Our mission is to be Strong in Faith. Boundless in Love. Bold in Service.
Bethlehem is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, rooted in the Beverly -Morgan Park neighborhood on Chicago's far southwest side. Born through the consolidation of two congregations in 1997, we have a history that extends back to the foundation of our predecessor congregations in 1977 and 1875.
Today we thrive as a flexible, mission-spirited congregation that seeks to put our faith into practice in daily life. Bethlehem values hospitality and genuine care for others. Our worship is at once reverent and comfortable. We value strong preaching that connects the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our lives and world. We read the Bible as God's good news for all.
We value the gifts of people of all ages -- children, elders, young adults, and every stage in between. We strive to be a community that knows how to talk together about important topics in ways that are respectful of all. Bethlehem is a Reconciling in Christ congregation. We welcome into full participation in our life and ministry
- People of all races and ethnic groups
- Families of every kind
- People with differing abilities
- People of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions
The best way to get to know us is to come and see!
Important Worship Service Information:
As we suspend in-person events due to the Covid-19 outbreak, please check for recorded and live streamed worship events on Bethlehem's Facebook page. You do not need to be a member of Facebook to view the services.
We would like to encourage you to join us in gathering virtually for worship this Sunday, July 5, at 9:30 a.m.
Call in worship: Do you know someone who wants to participate in our worship but does not have access to a computer or other streaming device? We have set up a live streaming phone number: 773-932-5545.
People can call the number and listen to the entire service both in real time (at 9:30 Sunday mornings) or after the service is over. People can opt in to have the service call them when worship is starting! Please share this information with friends who might be feeling particularly isolated without internet access at this time.
UPDATE FROM THE TRANSITION COMMITTEE
Prayerfully Working Toward In-Person Worship
Bethlehem's transition committee is faithfully and prayerfully working toward the day when we will be able to return to in-person worship. This committee is carefully considering information and guidance from a variety of trusted sources. They will be making recommendations to the Congregation Council based on their understanding of what is in the best interest of the safety of our worshiping community, as well as the mission of our congregation. Please carefully read the letter below and then take the linked survey to give your input to this important process. Please keep this committee, our Council, and our entire congregation in your prayers.
Dear Bethlehem community:
I am writing on behalf of the church's Transition Team--the church's advisory committee which is providing guidance to the Church Council regarding our eventual transition from remote services back to in-person services--both to keep you apprised of the current situation with respect to the church's operations during the COVD-19 pandemic and to solicit your input regarding your needs and concerns moving forward.
As you are aware, the church has been closed to the public since the initiation of the state's stay-at-home order. Shortly thereafter, the Transition Team was assembled to offer guidance to the Church Council regarding how and when we should re-open. Our decisions are guided by many interests (sometimes competing), including the congregation's spiritual needs, the health and safety of our members, and state and local mandates and guidelines for operations during the ongoing pandemic. Recognizing that our actions impact both our members and the broader community, we decided early on to adhere to all guidelines issued by both Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot.
While our state is currently in Phase 3 of reopening, which generally does not allow for public gatherings of more than ten people, Mayor Lightfoot recently issued guidelines allowing for the resumption of religious services with up to 50 participants. This is in contrast to the state reopening plan which does not generally allow for public gatherings of up to 50 participants until Phase 4, which--assuming all guidelines continue to be met--would not occur until June 26th at the earliest.
Our current plan is to continue to keep the church closed to the public for everything except funerals, continue with virtual Sunday services via Facebook Live and phone streaming, and not even consider resuming in-person services until we enter Phase 4. Our reasons for this are many, with the most significant being that the virus obviously cannot distinguish between religious services and other large public gatherings, and while we are eager to reopen, we prefer to take a more cautious path that ensures we are not unnecessarily putting congregants at risk.
All this being said, we would like to hear your thoughts on reopening. And before we do, I wish to clarify just what in-person services will look like for the foreseeable future in light of current guidelines. First and foremost, the 50-person limit means that we will need congregants to reserve spots ahead of time so that we do not need to turn anybody away. We will need to develop a protocol for health screening, and train volunteers who will do these screenings. Congregants will have to wear masks at all times and remain at least six feet apart from those who are not members of the same household. Entries and exits will be staggered to prevent co-mingling. We anticipate there will be no singing. There will be no gathering before or after the service, and obviously no physical interaction. Communion will only take place with prepackaged bread and wine. We may have to deny entry to high-risk individuals, and we will need assurance that any children who attend are able to stay with their families throughout the service.
I share all of this with you so that we understand that reopening the church, whenever it takes place, will not be a return to normalcy. As has been the case when other public services and businesses reopen, compromises must be made to allow us to operate with minimal risk. We will not reopen until we believe it is safe to do so and have taken all proper steps to comply with current guidelines, but your input can help us to develop an appropriate timeline and know how best to develop a socially-distanced service that works for you. And with that in mind, we would like to know your concerns, your needs, and your preferences as we plan for our eventual reopen. Please take a few minutes to respond to the short survey below. We are here to serve the congregation, and your input will help us do just that. Thank you for your time, and if anybody has any questions they would like to ask or information they would like to share, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com.
In God's service,
Russ Chibe, Transition Committee Chair
Please click the line below to take the survey.
Dear Bethlehem Members and Friends,
In light of the CDC’s recent recommendations regarding gatherings of people in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus, Bethlehem’s Congregation Council has made the difficult decision to suspend all in-person events in our building. This applies to all worship services and to all other church and community events that use our building. The building will only be open to staff.
I want to emphasize that while our building will be closed, our congregation and our ministry remain very much open and active. During this time, we will be putting content online, as well as providing opportunities to pray together through the internet and phone. On Sundays at 9:30 AM, you will find a message and other opportunities to worship “together” through Facebook. Bethlehem’s staff will be updating our social media with content to guide you spiritually through this difficult time. If you are interested in setting up a prayer circle that meets by phone or have other ideas for how we can spiritually support you, please email or call Pastor Jennie (firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-445-7558).
In addition to providing opportunities to worship and pray together, we will continue to reach out to our neighbors, as well as those on the margins. We are delivering food to the food pantry, calling members to assure that everyone has the supplies they need and making pastoral phone calls to those who are hospitalized or otherwise in need. You are encouraged to check in with one another, check in with neighbors who might need a hand with grocery shopping or sharing supplies. If you or someone you know is in need of help picking up medications and supplies or have other needs during this time, please do not hesitate to contact Pastor Jennie or Susan Evans in the church office (773-445-7558).
We also can continue our advocacy work, calling on our representatives to approve emergency aid packages that benefit workers, health care providers, the vulnerable, and those already living on the edge (see the ELCA’s advocacy page for an action you can take today.) Let’s look for ways to support local businesses that are impacted by this stoppage. And we will be in touch with local services for those who are homeless for practical ways we can help that already vulnerable population.
Please know that you continue in our prayers as each of us navigates the many challenges that are to come from these “interesting times.” We welcome your prayers as we face unprecedented decisions and challenges. And perhaps we all do well to heed the words of Jesus, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). We turn to God in these times of worry and uncertainty, trusting in God’s abundant love and steadfast mercy.
Pastor Jennie and the Congregation Council
Members who normally contribute to our budget are encouraged to please continue to do so either by mailing a check to the church office or by making an on-line contribution. Detailed instructions on how to do this, follow below.
At the upper right corner of the home page is the word Donate. Click that and scroll down on the next page to the words MAKE A DONATION and click that. Scroll down again and it leads to a series of blue boxes with a range of amounts from $10 to $500 or a box where you can type in your own amount. Click one of these boxes and you are given a credit card option where you can type in your name, card number, expiration date, and CVV2 ( the security number from the back of your card), and your billing information (the envelope number is optional). Finally click the blue option that reads Make a Donation.
You may also see a tutorial video on on-line giving by clicking this link.
Click here for this month's calendar.
Pastor Jennie began her ministry at Bethlehem in 2008. She is a passionate preacher, a committed teacher, and loves watching people use their God-given gifts at Bethlehem and in the world. A native of the northwest side of Chicago, she enjoys living in Beverly with her husband and their young daughter. She served her first call in Grand Forks, North Dakota, for almost 7 years. She is a graduate of Luther Seminary (M.Div.) and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (Th.M. in Old Testament), as well as Gustavus Adolphus College. She enjoys gardening, reading, running, live music, and spending time with family and friends.
Contact Pastor Jennie at Pastor@bethlehem-chicago.org
DIRECTOR OF MUSIC
David has served as Bethlehem's organist since 2011. In 2013 he became the Director of Music. David seeks to enhance the congregation's worship experience each week through music. Working with the Pastor and the worship committee, he selects hymns and songs from a variety of different traditions and cultures. He directs the choir, which not only provides a musical offering most weeks, but also helps to lead the assembly’s singing and worship. He enjoys working with other musicians in the congregation whenever possible.
David is a lifelong Lutheran with 45 years of experience as a church musician. He has served congregations of various denominations in the Midwest and southeast and is a graduate of Indiana University (MMus) and Valparaiso University. He is also a full time CPA and enjoys singing in the Apollo Chorus of Chicago.
Susan Evans has worked as Bethlehem's faithful office manager nearly since the start of the consolidated congregation. Hers is the friendly voice you hear when you call the church office. She manages the congregation's communication via the weekly worship bulletin, monthly newsletter, regular email blasts and more. She keeps everything at Bethlehem running smoothly.
Contact Susan at email@example.com
We're glad you found us! Below are some questions we often get from visitors and newcomers, along with our responses. If you have other questions or need information you cannot find on our site, please call or send us an email. We'd love to hear from you and hope to see you soon!
Do I have to be a Lutheran to attend services?
Nope. We welcome visitors from all faith backgrounds, as well as visitors who don't currently subscribe to any particular religious faith and just want to hear and know more about the Christian faith. Even our members come from very diverse religious (and non-religious) backgrounds.
How should I dress for Sunday services?
Be yourself – be comfortable. You will see worshipers in anything from jeans to their "Sunday Best".
Should visitors or newcomers participate in communion?
It is up to each individual worshiper. We practice open communion every Sunday, welcoming all who believe in Jesus to join in communion at the Lord's table. This includes welcoming children of all ages at the table.
Am I expected to put something in the offering plate?
We do not expect visitors to contribute an offering. Offerings are given of free will and are not considered payment for attending services.
Can I bring small children to Sunday services?
Please do! Many families with small children regularly worship together in the sanctuary during Sunday services. If you prefer, children 4 and under may spend service time comfortable and well-supervised in the nursery. Little ones typically return for the Children's Sermon and join their parents for communion. The nursery is attended during the service and is available to you and your child at any time.
I have many questions about religion and what spiritual path is right for me. How do I find answers to these questions?
Questions and the discourse they provoke are important parts of helping each of us define who we are and what choices to make. Our Pastor would welcome your call or email to discuss your questions and offer spiritual guidance. Click on the "Contact Us" section of this site for Pastor Jennie's contact information. You may also find that attending services and joining one of our small discussion/study groups will bring the clarity you seek. Whether it's one-on-one with our Pastor, within a small group, or just between you and God...keep asking those questions!
Click here for Mapquest Driving Directions to help you find your way from home to our neighborhood. Please use our driving directions below and refer to the dashed red lines on the map to the right for the most direct route to the church once you are in the neighborhood. Our directions (and map) consider one way streets, dead ends and traffic barriers which mapquest does not.
Most Direct Route
From Western Avenue: East on 91st St., then right (south) on Oakley Ave. 3 blocks to the church which is on the south east corner of 94th and Oakley.
Street parking is permitted without restriction in our neighborhood.
Our building is handicap accessible. A wheelchair ramp is located at the Oakley worship entrance.