“Serving Christ and Community Since 1844”
This information is quoted from the “Bethel United Methodist Church 150th Anniversary” book.
Bethel is a Hebrew word meaning house of God. According to Webster’s Dictionary, Bethel is a worshiping place or any sacred spot. It can also be a house of worship for sailors (or circuit riders, in our case). In England, it is a place of worship for Protestants belonging to any church except the Anglican. Bethel is found many places in the Bible as the name of a specific location.
It is not an easy task to discover, from the available historical records, a clear-cut account of Bethel’s early progress. Since Bethel was but one point on the old Pottstown eight-point circuit (which included Pottstown, Coventryville, Temple, Ebenezer, Nantmeal, St. John’s and Birdsboro) Bethel’s history was, to a large extent, the history of seven or more other charges.
Several years prior to 1844, Methodist ministers had started preaching in Silby’s School House, located between Brownback’s Corner and Locust Grove. In May, 1844 a committee was formed to procure ground and make plans for the erection of a church building. Edward Brownback made a grant of land and on November 26, 1844 the first building was completed and dedicated at the bottom of the cemetery hill on the corner of what is now named Bethel Church and Ellis Woods Roads. At the time of the dedication there were about twenty members connected with the society among which were Harry Brownback, Jr., Henry Prizer, John Peterman, Mark Dehaven, Samuel Davis and Lucetta Garber.
Bethel’s Original Church
Articles of incorporation for the Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church of East Coventry were filed on December 10, 1867 in the court of common pleas of Chester County.
Bethel remained on the Pottstown Circuit until 1868 when Bethel and Springville (Spring City) Methodist Church, of which Bethel is the mother church, united to form a new circuit. This circuit existed until 1874 when Springville’s growth was such that it became a single charge.
Bethel remained alone for one year, but the necessity for more married men’s charges caused the Philadelphia Conference of March 1875 to annex Bethel to the Temple and Cedarville charges which constituted a married man’s charge under the name of Temple and New Bethel. The Reverend H.U. Sebring was appointed pastor of the united circuit. In 1890, Bethel was made a separate charge and the Reverend Alexander Wiggins was appointed pastor. In 1894, during the pastorate of the Reverend William Beyers, the parsonage was constructed and Bethel was made a married man’s charge, fully supporting its own pastor and work.
The original church building was found adequate until 1876 when the increased attendance at both the church and Sunday School sessions made it necessary to enlarge and remodel the old structure.
A meeting was called on August 15, 1900, in order to discuss putting a steam heater underneath the church. The bid was won by Sotter Brothers of Pottstown for $292.00.
The Building of New Bethel
The remodeled church building at the bottom of the hill was made to serve the needs of the membership from 1876 until 1930 when further attendance increases made it necessary to build a new structure. On July 1, 1929, among the bills presented was a bill of Mr. Young for a sketch and ground plan for a new church. The Trustees accepted the plans at their meeting on August 5, 1929.
Ground for the new church was broken the last week of June and it was expected to be ready for occupancy before January 1, 1931. Reverend R.J. McBeth was the present pastor. The edifice was erected adjacent to the parsonage.
The church was built because of the work and determination of its members. It was the members who dug out the basement by hand. Farmers donated their stone walls, also a stone farm house on Kolb Road was donated. Members hauled the stone to the site. The building contractor was A.T. Allebach.
The cornerstone of Bethel M.E. Church was laid Sunday, August 24, 1930 at 3:00 P.M. with Reverend George Schaffer as the speaker.
Through the tireless efforts of its members, a $40,000 brown sandstone edifice was erected. This is the present church building located on approximately nine acres of land bought from John DeFrain.
The following were members of the building committee: William Mowrer, William Keiter, Wilmer Rosen, Howard Mowrer and Walter McFarland.
As always, there were those who did not support the idea because of the cost involved. You can understand their concerns when you look at the times we were living in. The nation was in a depression. People were out of work but there was no unemployment compensation, no welfare, no food stamps, and no food banks. Several banks failed and there was no E.D.I.C. Eventually, the customers of failed banks received about 10 cents on the dollar.
Storing and canning food for winter use was a necessity. Field corn became a staple in many diets. After husking the corn, the housewife dried it in the oven of her cook stove, shelled it by hand, removed the chaff by winnowing and then it was ready to be ground into cornmeal at the local mill. Then it was cooked and the result was called mush.
Wood and coal were the most common sources of heat. Years ago, Bethel took a collection for the poor at every communion service. Money received in these offerings was often used to purchase a ton of coal for a needy church family.
The dedication services of our new church were held on May 3, 1931. Reverend Robert M. Anderson was our pastor then. Ernest G. Richardson was our Bishop and George W. Henson was the District Superintendent. The sermon at the morning worship that day was preached by Dr. Henson. An afternoon and evening service was also held for the celebration but the actual dedication service took place at 3:00 PM. The presentation of the new building was made by the trustees with about 500 people present. During the day, eight ministers participated and the choirs of Spring City and Royersford United Methodist Churches also participated. The church membership and average Sunday School attendance was approximately 140 members.
On Sunday, May 1, 1932, the first birthday of the new church was celebrated. The Apollo Four had returned for the musical portion and the sermon was by the Reverend William H. Beyer, our oldest living minister at that time. He served Bethel in 1893. There was a service each evening that week with a special speaker and music.
The new church built in 1930 at the top of the hill
New Education wing, completed January 1972)
To be continued…