The Early History...

The history of Bethel dates back to August 12, 1951 when, at 8 p.m. in the evening, Pastor W. Edward Austin conducted the first service for Bethel Lutheran Church at the Red Toad School House in North East.

A small group of people had decided that it really was time to have a Lutheran church in the North East area. After a few services at the School House, the group moved to the Bethel Methodist Church building. They continued there with the evening services, as Pastor Austin also had two other churches in Harford County to serve. The Red Man's Hall in North East was also used in the beginning. The first confirmation of four students and second confirmation of nine students were held there.

On October 14, 1952, the congregation was incorporated as Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church. The present site was chosen as the future location of the church that same year. Upon reviewing an application in June 1954, the American Lutheran Church admitted Bethel as a member. The next year, a full time minister, Pastor W. Howard Ward, was called and arrived in June. During his pastorate, the congregation started the necessary procedures to build their own church on the present site, which had been purchased in 1952.

Harry Mohn from Pennsylvania was chosen to be the architect and given ideas about the size and shape of the building that was needed. After much discussion and planning, a final set of plans was accepted and sent out for bids. The contractor offering the best bid was William Fox of Elkton, MD. The church was built with a lot of help from the congregation and dedicated to service on July 27, 1958.

Several ministers in the beginning had lived in the small house adjacent to the church, donated to the congregation by Mary Mearns in August 1955. The present parsonage was built by the members of the church under the direction of Albert Harms, a local contractor and member of Bethel. Pastor and Mrs. Sipe Jr. were the first to occupy the new parsonage.

Over the years, Bethel's congregation has been active in all the affairs of the church. Several families contributed early on the beautiful stained glass windows in the sanctuary. Many members also contributed handmade items for the sanctuary. A few larger donations include the pulpit, the lectern, the altar, and the special Christmas candle chandeliers made by Aarne Tarkka. Axel Roslind made the baptismal font still in use for Bethel baptisms. Countless other donations have been received and members have maintained, repaired and built things as necessary. This work continues today. As Pastor Combs wrote in 1966: "…our task is not complete. May we not stand still. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we push on to ever greater tasks and services for Thee. May we keep in mind and work for a greater Bethel to serve and glorify Thee in the years to come."