The Richmond Register

Religion

May 15, 2014

Bethlehem Baptist celebrating 160 years

RICHMOND — In 1854, a brave group of Baptists helped organize Bethlehem Baptist Church under the leadership of Bro. J.J. Edwards and N.B. Johnson.

The church was started in the southeastern Madison County community known as Bearwallow. Other names that it has been called include Buffalowallow, Bethlehem and Dreyfus.

After the Revolutionary War, settlers began to arrive in the territory from different areas, such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas. The early settlers began their worship in log cabins and met regularly in their homes for Bible study and prayer.

The early records of Bethlehem Baptist were destroyed when the home of W.B. Baker, the church’s clerk, burned in 1919.

Bethlehem entered into the Irvine Association of Baptists in September 1865, believing that by working with churches of like faith and order, they could accomplish more for their Lord.

Church membership of 38 was recorded in the early years. By 1878, it had increased to 110. At that time Smith Vivlon (S.V.) Potts was pastor. Jaimson Arvin and James Woolery represented Bethlehem as messengers at association meetings.

Woolery gave two acres of land and a small house known as the Bethlehem Meeting House on Nov. 8, 1881, to the Methodist and Baptist and the Reformers. They could use it one day a month if they agreed to pay their share of upkeep and repairs.

In 1886, several members were excluded from the fellowship for “unfaithfulness” and “immoral conduct,” leaving membership at 54.

Bethlehem occupied two log buildings which were used for worship and by the Gabbard School. The buildings also were used as the polling place for Bearwallow precinct before being destroyed by fire.

Early in 1892, the Methodists and Baptists jointly constructed a frame building for $3,600.

A church bell was ordered from England. After it arrived in the United States, it came by rail to Brassfield Railway Station (next to the Combs store on Brassfield Road). A wagon and team then brought it to the church. The bell was so heavy that a second team had to be hitched to the wagon. Nothing was recorded about how they lifted the bell to the tower. One can only imagine.

By 1897, the Irvine Association had become so large it was divided, and a second association of like-faith and order was formed called Landmark. When Bethlehem joined, the church had only 38 members.

The years 1906-09 were a time of revival and church membership grew to 120. In early 1909, the pastor’s salary was $40 a year.

In September 1916, the Methodists sold their share of the building and land to the Baptists for $100.

By 1918, the Landmark Association was dissolved, and in September 1919, Bethlehem entered the Boone’s Creek Association. The church wrote a strong letter to the association about its stand against legalizing alcohol and its corrupting effect on public morals. The statement also affirmed the church’s duty to support the Kentucky Baptist Orphans Home with love, prayer and money.

In 1923, Bro. William Royce was ordained. He was the pastor four different times and interim pastor once. His ministry had a great effect on Bethlehem. He preached his last sermon at the age of 93.

In 1924, the church sold one-fourth acre of its land to the Bearwallow Public School for $40.

As early as 1898, Bethlehem reported Sunday school attendance of 45. Classes often were taught outside under the shade trees, when weather permitted, or in the building’s four corners.

The church survived many difficult times, including the severe winter of 1917 and the flu epidemic of 1918 that claimed many lives.

In 1930, the community experienced a drought, but it was a time of revival for the church. Membership increased to 219; services were conducted once a month.

By the 1940s, services were being conducted twice a month.

Bethlehem saw many changes because of World War II. With many of their men gone to war, the women kept the church going by assuming places of leadership. They had a strong Women’s Missionary Union under the leadership of Mrs. Eva Jones, who was WMU director for more than 40 years.

Church member Delbert Roscoe Chasteen, who was serving in the military, sent money home to help keep the church’s doors open and lights on. He wanted the people to always have a church they could enter and pray at any time. Chasteen was killed in Sicily in 1944, and the church continued to carry out his request.

When the community heard the war was over, people ran to the church. The first person there started ringing the bell, and it was rung throughout the day. The bell called the church and the community to prayer for all those who had given their lives for freedom.

Over the years, ringing the bell has been a way to call the church and community together for services, prayer meetings, weddings and funerals. And the custom continues today.

In 1949, Sunday school rooms were built onto the back of the building, and the window behind the pulpit was removed.

In the 1950s, the bell tower was taken down, and the bell was put under the roof. The two front entrances (one for men and the other for women) were changed to a single entrance. A library was started, Sunday evening Training Union classes resumed and the church began running a bus.

In September 1959, Bethlehem was admitted to the Tates Creek Association of the Southern Baptists and remains a member today.

In the early 1960s, the building was in bad repair, so a new floor and pews were installed. A radio program was started, but it was short lived. The “Rock Quarry” was used as a baptistry.

On July 3, 1977, work began on a new building, for which $8,000 was borrowed. Men volunteered their labor, and families gave generously of their money. Members of the children’s Bible Time Class contributed money they had earned and bought all the bricks for the front of the building, plus new flags and more new hymnals.

By Aug. 13, 1978, the building, which contained a baptistry and indoor restrooms, was completed. The building cost $34,000, but the church entered the new structure debt free because of the generous giving of labor and love.

The 1980s were another time of revival. The church built additional Sunday school rooms and a fellowship hall.

In 1989, Bethlehem was without a pastor, and the deacons conducted the services as a spirit of revival and unity prevailed.

In 1993, church membership stood at 206. The church bought 1.61 acres for $12,000. The property joined the eastern boundary of the present church.

On May 20, 2001, the church called Bro. Mark McGuire, who remains as its pastor.

In 2003, attendance increased to the point that the church’s first brick building was too small, and the fellowship hall was taken down to make way for a new sanctuary.

In 2004, the church celebrated its first 150 years with a Founder’s Day service that including laying the foundation for a new building. Once again, the members gave their work and money generously. The church had to borrow only $500,000.

On June 13, 2005, Bro. McGuire led the congregation from the old sanctuary to the new one. Later, the steeple and bell were moved into the new building.

In August 2005, the new building was dedicated in a service with Bro. Hamp Valentine delivering the message. The new building has a large sanctuary, sound room, pastor’s study and fellowship hall with a fully equipped kitchen.

Through the years, Bethlehem has had 44 different known pastors. Among the pastors since the 1960s are: Neal Bowman, Ralph R. Redden,Wayne Jump, Jerry Hopkins, Gary King, Elvis Lee Eudy, Earl Van Winkle (six months interim while Bro. Eudy served in the military), Dillard Coyle, John Zupanzick,William R. Royce (interim), Jerry Hopkins, E.T. Witt, Don Colyer, Ralph Shepperson, Bruce Trecon, Neal Prather, Zora Oliver (interim), Mitchell Farthing, Jerry Smith (interim), Jason Pierce, and Mark McGuire.

The church has not only given generously to missions, but her members have served on mission trips at home and abroad.

Bethlehem Baptist is celebrating 160 years this Sunday with an 11 a.m.  Founder’s Day service. The Lord will be lifted up with old-time singing and preaching, a skit of an 1800s family and potluck lunch featuring 1800s food.

Everyone is welcome. Dress in 1800s attire if desired.

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Religion
  • Bethlehem Baptist celebrating 160 years

    In 1854, a brave group of Baptists helped organize Bethlehem Baptist Church under the leadership of Bro. J.J. Edwards and N.B. Johnson.
    The church was started in the southeastern Madison County community known as Bearwallow. Other names that it has been called include Buffalowallow, Bethlehem and Dreyfus.

    May 15, 2014

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    The Berea chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth is hosting its fourth annual fundraising pie auction from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday at Union Church, 200 Prospect St.
    The live auction of homemade pies will start at 8 p.m. Two ceramic pie plates made and donated by Turning Wheel Pottery will be featured in the auction, said Beth Bissmeyer of KFTC. The Down Home Divas will perform live old-time music and tell stories.

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    Deen will be the special guest for tea and conversation at the Carrick House, 312 N. Limestone St., in downtown Lexington.
    “The tea will begin at the ‘proper’ time – half past 2 – and guests will enjoy a lovely afternoon featuring traditional foods, such as scones, small cakes, cookies and finger sandwiches,” said Father James Sichko, pastor of St. Mark Parish. “I think everyone will enjoy the conversation, too!”

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    March 2, 2014 13 Photos

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    (Ephesians 2:19)

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  • Anthony-Phelps-c.jpg Rejoice in God’s loving kindness this year

    Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.
    My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
    Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
    — Psalms 63:3-7

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