Faces of Bethlehem is one way to highlight our congregational membership. We hope to show our diversity in order to welcome new members from our community to share in our mission of faith, love and service.
I first came to Bethlehem because it is my local ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) congregation. I stayed because of the vitality I saw in my congregation, especially the congregation's outreach to the wider community.
I was also glad to see diversity among the members. People here reflect their faith in a way they treat one another, encourage one another, face hardships with one another, and the ways they volunteer in the community and reflect their faith in the work they do. It is a community that really does build up one another in faith.
"Bethlehem helps me grow in faith through expected and unexpected ways. Worship, Bible study, and adult education are some of the things that help me grow, but just as important is the witness of the Bethlehem community."
I felt a comforting feeling when I first walked into this church. I thought of the hymn, "Sweet Holy Spirit" which starts, "There's a sweet, sweet spirit in this place..." I felt that sweet spirit on my first visit to Bethlehem. We enjoy Pastor Jennie's sermons. I can always make a connection with her sermons and incidents in my life. The fact that our congregation embraces diversity helps me grow in faith. We sincerely embrace different ethnicities, family structures and cultural backgrounds. I appreciate the fact that our congregation takes our mission statement to grow in faith, and act in love.
"The fact our congregation embraces diversity helps me grow in faith. Our congregation sincerely embraces different ethnicities, family structures, and cultural backgrounds."
I was neither attending nor looking for church. But when I attended a funeral at Bethlehem, as soon as I knelt to pray I felt like I had "come home." Because I had been away for so long, at firstI felt guilty to be coming and hearing that God still loved, and had always loved, me. Bethlehem's focus on God's grace has kept me coming back, instead of making me feel guilty for having been away. That I do not need to earn God's forgiveness, that He had never abandoned me and, in fact, has continued to love me in spite of my stubborn, solitary journey has brought me great peace and serenity.
"I feel our church walks the talk. We don't just listen on Sunday morning about what we should be doing for the poor and those less fortunate. We actively try to do something about it."
After we moved to Beverly and brought home our son, we knew we wanted to join a faith community to root our child's upbringing in faith. We sought a church that would fully accept our family. We believe that in order to grow in faith we need to expose ourselves to a diverse group of people who have different experiences and viewpoints; we wanted to be part of a community which encourages critical thinking about the world around us. During our time at Bethlehem we've learned about the peace center initiatives and more about the social justice aspect of our faith. We think more deeply about our actions and about those around us, which is one way we have been spiritually nourished at Bethlehem.
"Our very first visit led us to come back because the community was welcoming without being overbearing. We felt fully-embraced and comfortable in the diversity of the congregation and we connected with the sermon"
--Herb, Patrick and Miles