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Bethlehem Congregation

2225-31 Indiandale Avenue

The Betlehem congregation is undoubtedly the youngest of the Finnish Lutheran congregations in Detroit. One wonders whether such a "young" church has any place in a 250th birthday celebration. To justify our place in this booklet which deals with the history of various Finnish organizations, cultural and religious, we state that our church was founded by older Finnish people and its membership is still to a great extent made up of those of Finnish ectraction. In fact, our oldest members, of which a score are in the 70-90 agegroup, were among the founders of Finnish Lutheranism in Detroit and in the United States.

The Betlehem congregation was officially organized March 14, 1937. A large group of Finnish people were without any church affiliation and decided to organize a new congregation. Pastor J. W. Heikkinen was called to be the first pastor. An independent Lutheran congregation had lots at 2225-2231 Indiandale Avenue. The new Betlehem congregation acquired the property on which the church edifice now stands. The church building was completed in 1938. Pastor Heikkinen served the church until May, 1946. He saw the church through the period of its greatest growth. He had youth, energy and vision to build a church that would served all the Finnish people. The growth of the congregation during these years was phenomenal. The church building was debt-free in five years. The congregation grew to a baptized membership of over 1,000. Pastor Eino Tuori arrived in October, 1946 to take over the pastorate in the church. The number of children baptized and the young people married in Betlehem has been tremendous. There is nothing in the history of Finnish Lutheranism that parallels this. Thus Betlehem, though a young church, has made a great impact upon the spiritual life of Detroit in its ministry to young people.

The roots of Betlehem reach farther than the year 1937. Of our present members several were present in 1914 when the first Finnish Lutheran congregation was organized. This new congregation became affiliated with the Suomi Synod in 1917 and was incorporated in 1917. This portion of the history belongs to another Finnish congregation to relate in this booklet. We simply state here that until 1937 many of the present members of Betlehem were associates closely with that work which began here in 1914.

Published in the Finnish Album to Commemorate Detroit's 250th birthday. Detroit, Michigan 1951, p. 6.

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