Welcome to our 100th Anniversary year here at Bethesda Lutheran Church of Malmo! For all who are or have been part of this community of faith, we give thanks to God for reaching this milestone together. This year continues to be a wonderful time to celebrate, to look back and recall fond memories, and to also look ahead and envision what God may have in store for our community of faith on into the future.
Bethesda’s roots stretch back to 1914 when a group of women in the Malmo area gathered to form a Sewing Society, and as they met, they shared a common desire for a church where they could worship in their Lutheran faith as they had back in Sweden. As the Holy Spirit worked through these women and their families, they began to regularly meet and worship in the homes of members, the local schoolhouse, and other places as needed. Throughout the years, Bethesda has been blessed by the many gifts of our women, both from the modern-day WELCA group and individuals like Irene Long.
By 1919, these families formed the Bethesda Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, holding services twice a month. It took 10 years for construction to begin on a church building, and the church would indeed be a work in progress for years afterward. The first services were held while the building was little more than rafters and a rough floor. Proper windows and an organ wouldn’t be added until 1930, pews in 1941, and finally an electric line from the nearby Lundquist store a few years later. In time, of course, the congregation would build a new church, and it would see its own set of additions and renovations.
We often hear pastors reminding their congregations that a church is more than a building–that the presence and mission of God doesn’t just exist within its walls. We may take comfort in the stability of buildings and the way that those buildings contain physical reminders of so many of the powerful experiences of our lives, but a faith community is not just a matter of where we gather but how God sends us out. But buildings can offer powerful symbolism for a life of faith.
A centennial is a great time to step back to get that historical bird’s eye view of our church. Not just to reminisce and over-indulge ourselves in nostalgia but to also notice how God has guided our community of faith along the way. Our life as a community of faith continues to be a work in progress as well–bits and pieces added and changed over time and guided by the Spirit in a path that takes more twists and turns than we usually remember or realize.
It isn’t hard to notice the physical changes, years of work that property committees have sweated and fussed over, and it isn’t too difficult to see how new prayers and hymns have become a part of our worship. But perhaps more than any of this, we notice the people. We think of all the lives that truly make and HAVE made up the congregation of Bethesda Lutheran Church.
This community of faith has been a welcoming home to many over the past century. We have shared together births and confirmations and weddings and funerals. We are a church used to greeting new faces, and so, whether you live here all year round or just when the fish are biting, we delight in forging new friendships, sharing a meal, and joining together in worship.
We aren’t perfect nor a finished product–to quote from the service for Evening Prayer: “O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us.” A church which hopes to last another 100 years must keep its eyes, ears, and hearts open for where God may be calling it next.
And so we keep all this in mind as we also remember to have fun! We have already experimented with some great new events – such as a game night and a movie night. We hosted a community Halloween party last year. We also engage in a variety of outreach efforts, including packing food for Feed My Starving Children and supporting local food banks. This year our big centennial celebration will culminate on Sunday, Aug. 11, as we gather for a time of worship, music, and all kinds of fun activities.
Bethesda Lutheran Church of Malmo