Our History

1911    On January 22, 1911, Bethel Evangelical Congregation, our mother church, was formed. It was established as an expansion by Friedens Evangelische Kirche (Peace Evangelical Church), a congregation of mostly German immigrants from the north side of Milwaukee. The new church began with 14 adults and 14 children, in an ice cream parlor near Washington Park. By June 29, 1911, Bethel’s charter membership had swelled to 77 people. A church building was erected on North Avenue at 38th Street. 

 

1924    By June of 1924, six Bethel families and Rev. Ernst Gehle from Bethel had formed a mission church named Bethany Evangelical Church. Employing the part-time attention of Rev. Gehle, the fledgling congregation worshipped in a small building at 55th and Center. It, however, soon became inadequate. A chapel was built and dedicated in 1925, at the 54th and Locust site where our current church is located.

 

1938    Bethany Evangelical Church replaced the chapel with the Gothic-style lannon stone church building that we occupy today. It was dedicated on May 14, 1939. 

 

1957    The United Church of Christ was formed when several Christian denominations merged into one unified denomination. That included the German Evangelical denomination, to which Bethel and Bethany belonged. Thus, they became part of the UCC as a result of this development.

 

1975    The original congregation of Bethel Evangelical and its mission congregation, Bethany Evangelical, merged to become Bethel-Bethany United Church of Christ, worshipping and serving together in Sherman Park at the church on 54th and Locust.

 

1978    Rev. Ruth Duck served as the first woman minister in the church’s history. During her tenure, the Sunday School was revitalized and inclusive language was introduced in worship and the life of the church.

 

1985    Rev. Timothy Perkins was called was called to be pastor. During his ministry, the church transitioned to a younger leadership, and a culture of visioning and long-range planning was established. Connection with the neighborhood was expanded. Members were encouraged to engage in mission in the Sherman Park neighborhood and beyond. 

 

2011    We adopted our “Open and Accessible” policy, which affirms that Bethel-Bethany is an Open and Affirming, Multicultural/Multiracial, Accessible to All congregation of the United Church of Christ. 

 

2012    We committed to transform our building into an accessible space with the beginning of the “Mission: Accessible” Building Campaign. Ground was broken in 2013 for a new accessible addition to the church. By 2015, the new addition was completed and dedicated, and administrative offices were moved in. Besides offices and meeting space, the addition includes an outdoor wheelchair ramp, automatic door openers, an accessible bathroom, and an elevator that makes both levels of the church available to all people. 

 

2018    Renovations were made to the first floor of the church-owned duplex next door to the church building, which was renamed The Community House. We hope it will become a multi-purpose space for meetings and programming that benefit both the congregation and the neighborhood.

 

2019    Rev. Thad Winkle was called to be our pastor. Pastor Thad oversaw the growth of our congregation and our missional responses to the numerous crises of the global pandemic in 2020. He continues to serve and inspire today.