Church History

For the most part, Bethany pioneers were emigrants from New England. Many settled under the claims of the charter of Connecticut, which in this area overlapped with the land Charles II had granted to William Penn. It is not surprising, therefore, that the religious inclination of the area was Presbyterian, with a strong Congregational flavor. For several decades, Congregational and Presbyterian missionaries and itinerant preachers served the settlements in Northeastern Pennsylvania including Rev. Daniel Thatcher, sent by the General Assmebly of the Presbyterian Church.

The first permanent pastor at Bethany was the Rev. Worthington Wright, a Congregational missionary. He was installed at the courthouse in Bethany in 1813 where he not only preached, but also resided. Rev. Wright suffered from a chronic eye inflammation, which caused him to vacate his Bethany pulpit in only a few years. The congregation was without a regular pastor until 1818, when the Rev. Phineas Camp arrived from the Presbytery of North River (New York). There was debate among the parishoners, many of whom still favored a Congregational form of governance; however Rev. Camp felt strongly that there should be a connection with a recognized church organization, and his view ultimately prevailed.

On September 22, 1818, assisted by Deacon John Tyler, of the Congregational Church at Ararat, Rev. Camp organized the First Presbyterian Church of Bethany. Of the eleven members, seven were women. Thus began the first distinctly Presbyterian Church in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Initially, services were conducted in private homes, the original Wayne County Courthouse in Bethany, and a log schoolhouse. Finally, on August 19, 1823, construction of the beautiful church building began in the classic style of Sir Christopher Wren. The church building was dedicated on December 27, 1836. Its architecture bears out its New England heritage, two specific characterstics being its box pews with locking doors and small clear glass windowpanes, hung twenty over twenty, many made in the glass factory just over the hill in Dyberry Township. Total cost for the structure was $3,560.61. The bell, which weighs over a ton, is rung by hand to this day, summoning Sunday morning worshipers to the oldest church in Wayne County.

While maintaining its original appearance, the building has been renovated several times. In 1939, through the generosity of Hortense Strongman Miller, the interior was completely restored and oil lamps electrified in beauitful chandeliers. In 1984, during the pastorate of the Rev. Richard Bauder, it was determined the church's supporting timbers had deteriorated, threatening its structural integrity. As a result, the small congregation was confronted with the most daunting project since the erection of the church itself: the construction of a full basement. In addition to insuring long-term stability of the structure, the basement would provide much needed space for Sunday school rooms, kitchen and restrooms. The building was jacked up for over six weeks while excavation took place and a foundation was poured. A well was drilled and new septic system installed. Overall cost was $100,000.00, and its successful completion is a testimony to the faith and work of the church's members and devotion to the sanctuary.

 

Over the years, the church's high steeple, an area landmark, has been struck by lightning several times. After the most recent strike in 1995, a new steeple cap and weathervane were installed.  An expansion of the parking lot was completed in 1997, happily necessitated because of the increase in membership and attendance.

In January 2010, the church purchased the adjoining house, barn, and property, historically known as the David Wilder House.

  

These improvements enable the congregation to keep pace with the times while respecting their church's rich history and heritage. 

 

December 17, 2017

   

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About Bethany Presbyterian Church

Come to the About Us section to meet Rev. Bill Blackie, learn about our church's history, and find out what we're all about!

 

Come and Join Us!

If you're curious about what a warm and welcoming community of believers is like, then come and join us on Sunday, at 431 Wayne Street, Bethany, PA  18431.  


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