The History of
Bethlehem Covenant Church
Bethlehem Covenant Church traces its earliest roots back to the home of the Edquists in South Minneapolis, who in 1913 began a Sunday school for children studying at the newly-opened Minnehaha Academy. By 1922, 100 children were enrolled, and worship services were occasionally held in the school’s chapel in connection with the Sunday school.
On December 28, 1922, Bethlehem Covenant Church (named at a subsequent meeting) was organized with 26 charter members. The facilities of Minnehaha’s school chapel and classrooms were made available to the new church.
In 1926, the church purchased property at its current location on 43rd Ave and 32nd St; the Depression, however, postponed building plans until 1941. On April 12, 1942, the congregation joyfully gathered to worship in the new church building for the first time.
In the 1950s, Bethlehem was outgrowing its facilities and so purchased property next door in order to undertake a building expansion program which resulted in the addition of several classrooms and a youth room. The new building was dedicated on April 26, 1959.
In 1982, the Bethlehem Child Care Center was opened in the lower level of the church and has continued to serve neighborhood children with preschool and latchkey programs until the present day. In the same year, a gift from the congregation to celebrate the church’s 60th anniversary made possible the refurbishing of the lower level of the church building and also provided the supplies for installation of a water system at Gemena in Zaire. Since then, Bethlehem members have been involved in short-term mission assignments in Zaire/Congo, Japan, Alaska, Ecuador, Mexico, Chile, Taiwan, and Cameroon. For nearly a decade, Bethlehem members have supported and built a strong partnership with a small church in Puerto Montt, Chile. In addition to sending short-termers, Bethlehem has continued its strong support of missionaries through the programs of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
In the late ’90s, a second expansion to the church building added an elevator, office space, improvements to the Child Care Center’s facilities, and a Community Room. Under the leadership of the five senior pastors and multiple staff who have served the congregation since 1964, Bethlehem has seen new programs and initiatives alongside the preservation of a Sunday morning worship tradition rich in both beauty and substance. In its ninth decade, the church continues to affirm its historic commitment to being an urban church with specific focus on the neighborhood surrounding Bethlehem.