After 102 Years Is It Time for a New Sanctuary?

Bethlehem was 116 years old on June 22. The first services were held in a home on Hennepin Island and then in a room over the National Exchange Bank on the corner of Nicollet Avenue and 2nd Street. The first pastor, John Ring, came January 31, 1872.

In March, 1872 the people voted to build. They bought a lot at 6th Street and 12th Avenue for $1,000. A building (32 by 60 ft.) was constructed for $4,000, and dedicated in March, 1874, debt-free. Within a decade a 36 by 48 ft. extension was added to handle the growth.

At noon, Monday, March 16, 1885, the building went up in flames. In May, 1885, the Second Congregational Church at 8th Street and 13th Avenue South sold its building to Bethlehem for $13,500. That’s where we are now. In 1914 the extension west of our sanctuary was added.

In late 1954 Dr. Wilford Widen took charge of the plan to build an educational building—“Building a building for the building of lives.” The project was completed in 1956 at a cost of $525,100. Professional fund raisers were used to gather in the money.

Bethlehem has lived with this building complex for 32 years. We have worshipped in the same sanctuary for 102 years. Now the Long Range Planning Committee is proposing that it is time to build a new sanctuary.

The proposal has six parts.

  1. Purchase and remodel 1121 S. 7th St. for CE space and Parking.
  2. Build a new sanctuary (with 1125 seats for people who are 24 inches wide).
  3. Limit the budget of this project to $3-3.5 million.
  4. Raise $1 million cash and $2 million pledges before construction.
  5. Use Nehemiah Ministries to help raise the funds.
  6. Form the necessary committees to implement this plan.

The pastoral staff has recommended to the deacons that the discussion and vote on this matter be separated from the regular quarterly business on Thursday, Oct. 22 because there is too much to do in one evening, and because we would like to devote a shortened evening service on Oct. 25 as a prelude and preparation for this discussion that evening.

We will let you know when the vote will take place as soon as the deacons have acted on our recommendation.

Ready to take the next historic step with you,

Pastor John

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