History of Bethel Baptist Church
Organized in 1882, Bethel Baptist Church is the result of community prayer meetings that were held weekly in various homes in the community. After several months of community worship in homes, a band of Bethel’s forefathers began a diligent effort to construct an edifice for worship services. Because of the unity and perseverance wrapped up in the building project, they amassed a very large sum of money in the initial campaign. A determined and focused people working together in the will of the Father can accomplish much. With God on our side all things are possible.
The land on which the church was constructed was a gift from Mr. Peter J. Carter, Sr. and Mr. John E. Nottingham, Sr., a white friend and Baptist leader, gave a generous cash donation toward the church’s building campaign
The founding fathers and mothers of Bethel were inclusive of the following: Mr. Sam Bell, Mr. William Brickhouse, Jr., Mr. James Hastings, Mr. James Heath, Ms. Francis Gunter, and Ms. Caroline Robinson. Through the labors and prayers of these Christian pioneers, the Reverend Thomas Byrd became the first pastor of Bethel. He served for a number of years and under his administration, the church grew rapidly. Reverend Thomas Turlington, Bethel’s second pastor, served faithfully for eighteen years. The third pastor was the Reverend William E. Tyler, who served for eight years. The fourth pastor was Reverend C. C. Weathers. During Reverend Weathers’ pastorate the church services moved from every other Sunday to every Sunday. The church was enlarged in addition to many other improvements, including the installment of the initial baptismal pool.
The fifth pastor was Reverend W. B. Carrington. Reverend Carrington’s tenure was brief. The sixth pastor was Reverend J. R. Custis, a strong gospel preacher; however, due to obligations elsewhere he discontinued his pastorate at Bethel.
In 1937, Reverend L. L. Ford became the seventh pastor. During Reverend Ford’s administration the membership grew exponentially and spiritually. During this era improvements were made to the physical plant inclusive of the addition of a fellowship hall, installation of vestibule doors, new roofing and flooring, acquisition of an additional cemetery, sidewalks constructed, bathrooms installed, a drinking fountain installed, pulpit accessories, deacon chairs, and an electric cross. Also, during this administration the church had its third corner stone laying on Easter Monday in 1958. Reverend Ford served Bethel until his passing on December 3, 1975.
In 1976 Bethel called the Reverend Willie Frank Tanner, Jr., our eighth pastor. Reverend Tanner was a dynamic preacher and leader who led many to Christ. During Reverend Tanner’s tenure, the church continued to prosper and was blessed with increased membership and spiritual enlightenment. Reverend Tanner was with Bethel for a brief period, however, during his administration several organizations were established, inclusive of the Male Chorus, the Red Circle, and the Hospitality Club. During Reverend Tanner’s tenure, Reverend Mary Trower Custis received her calling to preach the gospel and was licensed by Bethel. Reverend Trower Custis was instrumental as the ground root organizer of the Rosebuds and the Young Adult Ushers and Choir. The Young Adult Choir later changed their name to the Willie Frank Tanner (W. F. T.) Gospel Choir in honor of Reverend Tanner. In addition a church bus and organ were acquired during his administration. Reverend Tanner passed in 1978.
In 1979, Reverend A. C. Sinclair, Sr., answered the Macedonian Call and became the ninth pastor of Bethel. Reverend Sinclair’s sermonic messages were spirit-filled and inspiring. Reverend Sinclair’s tenure was brief. During his administration his wife and son served as musicians for Bethel.
On the fourth Sunday of September 1980, Reverend Carl H. Balark, Jr., preached his first sermon as the tenth pastor of Bethel Baptist Church. During Reverend Balark’s tenure, the church continued to experience prolific growth in membership, spiritual advancement and enlightenment. The church was fruitful during his administration and God blessed tremendously with the implementation of the plans for the church parsonage, adoption of the church’s constitution, outside bulletin board, sanctuary carpeting, padded pews, choir chairs, deacon chairs, acquisition of 1.5 acres of land, church typewriter and copier, construction of an educational wing, new and enlarged fellowship hall, new stained glass windows, new appliances for the kitchen, new ceiling lights, new interior doors, new baptistery, central heat and air conditioning, fully equipped nursery, extensive renovation of the church sanctuary and the organization of the Lillian Poulson Intermediate Missionary Circle. Donations and contributions from individuals and families assisted in the purchase of tables, chairs, and pictures for the fellowship hall. During Reverend Balark’s tenure, three young men received their call to preach the gospel, Minister Kelvin F. Jones, Minister Percy James, and Minister Michael Bailey. Ultimately these ministers were licensed to preach the gospel by Bethel Baptist Church. Reverend Balark was articulate, dynamic, and spiritually sound in his preaching and teaching, especially relative to the role and significance of tithing in the life and ministry of Christians. Reverend Balark resigned from his pastorate at Bethel on the second Sunday of June 1992.
On December 6, 1992, the first Sunday, Reverend Gino A. Evans, assumed the duties and responsibilities as the under shepherd of Bethel Baptist Church. Reverend Gino Evans was Bethel’s eleventh pastor. Reverend Evans abounded in God’s Word and Bethel continued to mature spiritually while increasing its physical growth. During Reverend Gino Evan’s tenure Bethel was showered with continued blessings from the Lord that included the establishment of a church library, establishment of an annual church picnic, acquisition and clearance of 2.14 acres of land for the expansion of the Bushill cemetery, installation of an additional church drain field and a new refrigerator for the kitchen. Deacon Johnnie Somers and Trustee Addie Brooks received Emeritus status in their respective offices. Reverend Gino Evans resigned as pastor of Bethel Baptist Church on the fourth Sunday of December 1993.
During the year of 1994, Bethel Baptist Church experienced a vacancy in the pastorate. We prayerfully and diligently search with the guidance of the Spirit for a pastor. We were dependent upon the direction and guidance of the Lord to send us a “pastor after His own heart”. During this vacancy in the pastorate the congregation with the guidance and leadership of Deacon William Webb, Jr., chairman of the Deacon Ministry and the Official Board, continued to praise and worship God in spirit and truth. Bible Study remained a vital part of the spiritual growth of the body and we became a unified and collective agent in carrying out the mandates of our Lord and Savior. We experienced an outpouring of God’s unmerited grace in getting a computer, monitor, printer, and an energy efficient heat and air conditioning system in the parsonage. During this period Reverend Mary Trower Custis was ordained under the auspices of the Eastern Shore of Virginia & Maryland Baptist Association.
Following intense prayers and the guidance of the Spirit, Bethel Baptist Church extended the call to pastor to Reverend Rodney D. Evans of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Reverend Evans delivered his initial sermon as pastor-elect the morning of June 4, 1995, and subsequently was installed as the twelfth pastor of Bethel Baptist Church on July 30, 1995. During Reverend Evan’s tenure weekly Prayer and Praise services were instituted and a New Members Class was initiated, revitalization of the Junior Missionary Board, along with the Widows Circle. A new copier was acquired and the planned pavement of the parking lot was completed. Reverend Rodney D. Evans, of his own volition, terminated his pastorate at Bethel Baptist Church by way of resignation on May 15, 1998.
During May 1998 to March 2000, Bethel experienced another vacancy in the pastorate. During this vacancy, Bethel continued to be committed to the glorification and exaltation of God through the making of disciples and a growing relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Bethel Baptist was resigned to continue lifting the name of Jesus and to serve His will and purpose. Under the auspices of Deacon William Webb, Jr., and the Official Board, we remained faithful, dutiful, and collective. Through sound preaching and teaching Bethel continually provided spiritual manna for the sanctification and edification of those saved, and spiritual enlightenment for those yet to confess Christ as their personal Savior. God blessed us materially and spiritually, resulting in the acquisition of a new church bus, an alarm system at the parsonage, new roofing on the fellowship hall and educational wing, 110 sanctuary Bibles, and 83 Hymnals, and individuals confessing Christ.
On March 13, 2000, Bethel Baptist Church extended the Macedonian call to Reverend John E. Nickens of Richmond, Virginia. Reverend Nickens became the thirteenth pastor of Bethel Baptist Church. Reverend Nickens received his Master of Divinity Degree from the School of Theology of Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia and brought to Bethel twenty five years of pastoral experience. Under Reverend Nickens’ administration, several additions were made to the church; renovation of the kitchen, new carpet, new pews, new choir chairs, reupholster of the pulpit chairs and deacon chairs, as well as souls added to the church. Reverend Nickens, of his own volition, terminated his pastorate at Bethel Baptist Church, by resignation, in October of 2009.
During this current vacancy in the pastorate, Bethel Baptist Church, under the guidance of the Official Board and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, has continued to carry out the work of the Lord and the mission that God has set before us. Through much prayer and fasting, we sought the Lord for spiritual guidance and wisdom in our search for our next pastor. God, in His infinite wisdom and grace, answered our prayers and on Sunday, September 11, 2011, Reverend Wilbert C. Adams, preached his first sermon as the fourteenth pastor of Bethel Baptist Church. Reverend Adams brings a renewed spirit and energy to the Bethel family through his dynamic preaching and teaching.
Under this new administration, Bible Study and Sunday school attendance have increased significantly, as well as the overall Sunday Service attendance. Pastor Adams has led the church in the purchase of a church van, the renovation of the church fellowship hall and the purchase of new appliances. In addition, the W.C. Adams Unified Generation Choir was established, quarterly leadership workshops were implemented, and outreach ministries have been revitalized, as well as regularly established church office hours and a renewed fellowship with our sister churches. Throughout his 7 years as pastor, several souls have been added to the church by way of baptism and re-dedication.
Obviously, the Lord has been and continues to be good to us. Let us always be mindful that “to whom much is given, much is required”. Bethel, God is saying to us, through His bountiful blessings, that we have an even greater work to do in our lives, homes, church, and communities. Let us resolve to continually commit ourselves in faith, ministry, and prayer. Yes Bethel, we are blessed!