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Our History

In 2014 Bethlehem celebrated its 100th anniversary, but the beginnings of Bethlehem go back to 1865 when a branch school of Holy Cross Lutheran School, Saginaw, was established at the corner of Hermansau and Shattuck. From 1889 to 1891, Sunday worship services were held at the branch school by Holy Cross Lutheran. After a decade of discussions, in 1910, Holy Cross Lutheran Church voted to buy land for a new mission church in the northern corner of Saginaw.

On March 15, 1914, Holy Cross’s Pastor, The Reverend Herman Speckhard met with forty-four men, mostly members of Holy Cross, at the branch school to organize a new Lutheran Church in Northern Saginaw. The name chosen for the congregation was “The German Evangelical Lutheran Bethlehem Congregation of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession of Northern Saginaw, Michigan.” That's a lot to fit on our letterhead and we are happy to be known now as Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

The congregation began with about 260 communicant members. The branch school became Bethlehem Lutheran School with the organization of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Within the year, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Carrollton, which was organized in 1884, voted to merge with Bethlehem.

Bethlehem’s first church building was started in October, 1914, and was finished by September, 1915. In the summer of that year, Bethlehem called her first pastor, The Reverend Andrew Zeile. Pastor Ziele served Bethlehem until his death in 1960. During his pastorate, Bethlehem grew from a congregation of 350 to one of 2,200. Bethlehem joined the Missouri Synod in 1916. The school grew from 75 students to around 300. A new school building was built in 1959. Pastor Ziele served the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod as District President from 1942-1957. Helping Pastor Zeile were Pastors Lorenz Speckman (1945-1957) and Harold Molzahn (1957-1966).

After Pastor Zeile’s death in 1960, Bethlehem called The Reverend Darrell Lubben. Pastor Lubben led the congregation in the building of the new church building during the years 1978-1980, as well as further additions to the school and church buildings during the years 1987-1994. Pastor Lubben was assisted by Pastors Jerrold Nichols (1966-1971), Theodore Mueller (1971-1979), Mark Barz (1982-1987), Paul Hauser (1988-2000), and Paul McCain (1993-2001). Pastor Lubben retired in 1994.

Bethlehem called The Reverend Charles Buckhahn in 1994 and The Reverend Michael Korte in 2001. They are both currently serving Bethlehem as Associate and Administrative Pastors, respectively. Bethlehem Lutheran Church has 1624 baptized members and 1217 confirmed members. The school has a staff of 10 teachers under the leadership of Principal Nicole Frederick and 140 students.

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