Bethlehem Luthern Church
We are united in Jesus... Joyful in Spirit... Active in Ministry
8:30am
Traditional
Worship
9:00am
Sunday School
9:45am
Adult Education
10:15am
Contemporary
Worship

Welcome

Welcome 

We invite you to come to Bethlehem and see, Him whose birth the angels sing! Bethlehem Lutheran Church celebrates the good news of God in Jesus Christ and welcomes all into its ministry and mission.

About our Church

Bethlehem Lutheran Church is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) in America. As such it finds itself joined with 287 other congregations in the Northwest Minnesota Synod, and with 30 other congregations in the Otter Tail Conference.   

The Bethlehem Constitution provides an outline of the connections with the larger church and the ministry within this community. The congregation meets in an Annual Meeting to conduct an annual review and to look forward. The church council has general oversight of the life and activities of the congregation. It is made up of 15 members elected at the annual meeting of the congregation and lead by an executive committee made up of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer.   

Bethlehem's council further shares the leadership of the congregation with several ministry teams. They include the following: Worship & Music, Stewardship, Discipleship, Children, Youth & Family, Property & Management, Caring Ministry, Service in Mission, and the Women of the ELCA.

Our History

Beginnings: Bethlehem’s Predecessor Congregations –
On February 18,1872, Kongsberg Lutheran Church was organized by Rev. Johan Bergh in rural Ottertail County. Then the Evangelical Lutheran Our Savior’s Congregation (made up of six families) was organized under Pastor Bergh’s supervision on August 13, 1872 in Fergus Falls. Their first place of worship was upstairs over a store, and the furnishings consisted of a chair, a small table, and a few rough benches. (Our Savior’s and Kongsberg, together with Tordenskjold and Sarpsborg Congregations, constituted a parish served by Pastor Bergh.)  By 1876 Our Savior’s congregation had built its first church which cost approximately $1000.

Subsequent pastors who served these congregations were: Pastors Tharaldson, Saugstad, and Iversen. In 1884, the parish split, leaving Our Savior’s and Kongsberg together who called Pastor Wold to serve their congregations. From 1885 to 1918, Pastors Svenoe, Tjornhom, L. Kleppe, and Rorstad , and two laymen Svorkmo and T. Kleppe were called to serve the two churches. A larger Our Savior’s church structure was erected in 1900 which cost $9,000. together with a parsonage costing $3,000. The congregation, organized without synodical connections, in 1912 voted to become part of the United Lutheran Church synod.  

Bethlehem created from unity talks: In 1917, with the merger of the Norwegian Synod, the United Church, and the Hauge Synod, the three Lutheran churches in Fergus Falls (First, Our Savior’s, and Zion) began discussions to effect a union creating one church. It was finally decided, however, that there would be two congregations, one for the English (First) and one for the Norwegians (the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Bethlehem Church of Fergus Falls). This new congregation was served by Revs. Rendahl and Simonson. 

Defining Moment in Bethlehem’s History: On June 22, 1919, a devastating tornado struck Fergus Falls which totally demolished the church building and shifted the parsonage off its foundations. Discussion re-opened to consider joining this church with First English Lutheran Church, but it was decided “to continue as before.” Bethlehem’s two hundred families “put their shoulders to the wheel” to raise $80,000. to rebuild the church, move the parsonage back onto its foundation, and to purchase an organ and all the necessary furnishings. The congregation met for worship in the Lyceum Theater until 1920 when the church was ready for services again.

Bethlehem Celebrates Anniversaries:  Rev. Quello (1925-1937) served during the language transition from Norwegian to English. Rev. Muus (1938 – 1960) also served a long pastorate at Bethlehem that was marked by the beginning of “Morning Watch”, the church’s commitment to WW II and displaced persons, the addition of a parish education center, and support of Luther Crest Bible Camp.   During his tenure the congregation celebrated its 75th anniversary on Sept. 28, 1947.

In 1960 the merger of three Lutheran synods occurred, creating the American Lutheran Church.  Rev. Dale (1961 – 1976) was called to serve Bethlehem with Pastor Tjornhom returning to the congregation to serve as visitation pastor and Pastor Berdahl was called as the first associate pastor. It was determined in 1964 to purchase a city lot and build a new parsonage. During Pastor Dale’s tenure, the congregation celebrated its 100th anniversary in October of 1972.  In 1962 the organ was moved to the balcony of the church and rebuilt. Bethlehem supported building projects for a church in Texas, several missionaries in Africa, and welcomed refugees from Viet Nam and Laos.

Pastor McBride was called to Bethlehem in 1976 and Pastor Doely joined him as visitation pastor the following year. Pastor Robert Possehl and Pastor Nedrud served the congregation during the ‘80’s. Pastor Gedde, Pastor Nelson, Pastor Lunde, and Pastor Rust served during the ‘90’s. Bethlehem celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1997 and voted to do a major remodeling project – Project Rejoice - that included an accessible elevator.

Bethlehem enters the new Millenium: Pastor Bruns, Pastor Donald, and Pastor
Martin were called to serve as associate pastors at Bethlehem in 2001, 2002, and 2007. A successful “Cradled in Grace” appeal allowed the congregation to eliminate previous building debt, repair the roof, and provide funding for numerous programming projects in the church. In 2007, the historic organ was completely re-furbished and a centennial concert was held. “Make a Joyful Noise” campaign provided the funds for this project and also allowed the congregation to purchase two pianos and support technology for worship services.

Our Mission

Cradled by grace, Bethlehem Lutheran Church invites all members of the family of Christ to worship, calls all ages to learning, mission, and service, and witnesses to the daily presence of Christ for all of God’s people.

102 West Junius Ave • Fergus Falls MN 56537 • Phone: 218-736-5614