People often ask, “Why the name Berea?” With a large Twin Cities metro area filled with Protestant and Lutheran churches with familiar names, the name Berea does indeed stand out. More importantly, it has a rich biblical significance (Acts 17:10-12) as a city visited by the Apostle Paul and commended as a flock which “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things [preached to them] were so.” Like the name of our extended spiritual family, the Church of the Lutheran Confession, we pray our name conveys our identity as a church—a deep love for, appreciation of, and commitment to our biblical and Lutheran heritage: God’s holy Word and the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. By God’s grace we have been blessed with a spiritual calling and unity in Christ that is as precious as it is rare in these last days.
As with many of our CLC churches and other synodical ventures, the Berea story was not the product of any human wisdom or planning, but rather the Lord’s wisdom and blessing in setting the solitary in families (Psalm 68:6) and thereby building His Church. Impelled by the need and desire for the Word and fellowship, a small flock of Twin Cities faithful contacted their pastor, Gordon Radtke of Immanuel, Mankato, and in October of 1959 held a Reformation service in one of their homes.
What began so humbly resulted in the Spirit’s impetus to organize as a congregation and purchase a small St. Paul church (1960), become an early CLC mission (1961), purchase a parsonage (with services held in the basement) and seven-acre property in Inver Grove Heights—SE Twin Cities metro (1970), construct a two-story church and fellowship hall (1976), begin a Christian Day School (1978), build an on-site teacherage (1985), expand with a new sanctuary and remodeled classrooms and fellowship hall (1993), add an Activity Center—fellowship hall/gym, kitchen and multi-purpose room—(2001), another classroom expansion (2005), and most recently a complete parsonage renovation (2017-18). Through it all, the Lord has met our every need—providing vital “people gifts” of dedicated pastors, teachers and lay people (Ephesians 4). Pastors serving Berea have been Marvin Eibs (1960-70), Paul Larsen (1970-83), David Schierenbeck (1983-2018), and the current undershepherd, Nathan Pfeiffer. Berea currently numbers 390 souls with an average Sunday attendance of 180.
One constant and joyous sight at Berea through the years has been our “quiver full of children” (Psalm 127:5), prompting a significant emphasis on Christian education both in our congregation and in the establishment of our Christian day school. Full-time teachers have included Marlys Gerth, Beth (Nolting) Kranz, David Bernthal, Robert and Judith Snell, and currently Susan Rehm (Grades 1-4) and Matthew Thurow (Grades 5-8). In addition, many part-time instructors and volunteers have served our school, including current staff Cathy Augustin (music and lower grades) and Anne Gullerud (kindergarten and pre-school). Many of our students have gone on to “higher” Christian education at Immanuel Lutheran High School and College, and have become blessings in our congregation and synod as witnesses for our Savior.
For many years Berea has shared fellowship blessings with our north metro sister flock—Grace of Fridley. More recently, a number of our west metro members were instrumental in forming a new southwest metro CLC identity: Living Word of Eden Prairie. As a strong supporter of both local and CLC mission efforts, we well recognize our calling of seeking ways to serve precious souls searching for light and truth in our sin-darkened world.
Perhaps the clearest visual witness to our Berea identity greets every worshiper who enters our sanctuary. The Berea chancel picture includes a triptych (age-old term for a three-panel design, usually depicting sacred truths). Designed and built by Bereans James and Betsy Doring to cover sound and organ speakers, the three colored panels of acoustically transparent and visually opaque dyed silk strikingly convey and direct every worshiper to the cross (1 Corinthians 2:2), to our Lord as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 1:8) and to Jesus as the only Way (John 14:6) that leads the sinner through his earthly life (the “green earth” of the triptych) to the skies and to his eternal home (the darker blue-to-purple upper portion of the triptych).
David Schierenbeck is a recently retired pastor who for many years served Berea Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.