This Week in AG History — October 29, 1961
By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 31 October 2019
The German District Council of the Assemblies of God was organized 97 years ago to serve German-speaking Pentecostals in the United States. The German district (known as the German Branch until 1973) was birthed in the fall of 1922 at a meeting held in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Participants at the organizing meeting came from Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Canada.
General Chairman E. N. Bell praised the formation of a German district. He said, “We should be glad to have a German Branch to recommend Germans for credentials and to encourage you every way possible. God bless and guide you. Door is open.”
August H. Wendt was chosen as the first superintendent and served until his death in 1929. He was succeeded by Hugo A. Ulrich, pastor of Bethel Tabernacle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Other superintendents through the years include Carl W. Loenser, Alvin Sprecher, Raymond Rueb, David D. Rueb, and the current superintendent, Daniel J. Miller.
As the German Branch continued to grow, additional congregations were started among German-speaking families in the northern plains states, primarily among German immigrants from Russia. Most of these new congregations were in Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Congregations were also started in Santa Clara, California, and Puyallup, Washington, and other places with a German population. A number of the early German district pastors were bivocational or shepherded multiple congregations.
By the 1950s most German district congregations were holding services in both English and German languages. A majority of the church members were immigrants from German-speaking settlements in Russia, Poland, Germany, Hungary, and other Eastern European countries. They or their parents had fled Germany during wartime, depression, or famine. Although the culture in their new-found land was different, these people felt drawn to churches that ministered to them in their native tongue.
The printed word has also helped to advance the German district. Its publications through the years have included Wort und Zeugnis (“Word and Witness”), Licht und Leben (“Light and Life”), and Lektionsheft (a Sunday School quarterly), Crossroads, and GD Insight.
The German District Council office is located in Saint Joseph, Michigan. The district also operates Bethel Park (Bridgman, Michigan), which serves as the location of the annual German district family camp and other events.
In October 1961, Alvin Sprecher, secretary-treasurer of the German Branch, gave a report of the German Branch, which at that time was one of six non-English language branches of the Assemblies of God in the United States. He reported, “Nearly one hundred more souls were saved in German churches this year than last.” He described several efforts to start new German churches over the past year. He also told of a “profitable camp again this summer” with J. P. Kolenda as the speaker. “We had record attendance,” reported Sprecher, “and a blessed outpouring of the Holy Spirit with souls saved and believers filled.” He also was thankful for a successful youth camp where “a number of children were saved, and some received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
The German district is still planting churches in new locations across the United States. Interestingly, in recent years a number of African-American churches and ministers have affiliated with the German district. The German district is also active in missions work around the globe. In 2018, the German district consisted of 34 churches in the United States with 2,677 adherents.
Read Sprecher’s article, “German Branch Makes Gain” on page 7 of the Oct. 29, 1961, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “The Big Breakthrough,” by E. M. Clark
• “The Time of Great Trouble,” by R. M. Riggs
• “Pentecost Repeated,” by Harley Vail
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
See also: “The German District: Ninety Years and Counting” published in Assemblies of God Heritage in 2012.
Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.
Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200