Bethlehem's History 1929-1953

In 1930 Pastor Wm. D. Kanning was called from Fergus Falls, Minnesota. In 1933 during the depression, the church council, after consulting with Pastor Kanning, asked the pastor to give the teacher free board in order to save the congregation $120. The congregation was paying $51 a month for the teacher's room and board.

In 1934 the baptismal font that is being used to this day was purchased by the Young Peoples Society (the youth group as they were called in the early days). In 1937 the first ushers were elected. They were Leonard Strohshein, Walter Goerke and Elmer Bobrowky.

For a number of years the congregation felt the need of redecorating the church, beginning with a basement and working up. The basement had to be dug by hand. Some of the smaller members of the church were volunteered to do this job. Bucket by bucket the dirt was cleared. While the basement was being dug it was resolved in a special meeting to get a new heating plant. A full basement with a new oil furnace and air circulator, a large lighted assembly room, and a kitchen adjoining it, were the results. After the walls were done in the basement it was time to set the church on its new foundation. This was done by horses on each corner and eyeballed by one person. The lifting and setting of church was a big job but was successfully handled with the help of the congregation. While the basement project was going on, the sanctuary arch was remodeled and direct lighting of the sanctuary was installed. New plaster was applied to the walls; the ceiling was covered with variegated Nu Wood tile laid diagonally. New Gothic type lighting fixtures were installed in the church. The statue of Christ by Hoffmann picturing the Savior with hands uplifted in blessing, that adorns our altar, was a gift of Mrs. Augusta Zeidler, Ida Beckman, Lydia Beckman, and Mabel Milteski made lace by hand for the altar and pulpit.

In order to hold down the cost of these projects many of our members willingly sacrificed much of their time to do what work they could do. Members serving on the committee were the elders: Wm. Uecker, Ed Lampert and Gust Boltz. Appointed by the congregation were: Albert Strohschein, Wm. Jans, Wm. Zeidler and Robert Marohn. Mr. August Kloss was superintendent of the entire project and Mr. Hubert Uecker was foreman of the job.

On July 30, 1939 Bethlehem Lutheran Church celebrated the cornerstone laying and the 40th Anniversary of the dedication of its house of worship. At 10:00 a.m. a cornerstone laying service was conducted by Pastor Kanning at the northeast corner of the church. Then the congregation entered the church to hear a sermon preached by Pastor Eugene Seltz. Again in the afternoon and evening, services were held. Pastor Alfred R. Streufert (Pastor at Bethlehem 1913-1930) and Pastor Walter Strohschein delivered the sermons.

Our first school board was elected in May 1939. The members of the first school board were Theo. Goerke, Ad. Streich and Wm. Ladda. We began our Sunday school classes during Pastor Kanning's pastorate.

On May 25, 1941 a meeting was called to consider the call which Pastor Kanning had received from the Army and Navy Commission. Pastor Kanning was given his release.

There were 11 teachers that served under Pastor Kanning. Our first female teacher came in the late 1930's.

A call was sent out to Pastor J. H. Klausmeier of Little Falls, Minnesota. He was installed August 24, 1941.

In a special meeting held December 14, 1941 the matter of buying a church flag and U.S. flag was discussed. The congregation bought the U.S. flag and the church flag was purchased by an individual member. In January 1942 the new Lutheran Hymnals (known as TLH) were introduced. On February 9, 1942 the pension plan of synod was adopted.

In 1943 it was decided to move the school to the southwest corner of the unfenced land in Albion Township. It was stipulated that the school should be as close to the road as possible and that a basement be put under the school. Four school teachers served under Pastor Klausmeier. In the summer of 1946 Pastor Kausmeier accepted a call to Convoy, OH.

In the fall of 1946 Pastor H. E. Bentrup of Winona, Minnesota R. F. D. No. 2 was called. He was installed December 8, 1946. President Robert Heyne of Waconia preached the sermon.

While the number of members declined somewhat, stewardship by the grace of God has advanced. With the help of God the considerably greater financial needs had been met. The goal of having a permanently called teacher was finally realized.

Our Ladies Aid joined the Lutheran Women's Missionary League (LWML) on August 11, 1949. Stained glass windows were donated as memorial gifts by various members. A Lutheran Laymen's League was organized.

Improvements to the church and grounds were surfacing and parking lot on the land donated by Victor Miller and indoor plumbing added to both the church and school.

Bethlehem congregation celebrated its 75th Anniversary on September 27, 1953 with an estimated crowd of 900. Not much of this celebration was recorded.

In 1953 Mr. and Mrs. Albert Ney donated $1,000 to set up the Robert E. Ney Memorial fund (in memory of their son killed in action). The fund was set up for the training of ministerial students. In all, the Neys have contributed $7,000 for the principal. The income has grown and can be used by young men and from Bethlehem and Immanuel Lutheran Church of Silver Creek, Minnesota to help finance their schooling at the seminary. There have only been a few that have used money from the Ney fund. Lyle Klemz of Silver Creek was a recipient of the Ney fund and is now a Pastor in Lehr, North Dakota.