Loveland Prot. Ref. Christian School

The history of any Christian school is associated with the history of the church which sends its children to that school. That is true of the Protestant Reformed Christian School in Loveland. Most of this article will deal with the history of our church people and their use of Christian schools in the past. Our school itself is like many other small Protestant Reformed Schools in the West, but the history of its church is unique. Our story begins in the valleys of southern Germany and ends on the Front Range of the Rockies, many hundreds of miles from other Protestant Reformed schools or churches. 

Southern Germany in the early 1800’s was an area of small kingdoms, principalities, and duchies, none of which was very strong or stable. Wars had kept the people in a nearly constant state of turmoil for many years. Many of God’s people, some of whom belonged to the Reformed church, were involved in these troubles. Now came further difficulty with the Napoleonic Wars. In addition to the fighting, disease, and lack of food, the young men were being conscripted to fight in the French army. Some other place must be found to live, but knowledge of other areas and means of travel were quite limited. 

Actually, a refuge had been provided some 40 years earlier in that distant, mysterious country of Russia. In an attempt to develop unsettled areas of her great country, and to bring order to border areas, Catherine the Great has invited foreign settlers to her country. This invitation was known as the Manifesto of July 23, 1773. It provided more than the Germans could have dreamt for. There was to be no military service for the settlers or their descendants. Every effort was made to provide loans, free land, and transportation. The settlers could practice their own religion and govern themselves in all*local matters if they wanted to come. 

In this dark hour, light was seen in Russia. From 1809-1812 some 155 families emigrated to an area of southern Russia just north of the Black Sea. They established two towns, Rohrbach and Worms, about 65 miles from the seaport of Odessa. All of the people in these two colonies were Reformed. They remained German, having little contact with the vulgar Russians. Although future generations learned the Russian tongue, none of the native customs were adopted. 

The first two decades of life in this new area were difficult. According to an 1848 report on the progress of the colonies the neglect of the church and an ungodly way of life had brought the punishing hand of God to the people. The later 1820’s brought change. A new pastor and schoolmaster came, and the people heeded the preaching. Attitudes changed greatly, so that the people became diligent and God-fearing. It was reported that schooling became their first and foremost concern. 

The schooling referred to was most likely under the guidance of the church. One teacher, whose title was that of parochial schoolmaster, mentioned that the church and school house were combined in one stone building. He also mentioned his duties of teaching, reading, writing, and religion. It could probably be assumed that arithmetic would also be included. These would then make a practical course of study, useful for understanding Scripture, or for use in farming or simple business. For about 40 years these colonies prospered. The preaching remained pure and the church was faithful. 

In 1871, after three generations in Russia, the two Reformed communities were struck a great blow. The Manifesto had been revoked. The social and legal reforms of Alexander II brought the Germans completely under all Russian law. The greatest impact was that the young men were now obligated to service in the Russian army. Their perpetual rights were interpreted by the Russians to mean rights for 100 years. Could it be that their freedom of worship and Christian schools might also be jeopardized? A ten-year period of grace was given before all this would take effect. The colonists must decide. what to do in this time. 

Again, God provided a home. The prairies of America, similar to the steppes of Russia, were waiting to be settled. Accommodating railroad companies provided cheap land and transportation, especially for proven farmers. From 1873 to about 1892 hundreds of families left to settle in America. Those which we are concerned with settled in York County, Nebraska, around the town of Sutton. 

Again Reformed churches were organized: This time, however, a slow process of assimilation into another culture took place. German remained the primary language, but American customs were learned. Christian schools, called German schools, were begun; most older people in the Loveland congregation remember them well, They were run by the church as a supplement to the public country schools which all the children attended. Some children went to the German school for just a few weeks in the summer, while others left their public school for three months to attend in the winter. Typically, the subjects were Bible, Heidelberg Catechism, German grammar, spelling, reading, and arithmetic. Under the guidance of good Reformed ministers these churches and schools prospered for many years. 

The 1940’s brought trouble to one of these churches in particular. It was at this time that a number of families moved to the area around Loveland. Here there was a Reformed church still using the German language. However, it was served by a Lutheran minister from Greeley; one who could preach from the Heidelberg Catechism when the occasion demanded. There was little hope for a better church, none for a Christian school. 

From a group in this church, the Protestant Reformed Church in Loveland was organized. This was in 1957, after several years of mission work by Rev. Lubbers. A school society was formed two years later, with encouragement from the pastor, Rev. H. Kuiper. People from other Protestant Reformed Churches also moved to Loveland in the next few years, givinggreater boost to the Christian school. 

On September 5, 1961 the school opened for its first day. There was one teacher and seven students in grades one through five. At this time the Loveland congregation was meeting in an abandoned schoolhouse three miles north of town. The upstairs was used for church services and two small rooms in the basement were used by the school. The classrooms were cheery and bright with new curtains on the windows and fresh paint on the walls. Other conditions were hardly modern. Water was supplied from an outside cistern by means of a hand pump. Every noon during cold weather the teacher had to heat water for washing hands. Toilets were outhouses, located near the edge of the schoolyard. The school was nearly surrounded by a huge cherry orchard. The old horse shed by the side of school was put to good use for games of hide-and-seek and Annie-over. 

The school is now in its twentieth year. Children’s children are now among the students. God’s hand of blessing has been with us. Growth of the school has been steady. When a new church building was completed in 1965 the school followed, still using the basement. Three years later the school expanded to two rooms with two teachers and eight grades, but still in the basement. In 1975, the dream of a separate school building was realized. A 60 foot square brick-trimmed steel building; with three classrooms, was constructed. 

This brings us to the present school year. We now have grades K-9. Kindergarten is held half days for four months. The first four grades, known as the lower room, has 15 children taught by one teacher. The upper room, also with one teacher, has 22 students in grades 5-9. We also have a full-time teacher’s aide, who gives much relief to the other teachers by taking two or three grades at a time to the third classroom. The multi-grade classroom situation has worked well in Loveland, even having some advantages over the single grade in one room. 

We are confident that our school will continue to prosper. As God has blessed us in the past, so will He also do in the future. 

Tom DeVries