After World War II came to an end the Oskaloosa Christian Reformed Church was bursting at the seams with all the post war children and young families. The solution was to begin a second Christian Reformed church in Oskaloosa. Bethel Christian Reformed Church was organized as a church on July 14, 1950, and began with a total of 223 confessing and baptized members. This new church family chose the name “Bethel” which means “House of God”.
Bethel began with a body of believers, but no building. For the first 14 months the group worshiped at Spencer Chapel on the grounds of William Penn College. Two months after organization land was purchased on North 6th Street for a church building. The original plan was to begin with a basement structure until the new congregation could afford to build a superstructure. The church began worshipping in the basement church in September of 1951.
The plans to build a superstructure over the basement building were abandoned because of concerns about the suitability of the ground to support a large building. So, when an elderly couple offered to donate land for a new church building on their acreage north of Oskaloosa, the congregation began plans to build the present church building. The congregation set goals and everyone worked hard to meet those common goals. On June 22, 1959 the new building was dedicated to the glory and service of God. A major remodeling project in 1990 gave us a chance to install air conditioning, padded pews and carpeting. A new wing was added to the building in 1996 for additional classroom space, nursery and handicapped accessible restrooms.
Of course, a church is not a building……..rather it is a community of believers. At Bethel those believers profess the name of Jesus Christ as their risen Savior and the Lord of their lives. So the real story of Bethel is the story of a family, a church family that shared its sorrows and its joys.
We cried together when a toddler was killed in a freak accident, when a young teen lost his battle with cancer, and when a terrible car accident took the life of a young man and injured several others. We shared our grief when one of our young men lost his life in the Korean War; we shared our joy when all our Vietnam veterans returned home alive. We shared our sorrow with the loss of a young mother and the premature death of a grandfather in a farming accident. We’ve mourned the passing of many elderly parents
We’ve also shared the times of blessing together. Those times when two people were united in marriage before the Lord, when parents brought their covenant children for baptism, when young people or adults publicly professed their faith in the Lord.
The Bethel church family has always worked to demonstrate God’s love to our community and to our world. We rolled up our sleeves to work to produce a 15 minute radio program every Sunday morning from 1953 to 1958, and then shared that ministry with other area churches to produce a two hour Sunday afternoon program for many years. Today Bethel continues to sponsor a one hour Sunday worship program on KBOE radio.
Bethel members have been active in volunteer projects locally, across the nation and in a number of foreign countries. We have supported missionaries in Africa, South and Central America. Our young people have completed work projects in Cary, Mississippi, in Kansas City, Missouri and in other sites. A significant part of our heritage is that many of our covenant youth, as they have left our local congregation to pursue their careers, have made a powerful impact in other churches in other communities and across the country.
Throughout the history of Bethel church we have been blessed with pastors who have faithfully preached God’s Word every week as we gather for worship. And those pastors have provided teaching to many classes, they have made visits to the sick and to the sorrowing, they have performed our weddings and conducted our funerals. They have been present at countless committee and council meetings. They have prayed with us and prayed for us. Through it all they have remained faithful to our Lord and Savior, and have blessed our church family richly. With God’s grace, our local congregation will always remain faithful to our Lord and Savior as well.
The statement of purpose of the Oskaloosa Bethel Christian Reformed Church says this: “Because God first loved us, we commit ourselves to loving him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and reaching out to love our neighbors as ourselves.” That statement defines the history of our local congregation. With God’s help it will also define our future.