Bethlehem Evangelical Free Church

In 1907, Rev. H.F. Josephson began to hold Sunday evening services in the Bateman Hall above the Bateman Drug Store.  About that time the Saron Evangelical Free Church started a branch Sunday School in the Bateman Hall, which was conducted Sunday afternoons.  R.S. Lunde was the superintendent of the Sunday School.  The Sunday School and the evening services continued in this hall until 1909 when the Saron Church purchased the electrical building for a reading room.  The Sunday School and Sunday evening services were then conducted in the reading room, which became known as the Mission Hall.  The former electrical building is now used for apartments, and is across the street, east, from the grade school.

During this time a number of people were meeting in homes for a mid-week service and several women were active in mission aid work.  Rev. Josephson left Cooperstown in 1916 and Rev. L.R. Lunde of the Saron Church continued to hold services in the Mission Hall Sunday evenings.

In 1920 Rev. Krag Wuflestad organized the "Cooperstown Skandinaviske Missions Forening" and the services continued in the Mission hall for a short time.  April 28, 1920, a resolution was drawn up to organize the Skandinavian Mission Society with Rev. Wuflestad as pastor.  May 10, 1920, the committee met with the organization and gave their report on the constitution, which was accepted.  Thereupon a membership list of the society was made out consisting of nine members.

They were permitted to use the Baptist Church in the fall of 1920 for a series of special meetings.  The building is the oldest church in Cooperstown, and was built in 1887, five years after the city was incorporated.  The inscription on the bell in the tower reads as follows: "Cast by H. Stuckstede and Company, St. Louis, Missouri, 1887, Victor Memorial Baptist Church, Cooperstown, North Dakota."

At a meeting held November 19, 1920, it was resolved that the society inquire of the North Dakota Mission Society about buying the Baptist Church.  February 4, 1921 the chairman reported that on January 19, 1921, the board of the North Dakota Mission Society met with the superintendent of the Baptists in North Dakota and signed the papers to buy the church.  The society bought the building in 1921, and it was named "Bethlehem Evangelical Free Church."  Several changes have been made since; the steeple has been removed, a basement added, and various other changes made to keep up with the times.  An organ was purchased in 1959, a piano in 1963, and a new parsonage was constructed just south of the church in 1952.

In 1922 it was resolved to dissolve the Skandinavian Mission Society and change it to a congregation.  Christ Haaland, Rev. K.P. Wuflestad and Emma Skaar drew up a constitution. 

Charter members were:

Rev. K.P. Wuflestad

R.S. Lunde

Mrs. R.S. Lunde

Mrs. Inga Anderson

Mrs. M.R. Wagle

Miss Hilma Anderson

Mr. and Mrs. Christ Seldal

Mrs. Clarence Lunde

Mr. and Mrs. E.T. Thompson

Miss Emma Skaar

Christian Haaland

Miss Elise Wuflestad

Miss Nora Wuflestad

Miss Carn Wuflestad

Mrs. O.M. Otteson


Early members were:

Mrs. N.P. Nelson

Miss Emma Dahlbom

Ole Herigstad

Elise Roisland.

The congregation was incorporated February 28, 1929 and until 1931 Bethlehem Evangelical Free Church shared Pastors Larson and Mars with the Swedish Mission Church west of Cooperstown.  In 1931, the Swedish Mission Church voted to affiliate with Bethlehem Church.  Their church was sold to the Methodists at Sutton.

In 1949 the congregation voted to join the Evangelical Free Church Association and February 14, 1955, voted to join the Cooperstown Bible Camp Association when that association was duly organized.

Since 1942 the Christian Fellowship Church shared pastors with Beth'4em Church.  In 1968 Saron Evangelical Free Church Joined Christian Fellowship Church and Bethlehem Evangelical Free Church, making a three-point parish with Howard Matson as pastor.

Pastors who have served Bethlehem were:

Hans F. Josephson 1907-1916
L.R. Lunde 1916-1920
Krag Wuflestad 1921-1926
Arthur W. Larson 1927-1929
Oscar Mars 1930-1932
L.R. Lunde 1933-1937
Roy S. Newlin 1938-1943
Krag Wuflestad 1944-1949
EX. Folden 1949-1951
Arvid E. Nyquist 1952-1955
Carl P. Cornelius 1956-1959
Donald W. Erdman 1960-1963
Richard C. Haglund 1964-1968
Howard C. Matson 1968-1969
S. Kenneth Nelson 1969-1972
Keith L. McNeil 1972-1981

Mr. and Mrs. LaDon Rydberg a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, have accepted the call to serve the three parishes, Bethlehem Saron and Fellowship Churches, to begin in January of 1982.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 150

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