Bethesda Mennonite Church (Henderson, Nebraska, USA)

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Bethesda Mennonite Church in Henderson, Nebraska in 1946.
Source: Mennonite Community Photograph Collection, The Congregation (HM4-134 Box 1 photo 011.2-1).
Mennonite Church USA Archives, Goshen, Indiana
Bethesda Mennonite Church, Henderson, Nebraska.
Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Bethesda Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church USA) of Henderson, York County, Nebraska, is a member of the Central Plains Conference (formerly Northern District Conference), with a membership of 998 in 1953. Thirty-five families from the Molotschna Colony, South Russia, had arrived at the immigrant house erected by the Burlington Railroad company one mile east of the present site of Henderson on 14 October 1874. By 1880 the group had grown to about 80 families. A large boulder was erected in 1937 on the original site to mark the place of the immigrant house. Names of the family heads arriving in 1874 were Mrs. Johann Abrahams, Gerhard Abrahams, Peter Abrahams, Heinrich C. Epp, Rev. Heinrich Epp, Johann Epp, Mrs. Johann Fast, Jacob Fast, Jacob Friesen, Johann Friesen, Cornelius Funk, Abraham Heinrichs, Jacob Janzen, Johann Janzen, Peter Lender, Absolom Martins, Benjamin Nachtigal, Jacob Nachtigal, Heinrich Pankratz, Sr., Heinrich Pankratz, Jr., Peter Pankratz, Heinrich Penner, Peter Penner, Gerhard Petker, Benjamin Ratzlaff, Franz Spenst, Mrs. Johann Sperling, Gerhard Toews, Johann Voth, Tobias Voth, Cornelius Wall, Jacob Wall, Peter Wall, Cornelius Warkentin, Peter Wolf.

Two ministers, Heinrich Epp and Benjamin Ratzlaff, came with the first group. Ratzlaff died 30 October 1874. In the spring of 1875 two other ministers, Isaac Peters and Gerhard Epp, arrived. Isaac Peters had been elder of the Mennonite congregation at Pordenau, Molotschna settlement, Russia, from 1867 until 1874, when he immigrated to America with the smaller portion of the Pordenau congregation. Insisting upon stricter requirements for a separated life as an evidence of regeneration than the majority of the membership were willing to agree to, he withdrew in 1880 with a considerable number of members to form the Ebenezer Mennonite Church, which (with the Aaron Wall group at Mountain Lake, Minnesota) became one of the two founding congregations of the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Conference.

In 1880 a church was built two miles (three km) northeast of the present site of Henderson. In 1906 this church was sold and dismantled, and a new one built in Henderson, which was enlarged in 1931, but was destroyed by fire before completion. Immediately the building of a new church was undertaken; it had a seating capacity of about 1,350. It was dedicated 6 March 1932. A new church building was dedicated in 1958 and an educational building was dedicated in 1964.

Originally feetwashing was practiced at the communion service, but was discontinued in 1939. The first reed organ was used about 1915; a pipe organ was installed in 1968. Discipline for transgression was still required by confession in the 1950s. The Sunday-school enrollment in 1953 was 1105. Young people's meetings, prayer meetings, mission societies, and choirs were organized in the church. German services were discontinued in the early 1940s. Ministers who have served the church are listed in Additional Information.

In 1893 the first Sunday school was held. In 1902 a parochial school was built, which functioned until 1943. In 1904 John H. Epp was ordained as the first missionary from this church to serve among the Indigenous in Oklahoma. In 1915 Peter J. Boehr was ordained as missionary to China. In 1949 a parsonage was built.


Bethesda Mennonite Church. "Bethesda Mennonite Church Chronology." 2012.

Additional Information

Address: 930 16th Street, Henderson, Nebraska 68371-0130

Phone: 402-723-4562

Website: Bethesda Mennonite Church

Denominational Affiliations:

Central Plains Mennonite Conference

Mennonite Church USA

Bethesda Mennonite Church Pastoral Leaders

Minister Years of Service
Benjamin Ratzlaff (1791-1874) 1874
Heinrich Epp (1821-1885) 1874-1882
Isaac Peters (1826-1911) 1875-1882
Gerhard Epp (1832-1893) 1875-1893
Cornelius Wall 1878-1882
Johann Kliewer 1878-1883
Peter J. Friesen (1852-1909) 1883-1909
Cornelius Regier 1883-1885
Heinrich H. "H. H." Epp (1857-1933) 1883-1924
Jacob Friesen 1886-1892
Peter H. Pankratz (1855-1933) 1891-1933
Dietrich Peters (1859-1904) 1891-1904
Frank G. "F. G." Pankratz (1871-1955) 1908-1910
Heinrich D. "H. D." Epp (1882-1970) 1910-1924
Johann F. Epp (1883-1951) 1916-1934
Abraham W. "A. W." Friesen (1891-1984) 1916-1947
Johann F. Epp (1883-1951) 1947-1948
Arnold T. Nickel (1920-1971) 1948-1956
John Thiessen, Interim 1950/1963
Arthur C. Isaak (1928-1992) 1952-1955
John W. Gaeddert (1924-2020) 1955-1965
Jacob R. "J. R." Duerksen (1895-1984) 1956-1958
Bernard Ratzlaff 1959 Summer
Paul J. Isaak (1930-2006) 1959-1965
Walter H. Dyck (1908-1996) 1965-1971
Abraham Krause (1930-1992) 1965-1976
Benjamin J. Sawatzky (1922-2003) 1972-1979
Mahendra Kumer 1975 Summer
Waldo W. Kaufman (1919-1996) 1975-1978
Russell L. Mast (1915-2007) 1977-1979
Ward W. Shelly (1914-1997) 1979-1982
Brian K. Epp 1979-1996
Albert H. Epp (1931-2019) 1981-1990
Jason Martin, Interim 1990-1992
Joel Schroeder 1991-2004
John L. Yoder-Schrock 1992-1999
Marcia Yoder-Schrock 1992-1999
Weldon R. Martens 1995-2010
George Kaufman 2000-2007
Rachel Friesen, Interim 2007-2008
James Joel Voth 2009-2019
Andrea Wall, Formation 2009-
James Lapp, Transitional 2011-2012
Miriam Book, Transitional 2011-2012
Sherman Kauffman, Interim 2012-2013
Thayne Sparke, Interim 2014
Luann Yutzy, Interim 2014
Seth Miller 2015-
Kara Janzen, Interim 2019-2020
Eugene Thieszen, Interim 2019-2021
Chelsea Vaught, Worship 2021-

Bethesda Mennonite Church Membership

Year Membership
1930 552
1940 689
1950 919
1960 1069
1970 1158
1980 1182
1990 1138
2000 1131
2009 1128
2020 971


Map:Bethesda Mennonite Church (Henderson, Nebraska)

Author(s) Abraham W Friesen
Sam Steiner
Date Published August 2009

Cite This Article

MLA style

Friesen, Abraham W and Sam Steiner. "Bethesda Mennonite Church (Henderson, Nebraska, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2009. Web. 29 Nov 2023.,_Nebraska,_USA)&oldid=175367.

APA style

Friesen, Abraham W and Sam Steiner. (August 2009). Bethesda Mennonite Church (Henderson, Nebraska, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 November 2023, from,_Nebraska,_USA)&oldid=175367.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 316-317. All rights reserved.

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