Faces of bethlehem

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.

Jan Boden

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."

--Jan B.

The Sims Family

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."

--Jane S.

Jay & Barbara Gyarmathy

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 first I 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."

--Barb G.

Herb, Patrick and Miles

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


We live in the Ashburn community nearby. The birth of our first daughter led us to find a place to call home for our growing family. Once we bought our home, we were looking for a home away from home to worship and found Bethlehem through an online search. Everyone at Bethlehem was and has been so welcoming and friendly. The community is very active and positive. The sermons have a powerful message that keeps us grounded in our faith. Having our children attend Sunday school also helps our family connect.

“Everyone has different responsibilities both at home, work, and other aspects of our lives and the Bethlehem community respects that. The expectation is to be involved if you can, when you can. That feels very supportive.”   

--Miguel L.

Gretchen L. McDowell

I was a member of Good Samaritan Lutheran Church when we joined with Bethlehem to form a new congregation, Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church. At that time, my family and many members of Good Samaritan who joined the new congregation were an important part of my life. We worshipped together and supported each other in good and bad times, and so we continued to do so in our new congregation. At the same time, I have discovered new friends with whom we can worship, work in service, and receive support and love. All of this helps me consider the amazing grace our Lord gives and is so often expressed through our life with those in our congregation. 


I love that the answers to new ideas, or requests for help are almost always yes.  Yes to new ways to reach out to the community, to share our love and service to people beyond our community.  Yes to let people try something new – and find help for them to succeed.  Yes to try changes – Just generally this is a happy place in which to practice my faith, without being afraid someone is going to be critical or negative. 

--Gretchen M.


Maria and greg lewis


Maria and I were led to Bethlehem through the merger with Good Samaritan. 

Our family had been Lutheran for many years prior to that in Washington, D.C. where our sons were born. 

Some of the reasons we stay are the quality of the preaching, the friendliness of the congregation, and the

faithfulness of long-standing relationships. We appreciate the opportunities for Bible study.


--Greg L.




I first came to Bethlehem decades ago when Pastor Peterson paid a visit to us when we had just moved into the neighborhood. He introduced himself, welcomed us to the neighborhood, and said, “If you are looking for a home church, you will always be welcome at Bethlehem.” I appreciate that at Bethlehem, all are welcome, just as you are, and can participate to the level you feel comfortable. Bethlehem is a family in which you are actively and healthily engaged in the well-being of others. 

I meet God here every day and every person.

I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, at the age of 16 went to the seminary; was ordained at 26; was active in various

ministries in the US and in Europe until I was 35, when I married my wife, Agnes. I began my lay life as a teacher in HS District 205 and taught at Thornton, Thornridge, and a founding father of Thornwood High School. During those years, I also taught part time in the local South Suburban junior-college. Sold Franklin Life insurance part time for many years. After I retired from the public schools, I was requested by my Augustinian brothers to finish my work at St. Rita high school as Dean
of Men. I finally retired in 1998. My hobbies are woodworking, making furniture, reading, writing, traveling, but most of my life is centered around Jackie, David, Andrew and Michael families, our nine grandchildren and my beloved Bethlehem.

--Larry P.