Bethany History

The story of Bethany English Lutheran Church began in 1902 when 23 individuals signed the charter roll and selected the name Bethany English Lutheran Church to emphasize that the new church on Cleveland's west side would be an English speaking church. In 1904, the first church building on 89th Street and Willard Avenue was built at a cost of $7200.

A number of pastors served this early church but when Pastor John H. L. Trout was called to serve in 1924, Bethany began a period of rapid growth. Under his leadership, the congregation made the decision to build a new church at its present location at Triskett and Lorain Rds. The new church was built in the traditional Gothic style with magnificent stained glass windows designed by R. Tolan Wright using Chartres blue as the dominant color.  The first worship service and dedication were held in the beautiful new sanctuary on Nov 3, 1929.

Bethany had 302 members and a debt of $80,000. Within 3 months, 100 new Sunday School pupils were enrolled and church membership quadrupled in 20 years. Even with the Stock Market Crash in 1929, Bethany was able to meet its obligations and pay off the first mortgage in 1949, a triumph to the dedicated early members of our church.

As Bethany grew, Christian Education was a priority and it became evident that more classroom space was needed. In 1952, the cornerstone for a Christian Education building was laid and the addition was completed in 1954.

After 36 years of faithful service to Bethany, and overseeing its years of rapid growth and expansion, Pastor Trout retired in 1960.  Pastor J Elmer Leas and Pastor Wilbur G Volker served from 1960-1972 and oversaw further renovations to the church facilities during their time.  In 1973, Pastor John F Uhle, baptized and ordained at Bethany, was called to serve as the next pastor.

Pastor Uhle played a key role in the initiative during the 1970s to form a Lutheran school for the West Park area of Cleveland. Four local Lutheran congregations, Bethany, Holy Cross, Mt Calvary, and Puritas, together formed the West Park Lutheran School (WPLS) in 1981.  Bethany was part of this alliance that provided Christian education for children from kindergarten to 8th grade until 2004. Bethany is also a member of the Cleveland Lutheran High School Association.

Also, in the 1970s, Bethany saw a need to meet the nutritional needs of its elderly and home bound local residents.  A committee of persons from Bethany and the community developed and implemented a home meal delivery program from the church kitchen. West Park Meals on Wheels began delivering meals in 1975 and the program continues today as an active ministry at Bethany.

In the early 1990s members realized that the church needed a place to gather before and after services and to be more welcoming for persons with physical challenges who could not access our sanctuary. The new addition, including a Welcoming Room, elevette, kitchenette, handicap restroom, and a Music Room was completed in 1993.

After the retirement of Pastor Uhle in 1999, Pastor Robert Ferro, Jr accepted the call to be Bethany’s pastor in 2001. That year also marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of Bethany's 100th birthday. Each month featured different activities related to Bethany's life and history. The year concluded with an Anniversary Service of Celebration on July 7, 2002.

In 2004, Bethany purchased the adjoining Mandley-Vetrovsky Funeral Home property and rented it out for several years.  In 2013 the building was demolished to make room for additional parking spaces.  That same year the Rev. Walter Heber retired after serving as Bethany's Visitation Pastor for 20 years.  In 2007 the congregation named both Pastor Uhle and Pastor Heber Pastors Emeriti for their years of faithful service.

In 2013, Pastor Ferro and Pastor Dick Williams of St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church began exploring the possibility of forming a closer relationship between the two congregations.  St. Thomas became the new name for Teutsch Evangelical Lutheran Church which in 1929 rented and held services in Bethany's original building on West 89th St. and Willard Ave.  Teutsch Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded by Transylvanian Saxon immigrants after WWI and after WWII attracted primarily German, Austrian, Romanian and Yugoslavian immigrants.  It was the last Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cleveland to hold German language services.  These early discussions eventually led to the decision to merge the two congregations. Since the merger, Bethany has continued to hold a monthly German language service led by Pastor Susanne Carter.  With a worship service that began at St. Thomas and concluded at Bethany, the merger was celebrated on Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014.

Under Pastor Ferro's leadership since 2001, Bethany English Lutheran Church continues to thrive as a community of faith in the West Park area.