Bethlehem Lutheran Church

The Heart of Bay Ridge
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Sunday Service 10:30am
4th & Ovington Avenues
Brooklyn NY  11209
Rev. Paul H. Knudsen
Pastor Paul's February Message 
Bethlehem Lutheran Church ®  |  4th & Ovington Avenues, Brooklyn NY 11209  |  718.748.9502
A member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

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Dear Members and Friends,

At a recent Board of Directors meeting for Lutheran Services New York Alliance, at the Interchurch Center in Manhattan, I was sitting next to Bishop Rimbo, the bishop of our Metro NY Synod of the ELCA. Bishop Rimbo turned to me and asked how I was doing. I responded, “No complaints, Bishop.” He replied good naturedly, “That’s good, because complaining doesn’t do any good.” My response, “Seriously, Bishop, I really have no complaints.” I am 100% positive, this is not the answer the bishop usually hears.

2017 was a wonderful year at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Last Sunday I compared two Old Testament prophets, Samuel and Jonah. Samuel truly listened to God’s voice and served the Israelites as a righteous judge for many years. He anointed Saul as their 1st king and chose David as his successor. Samuel spent his life listening to God and following God’s direction. Jonah, on the other hand, heard the voice of God and ran away. God told him to go to Ninevah to preach to the people there, but Jonah refused and went in the other direction. That didn’t turn out so well for Jonah.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe Bethlehem Lutheran Church is following in Samuel’s footsteps. We are listening to God’s voice and we are following God’s direction. Our worship services are inspirational and focus on making God’s word come alive for our daily life. Our church is made up of people from many different traditions, yet we come together as one family of God, trying our best to be Jesus’ loving presence in our community and the world. We were sad to say goodbye to our long time organist and choir director, Steve Wilson, but we are truly blessed to have Maria Rayzvasser join us as our new Music Director. Maria is warm and incredibly talented.

Our three main ministries are thriving and serving our community in amazing ways. Our school turned 60 years old in 2017 (along with your aging pastor). LES continues to hold fast to our mission of being a place where we educate each individual child academically, emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually. We are proud of the fact that we can add to this mission statement that we are using innovative teaching methods, with an eye to the most essential and effective movements in education. Our school is extremely well respected in our community.

Our senior center continues to grow and we provide meals to more seniors than ever before in our 41 year history. The biggest challenge continues to be space. We have run out of room for our onsite seniors and we have run out of kitchen space to prepare the over 600 meals we deliver every day. We are hopeful that 2018 brings the promise of a brand new senior center building on our block. Negotiations are currently in process.

Our Healing Center is serving more people than ever before. There are always challenges with respect to public discretionary funding from our local representatives, but Antonia and her staff do an incredible job. Family violence breaks the spirit, but this wonderful ministry helps our clients to become whole again. We minister to children, teens, our clients and seniors. All age groups are affected by violence in relationships and Bethlehem supports this ministry financially, and with very talented members on the Board of Directors. This is work that few churches support, but we have embraced the Healing Center in a powerful way.

Bethlehem’s finances are in good shape. We took in more income than ever before in 2017 and we gave away more money in benevolences than ever before. Both of these go hand in hand. A giving church is a growing church. We responsibly care for our property and are so grateful to those who stay on top of our capital improvement and maintenance projects. We have super volunteers working in our Sunday School, bringing the love of Jesus to more children than I can remember. Our Bethlehem Women’s group is active and strong. Our young people still love to gather and the weekend retreat to Koinonia is always the highlight of the year. We have dedicated leaders on our church council and we can’t say enough about the wonderful way Al Koehler has served as our President during his time on church council.

Last year, in my annual report, I accentuated our need to trust God. We thought we had a strategic plan all set, but God knew better. This year, I encouraged us to listen to God’s voice and follow his direction. If you combine last year’s report and this year’s report, it seems that we are covering all the bases. Listen, follow and trust. At Bethlehem, that’s what we do!

In God’s Service,