Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church
Bethany Ev. Lutheran Church was started in the early part of 1953 through the leadership of Rev. Otto Eckert, Pastor of St. Paul's in Saginaw. It was his mission to have a sister congregation located out of Saginaw and in the surrounding township. A small group of individuals gathered to create the new congregation. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) assigned a pastor to be the shepherd of this group. This was Rev. Paul Wilde. He and his wife lived in the dorms at Michigan Lutheran Seminary for a short time.
First Annual Tailgate Party, October 2012
In the fall of 1953 a piece of property was purchased on State Street near Center Road (roughly where the Taco Bell now stands). That property had an old house in much need of repair. Members pitched in to do the needed work clearing out the old brush and other trash the time had gathered. A plan for a church building was sought. Through the leadership of Robert Kaschinske (Uncle Rope), it was suggested we copy the plan of a church in Bay City; namely Mt Olive Ev. Lutheran Church. It was built by the Engelhart Construction Company and the right to use the plan was purchased from them for $500.00.
A constitution and by-laws for the church were signed on October 31, 1954. It was now officially a church and ready to start on a building program. in the meantime, Bethany had been holding church services on the stage at Michigan Lutheran Seminary. This was both before and after the creation of the constitution and by-laws. The building was completed on State Street in 1956. In 1960 Pastor Wilde accepted a call elsewhere and Rev. Victor Thierfelder became the new pastor of Bethany. It was also decided that the area was becoming too busy and congested for a church so they started to look for property elsewhere to build.
A 10-acre plot of land was found to be suitable on the corner of McCarty and Center roads where the church still stands today. During the building process it was back to using the stage at MLS for services again until the new church and parsonage were completed in 1966. A day school was started sometime later (1969 or 1970). Pastor Thierfelder accepted a call to Florida around that time as well and Pastor Otto Drevlow took over. Rhoda Felck was the first teacher at the one room school. Shortly thereafter the school expanded to two classrooms and a principal's office was added. In the late 1970's David Paustian became the principal and first male teacher at the school. The school had grown to over 50 students at this time.
Pastor Drevlow left Bethany and Rev. Lynn Schroeder took over until he retired in 2004 and moved to California. A teacherage was added to the property around 1985 when Mr Wayne Foelske took over as the new principal and upper grades teacher at Bethany. Near the turn of the century he took a call elsewhere and Mr. Doug Stellick moved in to become principal and upper grades teacher. Even before the rest of the nation felt the Great Recession of 2008, our congregation was feeling the burden of stretched resources. Due to the economic downturn and a downturn in school enrollment, it was decided to close the grade school in 2006.
First Annual Bible Soccer Camp, July 2012
However, the members of Bethany wisely decided to keep the preschool operating. Mrs. Penny Lecker remained as our preschool teacher and also became the preschool administrator. And our preschool was blessed to withstood the Great Recession when early childhood ministries of other churches unfortunately did not.
After Pastor Schroeder retired, Rev. Timothy Kolb was called and led the members of Bethany from 2005 until 2010 when he accepted a call to Alaska. During the pastoral vacancy that ensued, the members of Bethany consulted with the District President to analyze the needs of the congregation and the future of the ministry. As a part of this process, the congregation placed a call to Pastor Mike Nitz who had started a mission church in Arizona. Pastor Nitz accepted the call and was installed as Bethany's newest pastor on August 28, 2011. And what Luther taught from his study of scripture began to reveal itself at Bethany: that God frequently empties those he loves because he intends to fill them with blessings to accomplish his plans and purposes.
Whether in 1953 under the direction of Rev. Eckert or today under the current direction of Pastor Nitz, blessings have been and continue to be showered upon our congregation not because we have earned or deserved it (to quote Luther)... but only because the same Savior who ascended into heaven near a Bethany on a far-away continent, in a long-ago century, is the same Savior raising his hands of blessing over our congregation today.
Please visit us to see for yourself the blessings that Jesus is pouring out at Bethany from his cross-scarred hands. You can even begin the adventure right now by enjoying some glimpses in our Photo Gallery.