Bethel Mennonite Church (Mountain Lake, Minnesota, USA)

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Bethel Mennonite Church, Mountain Lake, Minnesota
Source: Tom McLaughlin
Used with permission
Bethel Mennonite Church, August 2017.
Photo: Bert Friesen.

Bethel Mennonite Church, Mountain Lake, Minnesota, organized on 8 November 1889 and was a charter member of the Northern District Conference of the General Conference Mennonite Church. The members of this congregation are mainly the descendants of Russian Mennonite immigrants from the Molotschna who settled in the vicinity of Mountain Lake from 1873 to 1878.

The Hochfeld Mennonite Church divided in 1888 over a disagreement about holding Sunday school classes in the church sanctuary. Elder Aaron Wall, the congregation's leader, drafted a 28-page church ordinance that became the basis of the Bruderthaler (Evangelical Mennonite Brethren) church. Others, led by H. H. Regier, rejected the Wall document that insisted on no political involvement, including voting in local elections.

The Regier group met in homes for Sunday school and then in a school building in Mountain Lake. In November 1889, Elder Christian Kaufman of Freeman, South Dakota, ordained H. H. Regier as the minister and helped to organize the congregation.

The Bethel congregation built a church in 1890, followed by a larger building in 1895. It erected a new building in 1942 and added an educational wing in 1962.

Women were given a vote in congregational meetings in 1929. The transition from German to English took place during World War II. The congregation practiced feetwashing as a rite until 1945. The congregation used an organ for musical accompaniment almost from the beginning, starting in the Sunday school and soon following in the worship services. The Women's Sewing Society began in 1885, before the church division, when 12 women met in homes. A women-led Bethel Mission Society began in 1914, raising money for mission projects both in North America and abroad.

In 2023 the congregation was part of the Central Plains Conference of Mennonite Church USA.


Schmidt, Diena, ed. The Northern District Conference of the General Conference Mennonite Church 1891-1991. Freeman, S.D.: The Conference, 1991: 50-53.

Toews, W. J. Bethel Mennonite Church, Mountain Lake, Minnesota : historical highlights, 1889-1943. Mountain Lake, Minnesota: Bethel Mennonite Church, 1942. Available in full electronic text at:

Additional Information

Address: 301 North 9th Street, Mountain Lake, Minnesota (Co-ordinates 43.938889 -94.931944)

Phone: 507-427-3075

Website: Bethel Mennonite Church

Denominational Affiliations:

Northern District Conference

Central Plains Mennonite Conference

General Conference Mennonite Church (Until 2002)

Mennonite Church USA (2002-present)

Pastoral Leaders at Bethel Mennonite Church

Name Years
of Service
Heinrich H. "H. H." Regier (1855-1933) 1889-1926
Jacob J. "J. J." Balzer (1860-1946) 1926-1933
John Bartel (1898-1975) 1933-1940
Peter R. Schroeder (1888-1941) 1940-1941
Peter A. Penner (1871-1949) 1941
Erland Waltner (1914-2009) 1941-1949
Abraham W. "A. W." Friesen (1892-1984) 1949-1950
Walter A. Gering (1908-1996) 1950-1959
Orlando A. Schmidt (1924-2002) 1952-1960
Albert M. Gaeddert (1907-2002) 1959-1966
Malcolm Wenger (1919-2003) 1961-1962
Henry V. Friesen 1963-1965
George S. Rempel 1966-1967
Ronald Krehbiel 1966-1970
Donald Kaufman 1968-1971
Ardean Goertzen 1971-1974
Harris H. Waltner (1925-2012) 1973-1984
Peter Neufeld 1975-1987
Donavin Diller 1984-1989
Norman Geissinger (Assistant) 1988
Jeffrey Minor (Associate) 1989-1994
Byron Emmert (Assistant) 1989
Palmer Becker 1991-1994
Eldin Claassen (Interim) 1994-1998?
George O'Reilly 1998-2009
Amy Nissley (Associate) 2005-2011
Galen Kauffman 2009-2021
Gene Miller (Interim) 2021-2022
Lauren Harder (Visitation) ?-
Jack Scandrett (Interim) 2023-

Membership at Bethel Mennonite Church

Year Membership
1889 47
1910 245
1920 378
1930 437
1940 559
1950 647
1960 685
1970 601
1980 593
1990 534
2000 456
2009 269
2020 206


Map:Bethel Mennonite Church (Mountain Lake, Minnesota)

Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article

By Walter A. Gering. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 312. All rights reserved.

Bethel Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church USA), located in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, formerly called the Mennonite Bethel Church, is a member of the Central Plains Mennonite Conference (formerly Northern District Conference). Having begun with 47 charter members in 1889, the congregation grew to an active membership of 698 in 1952 (407 in 2005). The congregation has built three churches—the first in 1890, the second, an enlargement of the first, in 1894, and the third, a brick building with a seating capacity of about 970, in 1941.

The members of this congregation are mainly the descendants of Russian Mennonite immigrants from the Molotschna who settled in the vicinity of Mountain Lake, 1873-1878. The eight family names which occurred most frequently in the 1950s church register were Fast, Peters, Schroeder, Franz, Dick, Friesen, Stoesz, and Penner. The Low German dialect was still commonly spoken in many of the homes in the 1950s. About one half of the members of the congregation at that time lived on farms while most of the others resided in Mountain Lake, a village of about 1,900 in 1950 (2,082 in 2000), making their living in business establishments, construction work, domestic and professional services, small industries, day labor, and in various other small-town occupations.

The elders who served this congregation to 1950 were: Heinrich H. Regier, 1889-1926; Jacob J. Balzer, 1926-1933; John Bartel, 1933-1940; Peter R. Schroeder, 1940-1941; Peter A. Penner, 1941; Erland Waltner, 1941-1949; and Walter Gering, 1950. From 1942 to 1953 Susanna Nickel Schroeder (Mrs. Peter R. Schroeder) was employed as a salaried church worker.

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Bert Friesen
Date Published August 2023

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J and Bert Friesen. "Bethel Mennonite Church (Mountain Lake, Minnesota, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2023. Web. 29 Nov 2023.,_Minnesota,_USA)&oldid=177381.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J and Bert Friesen. (August 2023). Bethel Mennonite Church (Mountain Lake, Minnesota, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 November 2023, from,_Minnesota,_USA)&oldid=177381.

©1996-2023 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.