After Sunday’s service, Rev. Paul Knudsen, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, set fire to the church’s mortgage, leaving the Bay Ridge institution debt free for the first time in nearly 50 years and for only the second time in the church’s 105-year history.
With the indebtedness paid off, Rev. Knudsen said it will herald “a new era” for the continually growing congregation. Although Bethlehem, located on the corner of Fourth and Ovington avenues, already hosts a 450 meal a day, “meals on wheels” program, senior citizen program, emergency food pantry, a domestic violence program, andKindergarten through Eighth grades elementary school, the congregation is already thinking about how it can expand both with services for the community and for its growing congregation.
While, churches nationally are experiencing declining attendance and membership, Bethlehem’s regular Sunday attendance has nearly doubled in recent years.
At a luncheon following the mortgage burning, held at the Dyker Beach Golf Course, the church’s history and future was readily apparent, with members present who originally joined in the 1930s to a baby just baptized a week earlier.