The History of Bethany Baptist Church of Chester, Pennsylvania
Early in the year of 1917, a group of men, mostly from the south with the exception of Bro. Joseph White, met at the home of undertaker Francis to make plans for the beginning of a church for their immediate group. At this meeting, the group decided to make their regular meeting place in a hall on Fulton Street between Third and Fourth Streets.
On the second Sunday in April 1917, this group met at the Fulton Street Hall for their first church service. Reverend Evans preached the first sermon. He continued to serve until we secured the service of Rev. William Moore, who was assisted by Rev. R. H. Butcher. These two preachers served us until the church was organized the 17th day of June 1917. Rev R. H. Butcher suggested the name “Bethany,” the name which the church now has.
Rev. Butcher began serving as our main preacher after this, and our church was organized on the basis of letters. The first members were Bro. J. B. Williams, Sis. J. B. Williams, Bro. L. Hughes. Eleven other members were added to the church that same day. The following officers were elected: Bro. Jasper Dickerson, Deacon: Bro. J. B. Williams, Church Clerk and Superintendent of the Sunday School; Bro. L. Hughes, Treasurer; Sis. J. B. Williams, Mother of the Church; Sis Rosa Hughes, Secretary of the Sunday school. Trustees: J. B. Williams, L. Hughes, P. Bradford, W. L. Welcher, and S. Felder. There were five ministers present who conducted the organizing service.
In July 1917, one Rev. Barber came to us with a small group of his own. We accepted his group into our body and called him as Pastor. When Rev. Barber left, Rev. Butcher again took the church over as Interim Pastor and served faithfully until January 1918. Then on the First Sunday in January 1918, Rev. E. J. Jones came to preach to us and was called to be our Pastor.
The following week the City of Chester condemned the hall where we meeting. In March 1918, we succeeded in getting a group to join us and we moved into a church at Eighth Street and Central Avenue. From our congregation, we selected the following persons at trustees to purchase the plot of ground on which the First Bethany Church Building stood – Eleventh and Tilghman Streets: Bro. Jenkins, Bro. Judge Robinson, Bro. Jordan, and Bro. A. B. Norris, also Rev. Jones.
We worshiped at Eighth Street and Central Avenue for a while but finally secured the use of the Masonic Hall, which at that time was located on the Central Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets. Soon we were overcrowded there and our next move was the purchasing of a big tent and the pitching of it on Central Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets. We remained there until cold weather came. In 1919 we began services at the Temple Baptist Church. In a short time, the basement of our own church was finished and we moved in. The corner stone was laid the third Sunday in October of 1919. Rev. Jones served until the third Sunday in September 1923.
The church split under Rev. Mr. Stanley and the church building at Ninth and Tilghman Streets was erected by him, but never prospered.
In 1925-1927, Rev. C. L. Smallwood was called and served as pastor.
In, 1927, Rev. George McGriff was called to the Bethany Baptist Church and served until 1929.
Rev. H. W. Watson was called to the Bethany Baptist Church as pastor in February 1930. During his administration, $1,500 worth of improvements were made in the church and this debt was paid. Three hundred and nineteen members were added to the church. There were several new deacons added to the official board. Most important of all, the church was paid for. The credit for this goes to Deacon Luther Alexander to whom the Holy Spirit gave a wonderful plan. Rev. Watson served successfully until January 1939.
In November 1939, Rev. Daniel A. Scott was elected as pastor. Rev. Scott’s first accomplishment was the purchasing of a Church Parsonage. The property, 1005-1007 Central Avenue, was selected by the trustees. The pastor called his first meeting December 20, 1939, at which time he presented his program to the church. On April 20, 1940, he was installed as pastor.
Rev. Scott felt that the church needed to be brought up to standard financially, so he planned a fall rally in November 1940, between the men and women of the church. The men were led by Mrs. Eula V. Scott, the pastor’s wife, and women were led by Rev. Scott. After five months of hard work, the men raised $1003.18 while the women raised $912.05.
In 1942, Rev. Scott got the vision of building a “Bigger and Better Bethany.”
Because of the war, materials were hard to get, so renovations were made in the old church which added to its beauty. Rev. Scott, still conscientious about the improved appearance, asked that an organ be installed and in February 1943, it was dedicated.
During the next four years, money was continually raised for the new church and during this time all of the property extending from Eleventh and Tilghman Streets to Twelfth and Tilghman Streets was purchased.
It was during this time each club was asked to raise $1,000yearly. Many of the clubs raised this amount and over. The goal changed to $1,500 for each club for several years.
Rev. Scott, through his untiring efforts, led the members safely to the ground breaking service for the new Bethany on March 21, 1948, at Twelfth and Tilghman Streets, and in October, work started on the new building. This was a historic event for Bethany.
In April 1951, the old church and lots were sold to Chester Housing Authority at a sale price of $26,069. This was a great help for the building fund. On July 16, 1951, the housing authority gave us permission to use the Lamokin Center and with many of our church facilities, we moved in and worshiped successfully.
Much of Rev. Scott’s success has been contributed through the assistance and encouragement of his wife, Mrs. Eula V. Scott. She served as directress of the Daniel Chorus, which bears the pastor’s name. She organized a Junior Church, a Junior Usher Board, Youth Choir, and recently Junior Missionary group. She served successfully as president of the Senior Missionary group for many years.
The following contributions have been made by the clubs in the old church: Stained windows given by the clubs bearing the manes of the presidents of the club: pulpit suite given by the Daniel Chorus; Pastor’s study furnished by the Ever Ready Club: a lighted cross given by the Bright Star Club; dishes for the kitchen given by the Peaceful Drive Club, and the Pastor’s robe and cape given by the Daniel Chorus and the Pastor’s Aid, respectively.
The following organizations were started by Pastor Scott:
Daniel Chorus-Mrs. Eula V. Scott, organizer
Christian Workers Club