To our visitors! Welcome to our Sunday Service. We are happy to have you sharing in our worship service and ask for the opportunity to meet you. We invite you to complete the visitor card in front of you and give to an usher. Please come again!
We are a Christ-Centered :
Bethany Lutheran Church began its rich Christian history on January 27, 1891 with a congregation of 47 people. Most of these first members had lived near each other in Sweden, so it was quite natural for them to all settle closely together in their new homeland of Laurens, Iowa, which itself, was a town in its infancy of nine years. These friends, neighbors and fellow worshipers at that time were the Anderson, Blomgren's, Carlson's, Selander's and Johnsons. Life was hard in the land of open prairie and sloughs and with no trees and few roads, but through letters to their homeland, they convinced additional relatives to come here also. They longed for a church of their own and a lot was purchased for $75 on the corner of Olive and Third Streets. In January of 1892, the decision to build was made, and the 60 x 30 structure was finished that same year at a recorded cost of $1848.30 for the building, $285.05 for the church seats and pulpit and $52.55 for the stove to heat it. Since this was a Swedish group the church was first called Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Bethania Church and later became Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church and then to Bethany Lutheran, which it is still named today.
The first pastor for the newly established church was Rev. C. L. Beckstrom who served Bethany during the years of 1892 1909. He and his large family lived in Laurens, and he also served at the Marathon Lutheran Church. Interestingly, one of his descendants, a granddaughter, Carol (Schryver) Henderson is still a member of Bethany today. Through the years, the white frame church building underwent various improvements: the addition of a basement beneath it, a platform and altar rail addition, painting and electrical updating. Colored glass windows were added in 1922 for a cost of $80, and were paid for by the Luther League.
On November 27, 1946 in looking toward the future, two vacant lots on the corner of Myrtle and Harrison Streets were purchased as a site for a new church. A building committee headed by Bethany's 5th pastor, Rev. Francis Johnson, was appointed in 1947. At that time it was determined that a parsonage was needed first because of a shortage in housing, and that put a temporary hold on developing plans for a new church building for the growing congregation. A corner property at East Olive Street, which was just north of the planned site for a new church, was purchased in June of 1948. There was much work that needed to be done before it would be ready for a pastor. By 1950, after a rapid growth rate during Rev. Johnsons ministry, Bethany had a baptized membership of 344, and Pastor Johnson accepted a new call and moved away. We now had a parsonage, but no pastor, and it was rented for about 8 months to a newly married couple, Donn and Colleen Phillips (Colleen continues to be a member today), before they moved to their farm.
Under the ministry of Rev. Philip A. Leaf, in the years of 1952 - 1956, the congregation voted unanimously on October 16, 1952, to build a new church. C. I. Hersom, a Laurens contractor and experienced in building churches was hired to build it. Ground was broken on March 1, 1953 and the cornerstone was laid June 7, 1953. There was much enthusiasm and excitement in the congregation and as a result many hours of hard work were donated to the building project by the members of Bethany. The much larger and even more beautiful new church was completed in 1954. The last service in the old church, built in 1892, was held on July 25, 1954. On the following Sunday, August 1st, there was a processional to the new church. One week later, five of Bethany's youth were confirmed and two from that class of five, Shirley (Wilson) Pedersen and Pat (Mefferd) Boughey are still active members today. The cost of building the new church was $133,000 and after all the kitchen equipment was added it amounted to $141,000. The beautiful stained glass windows, manufactured by the Zettler Studios of Munich, Germany were presented to the church as memorials and gifts of gratitude. The seating capacity of the church is 252 in the nave, 31 in the choir section area, the fellowship hall will seat 325 and the upstairs mothers room will seat 20, which gives a total of 700 people who can be accommodated with nearly all being able to view the chancel.
A second parsonage at 407 East Main was purchased in 1970. In 1987, it was decided to sell this parsonage and build a new one on the lot adjoining Bethany to the north. The new parsonage at 211 South Harrison was completed in 1988 and is the same one currently being used.
In 2010 Bethany's congregation began to investigate leaving the ELCA. Presentations to the congregation by Lutheran Congregations in Mission to Christ, Lutheran CORE (forerunner to the North American Lutheran Church), and the ELCA were held. On September 12th of that year Bethany's congregation held its first special congregational meeting to vote on leaving the ELCA in accordance with the constitutions of Bethany Lutheran Church and the ELCA. On January 9, 2011 the congregation passed its second vote to leave the ELCA by a margin of 80.6%, and then voted to affiliate with the newly created North American Lutheran Church. On April 9, 2011 the Western Iowa Synod Council of the ELCA approved our disaffiliation with the ELCA and we were officially welcomed into the NALC by Provisional Bishop Paull Spring on April 18th. Bethany welcomed its first NALC rostered pastor, Gerald (Jerry) Wittmus and his wife Nancy on Sunday September 11, 2011.
Many changes have taken place in the various groups and organizations of the church, and that seems to be the natural order of things throughout this constantly changing world. Bethany continues to meet these challenges with perseverance, and with a dedication that is only possible when a community of church members willingly work together to provide a church home that is a steadfast beacon of hope and faith to any and all persons who we welcome to be part of our church family.