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  • Watertown Public Opinion

    Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Raymond celebrates 140th anniversary

    By The Rev. Randy Bader/Special to the Watertown Public Opinion,


    Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Raymond is will celebrate its 140th anniversary on Sunday. Under the theme of “Living in the Light of Our Lord's Extravagant Love”, the Celebration Service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., with the Rev. Jon Hadler of Marathon, Wisconsin, (who served at Bethlehem from 1990-1999), serving as the guest preacher, and the Rev. Randy Bader, (current pastor), serving as liturgist. A meal will follow the service. All are welcome and invited.

    In 1884 statehood was still a half decade away for the state of South Dakota, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ was being proclaimed far and wide in the Dakota Territory. One of those places was the community of Raymond, where a group of German immigrants gathered together under the shepherding of the Rev. Franz Johl to organize Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1884. Early services were held in the home of Reinhard Nommensen, and then in a local schoolhouse, and later still, in the hall above the Nommensen Hardware Store. Bethlehem’s current house of worship was dedicated on March 1, 1908. The bell in the church tower, purchased by the Young Peoples Society in 1909, has rung out an invitation to worship ever since. The facility continues to serve the congregation’s needs today.

    When the congregation was originally founded in 1884, all services were conducted in the German language until World War I, when services were also offered in English. Both German and English language services continued until 1941, when the German services were dropped.

    Bethlehem’s status as a “stand-alone” congregation, or as part of a “dual”, “triple” or “quad” congregation parish has changed throughout the 14 decades of its existence. It is currently part of the Quad-Parish arrangement, including Bethlehem in Raymond, Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church of Clark (which started again most recently in 1952), Willow Lake Evangelical Lutheran Church of Willow Lake (which started again most recently in 2002), and St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Henry (which started in 2023).

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