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BETHANY BAPTIST CHURCH     -     1878 - 2017
 
The history of a church begins before the first rafter is raised and before the first brick is laid.  The history is comprised of people – ordinary people who love the Lord and are willing to serve as His messengers both in and out of church.  The history is composed of a church family working together doing what it takes to make a church continue to grow and thrive.  Giving of one’s tithes, time, and talents are all essential as are the fund raisers, dinners on the ground, church picnics that are held.  Food has played an important part of our history!  Hopefully we will never forget our origins as we strive to make a future that continues to promote Bethany’s original message which is the saving grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. 
 
We note Bethany’s history beginning in 1878, but actually it began quite some years before the Civil War.  John Cookman owned a small storehouse which he allowed to be used occasionally for church meetings for near-by members of Coan Baptist Church.  Dr. William H. Kirk used the structure occasionally to minister to members of his Coan congregation who, because of age, distance, and disabilities, could not attend services at Coan on a regular basis.  It became increasingly popular and became known as Cookman’s Schoolhouse.  A larger covered structure of sorts was erected in a grove of trees and used in mild or warm weather.  We do not know the date of the completion of the actual church building, but it was an outlying part of Coan Baptist Church. 
 
In 1877 permission was granted allowing Coan members who lived in Rainswood, Luttrellville, Village, Callao, and Lottsburg to form a church of their own known as Salem Meeting House.  Dr. Kirk, the deacons of Coan, and the Rev. G. H. Northam completed organizational duties. Dr. Kirk delivered the sermon of dedication.  The deacons of Coan and the two ministers extended the right hand of fellowship, and the newly constituted church closed its first meeting under the name of Bethany Baptist Church by singing “Blest Be the Tie that Binds”. 
 
Bethany’s first minister, Rev. James T. Eubank, came in March 1878 and remained until 1880.  He served also as pastor of Providence Baptist Church.  Bethany’s share of his salary was $100 a year.  Bethany’s entire expenditures for its first year totaled $128.  It was ten years before the salary was raised to $150 and this was reduced to $125 in the 1893.   The church constitution at that time specifically states that church governing was in the hand of the male members.  There was one concession.  When a new pastor was to be voted on, female members also could vote.  Ladies of Bethany were not allowed full voting privileges until 1927.
 
In 1883 the first mention of missionary work appeared in the minutes.  The church decided to have dinner on the grounds to raise money for Missions.  For many  years thereafter, it seems this May dinner fund-raiser was the once-a-year mission emphasis.  It wasn’t until the arrival of Dr. J. M. Street in 1905 that missions became a priority.  Dr. Street talked, preached, and lived missions.  The Women’s Missionary Society of Bethany was organized and Mrs. John A. Thrift was elected first President.  Mrs. Robert E. Booker was the third president (as the position was known then) and served faithfully for 40 years.  Bethany remains a leader in mission work.  Our current co-directors are Anna Kissne and Linda Williams. 
 
Music today is a great part of Bethany’s ongoing ministries.  However, originally no instruments were allowed, not only in Bethany, but all Baptist churches.  The cost of an organ was one factor, but the thought of enjoying music in church caused fear that parishioners might enjoy non-religious music which was then considered sinful.  Private ownership of an organ or piano was condemned.  Owning a “fiddle” was thought to be a thousand times worse!  Bethany finally did get its first organ in 1892 and music is now a much appreciated part of our worship.  The first mention of a choir director was in 1912.   Our current director is Diane Brann.
 
Sunday School had its early beginnings in 1882 with Mr. C. F. Lewis as Superintendent (as it was called then).  It seems to have met only in the summer months.  Our strong and progressive Sunday School continues to teach the Bible and the Christian way of life.  It remains an important arm of outreach.  Our current director is Vince Garland.
 
In 1897 three important decisions were made.  (1) Bethany joined Gibeon and Totuskey to form the “Village Baptist Field”; (2) the church decided to buy land and built a parsonage; and (3) Bethany decided to remove the spittoons from the church!  The last decision, present day opinion feels, came about with a little push from those non-voting “sisters” of the church! 
 
Three years later, in the year 1900, it was decided that the Church have a new frame building which was to be 40’ x 60’, to have a 20’ pitch, and to cost $1,800 to $2,000.  The main road from Callao to Luttrellville at that time passed between the Church and cemetery so the church was built with the entrance doors facing the cemetery.  By 1906, the church was paid for and no financial obligation remained. 
 
In August of 1914, disaster struck in the form of a tornado.  It blew the church off its foundation and did considerable structural damage.  Indications pointed to eventual straightening of the main highway to pass on the other end of the church. Therefore the entrance was rearranged; pulpit, pews, etc. were repositioned to the position in which they remain today. 
 
Early lighting was by kerosene lamp.  In 1925 “light plants” supplying direct electric current were available and were installed at Bethany.  They were individual power units consisting of a running motor and a generator which charged a series of batteries supplying the current.  In 1928 the church was enlarged to accommodate the Sunday School rooms and a large hot air floor furnace was installed. 
 
On June 5, 1930 it was decided to hold a dedication service for the new addition to the church and new floor furnace.  The ladies formed a dinner committee to serve dinner-on-the-grounds at this all day service.  The ladies also offered their assistance toward paying off church debt by making and selling quilts and sofa pillows.  Suppers and “hen” socials were popular since all families raised chickens. 
 
Church members were baptized in Lodge Creek or in the Rappahannock River at Wellford’s Wharf.  The need for a baptistery was evident, but it wasn’t until 1952 that a baptistery was installed.  Seven new Sunday School rooms also were added to the rear of the church building and a new organ added to the sanctuary.
 
On April 17, 1966 the cornerstone and dedication of the two-wing addition to the church was held.  The addition cost $92,000 and included seventeen classrooms, a new library, and an enlarged basement.  Brick veneer was applied to the original church building and this totaled $12,000.  
 
In 1978 Bethany, with Rev. Curtis Hawks as pastor, celebrated its 100th anniversary. Jimmy Carter was our President, and the average car cost $6,379 with gas being sold at 65-cents a gallon.  The minimum wage was $2.65 per hour! One hundred years of vast change as the country grew and Bethany Baptist Church grew.  However, one thing remained constant – our Lord and Savior was and is and forever shall be.  We celebrated the anniversary and looked to the future under His never-changing leadership.
 
In September of 2003. Bethany welcomed her current pastor Rev. Kornel Kiss – known fondly as Pastor Kori.  He, along with wife Anna and children Nathan and Abby are a valued part of Bethany’s church family.  On November 7, 2003, Homecoming Sunday,  Rev. Curtis Hawks who served as Bethany’s pastor for 29-1/2 years brought the message.   Dinner-on-the grounds of course followed and some of the recipes for dishes served at that celebration may perhaps be found in this cook book!
 
On November 18, 2012 the dedication of the new fellowship hall was held.  Bethany continues to grow and to come together as a church family. 
 
This is the year 2017.  Our first year’s expenditures totaled $128.  The 2017-2018 Church budget totals $299,543 of which $52,700 is designated for Missions.  We are truly a missional church and look to the future with faith in Him whom we serve. The goal today as it was in 1878 is very simple – serve the Lord, share the gospel, and be a mission-minded and scripture oriented church.    Join us!