Click below for a recently made video telling the narrative of Bethany Lutheran along with several reflections from Bethany members.
A previously made short video was assembled for the 2020 Synod Assembly. It can be viewed here.
Bishop Michael Burk of the Southeastern Iowa Synod sent his greetings on our 125th Anniversary. You can view the letter below.
It was October of 1895 when a group of Danish settlers to West Branch formed a small church to become known as the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church and called their first pastor. The first church building was built a year later in 1896 at a cost of $1,200. In 1900 a small building was moved from Yankee Corner next to the church building to be utilized as the parsonage. The current building of the church was constructed in 1917. It was built just south of the first structure using wood from that building. The cost to build was $7,500 plus $550 for the beautiful stained glass windows. Also at this time a second story was added to the parsonage.
The Danish language was utilized into the 1930’s. The native tongue of Danish settlers to the area was a way to provide comfort and stability to those recently arrived immigrants. Also during this decade, the name of the church was switched to Bethany Lutheran Church. The Danish language was used during worship up until 1943. A 50th anniversary celebration was held in 1945. The growing church had a membership of 250 parishioners. In the 50’s many new groups were formed that carried out a variety of ministries.
A major remodel of the church building was completed in 1974, which also added a door on the north side from the parking lot. Then in January 1986 a fire occurred in the bell tower that caused extensive damage. While cleanup and repairs were made worship was held in the high school auditorium. Small groups and other ministries of the church were held in homes and other gathering places within the West Branch community. A handicap accessible ramp was installed on the south side of the nave in 1990.
A 100th anniversary celebration was held in 1995 that welcomed 5 former pastors back to Bethany.
In 2002, after a decade of thought and planning, a large structure was built to the east of the church building. This would become known as the Great Hall and included a fellowship hall, several class rooms and a kitchen. At this time, the downstairs basement of the church building was remodeled to include an office and pastor’s study.
Another happening in the life of the church occurred November 25, 2018 when a blizzard hit the West Branch area making travel on Interstate 80 nearly impossible. Bethany opened its doors to over 50 stranded motorist. Many stayed the night and meals were provided by local restaurants. As a result of this event, Bethany is now a designated Emergency Shelter for Cedar county.
Over the years, many great ministries have been carried out by the people of God at Bethany. Just a few included: quilters group, men’s and women’s Bible studies, annual Cookie Walk, monthly community meals, Vacation Bible School, annual participation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s day of service referred to as God’s work, our Hands Sunday, involvement with prison ministry at the Anamosa State Penitentiary, Hope Chest, Angel Tree, Luther League and many more.
This year, 2020, brought a completely new hurdle in the form of COVID-19. Worship was forced to be streamed online via Facebook as the building remained closed. Outdoor worship was held while the weather allowed as a safer alternative to the dangerous virus. A celebration that included many activities was planned for this year that has been postponed until October 24, 2021. We will be joined by newly installed Bishop Amy Current of the Southeastern Iowa Synod.
Bethany is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which has 9,100 congregations in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. The ELCA has combined membership of 4 million people.
Throughout our 125 year history one thing has remained constant and that is the foundation of the church, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.