Friday, September 3, 2010

Bethany Lutheran Church (ELCA), Rural Axtell, NE

Just south of Highway 44 near Axtell, Nebraska stands Bethany Lutheran Church. Swedish immigrants began to call Kearney County home as early as 1873 and in 1876, Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church became the first church in Kearney County. A sod church was built in 1878 and the current building dates from 1885.

The church's exterior has changed very little since its construction.

Note the ornate pressed tin shingles and pinnacles which grace the steeple.

The rather humble exterior gives way to a soaring interior that is nothing short of impressive!

Dominating the sanctuary is the altar painting, He Dwelt Among Us, painted in 1900 by famed Swedish painter Olof Grafström.

The interior is further enhanced by a large "U" shaped balcony.

Notice how the walls gracefully curve and flow into the ceiling.

Lots of light, shadows, and lines!

Bethany also features a very large pipe organ in the gallery.

For more information on this particular instrument, click here.

The length of the pillars more clearly shows the height of the interior.

The nave windows feature a slightly more ornate design, though they are largely obscured by the balcony.

The facade windows are a bit more simple, and perhaps older.


Anonymous said...

Great pictures and what memories I have of this church since it was my first call and served there from 1966-1972

ShariYS said...

Oh, this is drop-dead gorgeous ... I am second-generation Swedish on my grandfather's side; but being in Ohio, I'm a Swede lost in Deutschland -- and indeed, my other 3/4ths is German! But due to my grandfather's influence, I've always felt particularly close to my Swedish side. I love seeing the churches in Chicago, MN, the Plains states, built by the Swedish immigrants and their old-world influence in these churches. Beautiful craftsmanship!

a.d. samuelson said...

Gorgeous photos of a gorgeous church. My great-great grandfather Samuelson is buried there (along with other relatives)... I last visited 20 years ago, and I was overwhelmed with how strikingly beautiful it is...

Rev. Kimberli Lile, ELCA said...

Thank you for posting these photos of the church this congregation started building three days after my great grandfather, Victor Nelson Thoren, arrived as its pastor in 1885. I believe the railroad came to Axtell very near that time, so it makes sense that they could then think about moving from a sod structure to something adorned with a spire. Imagine the timber they could purchase from the northeastern forests! I once drove from Denver to Axtell in a day to see the church, and I saw more grain elevators than trees, except along the river. It must have been a delightful vision in the decade of its construction. Again, thank you for sharing your images of what was once known as the "Cathedral on the Prairie."