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Bethlehem Lutheran Church: The Church that Faith Built

RVHS Photo: 96.105.17

Nineteen ninety-six marked an important milestone for one of the area’s oldest churches. Bethlehem Lutheran Church celebrated its 90th year. In reviewing the history of the church, major themes and service stood out. Faith strengthened this congregation causing them to persevere in their desire to build the new church at 3818 S Angeline Street. The congregation has served this community in many ways throughout their history in Columbia City.

The German Evangelical Bethlehem Church opened in 1906, with its first services held in a small white church on the corner of 39th Avenue S. and Angeline Street. In 1913 Pastor Paul A. Weiss arrived, serving until 1920. During Pastor Weiss’ years, the name was changed to the German “:Evangelisch Lutherische Bethlehem’s  Germeinde zu Seattle, Washington.” During this period of time the congregation added two English services per month. Later, in 1923, under the leadership of Pastor H. Mau, the congregation agreed to use the English language, while holding one German service. 

Over the next 20 years the congregation grew in many ways. They had three different pastors and added The Ladies Aid and the Dorcas Sewing group in supporting mission work on Papua, New Guinea. 

The growth in the 1940s caused regular traffic jams before and after services. The need for a new, larger church building was evident. Sunday school classes were held in every available space. Pastor L. Myron Lindblom led the congregation from 1944 through 1961, years filled with faith, hope for the future, hard work and dedication to the community.

A new church is built. The three lots west of the parsonage came up for auction at a tax sale. Pastor Lindblom and a local Attorney bid $346 due on the taxes. The auctioneer told the crowd the property was for church purposes and no one bid against them. Architect W.G. Brust drew up plans from a drawing made by Pastor Lindblom. The 90-member congregation planned to construct the basement, using the basement for all services while raising funds to finish the rest of the building.

They had just $4500 in the building fund and a $5000 loan from a couple who attended a church in Puyallup. The ground breaking for the new building took place on an overcast day, February 8th, 1948. Reverend Lindblom, in a 1949 interview, explained why the congregation changed their plans: “Faith did it! We knew that by faith we could go ahead—that funds and materials and labor would come to us.” The funds, materials and labor certainly did come in.

The congregation applied to the Lutheran Brotherhood in Minneapolis for a loan of $16,000 toward the building of the church. When the lower half was near completion, the congregation went back to the Lutheran Brotherhood for another $25,000 to build the interior of the church.

This time the Brotherhood sent their President and other officials to Columbia City to meet with Pastor Lindblom and the members of the congregation.  A letter written in 1996 by Pastor Lindblom states “The head of the loan department was dead set against any further loans. Our men braced them with the question where is your faith?” In the end the president of L.B spoke and said, “I believe in these people1 Let’s give them the loan.” So the church was completed at less than $80.000 and 20,000 hours of volunteer labor. The new building was dedicated December 4, 1949.

In 1954 a new parsonage was built at 4509 S Ferdinand. With the old parsonage providing additional Sunday school space until it was purchased by a member and moved to 43rd Ave S.

The church bought two houses west of the church which were torn down in order to build the Education-Chapel-Office building, dedicated November, 1958.

The 1960’s brought Pastor Morris V. Dalton, his wife, Floy and their four children to the church. During the spring of 1966 Mrs. Dalton led a group of about 25 women in a crafts class. This group made the stained glass windows out of broken glass bottles and colored glass.   


The church responded to community needs, holding community meetings in their classrooms, senior citizen’s daily meals in their fellowship hall and the use of other classrooms for office space for nonprofit organizations. A community food bank opened and the Harriat Hessler Memorial Piano teaching program was started.

The programs continued under the leadership of Pastor Braafladt and Pastor Coffman. Current Pastor, Rev. Joe; F. Ingebritson is also committed to serving the neighborhood.

Thanks to Doris Harshbarger and Pastor Joel Ingebritson for sharing their church’s history with the Rainier Valley Historical Society

Days Gone By

South District Journal 12/23/1996

By Buzz Anderson


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