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The Bethel Baptist Church has undergone many changes like so many others, but the Master of the Church, Jesus Christ, has never changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and for
ever. By his power the Church was born. By His power members are added. Growth and inspiration is by Him. To Him be glory for ever!
Organized in 1904 by fourteen charter members, it first was named THE FINNISH BAPTIST CHURCH. Later that name was changed to THE SWEDISH FINNISH BAPTIST CHURCH, and in 1929 it became known as the BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH.
Seven pastors have served the church with a few interim pastors in between:
Edward Fleming, 1903-1906
Andrew J. Stormans 1906-10
Isak Berg, 1910-1911
Matts Esselstrom, 1911-1926
Herman Mattson, Int. 1927
Isak Berg, 1928-1935
Rev. Alden, Int. 1935
Andrew J. Stormans, 1936-44
Floyd Ankerberg, 1945-1950
Martin Erikson Int.
James Selander, 1950-1954
Oscar Gunnerfeldt, Int.
James Rentz, 1955 to present
Before the church was organized a local mission society had formed and existed three years previously.
The location of the assembly was first a hall on Orlean Street and Chicago Avenue. From there the church moved to 135 Sedgwick Street. After four years that property was used for other purposes and the membership met at LaSalle Avenue Baptist Church. Some years later the property of the Norwegian Free Church at 5000 West Ohio Street was purchased and served well until 1928, when it became too small. Already in 1927 it was decided to buy and build at 919 N. Lavergne Avenue and Walton Street, where the congregation has since met and added to the building.
During the erection of the church structure, Isak Berg was called as pastor. The heavy debt during the depression years of 1929-31 challenged the church membership to sacrifice and faith. By 1936 when A. J. Stormans became pastor burdens had become less, but it was still an upward struggle.
Under the leadership of Pastors Ankerberg, Selander and Rentz the Church has witnessed a great upswing financially and numerically. In 1950 the membership was 130, at this time it is 275.
The church building has proved too small at many occasions, and the congregation has now a building program going on (foyer and balcony already finished). A pledge is in operation whereby the Church within three years hope to have an educational building finished at the cost of about $80,000.00.
These works are marvelous in our eyes, but considering God's power, these and greater things can be accomplished.
Since four years ago the Bethel Church has financially supported missionaries Herbert and Jean Skoglund in Japan. Beginning in January, 1961, the Church also supports George, Marge and Donna Johnson in their missionary preparation and work in Costa Rica.
Looking into the future in full fellowship with the Baptist General Conference, Bethel anticipates greater victories for Christ within as well as without. He that said, "I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," is also the One who has promised, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
As long as the Church visions the mission fields, white unto harvest, and extends her heart and hands to bring in the lost from home and foreign fields, her Master and Lord delights to give power and inspiration unto her. His "well done" means more than anything else in this world.
Published in Sixty Years of Christian Stewardship 1901-1961. Prepared in commemoration of the Sixtieth anniversary of The Baptist Mission Union of America. 1961, p. 27-29.
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