Bethel Heritage

In May of 1885, Bethlehem Baptist Church, then known as the United Baptist Church of Christ, granted to eleven members letters of dismissal for the purpose of organizing a church. That church was Bethel Baptist Church.

The first meeting place was on the farm of Bill Cole, 1.25 miles north of the present location. It was in those early days that Mrs. Armistead Webb or “Granny Betty”, as she was known, selected the present location for the first church building. Stephen and Elizabeth Jones, Granny Betty’s daughter, conveyed to the deacons of Bethel Baptist Church by deed a parcel of land where the church now stands. At the time of the first building, there were twenty-five charter members.

The size of the building was 38 x 45 feet with the outside walls made of hand-dressed wood siding. On the inside a small pulpit stood at one end and the lighting was from kerosene lamps. On the northeast side of the church, Bethel school was constructed. Baptisms at this time were in Sulphur Fork Creek and Distillery Lake.

In 1920 the church voted to tear down the old building and build a new one. During the time of construction, worship services were held in a large brush arbor built on the church grounds or at the old Kelly Willis School when the weather was unsuitable for the brush arbor. The present auditorium and Sunday School rooms were begun and completed during that year at a cost of $2,000.00.

A partial basement was added to the church in 1956; a parsonage was built nearby. In 1964 educational space was added to the north side of the church along with the addition of a small steeple to the front of the church. The auditorium was remodeled in 1983 in preparation for the centennial celebration in 1985.

In 1995 the church began a building program: Phase I included a family life center with a gymnasium, an elevated walking track, a new kitchen, additional space for religious education, and facilities to house a state certified daycare center. Phase II involved the installation of an elevator and a build-out of the unfinished second floor of the new building; this project was completed and dedicated to the Lord in June of 1999. Phase III is the construction of a new state of the art worship center.