We've been ministering in Fox Chase for almost 150 years. Here's a survey of what God has done over that time.
Bethany began as a church plant from Pennepack Baptist Church, one of the oldest surviving congregations in America! In 1866 they began holding evangelistic meetings exploring the possibility of planting in Fox Chase.
As the small group of believers grew, the need for a building in Fox Chase became apparent to the leaders of Pennypack Baptist. Led by Pastor Rev. W. E. Cornwell, the people of Bethany began building what they called their "Meeting House." They began meeting there in December of 1867, which is now considered our annual anniversary.
For about the first 40 years of Bethany meeting together we had no place to baptize new Christians. So we used Pennypack Creek in NE Philly! Check out this account of one baptism in 1876: “This morning being very unplesant, and the traveling very icy, only a few [went] to the place of baptism A passage was cut through the ice of the creek in sufficient depth of water where the rite was performed in the presence of friends and others. After which, all repaired to the church.”
For 20 years Bethany was blessed to be pastored by Dr. Clarence Larkin, a well known theologian, Bible teacher and artist. He was particularly well known for some of the very first advances in Dispensational Theology and is even still considered required reading for some students. He led the church body to have a passionate love for Scripture. His ministry also instilled in our people a joy for the return of Jesus that lasts even today!
Rev. August Ballbach pastored Bethany for the next 32 years. During this time the church continued to grow, ministering especially to some of the growing immigrant population in ever-sprawling NE Philly. Over the next several years, additions were added to the church building, ministries expanded, and more people came to faith in Jesus in Fox Chase. It was also during this time that Bethany began to send out some of it's first missionaries. One of whom was Sid Langford from Africa Inland Mission who wrote "It's a Battle"
One well known missionary sent out by Bethany was Nate Saint. He was the pilot of the team of 5 missionaries who were martyred by the Aucan indians in Ecuador. Nate and his sister Rachel (who continued to minister among the Aucans for the rest of her life) both grew up at Bethany. God used these missionaries to inspire a whole generation of young men and women who went to share the good news of Jesus around the world.
God continued to bless Bethany with many families to minister to throughout these years. Relationships were meaningful, the ministry was vital and the church continued to grow. So much so, in fact, that by 1967 our 100 year old building could no longer keep up! But God provided, and in '67 a new building was dedicated. This is the same building (externally) that you will see on the corner of Rhawn and Rockwell today! Check out some great pictures below of church life during these years.
For the next several decades Bethany worked to remain faithful to teaching the truth of Jesus to the next generation of believers. Some of the long-held values of the church that the people of Bethany put into practice during these years were such things as a priority on strong Bible teaching about God, a commitment to world missions, and faithfully walking through life together.
We are immensely greatful for generations of God's faithfulness to us in the past. It's because of our past that we are inspired to continue to attempt great things for the cause of Jesus Christ! We've learned that God is faithful from generation to generation first hand! Now we're committed to working together to utilize the most effective means of carrying Christ into the 21st century (and beyond!). God is good and we're excited to be part of his mission to rescue men and women in Fox Chase and around the world! And to do it as his family together!