History

To view Bethlehem's history as a photo essay, click here.

On September 4, 1927, fifteen “hardy souls” signed the church roster as charter members of Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Beaumont.  After a time of meeting at the Woodsmen of the World Hall and in an unused Baptist tabernacle, the growing congregation purchased a residence at 2005 Hazel to use as its worship space and pastor’s living quarters.  Purchased for $5300, the dwelling was a great improvement, although “the tantalizing smell of the pastor’s lunch cooking while he preached was something of a distraction.”
Pastors during the mission/Depression years:  Rev. F. C. H. Scholz, Rev. George Schardt, Seminary interns M. C. G. Heinrich and A. L. Pfennig, Rev. H. A. Knebel, Rev. O. J. Schmidt
This structure housed the growing congregation for its first decade. Worship space was increased to accommodate 75 with the removal of interior partitions.
In 1938 the chapel/parsonage structure was moved to allow room for construction of what is now the chapel at the corner of North and Hazel.
Dedicated Oct. 1, 1938, the first "real church" is now the chapel
In June of 1939, months after the dedication of the new church building, the congregation called Pastor C. A. Woytek.    The Beaumont Journal headline gave an apt introduction to the young minister:  “Latest Addition to Local Ministerial Family Takes Degree, Bride and Pastorate in Memorable Month.”  His ministry at Bethlehem would encompass 37 ½ years of growth and stability.
In January, 1942, the “mission congregation” became a self-supporting church with membership of 150 baptized and 110 confirmed.  In April, Member Richard Hoffman and Pastor Woytek were designated Church Air Raid Wardens in compliance with national wartime preparedness requirements.  A year later a national polio epidemic would prompt the banning of all children under 12 from attending Sunday School.
These years marked much growth in the ministries of the congregation.  The congregation, led by Pastor Woytek, reorganized the youth and men’s organizations, started a Boy Scout troop, conducted adult and youth confirmation classes, and broadcasted worship services over the local radio station KFDM.  Worship was enhanced through the addition of a Baldwin Electronic Organ that replaced the Everett Orgatron pump organ, and the music program expanded.

Member George Langhoff, a craftsman from Germany,
built most of the furnishings seen here.
The prosperity of the postwar years saw Bethlehem’s physical plant undergo considerable expansion. The congregation retired its construction note in April, 1944, and to give the pastor a more private residence (his home was also the meeting space for Sunday school classes and various organizations during the week), purchased a home at 2020 Harrison in November, 1945, to use as parsonage. Debt from the parsonage was retired by the end of 1948, and the growing congregation undertook the construction of an education building adjoining the sanctuary. Ever the good stewards, they sold the original house/church building/parsonage for $1500 and had it moved to make room for the new construction, which was projected to cost $30,000, but, through many generous gifts of material, equipment, and labor, a bank loan of just $15,000 was needed to finance the project.
The church and education buildings were air conditioned in 1953. The education building debt was liquidated early in 1954, and the congregation celebrated by dedicating the art glass window above the altar in the church. Recognizing that church expansion could not be delayed much longer, the congregation voted to purchase the Fiegelson property at the corner of North and Fourth for $30,000. The large, two-story frame home, named Luther Hall, provided much-needed classroom space for the growing Sunday school, although it was drafty and nearly impossible to heat, and teachers had to work to make themselves heard over windows rattling in the winter winds.
Forties-era adult and children's choirs show the enduring
importance of music to the Bethlehem congregation.
The fifties brought nationwide publicity to Bethlehem Lutheran and to Pastor Woytek as the funeral of Babe Didrickson Zaharias was held in the church on September 28, 1956. President Eisenhower began his press conference on September 27 by announcing that the Gold and silver Olympic medalist, “World’s Greatest Woman Athlete,” finally “had to lose this last one of all her battles” in “her gallant fight against cancer.” Pastor Woytek’s sermon expressed that “We are pleased to have the privilege of conducting this service here in our city of Beaumont and in our humble and simple House of God in her memory….We are pleased that she kept the faith in which she was baptized and trained….she also prayed daily.”

The 1960s brought both practical and aesthetic improvements to the facilities of the growing congregation. Groundbreaking for the present worship space and office wing took place in October of 1960, with D. Rex Goode of Beaumont as architect and Herman Weber again serving as contractor. Eight months later, June 18, 1961, the present church was dedicated. Parking problems were alleviated with the purchase in 1963 of a lot to the west of the church. 





A pair of bronze candleholders, angels holding up lights of adoration and praise to Christ who died on the cross and rose victorious from the grave, were sculpted by member David Cargill and donated in 1963 in memory of David’s father.




The pipe organ, donated by Dr. and Mrs. M. E. Suehs and their son Dr. James Suehs, was dedicated September 13, 1964. The only tracker-action pipe organ in the area, the pipes and keyboard were made in Germany, and the organ was built by master organ builder Otto Hoffman of Austin.  Wooden lathe-work creates the mechanical action powering the pipe organ.  A small panel may be removed to reveal the moving wooding lathes to the curious as the organ is played.   Hoffman constructed the organ specifically to complement the contemporary design of the worship space.


 
In subsequent years the church has undergone various facelifts and building projects.  In early 1990 a bell tower was constructed in the courtyard.  Neighbors hear the pealing of the bells each Sunday morning, welcoming all to worship God.  The bell also peals at funerals, tolling once for each year of life.


The free-standing altar was completed and dedicated in 1993.  Sculpted by David Cargill, who was assisted by member Cu Cong Nguyen, the altar legs depict Biblical scenes reminding us of God’s grace, faithfulness, and the promise of salvation. 

An October, 1995, groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the project of architect Charles Thompson to construct a spacious new narthex connecting the sanctuary to the fellowship hall, add an education wing, and renovate the interior and exterior of the fellowship hall (original church). This project created the distinctive entrance seen today on the Fourth Street. A sculpture was added as a focal point on an interior wall.


In 2009 the congregation adopted the mission statement "Blessed by God, we welcome, feed, and love" and renewed their commmitment to remain in the Oaks Historic District.