The histories of Bethel United Church of Christ in modern Stanly County and St. John’s Lutheran Church in modern Cabarrus County are closely tied because they can trace their formation to a single church. Early settlement of these counties was accomplished by German immigrants who moved from Pennsylvania, arriving as early as 1728. The settlers were of two religious backgrounds, the Lutheran Church and the German Reformed Church. Pooling their community resources, the groups began to worship together as early as the 1740’s.
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The year 1745 is commonly accepted by both Bethel and St. John’s as the year when a dual-purpose church and schoolhouse were constructed. Called the Dutch Buffalo Creek Meeting House, it met the needs of both the Lutheran and Reformed members. The union congregation was served by itinerant ministers and lay readers for much of its early existence. The first pastor to consistently visit the church did not arrive until the mid 1760’s and was from the Reformed Church, serving many similar union congregations throughout the area. Around 1770 a new church building was constructed near present St. John’s Church. The new building, a primitive log structure similar to the first, served the union congregation until a 1771 split in the congregation.
After the split, some Lutheran members under the leadership of John Barringer constructed a building at the site of the current St. John’s cemetery, mostly at Barringer’s personal expense. The new church and congregation chose St. John’s for their name at that time. St. John’s continued to prosper, successfully finding a permanent minister for their congregation in 1774 in the Reverend Adolph Nussmann of Germany, along with Johann Arends as their school teacher. In 1785 a new church building was dedicated for St. John’s which served the congregation as it grew and was received into the North Carolina Lutheran Synod in 1806. In 1846 a new sanctuary was dedicated and, although substantially remodeled, still serves the congregation today.
The remaining Lutheran and Reformed Church members of Buffalo Creek apparently used the old church for a while but began worshipping in homes and barns until 1806 when a frame church building was constructed on land donated by Christopher Lyerly. Rev. George Boger arrived as minister and the congregation remained one of a union between Lutheran and Reformed members. This union continued until 1875 when another split ended the cooperation. The Reformed congregation retained the old property and the church became known as Bethel German Reformed Church. A new church was constructed for Bethel in 1878, serving the congregation until the construction of the present building in 1929. The Bethel Congregation was re-organized in 1961 and became part of the United Church of Christ.
Jacob L. Morgan, History of the Lutheran Church in North Carolina (1953)
The Heritage of Stanly County, Volume I (2002)
Rev. Frank Bostian, “Bethel United Church of Christ” unpublished manuscript, marker research files, Research Branch, Office of Archives and History
Bethel United Church of Christ