How to Join
Welcome! We’re so happy to have you here.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church is a vibrant, welcoming, dynamic community that would love to include YOU! We’re a group of imperfect and passionate people who come together to encounter God in worship, in one another, and in the world around us.
We are a congregation that shares a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. God’s grace through Jesus Christ gives us the freedom to admit our need for God, as it also frees us to boldly participate in what God is up to in the world. We believe faith should make a difference in how we live our lives, and so our mission is to invite people to become disciples of Christ, to nurture each other’s faith, and to go into the world to live for God.
Even though Bethlehem has been active in ministry for almost 150 years, we are a church that is always being made new. We are deeply rooted in Scripture and Lutheran theology, and it’s through these roots that the Holy Spirit guides and transforms us into a community that is open to growth and change.
We welcome you to join this community of faith regardless of your age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, life experience, or religious background. Whether you’ve been a Lutheran Christian your entire life or are in a place where you’re just beginning to explore becoming part of a faith community, you are welcome here. We believe all people have a unique story that can only add to the richness of our congregation’s story. And, even more importantly, to the story that God is writing in the world.
Interested in learning more, or joining our congregation? Please call the church office at 630-584-2199 so we can set up a meeting! We look forward to hearing from you, and seeing you in church!
Pastor Krista & Deacon Heather
Who We Are
Bethlehem Lutheran Church is a vibrant, intergenerational faith community in St. Charles, IL. We’re made up of around 500 households, and our community includes a variety of religious backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, sexual orientations, and political points of view. Christ’s table is at the center of our communal worship and life––and because Christ welcomes all to the table, all are welcome here! That includes you!
As Lutherans, our foundational belief is that faith is a gift from God that comes to us through the good news of Jesus Christ. God’s wholehearted love for us frees us from living for ourselves; instead, we’re free to wonder, to question, to serve, to forgive, and to join God in healing the world. As a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), we share in a worldwide ministry with about 10,000 other congregations in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We are the church that shares a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.
What We Believe
The Bible is the norm of Christian doctrine and life, and is the only true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged. The Word of God is both law and gospel—it confronts us with our sin, as it also confronts us with the love of God that frees us from sin and frees us for love.
God’s love in Christ knows no bounds; therefore, all are welcome in our church! All ages, spiritual backgrounds, races, sexual orientations and gender identities, people from all walks of life… yes, we really mean all!
We believe that we are saved by the grace of God alone—not by anything we do. And we are set free by God’s love for us to live for something beyond ourselves: to give of what we have, to serve our neighbor, and to work for justice and peace in all the Earth.
Our Vision and Our Culture
We believe we are all called to the work of the church, and so we seek to foster at Bethlehem Lutheran a collaborative culture amongst all leaders and disciples. We feel called to be a church that exists not for ourselves, but for the healing of the world. We serve with joy. We ask big questions. And we meet at a table every week where God welcomes all.
At BLC, we love God (we worship), we love and care for our neighbors, and we love and care for one another.
Our mission is to invite people to become disciples of Christ, to nurture each other’s faith, and to go into the world to live for God.
Frequently Asked ?
Stepping through the doors of a church for the first time can be confusing and intimidating! That’s why we’ve put together a list of common questions and answers that we hope will help you feel comfortable at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and orient you to our life and ministry.
If you didn’t find the answer to your question here, please call us at 630-584-2199 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to help!
What should I wear?
You’ll see a little bit of everything at Bethlehem, from shorts to jeans to suits. Wear what makes you comfortable. Be who you are. We believe God accepts you as you are, not as you are dressed.
Will I have to introduce myself in worship?
We do not ask new attendees to stand up and introduce themselves. In the paper worship guide there is a form that we ask visitors and guests to fill out. You can also provide us with your name and contact information for us to follow up with you by clicking here to sign up to receive emails and/or texts from us. This allows us to follow up with you and welcome you more personally.
Am I expected to put money in the offering plate? And, if I do, where does my money go?
You don’t have to give anything. We believe we are called to give not out of obligation but out of gratitude for the abundance of gifts we’ve been given by God. Every dollar bill is a gift from God and every gift—no matter how small or large—can contribute to God’s mission in the world. If you do share a gift, know that it will be used for God’s work in our congregation, neighborhood, and around the world.
I don’t eat gluten and/or I don’t drink alcohol––do you provide something different during communion?
Yes! We always have gluten-free and alcohol-free options available. Please reach out if you have any further questions or concerns.
Are children welcome? Is there childcare provided during worship services?
Children are very welcome in worship at Bethlehem—we want them to be there! Our Sunday morning services include “children’s time” with one of the rostered leaders and there are also activity bags located at the entrance to our worship spaces to help engage children during services. Currently we do not offer childcare in the nursery.
What does my family need to do to have our baby baptized?
We ask parents to attend a one-time “Welcome to Baptism” class prior to the celebration of baptism. At these classes, you’ll learn about the sacrament of Holy Baptism and the ways in which you as parents or guardians can nurture your child (and yourself) in a life of faith and service to God. Please call or email the church office (email@example.com; 630-584-2199) to sign up for the class and the actual baptism.
Click here for more information on baptism at BLC!
What if I am an adult and wish to be baptized?
That’s great! We will set up a time for you to meet with a pastor to help you begin your joyful journey of faith. Please call or email the church office for more information at 630-584-2199 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I have to be Lutheran to receive communion at Bethlehem?
No! This table is hosted by Jesus Christ, who always broke down barriers and walls between people in order to give us a vision of God’s kingdom, where all are welcome. And so it is our strong conviction at Bethlehem that all people, all ages, all spiritual backgrounds––all are welcome at the table.
What happens at a typical worship service?
Whether you come to our more intimate Saturday evening service, or our Sunday morning service Bethlehem follows the same basic liturgical pattern: gather, word, meal, send.
We celebrate first that God gathers all kinds of people together in this place. Then we listen to God’s Word––a word that comforts and challenges us with the good news of Jesus Christ. We share in the communion meal, and then we send each other into God’s world, equipped to be of service.
We hope you find worship at Bethlehem engaging, spirit-filled, and meaningful.
We are planning our wedding. How do we get started with Bethlehem?
Please contact the church office at least 8 months prior to your desired wedding date to make a reservation and to speak with one of our pastors. You will be asked to attend a premarital workshop and two premarital sessions with one of our pastors. Additional meetings may be necessary depending on your desire for music and other personal touches you wish to have as part of your ceremony. Please call or email the church office for more information at 630-584-2199 / email@example.com.
What are your COVID-19 safety protocols?
We continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC and the Illinois Department of Health. Currently, Kane County is considered a location of “low transmission” and therefore face masks are recommended, but optional. We continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated and boosted. This is the single, most effective way for us to protect ourselves and each other during this pandemic.
If you’re feeling sick and/or exhibiting symptoms, please rest at home and join us for our livestream service (more info below!)
Do you livestream your worship services?
Yes! Please join us on our YouTube page during our 9:30 a.m. Sunday worship service. And if you miss the live service, or you’d like to check out past worship services, search the “Past Livestreams” section on our YouTube page.
A Brief History of Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Bethlehem began as a dream of Swedish immigrants who arrived in St. Charles in 1851. Strangers in a new land with little knowledge of the English language, their first thought was to establish a Lutheran church where they could worship in their own tongue. In 1852, these newcomers obtained a little framed cottage for worship, and Swedish clergymen of various denominations visited them from time to time to conduct services.
In 1853, when a pastor arrived from Sweden to serve both Chicago and St. Charles congregations, he found that the church had been stolen on Easter eve. For the next 29 years, the Swedish Lutherans of St. Charles traveled to Geneva Lutheran Church for worship.
In 1882, the St. Charles families sought and received permission to purchase another church, and the Swedish Evangelical Bethlehem Lutheran Church of the Augustana Synod was born. A parsonage was built and the church building was renovated, including the installation of electric lights in 1900.
Pastor J. Mellander of Elgin, Bethlehem’s fifth pastor, began a program of expansion for the quickly-growing congregation. A church organ was purchased, and the growing membership decided to build a larger building. The cornerstone was laid on Sunday, July 22, 1902, and the first service was held in the church basement in Advent of 1905.
At Bethlehem’s Golden Anniversary Celebration in 1932, the baptized membership totaled 825. In 1950, it was 1,138.
In 1954, Pastor J. David Ekstrom, Bethlehem’s seventh pastor, initiated plans for a new building. The five-acre tract of land on which the current Bethlehem building is built was given to Bethlehem in 1956 by the Norris family. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on March 9, 1958, and the new building was dedicated on September 20, 1959. The social hall was named Ekstrom Hall on September 23, 1965, to honor Pastor Ekstrom on his 75th birthday.
Pastor Arthur Holmer was called to be Bethlehem’s eighth pastor in 1962. He and his family lived in the parsonage right next to Bethlehem. The house is no longer used as a parsonage, and was sold in 2019. Profits from the sale were used on our significant building renovations in 2019.
Pastor Kenneth R. Ahlstrand became Bethlehem’s pastor in 1985. Pastor Jane Kunzie-Brunner joined the pastoral staff as Associate Pastor in 1988 and served until October 2002. Pastor Ahlstrand led the still rapidly-growing congregation through a building program which added much additional space. This new addition was dedicated on May 17, 1992. In 1993, Pastor Robert Schumm joined the Bethlehem staff as Visitation Pastor. Pastors Schumm and Ahlstrand have since retired from Bethlehem, and Pastor Rod Broker became Senior Pastor in February 2001 and served until February 2003.
Pastor Mark Larson was called as Senior Pastor in December 2004, and served in that role until May of 2017.
On February 4, 2007, Bethlehem celebrated its 125th anniversary. Special activities were planned throughout the year to mark this special occasion.
Pastor Sarah Rohde was called to serve as Associate Pastor in 2013, and called to serve as Lead Pastor in December 2019. She served in that role until July of 2022.
Bethlehem called Heather Feltman to serve as Deacon in the role of Director of Church Operations in May 2018.
Bethlehem welcomed Pastor Paisley Le Roy as Associate Pastor in October 2020.
We completed a significant capital improvement project in 2019 to help us fulfill our commitments to accessibility, sustainability, and community-building.
Today, Bethlehem is a congregation of 1,500 members who, together with the rostered leaders, lay staff and many volunteers, help fulfill Bethlehem’s mission of proclaiming the gospel in the world.