondered how to produce the next generation of leaders.

On February 25, 1961, the FBCCC voted to name a committee to investigate the possibility of establishing a boarding home.163 For several years options and funding were investigated. National church consultants helped the group to focus its goals. By December 1964, the BHM had prepared a "Working Prospectus--Group Home for Indian American Children." In January 1965, the Conference Cabinet instructed the Conference Minister "to form a corporation" to create and operate the group home, and granted to this new corporation the right to solicit funds within the Conference.164 The decision had been made to locate in Bismarck.

The Board of Directors of Charles Hall Youth Services consisted of five persons elected by the Conference, two appointed by BHM, and four elected by the Board itself. On April 1, 1966, Hall Home received its first resident. The purpose of the Home as described to the Conference was:

The home is to be an educational facility in the broad sense of the word, providing (1) strong support for formal education received in attendance in Bismarck public schools, and (2) a living experience with careful attention to developing habits of self-discipline and accepting responsibility in the day to day life of the group.165

Hall Home has evolved since its creation. First the children were voluntary placed in the home by their parents. The Home could not afford the school tuition and medical expenses it had to pay under this arrangement. Within two years of opening, the Home was accepting only children placed under court order. The Home's financial liabilities were reduced and its mission redefined.166 In 1969 the Home reported that it had changed its license from foster home to private child welfare agency. A second home, Good Bird Home, was added in 1970.167

Elm Crest Manor Retirement Home

Peace Church, New Salem, established Elm Crest Manor retirement Home, which opened its doors March 1, 1969. The Home was not directly related to the Conference, but to the local congregation, with the Pastor of Peace Church sitting on the Board of Directors.

Community Relations Ministry

When Harold Case was forced by BHM to leave the Reservation, they gave him a new title and a new job description: Community Relations Ministry. The job description was always vague, but it provided a way for Harold Case to continue an active ministry.

He kept in close touch with the state legislature, conferred with community and state leaders as an advocate for Indian civil rights, served as pastor to Indian young people in boarding schools or homes, recommended Indian young people for scholarships, visited Indians in the hospitals, and assisted in making community resources available to Indian families with special needs.168

From Bismarck Harold Case carried out his Community Relations Ministry 1955-65. Totally funded by BHM, Case took an active role in Conference life, often serving as chairman of the Fort Berthold Relations Committee and the Social Action Committee.

Fort Berthold Administrative Committee

The Fort Berthold Indian Mission had been administered by BHM in New York City, with payroll checks written there and the budget administered there. In 1957, the responsibility for administering the Fort Berthold Mission was handed over to the Conference. This was part of a deal, where BHM agreed to give a diminishing subsidy for the position of Associate Conference Minister in North Dakota.

The Conference established a Fort Berthold Administrative Committee in 1959. This six-person committee was composed mostly of non-Indian pastors in the vicinity of the Reservation, with some representation of the Indian community. In consultation with Fort Berthold pastors and churches, FBAC prepared a budget each year, which it submitted to BHM. FBAC then administered the funds.

Some things about FBAC did work well. The FBCCC was free to deal with program issues, while FBAC handled administration. The Fort Berthold churches and the state conference were drawn closer together, and did get to know each other better. Some off-reservation work with Indians, such as at Wahpeton, did receive support. However, it was an obvious case of non-Indians making decisions for the Indian community. In 1966, Ina Hall, of Memorial Church, Parshall, resigned from the committee "in protest to the lack of Indian representation on the committee.169 A conference on racism at Deering, New Hampshire, in the summer of 1968, confronted Conference leaders with the racism inherent in their style of operation. The Conference immediately began the process of transferring all administrative functions from FBAC to FBCCC.170

After more consultation, the Council on American Indian Ministry (CAIM) was established in March 1970. This organization, representative of the Indian churches of the UCC, administered all funds for Indian ministry, and sought to co-ordinate the Indian ministry of the denomination. The first director of CAIM was Robert Fox, of White Shield, North Dakota, and its first office was in Bismarck.


In a time when the nation and the national UCC were conscious of the issue of racism and seeking to do something about it, the North Dakota Conference was remarkably candid about its racial problem. The FBAC saw as one of its areas of concern: to improve white-Indian relations within the Conference, including the "problems of Indian-White relations in our summer camps."171 A paper by Austin Engel, "The Churchman, Democracy, and Civil Rights," was read by the Social Action Committee in 1963 and recommended to the churches. The Conference supported the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, and the various pronouncements and programs of the national church on racial justice. The state youth rally in 1965--the largest rally on record--dealt directly with Indian-White relations.

Campus Ministry

The Congregational Conference had supported campus ministry at the major college campuses, Grand Forks and Fargo. Actually, most of the support (73% in 1964) came from BHM. In 1969 the Conference voted to enter a six-denomination United Ministries in Higher Education (UMHE) for such ministries across the state. In the 1970s, BHM support was withdrawn and the Conference continued to support this work on its own.

Commission for Educational Ministries

A significant part of the Congregational Conference's ministry was in education. At the time of the merger, Montana and North Dakota Conferences together had a Director of Christian Education, who was funded entirely by BHM. This program ended in 1966. Ollie Thomas was then called as Associate Conference Minister with responsibility for education. At the beginning of 1969, under Thomas' leadership, the Commission for Educational Ministries (CEM) was created--a joint educational commission for the UCC and the United Presbyterian Church in North Dakota. This strong independent commission conducted camping, youth rallies, introduced curriculum, and promoted Faith Exploration. It trained Associated in Christian Education--mostly lay people, who could then provide training for others in Christian Education. Looked upon with suspicion by the leaders of both judicatories because of its independence, CEM was dissolved in 1983 when the Presbyterians withdrew.


The 1950s saw the first spurt of new church starts in North Dakota since the 1920s. The first cause was relocation as a result of the Garrison Dam. In 1954 the Congregational Conference established a church that was intentionally biracial in the new agency town of NewTown. Snow Bird Chapel (Arikara) and Mandaree (intertribal) were begun in 1955. Also in 1955, the Congregational Conference began a new church start in Bismarck.172

In the 1960s and 1970s, evangelism was not considered important. As the chart below indicates, the Conference lost 3,562 members--not counting churches withdrawing from the Conference. This was at a time when the state's population was increasing.

Time Period By Churches loosing members By Conference loosing churches
1961-70 2,322 740
1970-80 971 633
1980-88 269 209
TOTAL 3,562 1,582

In 1964 the Evangelism Committee reported a frustrating year, "nothing of value has been accomplished . . . there is little need for an Evangelism Committee in this state."173 In 1965 it had been replaced by a "Department of Church Extension, Strategy and Evangelism," which was mainly concerned with realignments to provide ministerial care to rural churches. Aid from BHM to churches, to supplement ministerial salaries, declined from $9,780 in 1958, to $2,832 in 1966.174

Other Social Action

In 1964 the Conference opposed an election referendum on parimutuel betting. In 1966 the Department of Social Education and Action began to focus on the issue of peace.


Some opponents of church union contend that merger activity diverts energy from mission and causes a lull in mission activity.175 This theory is decisively contradicted by the experience of the NDCUCC. This Conference was heavily involved in mission before, during, and after the merger. The one glaring omission was in the area of church growth and evangelism. Perhaps the biggest outburst of mission activity in the Conference's collective history accompanied the merger. The Conference was soon confronted with a dilemma:

  1. a diminishing membership to support mission;
  2. abandonment of financial help from the national church;
  3. a sense of obligation to ecumenical mission agencies (CEM and UMHE) that did not appear to be accountable to the Conference.
By the end of the 1960s, the brief spurt of mission was winding down, and North Dakota's familiar "survival" mentality was taking over; retrenchment was the order of the day, and resignation in the face of declining membership and curtailed mission.


The merger created new opportunities for local cooperation. Six communities in North Dakota had congregations from more than one UCC background.176 From 1962 to 1989, thirteen different pastoral charge configurations have brought together UCC Churches from different backgrounds.177 In one community, UCC congregations from different backgrounds united to form one church.

In Glen Ullin and Mott, the Congregational church remained in the UCC while the German Congregational church withdrew. In Glen Ullin the "English" church had received many members from rural German churches that had closed, and some from the German church in town. The loss of its more liberal members made the German church more conservative.178 A number of other "English" churches have received many German background people over the years, including Mott and Beulah.

Helmut Maedche, pastor of Hebron (German) Congregational Church from 1962 to after 1989, sensed no pressure from the denomination to unite with St. John's (Evangelical) church in Hebron. The churches had different liturgical traditions and slightly different ethnic backgrounds (Reichsdeutsche and süd-Russland Deutsche). But the two UCC churches, along with the Evangelical United Brethren Church were able to give strong leadership to interchurch cooperative activity.179 In general, this atmosphere of no pressure to merge but greater opportunity to cooperate seems to have prevailed.

The pastoral charges across old boundaries have provided pastors where before it was difficult to secure pastors. Generally, they have worked very well.180 Helmut Maedche, who began serving Glen Ullin Congregational in 1964, said, "I had to get to know them, and adjust, and get a feeling of trust from them."181

Wishek United Church of Christ was created in 1979 by the union of St. John's (German) Congregational Church (147 members), Grace Reformed Church (87 members) and rural New Kassel Reformed Church (41 members). The result has been a stable, larger church.


Fourteen congregations withdrew from the North Dakota Conference from 1963 to 1989.182 According to the Yearbooks, six churches withdrew in 1965-66, and four in 1970-72, with one each in 1976, 1980 and 1988. The fourteenth voted against the merger, has not participated in the Conference for two decades, but has never formally withdrawn.

Most of these churches were not active in the conference for a period of time before they withdrew. Eight were from a German Congregational background, three Congregational, and three Reformed. Two of the Congregational churches had German background pastors before they withdrew. They represented 11% of the Conference membership at that time.

Why did they leave? There are four reasons frequently mentioned by both those who left and those who stayed:183

  1. The Conference could not get them a Pastor;
  2. The UCC was too liberal;
  3. Ministers without adequate training did not want to do those things requested by the Conference Church and Ministry Committee;
  4. A few anti-UCC pastors stirred up bad feelings toward the UCC.
To what extent are these theories supported by the record? I wrote a letter to each congregation that withdrew, with a series of questions, and received four responses, and I reviewed the correspondence in the Conference archives.

(1) Inability to provide a pastor

Hope E&R Church at Stony Plain, Alberta, was served from Fort Saskatchewan until the pastor died in 1961.

At that time we were encouraged by officials from the Evangelical and Reformed Church to join a Canadian denomination since we were isolated from the churches in the Dakotas and because there were no ministers to serve us.184

The congregation began to work with the Christian Reformed Church. In the Fall of 1964, Conference Minister Ed Treat visited Stony Plain. After a positive visit he wrote to the church:

I naturally would like to have the present relationship with the United Church of Christ continued, except that I am frustrated at the point of pastoral services. . . . The best final solution is for you to seek membership in the United Church of Canada.185

That option was never considered. Some of the congregation found it very hard to break their ties to the United Church of Christ, but on December 12, 1965, by a vote of 61 to 22, they joined the Christian Reformed Church.

S. Samuel Lemke retired from the pastorate of Zion E&R Church of Morden, Manitoba, in 1965. Two obstacles stood in the way of getting a new pastor. "Soon after the amalgamation [of the UCC] the new mission board informed us that subsidizing churches in Canada will cease."186 Also, the church wanted a bilingual pastor. The North Dakota Conference office contacted the Presbyterian office in Winnipeg, which wrote to a seminary in Bonn, Germany, for candidates, to no avail. Unwilling to work with a Presbyterian church because of cultural and linguistic differences, and with few funds, the Morden church wrote to the Conference office March 7, 1966, to inform them the congregation had joined the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. With a nearby congregation of that denomination, they formed a two-point charge. One lifetime member wrote, "It took a while to overcome the difficulties, the alter worship and liturgy, the liturgy before communion, vestments, etc."187

Pastor Bryce Hecht left his parish in Zeeland in 1962. St. John's church was listed as having a pastor only one of the following nine years. Personal and family conflicts made cooperation difficult with the rural New Kassel Church. In 1965, a meeting to form a yoke with the Reformed Church in Strassburg (Reformed Church of America) failed. On November 8, 1970, the congregation voted unanimously to join the Reformed Church in the US (Eureka Classis), and they formed a charge with Artas and Harreid, South Dakota.188

The secretary of Peace Congregational Church, Zap, N. D., stated that when her church left the UCC in 1981 the reason was, "an inability of them to provide us with a pastor."189

(2). UCC too liberal

Without a doubt the United Church of Christ was more liberal than most small German Congregational churches. A few issues were mentioned in some correspondence, but the basic difference was that the UCC, "did not stress to be born again to be a child of God."190 In 1851 the Congregational mission society had required that German Congregational churches must be composed only of the regenerate, if they wanted to receive aid. In the century after that, Congregational churches drifted away from that standard of membership; but it continued to be held as a basic doctrine by most German Congregationalists. The leaders of the UCC in North Dakota have downplayed the theological differences. After all, in a free church you can still be as conservative as you want to be. But to those who define the church by regeneration, that is not enough.

(3). Unqualified pastors

From at least 1953, there was pressure within the German Congregational Conference to ordain persons who had not graduated from Yankton Seminary. Some of these candidates had gone to Bible Schools and held Fundamentalist views. One was ordained in 1960 and several others were licensed. It was clear that in the merged Conference, it would be very difficult for these others to be ordained. Many of these were the strongest opponents of the UCC.

On July 22, 1975, the New Rockford church wrote to the Conference that they were withdrawing from the UCC. They were being served by a minister who no longer had credentials with any denomination and had not complied with suggestions from the Church and Ministry Committee to upgrade his education.191

(4). Anti-UCC pastors

The idea is prevalent among leaders in the North Dakota Conference that a few "trouble-makers"--pastors opposed to the UCC--were responsible for leading most of these churches out of the UCC. This view is supported by the records. Most of the German churches that withdrew, simply wrote to Conference stating their decision to withdraw. They gave no reasons. There was no effort on the local church's part to engage in dialogue with the Conference, or to allow any input from the Conference before the vote was taken. In most cases, Conference leaders were not allowed to come to the local church to discuss the action.

Most of the Congregational churches--German and English--that withdrew, belong now to the Great Plains Congregational Fellowship of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC), or are independent. Their pastors are from the CCCC or other conservative groups, like the Church of God. They report a mixed pattern of some growth and much decline, not unlike the churches of the United Church of Christ.

The Eureka Classis

In 1940, the Eureka Classis Reformed Church in the United States was left with three ordained ministers. Like other groups in North Dakota, the classis was consolidating its many small country churches into fewer more viable churches, and was struggling with the language issue. The Classis developed close fellowship with the Christian Reformed Church and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which helped in securing pastors at first. Through the establishment of mission churches, and the reception into the Classis of other groups withdrawing from the UCC, and independent churches, the Classis had grown to 33 congregations in 1985. The Classis was then found in twelve states, with seven congregations in North Dakota.

This continuing Reformed church in time defined for itself a more conservative position than the pre-merger Reformed Church in the US and the United Church of Christ. In 1964 it recommended that churches not receive into membership persons who belonged to masonic orders, and in 1965 it resolved that women should not be allowed to vote in congregational meetings. In 1972 the Classis took a stand against abortion as murder, and in 1973 affirmed the plenary inspiration of the Bible in the strongest possible terms. In 1977 the Classis affirmed the traditional position of opposition to unconfirmed children receiving communion.192


  1. It was an absorption, not a merger. There were good practical reasons for following this legal process. But the legal reality shaped the programmatic reality. Only with difficulty can anything in the life of the new Conference be identified as the contribution of one of the minority groups.

  2. The merger was accompanied by an outburst of mission. This directly contradicts the commonly held belief that church union activity competes with mission activity. Apparently, the church union creates an openness to innovation which was expressed in mission.

  3. Ministerial leadership has continued to be a major problem. Ed Treat called it the "town and country church" problem. The merger did help in places. With some new parish alignments, the proportion of churches being served by ordained denominational pastors increased. However, some churches withdrew because the Conference could not provide leadership. Others withdrew under the leadership of unqualified and disloyal pastors whose entrance might have been prevented if qualified leadership were available. Long interims and vacancies and short pastorates have contributed to membership decline. Except for a brief period after the merger, the Conference has been reluctant to consider alternative routes to ordination or lay ministry.

  4. The sense of family has been slow in developing. Pilgrim Park has had a key role in building a sense of community in the Conference. The various missions and institutions, like United Ministries in Higher Education, Charles Hall Youth Services, and United Theological Seminary, have all sought financial help, but have not nurtured otherwise close ties to the Conference. When Marwood Rettig was Conference Minister (1981-87), fellowship was strengthened with occasional German services, promotion of missionfests, election of more persons from the minorities to conference committees, and strengthening the fellowship and worship elements of Conference meetings, finally creating a feeling of family.

  5. The Biblical and theological reasons for church union were not clearly articulated. At the uniting General Synod in 1957, Lesslie Newbigin spoke of the union as an act of penitence, an act of obedience, and an act of witness.193 In North Dakota it was most often perceived as a means of achieving self-support and the local consequence of a national decision. In all the minutes, reports and other records of the time, it is difficult to find any theological argument for union. There was excitement over something new. There was celebration of the church's diversity. Perhaps many participants assumed the Biblical and theological reasons. But the merger was weaker where it was perceived as an act of expediency, rather than an act of devotion and love to God.

  6. It worked. The prayer of Jesus, "that they may all be one," was prayed in action. The command of Jesus to "love one another" was obeyed. A larger, more diverse fellowship was created in North Dakota. Over the course of time, people have come to appreciate the contributions of the various groups. The united Conference has had a more significant ministry in North Dakota as a result of the union. All key participants, looking back, reaffirm that creating the United Church of Christ in North Dakota was the right thing to do, and are proud to have had a part in it. 194


1. George Steffen to Charles Maxfield, Aug. 1989. Helmut Maedche, who would be the last Moderator of the German Congregational Association, expressed a similar view in: Helmut Maedche, interview by Charles Maxfield, 1989, Tape recording.

2. Lester "Pete" Soberg, responses to questions, 1989, Tape recording.

3. Stan Cann, "ND United Church of Christ Takes Final Merger Steps," Fargo Forum Oct. 12, 1963. In North Dakota Congregational Christian Conference Papers, box 1, folder 1. North Dakota State Historical Society, Bismarck, N.D.

4. "Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Congregational Christian Conference of North Dakota and the North Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ," 3. In North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ Papers, box 7. Located in 1989 at the offices of the North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ, Bismarck, N.D.

5. Ibid., 6.

6. Charles L. Hall, The Story of Fort Berthold, 103-04. Mimeographed material.

7. Edward Goodbird, Goodbird the Indian, as told to Gilbert L. Wilson. Rev. ed., (St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 1985), 21.

8. Ibid., 22.

9. Ibid., 58.

10. Charles L. Hall, "Records of the Mission of the A. B. C. F. M. at Fort Berthold, D. T.; Transferred to the A. M. A. Jan. 1st, 1883," 9-10. Charles L. Hall Papers. North Dakota State Historical Society, Bismarck, N. D.

11. Ibid., 27.

12. C. W. Darling, 8/31/1876, as found in Harold W. and Eva Case, comp. 100 Years at Fort Berthold: The History of Fort Berthold Indian Mission, 1876-1976. (Bismarck: Bismarck Tribune, 1977), 24.

13. Case, 100 Years, 75.

14. Goodbird, Goodbird, 38. Not all went willingly. Some children were forcibly taken from their parents by government agents and sent to distant boarding schools.

15. Hall, "Records of Mission," 95. They were Josephine Malnourie and Sarah Walker, Hidatsas, and Ahuka, Karunach and Annie Dawson, Arikara. Josephine Malnourie was baptized at her own request in May, 1880--Hall, "Records of Mission," 83.

16. Hall, Story of Fort Berthold, 129.

17. Case, 100 Years, 72, and Hall, "Records of Mission," 218-19--slightly different wording in each source.

18. The writings of the Halls were inconsistent in their attitude toward the native culture. Some of the Halls' early letters expressed discomfort with Indian ways and the believed superiority of Euro-American ways. Later writings tended to be more tolerant of Indian ways. When Poor Wolf said he feared his daughters, on coming home, would be ashamed of him, "eating with a knife at my mouth, and food on the ground, and dressing so poorly," Hall replied, "there are many different people having different customs, who all love and serve Jesus Christ. He does not look on the outside, on clothes and manners, but on the heart."--Hall, Story of Fort Berthold, 107-08.

19. Case, 100 Years, 73.

20. Ibid.

21. Hall, Story of Fort Berthold, 104.

22. Goodbird, Goodbird, 43-44.

23. St. Paul, Minn., Minnesota Historical Society, Gilbert Wilson Papers, 1913a:11-15,118, as found in Carolyn Gilman and Mary Jane Schneider, The Way to Independence (St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 1987), 280; compare to Goodbird, Goodbird, 67.

24. The Case move is described in correspondence in NDCUCC Papers, boxes 26,28; and in a taped interview with Austin Engel.

25. Taped interview with Austin Engel.

26. Hall, "Diary," 1879, Hall Papers, box 2, folder 5. For other references to the importance of singing in the Fort Berthold community, see: Goodbird, Goodbird, 40,58; Hall, "Records of the Mission," 54, Hall Papers, box 4, folders 5-6.

27. Taped interview with Austin Engel; minutes of FBCCC furnished by Austin Engel; Three Tribes Herald, NDCUCC Papers, box 21.

28. "Minutes of the General Congregational Association of North Dakota," 8, NDCCC Papers, box V-1, vol. 2.

29. Ibid.

30. Ibid., 93.

31. Ibid., 82.

32. Ibid., 113.

33. Ibid., 24.

34. "Minutes of the North Dakota Home Missionary Society," 19-20, NDCCC Papers, box V-3.

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid.

37. Spangenberg, "Missionary Pioneering on the Banks of the Missouri," NDCCC Papers, box 1, folder 4.

38. Ibid.

39. Edwin H. Stickney came to North Dakota as a pastor in 1885. In 1889 he was working as a missionary for the Sunday School Society of North Dakota. From 1890 to 1921 he was Superintendent of Sunday School work for the state. From 1909 to 1921 he was superintendent of the NDHMA. In 1921 he retired, and became Associate Superintendent until 1924.

40. R. R. Smith, North Dakota Population Trends 1930-1970(Grand Forks, N. D.: University of North Dakota, Bureau of Governmental Affairs, 1972), 46.

41. Ibid., 47.

42. A. C. Hacke, letter Oct. 20, 1927, NDCCC Papers, box 4, folder 1.

43. "Minutes of the NDHMS," 39-40.

44. "Executive Committee Minutes," Feb. 1, 1927, NDCCC Papers, box 4, folder 1.

45. The subsidy was $5000 the first year, to diminish by $1000 a year.

46. The subsidy was $5000 for the first year, to be reduced by $1000 a year.

47. NDCCC. Annual Report: 1958, 33-34, NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

48. Yoshio Fukuyama, "Congregational Christian Conference of North Dakota--A Study of Its Churches and Opportunities," (New York: BHM, 1956), 21. In NDCUCC Papers, box 21.

49. Information in this and the following paragraphs is summarized from Conference Annual Reports, 1959-63, in NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

50. NDCCC, Annual Report, 1962, 4.

51. This information is summarized from annual reports, especially, NDCCC, Annual Report, 1963, 20-26.

52. The support of the Community Relations Minister and the Director of Christian Education did not pass through Conference books.

53. Stanley W. Voelker, "Toward a Strategy for Congregationalism in Southwestern North Dakota" [1961], 1,3, NDCUCC Papers, box 21.

54. Ibid., 10.

55. The author can site examples of these, but cannot give any statistical documentation.

56. Fukuyama, �Congregational Christian conference in North Dakota,� 18-19.

57. Pastors in 1956 identified, "church schools, weekday religious education, Daily Vacation Bible School, and young people's meetings, in addition to the preaching role of the pastor."--Ibid., 18.

58. Pietism preceded and was closely related to the Great Awakenings mentioned above.

59. Philip Jakob Spener, Pia Desideria, trans. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964), 100.

60. Ibid., 99.

61. Peace Church--New Salem; the First 100 Years, (photocopy), 2.

62. Ibid., 2-3.

63. The six congregations were: Hankinson Emmanuel, Hebron St. Johns, Lidgerwood, New Salem Bethel, New Salem Peace, Taylor.

64. George F. Steffen to Charles Maxfield, 1989.

65. From 1764 to 1768, in the Volga provinces of Saratov and Samara, 104 German colonies were established, with a population of 23,019�George J. Eisenach, Pietism and Russian Germans in the United States (Berne, Ind.: Berne Publishers, 1946), 17. By 1895 there were 391,000 Germans in the Volga region--Eisenach, Pietism, 22.

66. In 33 years, about 209 German colonies were established in south Russia by 50,000 people--Eisenach, Pietism, 26-30. By 1897 there were over 352,000 Germans in south Russia--Eisenach, Pietism, 31.

67. Eisenach, Pietism, 26-30.

68. Ibid., 31.

69. George Rath, The Black Sea Germans in the Dakotas (Freeman, S. D.: Pine Hill, 1977), 24.

70. Eisenach, Pietism, 33.

71. Ibid., 48.

72. In 1829 there were seven Basel graduates in Russia, in 1836 there were sixteen--Eisenach, Pietism, 50.

73. Eisenach, Pietism, 48; Rath, Black Sea Germans, 31-43.

74. Eisenach, Pietism, 37-41.

75. Ibid., 52-55.

76. Ibid., 56-60.

77. Ibid., 62-64.

78. Ibid., 66.

79. Ibid., 69-81.

80. Ibid., 84.

81. George J. Eisenach, A History of the German Congregational Churches in the United States (Yankton, S. D.: Pioneer, 1938), 230.

82. Rath, Black Sea Germans, 53.

83. Ibid., 30.

84. Ibid., 40-48.

85. Ibid., 48.

86. Ibid., 54-57.

87. Ibid., 60-73.

88. Home Missionary (Jan. 1851), 203, as found in Eisenach, German Congregational Churches, 15.

89. Eisenach, German Congregational Churches, 15-16.

90. Ibid., 21-22.

91. Ibid., 30.

92. Ibid., 52-53.

93. Ibid., 66.

94. Ibid., 69.

95. The First Congregational Church of Kulm, North Dakota, is the consolidation of eight congregations, including these two.

96. Eisenach, German Congregational Churches, 112. In 1884 the German Congregational churches of Dakota Territory had been organized into a Dakota Conference--Eisenach, German Congregational Churches, 53.

97. In 1910 the Conference had 1,215 members in 46 congregations with 8 pastors--Eisenach, German Congregational Churches, 121-22. In 1937 there were 2,435 members in 40 congregations with 12 pastors--same source, 159-60.

98. Eisenach, German Congregational Churches, 160-201.

99. Ibid., 204-08.

100. Eisenach, Pietism, 96-97.

101. Ibid., 30.

102. Ibid., 109.

103. Ibid., 187.

104. Henry Vieth, "A History of Congregationalism in Glen Ullin," 25. Seminar Paper, May 21, 1964. NDCCC Papers, Box 15.

105. Taped interview with Vernon Bader, 1989.

106. Ibid.

107. Rath, Black Sea Germans, 322.

108. Taped interview with Vernon Bader.

109. "By-laws of the North Dakota Association United Church of Christ," NDCCC Papers, box: German Congregational.

110. Ibid., Art. VII.

111. Ibid., Art. III, par. 4.

112. Ibid., Art. XI, par. 7.

113. Rath, Black Sea Germans, 377.

114. N. C. Hoeflinger and R. D. Stuebbe, History of the Eureka Classis: 1910-1985 (Green Bay, Wisc.: Reliance, 1985), 15.

115. Fjestad, Dennis P. South of the North Saskatchewan (Fort Saskatchewan, Alb.: Josephberg Historical Book Committee, 1984), 12.

116. George Hoffman, trans., "History of the Reformed Church in Canada," found in Erwin Miller, "The Demise of the Evangelical and Reformed Church in Saskatchewan, Canada" (Masters Thesis, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton, Minn., 1966), 82, NDCUCC Papers, box 21.

117. In 1934 the Synod of the Northwest had in North and South Dakota 21 charges with 67 congregations and 3,904 members, and in the three prairie provinces of Canada, 7 charges with 13 congregations and 981 members.

118. Eureka Classis, Minutes, May 19-22, 1938, p. 43. Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society, Lancaster, Pa.

119. Ibid., 45.

120. Eureka Classis, Minutes, Aug. 16, 1938, p. 4, ERHS.

121. Reformed Church in the United States, The Reformed Church in the United States, 4th printing (Eureka, S. D., 1988), 15.

122. John Bodenman to William Lampe, Mar. 15, 1945, ERHS, Dakota Synod file.

123. Miller, �Demise of the E & R Church in Saskatchewan," 16-17.

124. Ibid., 13-62.

125. Dakota Synod, Minutes, 1961, p. 4.

126. Dakota Synod, Minutes: 1961, p. 11.

127. The data that follows is derived from Yearbook of Congregational Christian Churches: 1960. The 62 active congregations were: Argusville, Beach, Beulah, Bismarck, Brantford, Buchanan, Carrington, Crary, Dawson, Deering, Dickinson, Eckelson, Fargo First, Fargo Plymouth, Fessenden, Flasher, Forman, Foxholm, Gardner, Garrison, Glen Ullin First, Grand Forks, Granville, Halliday First, Hankinson, Havana, Haynes, Heaton, Hettinger, Hillsboro, Hope, Hurdsfield, Jamestown, Lakota, Manvel, Mayville, Medora, Michigan, Minot, Mott First, New England, New Rockford, Niagara, Oberon, Parshall First, Pettibone First, Pettibone Malcolm, Pingree, Reeder, Regent, Sanborn, Scranton Pierce, Selfridge, Sentinel Butte, Shields, Solen, Tappen, Valley City, Wahpeton, Walcott Barrie, Williston, Wing.

128. NDCCC, Annual Report, 1962, p. 34.

129. Statistics are tabulated from, Yearbook of the Congregational Christian Churches: 1960. The 25 congregations were: Carson, Elgin Ebenezer, Elgin Hoffnungsfeld, Forbes, Fredonia, Gackle, Glen Ullin Evangelical, Glen Ullin New Gleuckstal, Golden Valley, Harvey, Hazen, Hebron, Jud, Kulm, Medina, Merricourt First, Merricourt Hoffnungsfeld, Mott Neuburg, Mott Zoar, New Leipzig Christus, New Leipzig Johannestal, Turtle Lake, Underwood, Wishek St. Johns, Zap.

130. Of the 33 E&R synods, Dakota Synod ranked 30th in number of congregations and 32d in membership.

131. The thirteen congregations in North Dakota and Canada were: Fullerton ND, Streeter ND, Wishek ND--Grace, Zeeland ND--St. John, Zeeland ND--New Kassel, Duffield Alta, Ft. Saskatchewan Alta, Stony Plain Alta, Brown Man, Morden Man, Winnipeg Man, Granfell Sas, Wolseley Sas.

132. Snow Bird Chapel, organized in 1955, did not join the Association until 1961, and so is not recorded in the Yearbook until 1962. Statistics here are from the Yearbook of Congregational Christian Churches: 1960, except that SnowBird Chapel figures are from the 1962 Yearbook. The eight churches and their ethnic predominance are as follows: Mandaree Community (intertribal), Mandaree Independence (Hidatsa), NewTown First (intertribal and biracial), New Town Shell Creek (Hidatsa), New Town Snow Bird Chapel (Arikara), Parshall Memorial (intertribal), Twin Buttes (Mandan), White Shield (Arikara).

133. Elwyn B. Robinson, History of North Dakota (Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska, 1966), 447.

134. Information from North Dakota State Highway Department, received from inquiry.

135. NDCCC, Annual Report, 1961, p. 24, NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

136. German Evangelical Conference of North Dakota, "Book of Records," vol. 2, minutes for Nov. 1, 1960, NDCCC Papers, Box: German Congregational.

137. Vieth, "Congregationalism in Glen Ullin," 25.

138. Taped interview with Helmut Maedche, 1989.

139. Eisenach, German Congregational Churches, 242.

140. Fukuyama, "Congregational Christian Conference of North Dakota," 32.

141. NDCCC, Annual Reports, 1958, 35, NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

142. NDCCC, Annual Reports, 1959, p. 2.

143. NDCCC, Annual Reports, 1959, p. 15.

144. Taped interview with Austin Engel, 1989.

145. Vieth, "Congregationalism in Glen Ullin," 44.

146. George Steffen to Charles Maxfield, 1989.

147. Dakota Synod, Minutes, Apr. 5-26, 1961, p. 15.

148. Yoshio Fukuyama, "The Committee of Nine: Its Quest for Principles and Criteria," 3. NDCUCC Papers, box 21.

149. Ibid., 10.

150. NDCCC, Annual Reports, 1962, p. 26, NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

151. Dakota Synod, Minutes, 1961, p. 22.

152. NDCUCC, Annual Reports, 1968, p. 1, NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

153. Taped interview with Austin Engel, 1989.

154. Taped interview with Vernon Bader, 1989.

155. Taped interview with Helmut Maedche.

156. NDCUCC, Annual Reports, 1965, pp. 20-22, NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

157. This goes by the former affiliation of their home church, except that a German Congregational background pastor serving a Congregational church is listed as German Congregational.

158. "Book of Records: German Evangelical Conference of North Dakota," vol. 2, NDCCC Papers, box: German Congregational.

159. Ibid.

160. Ibid.

161. NDCUCC, Annual Reports, 1965, p. 40. NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

162. Ibid., 5-6.

163. FBCCC Minutes, Feb. 25, 1961. Supplied by Austin Engel.

164. NDCUCC, Annual Reports, 1965, p. 5.

165. NDCUCC, Annual Reports, 1967, p. 48, NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

166. Taped interview with Austin Engel.

167. In the 1970s the Board became self-perpetuating and the residents came primarily from the Bismarck-Mandan area. Also in the 1970s it changed from a home for Indian children to a home for any children, with Indian preference. In 1987 a third home, Case Home, was added.

168. Christyann Ranck Maxfield, Goodbye to Elbowoods, The Story of Harold and Eva Case. (Bismarck: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1986), 31.

169. NDCUCC, Annual Report, 1967, p. 35.

170. NDCUCC, Annual Reports.

171. NDCCC, Annual Reports, 1963, p. 27, NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

172. This was done with some financial support from the German Conference.

173. NDCUCC, Annual Reports, 1964, p. 4, NDCUCC Papers, box 6.

174. NDCCC, Annual Reports, 1959, p. 3; NDCUCC, Annual Reports, 1966, p. 35; both in NDCUCC Papers, box 6. In 1982 a New Initiatives in Church Development Committee was started, and in 1983 a Church Growth and Evangelism Committee was established. The church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, had a number of Filipino people attending, who wanted their own church. In 1983 the Conference assisted in establishing a Filipino church in Winnipeg.

175. Thomas W. Best, ed., Living Towards Visible Unity: The Fifth International Consultation of United and Uniting Churches (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1988), 6.

176. Glen Ullin (German Congregational and Congregational), Hankinson (Evangelical and Congregational), Hebron (German Congregational and Evangelical), Mott (German Congregational and Congregational), Parshall (Congregational and Fort Berthold), and Wishek (German Congregational and Reformed).

177. Halliday (Congregational) and Twin Buttes (Fort Berthold) 1955-70; Flasher (Congregational) and Bethel--New Salem (Evangelical) 1961-70; Beulah (Congregational) and Zap (German Congregational) 1962-63, 1970-71; Merricourt (German Congregational) and Fullerton (Reformed) 1963-70; Glen Ullin (Congregational and German Congregational) 1964-66; Beulah (Congregational) and Hazen (German Congregational) 1964-69; Garrison (Congregational) and Underwood (German Congregational) 1967-81; Glen Ullin (Congregational) and Hebron (German Congregational) since 1968; Hankinson (Evangelical and Congregational) since 1970; Mott (Congregational) and New Leipzig (German Congregational) since 1972 and since 1986 including Neuburg rural (German Congregational); Medina (German Congregational) and Streeter (Reformed) 1972-86; Carson (German Congregational) with Flasher, Solen and Shields (Congregational) since 1980; Streeter (Reformed) with Gackle and Jud (German Congregational) since 1986.

178. Vieth, "Congregationalism in Glen Ullin;" interview with Helmut Maedche.

179. Interview with Helmut Maedche.

180. This judgment is based on my own experience, serving Carson, Flasher, Solen and Shields 1980-86, the comments of Helmut Maedche, and comments from pastors and lay people from Bethel--New Salem, Mott, and New Leipzig.

181. Interview with Helmut Maedche.

182. Forty churches, listed as active in 1960, have been dropped from the North Dakota Conference since then, or have become inactive. Of these, fourteen were closed or absorbed by another church, one has become inactive, thirteen withdrew, another has de facto withdrawn by non-participation. I cannot prove what happened with certainty to the remaining eleven, but they were probably all closed or absorbed. Six of these were listed as inactive in yearbooks for a period of years before they were dropped. Two have history and locations where it is probable they joined the other church in their parish. One, once listed as inactive, still occasionally sends in a report. This leaves two: Duffield, Alberta, and Grenfell, Saskatchewan. Miller, in "The Demise of the Evangelical and Reformed Church in Saskatchewan, Canada," implies that all of the E&R churches in Saskatchewan were closed. The thirteen churches that withdrew are: Zoar of Mott, Turtle Lake, Stony Plain (Alberta), Hope of Elgin, Harvey, Morden (Manitoba), Hazen, Evangelical of Glen Ullin, St. John's of Zeeland, Zap, New Rockford, Kulm, and Beulah. The de facto withdrawal is Pingree.

183. Information for this chapter comes from correspondence in NDCUCC Papers, boxes 25, 26; material in the current files of the Conference; a questionnaire which I sent to the fourteen churches that withdrew, from which I received four responses; Yearbooks; and interviews with persons active in the Conference.

184. Letter from local church to Association, Jan. 20, 1966, NDCUCC Papers, box 25.

185. Letter, Ed Treat to Stony Plain congregation, Dec. 2, 1964, NDCUCC Papers, box 25.

186. Letter from Richard Krueger of Morden, Sept. 23, 1989.

187. Ibid.

188. St. John's Reformed Church, Zeeland, closed Aug. 24, 1980.

189. Letter from Hulda Erdman, Sept. 6, 1989.

190. Letter from Fred Nutz of the Harvey church, Sept. 1, 1989. See also Veith, "Congregationalism in Glen Ullin," 54.

191. This incident is described in letter, Doug Jones to Pete Soberg, July 6, 1975, and letter, Pete Soberg to William Starke of New Rockford, Oct. 6, 1975, NDCUCC Papers, box 25.

192. These two paragraphs summarize information found in Hoeflinger and Stuebbe, History of the Eureka Classis.

193. Lesslie Newbigin, "Union Means More than Togetherness," Advance (July 12, 1957) 11,25-27.

194. Interviews with Vernon Bader, Austin Engel, Helmut Maedche, Lester "Pete" Soberg, and letter from George Steffen.


Books and Articles

Amirtham, Samuel, and Cyris H. S. Moon, eds. The Teaching of Ecumenics. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1987.

Bauer, Peter. Experiences From My Missionary Life in the Dakotas, trans. and ed. by Armand and Elaine Bauer. Bismarck: Bismarck Tribune, n.d. [originally published by Cleveland, Oh.: Central Publishing House, n.d.].

Best, Thomas F., ed. Living Today Towards Visible Unity: The Fifth International Consultation of United and Uniting Churches. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1988.

Cann, Stan. "N. D. United Church of Christ Takes Final Merger Step Today." Fargo Forum (10/12/1963). In NDCCC Papers, box 1, folder 1.

Case, Harold W. and Eva, comp. 100 Years at Fort Berthold: The History of Fort Berthold Indian Mission, 1876-1976. Bismarck: Bismarck Tribune, 1977.

Chrystal, William G. "German Congregationalism." In Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ, ed. Barbara Brown Zikmund, 64-80. New York: United Church Press, 1984.

Congregational Christian Churches, General Council of the. Yearbook 1946-1960. New York: The General Council, 1947-1961.

"Congregations of the North Dakota Conference: a Bicentennial History 1976." NDCUCC Papers, box 26.

Crawford, Lewis F. History of North Dakota. Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1931.

Dunn, David, et al. A History of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Philadelphia: Christian Education Press, 1961.

Eisenach, George J. A History of the German Congregational Churches in the United States. Yankton, S. D.: Pioneer, 1938.

________. Pietism and Russian Germans in the United States. Berne, Ind.: Berne Publishers, 1946.

Emmanuel United Church of Christ, Hankinson, N. D. 100th Anniversary: 1889-1989.

Emmanuel United Church of Christ, Fullerton, N. D. 75th Anniversary. (self-published,1982).

Emmaus Congregational United Church of Christ, Carson, N. D. 80th Anniversary: 1984. (self-published).

Evangelical and Reformed Church. Yearbook of the Evangelical and Reformed Church 1946-1961. Philadelphia: The Church, 1946-61.

Fjestad, Dennis P. South of the North Saskatchewan. Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.: Josephberg Historical Book Committee, 1984.

Gilman, Carolyn, and Mary Jane Schneider. The Way to Independence. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 1987.

Goodbird, Edward. Goodbird the Indian, as told to Gilbert L. Wilson. Revised edition, St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society, 1985.

Hoeflinger, N. C., and R. D. Stuebbe. History of the Eureka Classis: 1910-1985. Green Bay, Wisc.: Reliance, 1985.

Hummon, Serge F. "American Indians, Missions, and the United Church of Christ. In Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ, ed. Barbara Brown Zikmund, 3-20. New York: United Church Press, 1984.

Lounsberry, Clement A. Early History of North Dakota, vol. 1. Duluth, Minn.: F. H. Lounsberry, 1913.

Maxfield, Christyann Ranck. Goodbye to Elbowoods: The Story of Harold and Eva Case. Bismarck: State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1986.

Newbegin, Lesslie. "Union Means More Than Togetherness." Advance (July 12, 1957) 11,25-27.

Ough, Bruce. Independent--Courageous--Stubborn: The Small Membership Church in North Dakota. Mitchell, S. D.: Dakota Area Program Staff (United Methodist Church), 1978. NDCUCC Papers, box 23.

Peace Church New Salem: The First 100 Years. (photocopy, source unknown).

Rath, George. The Black Sea Germans in the Dakotas. Freeman, S. D.: Pine Hill, 1977.

Reformed Church in the United States [Eureka Classis]. The Reformed Church in the United States. 4th printing, Eureka, S. D., 1988.

Robinson, Elwyn B. History of North Dakota. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska, 1966.

St. John Evangelical and Reformed Church, Hebron, N. D. 75th Anniversary: 1885-1960. (self-published).

Scharpff, Paulus. History of Evangelism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966.

Smith, R. R. North Dakota Population Trends, 1930-1970. Grand Forks, N. D.: University of North Dakota, Bureau of Governmental Affairs, 1972.

Spener, Philip Jakob. Pia Desideria, trans. by Theodore G. Tappert. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964.

Three Tribes Herald 5-16 (1964-1974). NDCUCC Papers, box 21.

United Church of Christ. The Basis of Union. NDCUCC Papers, box 23.

________. Decisions of the Courts in Regard to the Proposed Union of the Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed Communions. NDCUCC Papers, box 23.

________. Yearbook 1962-1989. New York: UCC, 1962-1989.

United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. General Demographic Trends for Metropolitan Areas 1960-70. 1971.

________. Historical Statistics of the United States, vol. 1. 1975.

________. State and Metropolitan Area Data Book: 1986.

________. 1950 Census of Population, vol. 2: Characteristics of Population, Part 34: North Dakota.

________. 1960 Census of Population, vol. 1: Characteristics of Population, Part 36: North Dakota.

________. 1970 Census of Housing. 1972.

Unpublished Material

Bismarck, N. D. Austin Engel--papers in his personal possession:
Fort Berthold Council of Congregational Churches. Minutes, Nov. 19, 1960, Feb. 25, 1961, May 20, 1961, June 21, 1961, May 25, 1963, Sept. 28, 1963.

Bismarck, N. D. North Dakota Conference United Church of Christ Papers. (NDCUCC Papers). Includes:
Charles Hall Youth Services. Minutes, 1965-73. Box 26.
Commission on the Study of the Rural Church of the Congregational Conference of North Dakota. "Factors Affecting the Future of Rural Congregational Churches in North Dakota: Preliminary Report." 1939. Box 21.
Fukuyama, Yoshio. "The Committee of Nine: Its Quest for Principles and Criteria." BHM, 1960. Box 21.
________. "Congregational Christian Conference of North Dakota--A Study of Its Churches and Opportunities." New York: BHM, 1956. Box 21.
Hoffman, George, trans. "History of the Reformed Church in Canada." In Erwin R. Miller, "The Demise of the Evangelical and Reformed Church in Saskatchewan, Canada," 68-138. Masters Thesis, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton, Minn., 1966. Box 21. (Originally printed in German in Gedenkschrift, Central Publishing House, Cleveland, Oh.).
Miller, Erwin R. "The Demise of the Evangelical and Reformed Church in Saskatchewan, Canada." Masters Thesis, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton, Minn., 1966. Box 21.
North Dakota Conference of Congregational Christian Churches. Annual Reports: 1956-1963. Box 6.
________. "Bylaws of the North Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ." [1963]. Box 23.
________. Minutes of the Annual Meeting: 1956-1963. Box 7.
North Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ. Annual Reports: 1964-1972. Box 6.
________. "The Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Congregational Christian Conference of North Dakota and of the North Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ--October 11-13, 1963." Box 7.
Pond, Harold S. "75 Years of Congregationalism in North Dakota." In NDCCC Minutes, 1956: 9-22.
Pond, Harold S., Lester L. Soberg, and Amel Whitwer. "A History of Pilgrim Park." Box 2.
Voelker, Stanley W. "Toward a Strategy for Congregationalism in Southwestern North Dakota." [1961]. Box 21.
Case, Harold. Box 26.
Church Growth and Evangelism Committee, 1982-85. Box 26.
Claypool file on Conference Consolidation [1972-74]. Box 23.
Closed churches. Box 25.
Fort Berthold 1960-86. Box 26.
Fort Berthold. Box 28.
Historical Committee, 1976-85. Box 26.
New Initiatives in Church Development, 1982-84. Box 26.

Bismarck, N. D. North Dakota State Historical Society. Charles L. Hall Papers. Includes:
Hall, Charles L. "Diaries", 1876, 1878-80. Boxes 1-2.
________. "Records of the Mission of the A. B. C. F. M. at Fort Berthold, D. T.; Transferred to the A. M. A. Jan. 1st, 1883." Box 4, folders 5-6.

Bismarck, N. D. North Dakota State Historical Society. North Dakota Congregational Christian Conference Papers [NDCCC Papers]. Includes:
Brandt, Marvin R. "Experiences and Insights of a State Superintendent." Box [11], folder 9.
"General Congregational Association Minute Book 1882-1903." Box V-1, vol. 2.
German Evangelical Conference of North Dakota. "Book of Records," vol. 2 (1940-65). Box: German Congregational.
Hacke, A. C. "The Superintendent's Message" Congregational North Dakota (May 1941): 5. Box 1, folder 2.
Linden, Earl E. G. "The History of Congregationalism in North Dakota." M.A. thesis, University of Chicago, 1939. Box [20].
North Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ. "Constitution of the North Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ." [1958]. Box: German Congregational.
North Dakota Congregational Conference, Executive Committee. Minutes. Box 4, folder 1.
Phillips, Charles H. "Early Religious Activity in North Dakota." Box 1, folder 4.
Pike, Aplheus J. "My Work in N. Dak. in the Employ of the Congl. Home Missionary Soc." Box 1, folder 4.
"Records of the North Dakota Congregational Home Missionary Society." Box V-3.
Spangenberg, L. F. "A Detour to Hazleton, N. D." Box 1, folder 4.
________. "Missionary Pioneering on the Banks of the Missouri." Box 1, folder 4.
Stickney, E. H. "Twenty Year History: Congregational Beginnings in North Dakota." [1901]. Box 1, folder 4.
Vieth, Henry. "A History of Congregationalism in Glen Ullin." Seminar Paper, May 21, 1964. Box 15.
Wirt, David. "Sketch of David Wirt's Home Missionary Work in North Dakota." [covers 1881-87]. Box 1, folder 8.
The Christian Messenger. Box: German Congregational, file 10.
Executive Committee and Board of Directors Minutes. Box: German Congregational, file 4.
Letters to C. A. Mack. Box [11], folder: letters to C. A. Mack. (Includes letter from William Ewing, Aug. 23, 1895; letter from Albert W. Hitchcock, Aug 27, 1897).
Ministers in Full Standing. Box: German Congregational, file 7.
Miscellaneous correspondence. Box: German Congregational, file 3.

Lancaster, Pa. Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society [ERHS]. Includes:
Dakota Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Minutes, April 25-26, 1961.
Eureka Classis. Minutes, May 19-22, 1938; Aug. 16, 1938, May 17-21, 1939.
Northern Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Abstract of Minutes, May 8-10, 1962.
File: Dakota Synod.

Material in author's possession:
Correspondence from:
Erdman, Hulda, of Zap, Sept. 6, 1989.
Krueger, Richard, of Morden, Sept. 23, 1989.
Malanga, Michael, of Beulah, Sept. 6, 1989.
Nutz, Fred, of Harvey, Sept. 1, 1989.
George F. Steffen, 1989.
Taped interviews:
Bader, Vernon, 1989.
Engel, Austin, 1989.
Maedche, Helmut, 1989.
Soberg, Lester L. "Pete," 1989.
Mimeographed material:
Hall, Charles L. The Story of Fort Berthold. Mimeographed material originally appeared in a series of articles in Iape Oaye. [1932].

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