Evangelical old reformed church in Lower Saxony

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Evangelical old reformed church in Lower Saxony
branch Protestantism
Belief Reformed the
old denomination
Preses Lothar Heetderks
membership World Community of Reformed Churches ,
Reformed Federation ,
Working Group of Christian Churches in Germany ,
Protestant Mission
Establishment date from 1838
Members 6491 (2019)
Communities 12
Tax position Free Church
Website altreformiert.de

The Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony (EAK) is a Reformed Free Church of old denomination in north-west Germany, to which 12 parishes with around 6500 parish members belong.


Hendrik de Cock around 1829

The Evangelical Old Reformed communities emerged from 1838 in the county of Bentheim and from 1854 in East Frisia from the Reformed communities there. The reason was the liberal currents in the theology of the Reformed congregations, which many congregation members opposed and therefore separated themselves from their congregations. The beginning was made by the Dutch parish of Ulrum in Groningen , which separated from the Reformed Church on October 13, 1834. Your pastor Hendrik de Cock became the leading figure in the "Kokschen" separation movement (Dutch: Afscheiding ) named after him in East Friesland and the county of Bentheim .

The split was associated with not inconsiderable problems and repression . The lay catechists , who mainly interpreted the Heidelberg catechism in teaching meetings, were banned from speaking, bans on assembly were obtained and individual members of the congregation were fined and imprisoned. The legal situation remained uncertain, as state recognition was initially denied. 1848 altreformierten communities were given the right of assembly . However, church weddings were not recognized until 1866. Her pastors were trained in Emden until 1923 .

In the following decades the reformed church moved closer to the neighboring Dutch church, whose confessions were shared. It culminated in 1923 in the "provisional connection" of the church to the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (GKN), which lasted until May 1, 2004. Pastors have been trained in the Netherlands since 1923 . In 1936 the Old Reformed Church introduced its own hymn book under pressure from the Nazi state . Since 1970 she has been using the same hymn book as the Evangelical Reformed Church, which is today its edition of the Evangelical Hymnal .

During the Nazi era, the overwhelming majority of the Old Reformed in the Bentheimer Land, their stronghold, were in opposition to the regime as former voters of the strictly Protestant Christian Social People's Service . In the old reformed church newspaper Der Grenzbote in 1933, sympathy for the new Hitler government was felt, as it fought anti-church Bolshevism and cultivated Christianity-friendly rhetoric in the spirit of Protestantism in the region, but uneasiness soon spread when there were conflicts The Sunday sanctification took place because more and more Nazi associations called for service on Sunday and then specifically during the service or a Reich bishop was installed, which contradicted the (old) Reformed self-image. The ribbon was finally cut when a conference of the National Socialist " German Christians " in early November 1933 in the Berlin Sports Palace rejected the Old Testament and the Pauline letters. Because of these incidents, the Synod of the German Reformed Churches in Bentheim decided at the end of December 1933 to issue a “warning and wake-up call”. This was published in 1934 under the title “Demonstration of the old reformed churches in Germany on the ecclesiastical situation of the present” and delimited the old reformed church from National Socialist teachings and practices.

The National Socialists were increasingly opposed to the fact that the Old Reformed in the church area only used Dutch, maintained close contacts with the neighboring country and obtained a lot of printed matter from there, especially of the church type. Between 1935 and 1939 they were forbidden by a series of ordinances from continuing to use Dutch in public church life. The usual commitment of Dutch pastors such as that of the later resistance fighter Frits Slomp in the Bentheim church was opposed. In the Niedergrafschafter parish of Emlichheim, the largest old reformed parish of the German Empire, the celebration of the German old reformed people for the 100th anniversary of the “separation” took place on Reformation Day 1934 with large participation from the county of Bentheim and East Friesland in close connection with the Netherlands.

It was only after the end of the Second World War that the long-awaited state recognition as a public corporation took place on October 13, 1950. The Dutch Reformed Community of Wuppertal was founded in 1847 and has been a member of the Evangelical Old Reformed Church since 1983. The Brandlecht branch, founded in 1911, merged again with the Nordhorn community in 1969. The Dutch language was banned from the last Grafschafter church council protocols at the end of the 1960s, but as a result of the arrival of Dutch people in the Grafschafter border communities since around 2000, the Dutch language has experienced a small renaissance among the Old Reformed.

She has been working closely with this church since the merger of various Dutch Protestant churches to form the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (2004). In recent years there has been a rapprochement with the Evangelical Reformed Church in northwest Germany . The Old Reformed are guests at the synods of this church. On January 1, 2007, a cooperation agreement was signed with the Evangelical Reformed Church. In the spring of the same year the Evangelical Reformed Church offered the Old Reformed Church “full synodal fellowship”. The merger failed above all because of the resistance of the old reformed congregations, who saw more disadvantages than advantages in a merger, feared the loss of their identity and preferred a merging of the churches from the base and not from the synods.

The communities of Campen and Emden merged in early 2015. The community in Neermoor was dissolved on January 1st, 2017.

Ecumenical Relations

The Evangelical Old Reformed Church is today connected with other Reformed churches and congregations in Germany and worldwide. So she belongs z. B. the Reformed Federation , but not the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and not the Association of Evangelical Free Churches (VEF). It works closely with the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (which also includes the former Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland ) and is present through them on the World Council of Churches . She is also a member of the Working Group of Christian Churches (ACK) and the Evangelical Mission in Hamburg.

In December 2006, the Evangelical Reformed Church (Synods of Reformed Churches in Bavaria and Northwest Germany) and the Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony signed a historically significant cooperation agreement in the Frenswegen Monastery near Nordhorn . The evangelical reformed and the evangelical old reformed parishes in Laar have shared a common pastoral office since 2009. The Evangelical Old Reformed Church has been a member of the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches since 2013 .

Theology and belief

Heidelberg Catechism from 1563

The Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony is deliberately a denominational church. Its theological foundations are the Heidelberg Catechism and the Dutch Reformed Confessions Confessio Belgica and Dordrecht Doctrines .

It was founded not by theologians but by church members. The individual communities are relatively independent, so that there can also be certain differences in teaching and practice. The maturity and manageability of the local congregation, which is led by the church council , is emphasized. Every household is visited by two representatives of the Council of Churches every one to two years. The parish church lives from the commitment of its numerous volunteer workers. From a missionary point of view, the Reformed Church has close ties with congregations in Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Two services take place every Sunday, in which the preaching of the word is central. Church attendance is above average. In the past, the confessional scriptures were displayed continuously in the second service, which is only the case today. The song of the psalms, customary in Reformed congregations, continues to play an important role. The Old Reformed practice infant baptism , with the assembled congregation assuming the role of godparent. The church lessons follow the discharge from the children's church service (at the age of about 10 years), are given in the winter half-year and extend until the age of majority. After the question of faith has been publicly asked in front of the congregation, admission to the Lord's Supper is granted (according to confirmation ). This is celebrated four times a year as a memorial meal.

Administration and organization

The Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony has a presbyterial-synodal structure, i. that is, it is administered from the grassroots and therefore has no bishop or church president. Therefore, the local community is generally solely responsible for its own affairs. It is led by the church council, to which the pastor, the elders ( presbyters ) and the deacons belong. These are elected by the parishioners, with the pastor for life, elders and deacons for four to six years. All members of a congregation who have “publicly professed their faith”, that is, who are confirmed, are entitled to vote.

The church council is the highest organ of the congregation. He sends two or three representatives to the superordinate Synodal Association and to the Synod, the parliament of the Evangelical Old Reformed Church, for three to six years. In the synod the general affairs are regulated. The chairman of the synod is the President, for the period from 2018 to 2024 Pastor Lothar Heetderks from Ihrhove. The secretary and address of the synod is Pastor Hermann Teunis from Hoogstede (as of 2019).


local community image founding Members (2019) Remarks
Bundles ChurchBundeOldRef.jpg 1858 350 Old Reformed assemblies in private homes as early as 1835. Founding by Pastor Gerd Kramer (Veldhausen) with 28 people. 1859 first church building, which was destroyed by a storm in 1860. Second church in 1870, today's one from 1965.
1854 248 Camping is the oldest altref. Community in East Friesland, the origin of which goes back to the farmer and lay preacher Heye Gossen Heikens (1806–1884). First church building from 1866, today's in neo-Gothic style from 1905. Wide catchment area. Parish merged with Emden in 2015.
1856 Founding by Pastor Cornelis van Oever (Rotterdam). 1858 first church building which was destroyed by bombs in 1941 and 1944, today's building from 1950. 2015 merged with camping.
Ihrhove ChurchIhrhoveOldRef.jpg 1860 202 Founding by pastors Gerd Kramer (Veldhausen) and JH Vos (Uelsen) with nine people. First church building in 1862, today's from 1960. From 1975 to 2015 Neermoor and Ihrhove shared a common pastor's position.
Neermoor ChurchNeermoorOldRef.jpg 1861 Formerly the smallest altref. Local community. Founding by Pastor Jan Berend Sundag Sundag (Bentheim) with eight people. Church building from 1865. From 1975 to 2015 Neermoor and Ihrhove shared a common pastor's position. The municipality of Neermoor was dissolved on January 1, 2017.
County of Bentheim
bad Bentheim 42109680 Bad Bentheim old reformed church.jpg 1840 604 Foundation in Waldseite (Gildehaus) under the direction of Jan Berend Sundag (Samern). Its origins are closely related to the communities in Brandlecht, Gildehaus and Schüttorf. Today's church building from 1898, which was renovated in 1956.
Emlichheim 42004449 Emlichheim old reformed church.jpg 1845 1486 Largest old reformed community. Foundation in Vorwald under the direction of Jan Berend Sundag (Samern). 1853 first church building, in 1882 a second, today's one from 1982/83.
Hoogstede 42004466 Hoogstede old reformed church.jpg 1953 361 The congregation founded in Tinholt in 1845 under the direction of Jan Berend Sundag (Samern) emigrated almost entirely to the USA in 1847. The rest joined Veldhausen and Emlichheim until 1953. 1953 re-establishment and today's church building.
Laar 42004270 Laar old reformed church.jpg 1885 220 Foundation with 86 people. 1879 first church building, today's from 1979.
Nordhorn 42109282 Nordhorn old reformed church.jpg 1911 1034 Church foundation with 68 people, at the same time as the Brandlecht community. 1969 The two communities merge. 1909 first church building, today's from 1970.
Uelsen 42108242 Uelsen old reformed church.jpg 1838 700 Oldest altref. Local community. Founding without pastors with 17 people and four who had already left. 1850/51 first church building, today's from 1959/60. Wide catchment area.
Veldhausen 42004702 Veldhausen old reformed church.jpg 1849 740 First parish hall in 1852, second church building in 1887, today's from 1956.
Wilsum 42108033 Wilsum old reformed church.jpg 1848 353 Foundation in Schonefeld. In 1849 Jan Bavinck became the first pastor. In 1849 a converted barn served as the first church, the second church from 1869–1910, today's building from 1987.
Wuppertal Dutch Reformed Church.jpg
1847 193 Founding of the Dutch Reformed Congregation in Elberfeld by Hermann Friedrich Kohlbrügge ; 1849 first church building, which was destroyed by bombs in 1943. Until 1967, the congregation gathered in the cemetery chapel and then in the Old Reformed Church in Wuppertal , and since 1989 again in the cemetery chapel, which has been renamed "Community House". Since 2001 full membership in the Evangelical Old Reformed Church.
total 6525

See also


  • Dirk Averes: The Evangelical Old Reformed Church . In: limbs in one body. The free churches in self-portrayals . Hans-Beat Motel (Ed.). Christian publishing house, Constance 1975, ISBN 3-7673-6520-0 .
  • Gerrit Jan Beuker: Old Reformed people in Hoogstede and their prehistory. Church and congregation 1953–2003 . Hellendoorn, Bad Bentheim 2003, ISBN 3-929013-19-3 .
  • Gerrit Jan Beuker: Reversal and Renewal. From the history of the Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony 1838–1988 . Synod of the EAK in Lower Saxony (ed.). 2nd edition Hellendoorn, Bad Bentheim 1988, ISBN 3-929013-04-5 .
  • Chronicle of the Evangelical Old Reformed Congregation Bunde 1858–2008 . Church council of the EAK Bunde (ed.). H. Risius-Verlag, Weener 2008.
  • The Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony . Synod of the EAK in Lower Saxony (ed.). Self-published, Nordhorn 2003, ISBN 3-9808655-0-9 .
  • Evangelical Old Reformed Church Wilsum 1848–1998 . EAK Wilsum (ed.). Self-published, Wilsum 1999, ISBN 3-929013-16-9 .
  • “Remember all the way”. 1845-1995. 150 years of the Protestant old reformed community in Emlichheim . Self-published, Emlichheim 1995, ISBN 3-929013-12-6 .
  • Congregation book for use in worship, in church teaching and in the family . Synod of the EAK in Lower Saxony (ed.). Hellendoorn, Bad Bentheim 2006, ISBN 3-929013-21-5 ( online , PDF).
  • Stephan Holthaus: denominational studies. Handbook of the Churches, Free Churches and Christian Communities . Edition fth. Jota, Hammerbrücke 2008, ISBN 978-3-935707-54-1 , pp. 113-118.
  • Gerrit Kortmann, Gerrit Wieking (Red.): "That is a delicious thing, thank the Lord ..." 100 years of the Evangelical Reformed Congregation Nordhorn 1911–2011. Edited by the Protestant Old Reformed Church, Nordhorn 2011.
  • Berend Heinrich Lankamp: The old reformed churches in Lower Saxony . In: Many members - one body. Smaller churches, free churches and similar communities in self-portrayals . Ulrich Kunz (ed.). Quell, Stuttgart 1953, pp. 44-58.
  • Helmut Lensing: The elimination of Dutch as the church language in the old reformed church of the Grafschaft Bentheim by the Nazi state 1936–1939 . In: Emsland history . Vol. 15, 2008, ISSN  0947-8582 , pp. 237-287.
  • Helmut Lensing: The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the “separation” of the Old Reformed from the Reformed Church for the German Empire in the county of Bentheim in 1934 . In: Emsland history . Vol. 16, 2009, ISSN  0947-8582 , pp. 506-535.
  • Helmut Lensing: The reformed and the old reformed church of the county of Bentheim and the year 1933. In: Emsländische Geschichte . Vol. 16, 2009, ISSN  0947-8582 , pp. 402-485.
  • Helmut Lensing: The Old Reformed Church in the First World War and in the Revolution 1918/19. In: Yearbook of the Society for Church History in Lower Saxony. Vol. 111/2013, Hannover 2014, pp. 191-238.
  • Under God's covenant. 1849–1999 Evangelical old reformed parish of Veldhausen . Self-published, Neuenhaus 1999, ISBN 3-929013-15-0 .

Web links

Commons : Churches of the Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Helmut Lensing: The Emlichheim divorce ceremony in October 1934. The first old reformed community emerged in Uelsen . In: The Grafschafter between castle and derrick . Published by the Heimatverein des Grafschaft Bentheim, born in 2009, No. 11, p. 43.
  2. On the road together. From the work of the Joint Committee of the Evangelical Old Reformed Church and the Evangelical Reformed Church , accessed on September 4, 2019.
  3. altreformiert.de: End of an era. Ev.-old reformed community Neermoor dissolved , p. 52. Accessed on September 4, 2019 .
  4. ^ Cooperation agreement between the Evangelical Reformed Church and the Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony. Retrieved September 4, 2019 .
  5. Evangelical-Old Reformed Parish of Laar: Common Parish Office , accessed on February 21, 2019.
  6. Protestant Reformed Church: Der Grenzbote 13/2018. Retrieved February 21, 2019 .
  7. As of December 31, 2019. Figures based on Der Grenzbote . No. 1, 130th year, January 26th, 2020, p. 7 ( online ).