bethesda lutheran church history

Bethesda Lutheran Church History

Bethesda’s first Pastor, the Rev. P.L.C. Hansen from Bethany Lutheran in Portland, acquired an option to buy 1280 acres of farmland at $18 an acre in the area just west of Eugene between West Lawn Cemetery, east to Bertelsen Road and north to Barger Drive.

Ten Danish families from Iowa and Nebraska were encouraged to come to Oregon to establish farms. They were sorely disappointed to find the land in the Amazon drainage to be solid clay and swampy. But they eventually made the land arable enough to raise dairy cattle and poultry.


On December 15, 1900, Bethesda Lutheran Church was established with twelve elders: Morten Nelson, N.H. Holm, Jens Bertelsen, Marcus Jessen, Knud Hendriksen, Peter Julius Hansen, J. C. Christensen, Anton Arildsen, Soren Madsen, Niels Johansen, Jens P. Olsen and Henry Petersen. The congregation united with the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1901 and Pastor Hansen was officially called to serve the congregation. Pastor Hansen donated three acres of land on Danebo Road in order to build a church. J.P. Olsen was contracted to build it for $1450.00. This property is currently the West Lawn Cemetery.

By 1908, Pastor P.O. Thoreby encouraged the congregation to move their building to a more favorable location to the Elmira Highway (now Royal Avenue). By 1914, the dairy farmers of Danebo organized the Eugene Farmer’s Creamery. Pastor Thoreby’s leadership led to the establishing of Emmaus Lutheran Church on West 1st Street.

unbroken threads

The Rev. A.S. Nielsen was called to serve Bethesda in 1916. He spoke both Danish and English, leading to a gradual change to English by 1920. Together, Bethesda and Emmaus installed the Rev. Samuel J. Hansen in 1926.

By 1929, Pastor Hansen resigned his call and was called back into service as full-time pastor at Bethesda. He served until 1940.

Pastor Ingward Olsen and his family came to Bethesda in 1940 to serve until 1958. Almost immediately, a new church building was built, dedicated in 1942. The old church was torn down after completion. In 1949, the present parsonage was built. During the 1940’s a Memorial Park was dedicated. By the 1950’s a Parish Hall and Sunday School were added to the church plant.

Outreach and Mission

By the 1950’s Bethesda’s outreach and mission reached into the local area and around the world. The congregation was well organized and hosted many community events and district conventions. Luther League (young people’s organization) was the place many met in fellowship and eventually married.

In 1960, the Rev. H. Milton Peterson arrived. His first intern pastor from Wartburg Seminary was William Lawson, who serves today as Bethesda’s visitation pastor during the winter months. During his tenure, he supervised 10 interns. A kindergarten was established in 1964. The current worship schedule of 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. with the education hour at 9:45 began.

In the 1970’s Bethesda was served by Pastor Louis Brunner, and Associate Pastor Bruce Engebretson. These years were marked by extensive growth and expansion of congregational ministries. The 1980’s were years of transition. Pastors Ralph Ablin, Rory Scott and Robert Moylan came and went in succession.

Judy Jernberg, Associate in Ministry was called in 1986, followed by the Rev. Troy L. Mooneyham in 1988 and the Rev. Ralf Kalms in 1989. This team served for 18 years, a time of blessing and stability.


By 1994, a new Entry Way, office and education building were completed and by 1999 the Sanctuary was turned around and remodeled. A third worship service was added and the children and youth ministry was expanded. The 100th Anniversary Celebration in 2000 was a grand series of events.

We are now served by the co-pastor team of Pastor Steven Dow, Pastor Sarah Schaffner, and Pastor Thomas Welch. Learn more about our Pastors.

Once a small, rural farming community, Danebo is now a residential and industrial area annexed to the city in 1964. A member of Bethesda has served on the Bethel School District Board since 1948. Danebo School was next door to the church until the Beltline was constructed.

Contact Us

Office Hours
Monday- Thursday 9am-1pm


4445 Royal Avenue
Eugene, OR 97402

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