Bethany’s history is a very special one, which began with the arrival of many Swedish and Scandinavian immigrants coming to America in the early 1870’s. They came with letters of transfer from the Lutheran Church of Sweden, but there were no Lutheran churches in the Calumet area of Chicago. Sensing the need, the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran church sent a lay preacher, Mr. C. A. Lanfors to survey the area with the view of establishing a new church. Many meetings were held, and on May 30, 1880, Bethany was organized as the first member of the Illinois Conference of the Augustana Church in the city of Chicago, with 26 charter members. Betania Evangliska Luterska Fosamling (Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church) called its first formal congregational meeting on July 21, 1880. Worship services were conducted in Swedish until 1922. The current church building was completed in 1950, and the first worship was on September 10th.
In the late 1960’s as African Americans and those of the Diaspora began moving into the area, Bethany began reaching out into the neighborhood and surrounding areas welcoming new neighbors. Bethany stabilized but membership declined until the 1990’s when, by the grace of God, the determination of Bethany’s members and Pastors, the commitment to the ministry and a strong sense of African Culture and identity, the church grew again.
In Bethany’s 130+ year history, it has been served by 14 pastors, the first 10 which were of Swedish descent, the Reverends Lydia E. Rivera Kalb, Dr. Emmanuel FY Grantson, Lawrence J. Clark, and presently by Darryl Thompson Powell. Bethany is a Black Lutheran Church which is unashamedly African in descent and unapologetically Lutheran with a dynamic past and even more promising future- a church that is Loving, Welcoming, and Spirit-filled. A Place for Everyone!