From the ELCA Archives a microfiche copy of the ELC Board of Home Mission minutes 1949
Bethany Lutheran Church -An article from The Red Lake County Historical Society
The building which was formerly Bethany Lutheran Church is located on the north end of Main Street in Red Lake Falls. It has a rather interesting background as does the congregation itself. Mr. and Mrs. Al Hanson purchased it from the church in 1967 and have remodeled it into a charming home. They have utilized the basic structure. This building was originally built for a church by a few Norwegian Lutherans in the year of 1904. IT was built on the Clearwater River bank just east of the Great Northern depot and a little to the south. However, there were only a few families and as they were unable to maintain a pastor, the services were discontinued after a short time. THe building was then used for basketball games and as a warehouse. In August of 1931, it was leased to the newly organized “First American Lutheran Church” and purchased by them in November of 1932. During this time, the few families that compromised the congregation were served by Pastor E. E. Domke who lived in Crookston and was pastor of St. Paul’s American Lutheran CHurch there. In November, 1934, the building was moved to its present location where the congregation added the basement, chancel and narthex. The little congregation worked hard and faithfully for the following fourteen years. It was quite a surprise to them when in May, 1948, they were informed at their morning worship that it was the last service to be conducted by the American Lutheran Church. The district president felt that sufficient time had elapsed without appreciable growth to warrant continuing services. The little group had a determination, however, and the total of 16 adults decided to contact Dr. Fjelstad of the Evangelical Lutheran Church to seek its support. A survey conducted of potential ELC members and this report was favorable enough for the ELC, with the aid of its Home Mission Department, to begin work here just one month after the last service of the ALC. Rev. G. S. Thompson of Thief River Falls was hired to conduct services every other Sunday at 8 p.m. This was generally the pattern of services until the summer of 1950 when Mr. David Vaaler was hired to work in their midst as student pastor. In November of that year, Rev. O. L. Bolstad, a retired pastor, joined the group. Also that year, the congregation adopted the name Bethany. Rev. Bolstad remained with the congregation “temporarily” until July, 1952, and Ernest Stadum, a junior at Concordia College, spent the summer month here. In January of 1954, the Home Mission Department loaned Bethany congregation the money with which to purchase the present parsonage. Rev. and Mrs. J. M. Runestad arrived in February and the first resident pastor was installed on February 21, 1954. An almost seemingly impossible feat had been accomplished by a few! After just three short months of service here, Pastor Runestad passed away suddenly of a heart attack and once again the congregation was perplexed. However, Dr. A. E. Hanson, the District President at the time, had a special fondness for the group and secured a young Concordia student and his bride, Larry Dahlstrom and Connie, to serve for the summer. In October of that year, Rev. and Mrs. A. E. Berg came to serve the group. Members were added more quickly now and REv. Berg’s slogan “55 members to be added in ‘55”, became a reality. The congregation was blessed by his continued service until May of 1961, which incidentally, also marked his “50 years of service in the ministry”. Rev. Clinton Erickson was the resident pastor from July, 1961, until July, 1964, and the congregation continued adding members. March 1, 1965, Rev. James Boyd and his family moved here and joined the group. It was during his leadership that a new church was built on the east end of Red Lake Falls on Highway 32. It was constructed on a triangular piece of ground donated by George and Lenore Johnson. The church is built in the shape of a Greek cross. Paul Peterson, whose home was built just north of the church, donated and planted the trees and shrubs on the point just east of the church, adding much to the beauty of the location. Pastor Boyd and his family left December 31, 1968, to serve a parish in Menahga. In June, 1969, Pastor Roy Seger and his wife, Mary, and daughter, Meredith, moved into Bethany’s parsonage, following his graduation from the seminary. Some time later, they adopted a son, Michael. The Segers were with us for six years and during that time became an integral part of the community and church. In September, 1974, Pastor Seger and his family left Bethany to accept a call to the mission field in Bogota, Colombia. Presently serving Bethany is Pastor David Putz. He and his wife, Erike, and daughter, Rachel, came here on January 1, 1975, from serving a parish in Gatzke. Bethany has continued its growth over the years and presently there are approximately 80 families worshiping there.
From the Northern Minnesota District of the American Lutheran Church (around 1987) Courtesy of the ELCA churchwide Archives.