History of Bethlehem Lutheran Church:
In January of 1982 the East Fort Myers “preaching station”, a mission of St. Michael Lutheran Church, was established and worship services were held at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on State Road 80 (Palm Beach Blvd.). Services during January were in charge of Pastors Richard Hardel, Lloyd Goetz, and Dwayne Hoyer. Pastor Theodore Bornhoeft, a retired Lutheran pastor, was asked to preach and teach every Sunday, and help with mission efforts. He accepted the challenge and began conducting services February 07, 1982. A steering Committee of 5 dedicated worshippers was formed in April 1982 and in August the name Grace Lutheran Church was chosen and Sunday School and Adult Bible Class were established. The first wedding took place on March 23 and the first Baptism was conducted on July 26.
Constitution and By-Laws were adopted in March of 1983 and the Rev. Richard L. Neagley was installed as the first Pastor in April 1983. A Charter Member Sunday, with 86 souls participating as charter members, was observed in November 1983.
In May of 1984 a Building Committee was selected and preliminary plans were made to start a church building. Ground breaking at the building site on Old Olga Road was held May of 1986 and a Gifts and Memorials Committee was activated. The first service was held in the new building on Christmas Eve of 1986. Doors were officially opened in January 18, 1987, when a Service of Dedication was held with the laying of the cornerstone and a banquet celebration.
The congregation was shepherded by Pastor Neagley until he accepted a call to Rhode Island in December 1993. With the assistance of several visiting pastors, regular worship and communion services were conducted until June of 1994 when Seminarian Ray L. Borchelt was assigned as field worker for three months. Upon his return to Seminary, services continued with the aid of visiting pastors until December 1, 1994 when Ray L. Borchelt was named Vicar for a period of one year. A pastoral call was issued and upon completion of the vicarage, Ray L. Borchelt accepted the call to become Pastor. He was ordained at Zion Lutheran Church in Fort Myers on January 7, 1996, and was installed as Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Fort Myers, FL on January 21, 1996.
More History Soon To Come!!!