|Bethany Evangelical Church
Bethany Evangelical and Reformed Church
3720 South Broad Street
New Orleans, LA
Bethany Evangelical Church was started at an informal meeting at the home of Mr. Henry Sievers as a discussion was
held as to the possibilities of establishing an Evangelical Sunday School or Church in the newly developed Broadmoor
On Thursday, April 10th, 1924 a group of Evangelical people held a meeting at the residence of Mr. Henry Eppling, Jr.
The meeting was composed of ten interested people and three visitors. The visitors were Rev. Julius P. Quinius, Mr.
A. L. Rau and Mr. Frank Mesa. The meeting was called to order by Mr. Rau, who acted as Chairman. The group
decided to organize an Evangelical Church and select a Board of Trustees. Those present were Mr. and Mrs. Edgar
Hass, Mr. and Mrs. Julius Jung, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Eppling, Jr., Miss Dorothea Nies, Mr. S. O. Hanssen, Mr. Walter
Weitkam, and Mr. Walter Weidig. The name, the Bethany Evangelical Church, was decided at this meeting.
The first Board of Directors consisted of: Mr. Edgar J. Haas, President; Mr. Henry Eppling, Jr., Vice-President; Miss
Dorothea Nies, Recording Secretary; Mr. Walter Weitkam, Financial Secretary; Mr. S. Hanssen, Mr. Julius Jung, Mr. G.
The charter for the new congregation was drawn up by Mr. Walter Weidig and was adopted at a meeting of the Board
on April 24, 1924.
The first Divine Service was held on Sunday, May 4th, 1924, at 11:00 a.m., at the residence of Mr. Henry Eppling, Jr.
The sermon was delivered by the Rev. Julius P. Quinius and the attendance numbered 25. Bethany's first soloist to
appear on the order of worship of this first divine service was Miss Ollie Gitz. The following hymns were sung: "Holy,
Holy, Holy," "Sing Them Over Again to Me" and "Blessed Assurance."
Through the efforts of the Rev. A. H. Becker, application was made to the Home Mission Board for a minister and on
July 16, 1924, the Rev. Adolph Meise arrived and was officially installed on August 3, 1924, as the first pastor of the
newly formed congregation.
On August 16th, 1924 a plot was purchased on South Broad and General Taylor Streets. On February 25, 1925 the
ground was broken for a new church building which was dedicated on April 19, 1926. The congregation was formally
received into the German Evangelical Synod of North America (it became simply the Evangelical Synod of North
America in 1927) on June 20, 1926. On September 2, 1926 Rev. Meise submitted his resignation. Rev. E. J. Newmann
pastor of St. John's Evangelical Church became the supply pastor.
Rev A. J. Daniels was installed on May 22, 1927. He would be pastor for only a year due to ill health. Rev. Mr. Dittman
of St. Paul's Evangelical Church served as a supply pastor until December 1928 when Rev. Hilmer Neumann
consented again to supply Bethany.
This lasted till June 23 1929 when the Rev. F. J. Mehrtens assumed his duties as the newly elected pastor.
Rev. Mehrtens served for four years and on February 10th, 1933 resigned to assume new duties in Biloxi, Mississippi.
The Great Depression caused financial difficulties for the congregation. Rev. Mehrtens reported in 1932 that "only 53
people in our congregation have used their offering envelopes with any semblance of regularity...Of particular
concern to our congregation is the fact that we have paid nothing during the past year on our indebtedness of over
$9,000; and that in two years church bonds to the amount of $1,675 will fall due. We must immediately devise means
of getting these obligations if we are not within the next few years to go beneath an avalanche of debt. We must begin
to pay for our church if we want it." The Chairman of the Home Mission Board stated at that time that he had never
seen another church survive ordeals such as those which came to Bethany.
On March 3, 1933, the Rev. Norman L. Stock assumed his duties as pastor of Bethany and was duly installed on
March 26, 1933. The new pastor quickly recognized the problems and faced them with real determination. The church
building was in poor state of repair; the roof leaked, some of the foundation was termite eaten, the white plastered
walls were nearly black in color, making the church a very uninviting place in which to worship.
A service of re dedication was held on Friday, October 20, 1933 after the coal stove was removed and gas heaters
installed. Beautiful wall and ceiling electrical fixtures were installed. New furnishings were added including a large white
altar, large pulpit and a lectern to match, new choir benches and new hymnals for the church and Sunday School.
In October of 1933 the pastor introduced the people of Bethany and of the community to Divine Healing Services.
These services were held each Wednesday night and Unity Classes were held each Friday afternoon. This trend of
Bethany became well known among the Unity believers of many faiths throughout the city. The presence of so many
strangers and visitors at the midweek services gave Bethany a spirit of strength and optimism.
In 1934 three members of the church died. Charles Echard died after a brief illness of 3 days. He was almost 51 years
old. He was buried in Metairie Cemetery with the Rev. A. J. Scherer officiating. Normal Oswald Welp died on Saturday,
December 1 after reaching the age of almost 26. Burial took place in Greenwood cemetery with Rev. Norman A.
Maunz officiating. Agnes Heath Campbell died on December 13 after being ill for two months. She was 47 years old.
She was buried in Greenwood cemetery by the pastor. On December 20 Mr. John Albano and Miss Mildred May Bowie
were married in a private service at the church. Mr. and Mrs. Peter Pipitone, the bride's sister and her husband and
Mr. Wm. Bowie, the brides father, were witnesses.
January 1st started the year 1935 with the payment on over $1000 dollars on the bonds due. Only $150 was left. Noel
Bernhard Koll was born on Christmas morning and baptized in church on January 13, 1935 with Miss Elvina Losch and
Dr. Robert Bernhard as sponsors. January 24 a wedding was held for Mr. Walter Irving Lanier and Miss Magdelyn
Hanssen. The bride was attended by her sister Ruth and the groom had as his best man his brother, James A.
Lanier. In 1935 John Matthew was the church president. The organist and choir director was Mr. Charles Rohm. The
constitution was revised. A big event of the year was the May Festival. A Junior League was organized and the first
social was held January 20 at the home of Miss Audrey Epping as a King's Party. Thirty young people were present
for this event. The church held a traditional Boy Scout service every year in February. Meetings consisted of worship,
Sunday school, class in "Lessons in Truth,", Divine Healing Service, Boy Scouts, Choir, Teachers' weekly meeting,
Ladies' Auxiliary, Church Board, The Boosters' club and the Junior League. To be a voting member of the church you
had to pay at least the minimum amount of $5 towards the current expense side of the envelope or to the financial
secretary direct. The officers of the Ladies' Auxiliary were Mrs. C. H. Solanas, President; Mrs. J. H. Leidenheimer,
Vice-President; Mrs. J. H. Ledenheimer, treasurer; Mrs. J. Durr, and Mrs. W. E. Walker, secretary.
From year to year the congregation became more and more conscious and more and more restless about the
growing need for a building and provide a place where the where the congregation could gather for social activities. In
February of 1935 a committee was authorized to study the possibilities of enlarging the existing Sunday School
accommodations. This committee was quite optimistic and drew up the plans and specifications of such an addition
which would answer the hopes and prayer of the congregation. However, without adequate funds available and with a
heavy debt already existing it was deemed advisable to cancel these plans.
In August of 1940 the Rev. Mr. Stock was given a leave of absence from his duties due to ill health. For a number of
weeks he received the best of medical care and attention at our Evangelical Deaconess Hospital in St. Louis,
Missouri. In December, 1940, the Rev. Stock believing that his health would not permit him to resume his task,
tendered his resignation. Thus, ended the pastorate of the Rev. Norman Stock during which pastorate the
congregation made notable progress and through which spiritual ministry many were led to an unfailing devotion to
God's cause and to stronger determination to give of their time and talents for the advancement of Bethany.
The pastor's long absence and then his resignation had a detrimental effect upon the ongoing work of Bethany.
During this interim almost all the visitors who had been worshipping regularly at the healing services vanished and
never again appeared at any of the Bethany services. The activity was a low tide and the congregation took on a
different complexion. Bethany managed to weather this difficult period without serious consequences due to the
faithful and diligent work of the late Rev. Otto Meyer, pastor of St. Paul's Evangelical Reformed Church who served as
the interim pastor.
On Sunday, April 20, 1941, the Rev. Herman S. Ritter assumed his duties as the newly elected pastor of Bethany and
was officially installed on May 4, 1941, by the Rev. Frederick C. Rueggeberg, President of the Texas Synod.
On February 1, 1942, Bethany took a momentous step when the congregation voted to withdraw from Mission support
and become a self sustaining congregation. Financial aid from the Mission Board was not longer necessary in order to
carry on the work at Bethany.
New Hymnals were purchased, the altar redecorated and in March of 1944 a Youth Choir was organized and new
vestments were secured.
In February of 1944 the congregation began to meet in full the entire annual benevolent quota.
On April 6, 1944, the sum of $4,400 was paid to liquidate the entire indebtedness of Bethany. Thus the debt was
cleared 12 years in advance of the scheduled date of maturity.
In July of 1945 the problem of an adequate building site was solved when the adjoining lot on south Broad Street was
purchased with cash for the sum of $5,300.00
On Sunday, December 78th, 1947, a congregation of thankful and jubilant people gathered for the dedication of a
new Wurlitzer Organ.
During the summer of 1948 the post-war building and construction difficulties had eased sufficiently that it was
deemed possible to proceed with building plans. A beautiful white frame building measuring 25 by 46 feet was erected
to serve as a parish hall and religious education building. After the expense of erecting this building there yet
remained a total of $15,000 in the various funds of the congregation.
In September of 1948 the Rev. Mr. Ritter accepted an unsolicited call from the St. John's Evangelical and Reformed
Church in Birmingham, Alabama. He tendered his resignation as pastor of Bethany to become effective on December
1, 1948, thus bringing to an end the lengthiest pastorate in the history of Bethany. Under his leadership one hundred
and ninety-seven new members were added to the church rolls and the financial income increased fourfold.
Discussions were held over a merger with First Evangelical and Reformed Church by Bethany voted not to merge.
A retired Methodist minister, Rev. O. E. Kriege served as interm pastor. On November 7th, 1949 the congregation
bought a parsonage at 4203 South Rocheblave Street for $11,750.
On Sunday February 26, 1950 the Rev. Robert P. Neinkamp was installed as pastor He served until November 16th.
The Rev. L. F. Modschiedler pastor of Jackson Avenue Evangelical and Reformed Church was appointed Supply
pastor. On September 23, 1951 Rev. Jost B. Washburn was installed as pastor with Rev. L. F. Modschiedler , A. J.
Scherer and A. A. Blome officiating.
In 1954 the church council in 1954 had Adam F. Huhner, Jr., President; Donald Randolph, vice-President; Mrs. Phylis
E. Weber, Secretary; William J. Harmann, Treasurer; J. Henry Leidenheimer, Financial Secretary; Julius Schmidt,
Assistant. Financial Secretary; Lionel C. Campbell, Miss Ethel Rinck, Milton A. Hawkins, e. P. Randolph. Jr, Harold
berry, and Frank Deutschmann, Jr.
The Women's Guild had as officers Mrs. L. E. Guy, President; Mrs. M. A. Hawkins, Vice-President; Mrs. N. Diederich,
Recording Secretary; Mrs. J. B. Lehman, Corresponding Secretary; and Mrs. H. Schneider, Treasurer.
The Church School had Miss Sally Matlock as Superintendent; Miss Ethel Rinck, chairman, Committee on Christian
Education; Mrs. Charles Wessing, Recording Secretary; and Ronald Schmidt, Secretary-Treasurer.
The Organist and Choir Director was Mrs. Gladys H. Washburn.
|Christmas Program circa 1955