In 1894, Norwegian immigrants and Norwegian-Americans, young and old, working class and professionals both, came together to worship for the first time in a rented room on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. Industrialization and immigration brought new people to the city as a new century beckoned. Amidst this societal change, the first members of Bethlehem Lutheran found hope and renewal in God’s grace. In the name of Christ, they went on to help form Fairview Hospital and the Ebenezer Society. Their language changed from Norwegian to English. Their gathering place became Lyndale Avenue near Lake Harriet.
In 1953, another group of Lutherans began gathering farther west in Minnetonka, as the Twin Cities exploded outward amidst the post-war boom. The stained glass windows of a farm house became those of Minnetonka Lutheran Church. Young people, many with growing families, worshiped together. Children were baptized and grew up together. They served in their community, resettled refugees and sponsored missionaries. Minnetonka Lutheran embraced the language of the arts, spirited sacred music, disciplined study and faithful service to communicate the Gospel from Minnetonka Boulevard.
Sixty years passed as these congregations increasingly reached across the Twin Cities, launching and supporting new communities of faith like Spirit Garage and Jacob’s Well, and other groups doing good work, like ZOOM House and Families Moving Forward. They embraced their mission to help their brothers and sisters in Christ across the world. They sought new ways to tell their story, launching newsletters, then websites, then Facebook. Both communities have held one another in dark days, finding solace and hope in the joyful singing of the great hymns of faith, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and “Beautiful Savior.”
Now God has brought these two congregations together to continue God’s work for decades to come. Two campuses, rooted in their communities, working as one to be sent out with the Holy Spirit to change lives throughout the Twin Cities and around the world. We’re still getting to know each other, forming new friendships and learning about the gifts we all have to accomplish our shared purpose. That will take time, but we’ll be stronger for it. Former Bethlehem Pastor Olin Reigstad, who guided our church through the Great Depression and World War II, said, “If we can see a little farther, it is because we stand on the scaffold built by others.” We stand on the scaffold built by the members of Bethlehem and Minnetonka. Now God calls us to build a framework for Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities so we can proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ for generations to come. Thanks be to God!