December 13, 1897, was a terribly stormy night and, as a result, only 28 individuals were present for the organizational meeting of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Bethesda Church. The church organizational meeting was held in a resident's home in Morrison, Illinois. Those attending adopted the Constitution for Augustana Synod congregations, as proposed by the Synod in 1870 and amended in 1887.
The congregation of predominantly Swedish farmers petitioned and was received as a member into the Illinois Conference and Augustana Synod early in 1898. The first statistical report for Bethesda for 1898 listed 35 confirmed members and 18 children as members of the congregation.
In 1898, the congregation voted to build a church and the cornerstone was laid the last Sunday of August. In 1899, the treasurer reported that the new church was built for a total of $2,091.80, which included the lot.
In 1940, the official name of the church was changed to Bethesda Evangelical Lutheran Church of Morrison. In resulting years, Bethesda continued to grow and reach out into the community until it became apparent in 1959 that the present building would no longer be able to support such growth. As a result, a steering committee was elected.
In 1962, Bethesda followed the changes taking place with the merging of the Augustana Synod into the Lutheran Church of America. The same year, the building fund became large enough for the congregation to move forward into its new building, which cost $115,000 to build.
More changes in the leadership and growth in ministry from within Bethesda's membership caused a building study committee to form once again in 1980 to consider increasing needs placed upon the present facility. By 1982, the decision was made to go forward with a building addition. Ground was broken in 1983 and completed in 1984.
Bethesda and many other area churches in the area took part in the merger of the LCA with other Lutheran church bodies to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) in 1987. Once again in 2000, a small addition was undertaken on the church, which increased storage capabilities, provided an elevator, and enlarged a rear entrance off a newly-purchased lot that was turned into parking.
Today, Bethesda continues to be an active member in the Northern Illinois Synod and the ELCA with its men's and women's groups, its youth and choirs, and all members at large. We strive to live up to our mission statement:
"Bethesda Evangelical Lutheran Church is empowered by God's promises to witness, serve, and support in our community and beyond."
The original church building stood from 1899 to 1963.