The Story of Bethany Lutheran Church in West Branch, Iowa

Long ago, and far away, in a country called Denmark, there lived a small group of people, praying for the freedom to worship and obey God away from government scrutiny and in faithfulness to God’s Word. The people met and prayed and prepared plans to embark on a journey to a new home in a new land, where they believed they could more fully serve their God.

Young and old made the arduous trip over the ocean to a place known as Iowa, in the heartland of the Americas. Immediately upon arriving in 1888 the immigrants began meeting in one another’s homes where they worshiped God and thanked God for God’s faithfulness. They had little money and spoke no English. There had been many hardships along the way, but they were thankful to the God who had brought them safe this far.

In 1896 the tiny congregation formed itself under a constitution declaring itself gathered in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In 1917, the present sanctuary (the second to be constructed) was dedicated. As the seasons and the years passed, God continued to maintain the spirit of that first handful of pilgrims in West Branch. And though they endured world wars, the great depression, tight budgets, scarcity, sorrow, and strife, with times of joy and plenty, their descendents, and others whom God joined with them, continued to be faithful to their God by worship, prayer and ministry to the gospel, following Christ’s example.

The story of Bethany is not the story of a building but the continuing story of the people of God marked with the Cross of Christ at their baptisms, called to do God’s work, be God’s hands, and to speak God’s Word during this short life. Bethany Lutheran is built not just with cement, wood and nails, but with faith and the Holy Spirit, and according to God’s Holy Plan, intentionally leaving Christ-shaped footprints for those to come.