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Bethel Lutheran Church's Rich History makes for a Vibrant Community

By Elisha Neubauer

Just blocks away from the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin sits the Bethel Lutheran Church, a church with a history as rich and vibrant as its culture. Officially formed in 1862, the Church has been active in the community for over 154 years.

While the official formation of the Church is documented as 1862, the organization took its first steps all the way back in 1853. At the time, at the request of several Norwegian-Americans, the Rev. H.A. Preus of Spring Prairie came into town once a month to leap the group in worship.

This was generally hosted in the homes of different individuals within the group, until approximately two years later, when the group had grown large enough to form an official worship group called the Evangelical Church of Madison. The group began utilizing the Grace Episcopal Church's chapel for their services. In 1862, the Evangelical Church of Madison opted to merge with another local Norwegian Lutheran congregation, leading to the eventual building of their first worship center.

Since founding in 1862, the Church has merged with the Augustana Synod, and grown in size exponentially, adding buildings for a parsonage, a Christian Day School, and a chapel on East Washington Avenue at Second Street that was used for Sunday school. In 1896, the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Madison changed its name to Bethel Lutheran Church.

Today, the Church has a booming congregation, particularly a vibrant youth and family ministry. "Junior and Senior high gather regularly for service, social and spiritual activities," explains the Rev. Scott Sorenson. "There is even a monthly worship service called 'Bethel Jr.' designed especially for families with young children."

There is a clear focus placed on the youth of the congregation?with a welcoming children's sermon on Sundays lead by a dragon or a baboon. The children then go into another room for age-appropriate songs, stories, and skits.

To ensure their message reaches all who want to listen, Bethel Lutheran Church has four English-language worship services each weekend, as well as one in Spanish and another in Nepali. Sunday Services are broadcast every week on the ABC affiliate network WKOW at 10am, and are also available on YouTube.

One of the newer programs added to the Bethel Lutheran Church's lineup involves working with the poor and vulnerable of the local community. Started just seven years ago, the Bethel currently hosts a two-day a week day resource center in which homeless or poverty-stricken individuals are welcomed.

"Services provided include a spiritual support group once a week, a book club, computer lab, resume writing, and referrals to appropriate agencies and clothing," says Sorenson. "During the winter months of 2016/2017 Bethel will partner with Catholic Charities to expand service to five days a week."

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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