Members of Bethany Lutheran Church in Minot have been participating in activities and celebrating their faith the past, present and future for most of the year. They are "Alive in Christ."
There's a reason to celebrate. It is the 125th anniversary of the church. Activities have included a progressive prayer service, a pioneer service, which incorporated past church traditions, and an outdoor worship service at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot. Signs were placed at member's homes in neighborhoods and also at the church.
Time to organize
The 125th anniversary of Bethany Lutheran Church, 215-3rd Ave. SE, will be celebrated on Oct. 30.
A small group of Norwegian immigrants organized what is now known as Bethany Lutheran Church 125 years ago. They brought their Christian faith and the desire to share the Gospel with their fellow countrymen. It was July 18, 1886, when John H. Blegen, a professor from Augsburg Seminary in Minneapolis, conducted the first service for the "Bethania" or Bethany congregation. In September of that same year a mission pastor with the last name of Lundeby came to Minot and he organized the "Minot Norsk Evangelisk Menighed (Minot Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation).
The first congregation meeting was held Jan. 10, 1887. Members had to be 21 years old and in good standing. Obtaining land for a church and cemetery were immediate goals. Three and a half acres were given. Each voting member was asked to give $1.25 to pay for fencing the cemetery. Prior to 1894, the worship services had been conducted in homes. When the meetings were too large, services were held in the Minot schoolhouse, located where Minot High School-Central Campus is today. In the summer of 1895, at a cost of $800, a church building was constructed at Central and Third Street East, the present location of Val's Cyclery. The Ladies Aid had raised $50 to pay for the land. The building was 38 feet by 24 feet and 12 feet high, with three windows on each side. The pastor's salary was increased from $50 to $75.
'Alive in Christ'
The formal celebration of Bethany Lutheran Church's 125th anniversary will be Oct. 30 with a more traditional service celebrating Reformation Sunday at 8 a.m. The 11 a.m. service will honor the Reformation and highlight the 125th anniversary. The Rev. Dan Nordin, former intern pastor at the church, will be the guest speaker at both services. The church is located at 215-3rd Ave. SE.
There will be a meal in the fellowship hall after the 11 a.m. service with fellowship and reminiscing.
The Ladies Aid purchased an organ for $85 for the church in 1896. The organ was still in use for the 50th anniversary of the church in 1936. The Articles of Incorporation, which made Bethany an official congregation in North Dakota, were adopted on Nov. 21, 1896.
According to information in the Bethany Lutheran Centennial Anniversary Booklet by Adeline Mueller, the first mention of special music at the church was a mixed quartet in 1898.
In 1906 members raised money and built a parsonage and in 1911 the present property at Third Avenue and Third Street Southeast was purchased for $3,100. The cornerstone of the present church was laid in the spring of 1915. In the Sept. 9, 1915, issue of the Ward County Independent the building was described as a "$15,000 edifice." It was the first reinforced concrete building completed in Minot. Several thousand sacks of cement and a railroad car of steel provided a home for some of the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the Minot area.
During the fourth decade of the church it was decided to hold English services on some Sundays, with Norwegian services in the evening. It was during this decade that a Men's Club was organized in 1923.
In the fifth decade the annual meeting minutes of Jan. 3, 1931, were recorded in English for the first time and the name of the church was changed from "Bethania Skandinavisk Evangelisk Luthereske Menighed to Bethany Lutheran Congregation. The church also completed the transition from Norwegian to English in this decade.
Music continued to be a great part of the Bethany worship and in 1939, during the sixth decade, a Hammond electric organ was purchased.
It was with great excitement that a mortgage burning ceremony was held in 1944. The Men's Club had also paid off the improvement tax so Bethany was debt free for a time.
The parsonage needed repair and redecorating so a building fund was started and plans for a new parsonage at Third Street and Seventh Avenue Southeast were accepted. The building was dedicated on Dec. 3, 1950. The old parsonage was then remodeled and was again in use for Sunday school and as an activity center.
Carillon bells were purchased by the Ladies Aid during the seventh decade. The bells were played as people entered and left church on Sundays.
At a special meeting of the congregation on May 25, 1953, the Council and Building Committee were authorized to plan a new parish education unit. The plan was to provide 30 classrooms, a recreation hall and a church office. The new parish unit and remodeled church were dedicated Oct. 2, 1955.
During the eighth decade, in 1959, a new Baldwin electric organ was installed and confirmands were required to sing in the choir. Bethany became known as a "singing church" which it still is today. In 1960 Bethany became one of about a dozen parishes to pioneer the use of a lay assistant to the pastor. In 1964 a Bethany confirmation class went to Metigoshe Bible Camp for special sessions for the first time.
Bethany was having unprecedented growth and by the ninth decade a need for more space was recognized. A 40- by 50-foot addition was built off the existing parish education unit. This provided 400 square feet of classroom space, offices, nursery, choir rooms and a meeting room. The addition was dedicated on Dec. 10, 1966, as a part of Bethany's 80th anniversary celebration.
The membership growth also put a strain on the duties of the pastor resulting in a Letter of Call for a full-time assistant pastor in January 1967.
The year 1978 was filled with action. A 10-year program of mission education and participation was launched. A new Baldwin organ was dedicated and members began participating in the newly organized Norsk Hstfest celebration. The long-term building committee was reactivated and the north and south entrances were remodeled and an elevator installed.
Still going strong
The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the church didn't stunt the activities at Bethany Lutheran.
The first lutefisk dinner was held in 1989, an event that has been well received by the congregation and the Minot community. Handbells have been purchased and there is now a handbell choir that delivers music for worship services and special events. The Workshop Rotation Model (Bible Learning Adventure Stations) were added as a part of the Sunday school in 2004.
The church adopted a new mission statement in 2008 "Alive in Christ; Loved in His Grace; Living to Serve and Proclaim."
As the years have gone by Bethany Lutheran members have continued to serve and grow. They coordinated and helped sponsor the "Feed My Starving Children" project in the Minot community in 2010. They continue to plan and work at the Hstfest, the Breakfast Boys hold fundraising events for various projects within the church and Bethany Quilters produce many pieces of work that are sent to people in need.
Today the church is served by the Revs. Janet Mathistad and Gerald Roise.
"Our anniversary year has been filled with many wonderful blessings, even in spite of the flood which has come as a great disruption to all of us. But we have experienced God's presence in the midst of hardship, and know that just as God sustained us in the first 125 years, he continues to be with us, keeping our mission alive, and allowing us to look into the future with great hope and anticipation," Mathistad said.