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BETHEL METHODIST CHURCH

Township, Lancaster County, Pa

"Churches of Today and Yesterday in Southern Lancaster County" by Fellowship of Solanco Churches, Raymond Dunlap, George Herbert, & Richard Yates , Sr. printed 1968

The first Bethel Church was a small stone building which was built in 1822 at a cost of $500 on an acre of ground donated by Joseph Swift, the owner of Fulton House (the birthplace of the inventor, Robert Fulton). It was at Fulton House that ministers of the Method-ist Church and other denominations preached for eight years before Bethel Church was built. This stone church was occupied by the Methodist group for thirty years and was served by ministers known as circuit riders.

The present sanctuary was finished in 1851 at a cost of $2,500 to make room for the growing church and Sunday School. At the time of the Civil War and for years following, the Sunday School had an enrollment of 200 to 250. A music school was conducted there and many community meetings were held at Bethel making it a church of great importance in southern Pennsylvania. Some years later the church experienced a gradual decline and was closed in 1941.

Following World War II, a Sunday School was organized and later the church was re-established. With the help of a few dedicated Christians, former members and friends of the church, it was com-pletely renovated and made habitable. The present furniture and pews which date back before the Civil War are being restored.

In 1958, Bethel was again accepted in the Methodist Conference and Charles H. Eckman was appointed by the Philadelphia Confer-ence to serve as pastor, which he has faithfully done since that time.

One of the first projects was to excavate under the entire structure. A two-story brick addition 18 feet by 24 feet was added in 1961, providing a room for a nursery, Sunday School or meeting room, and rest rooms. Just recently an electric organ was purchased for the sanctuary.

An interesting item concerning Bethel in the August 18, 1931 issue of the Quarryville Sun stated-"On the 24th day of September 1851, in the presence of Reverend Pennell Combe, Reverend Andrew Man-ship, Reverend William Cook and Reverend John B. Deneson, the corner stone of the present church (Bethel second) was laid. In it were placed a Bible, list of those who had subscribed towards build-ing the new church, a copy of the Christian Advocate and Journal, discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, county papers, a piece of American coin and the names of the contractor and mechanics en-gaged to do the work" In the near future it is planned to open the cornerstone, with suitable ceremonies, to see the condition of the articles placed there in 1851.

Members of Bethel Church now number 46, and although they are few in number, many things have been accomplished. Some one said, "it is the friendly church at the foot of the hill" on Route 222 between Unicorn and Robert Fulton Birthplace. Visitors are made welcome and asked to come back

Sunday School every Sunday at 9: 45 AM.

Church service at 10: 45 AM.

From "History Of Lancaster County" by Ellis and Evans 1883, page 859-860

Methodist Episcopal Church.---The Methodist Episcopal Church at Bethel, in the northern corner of the township, was originally built in 1822. No doubt. the congregation was organized at an earlier date, as they had been for some time holding meetings at the house of Joseph Swift, on whose land the church was built. his whole family, consisting of himself his wife, four sons, and five daughters, are all understood to have been members of the society. The first house built was an unpretentious stone structure of rather small dimensions, but the power was there, and the membership increased till in 1851 a large brick church was erected in place of the old stone structure, and therein have they continued to worship till the present day, though with varying success and fluctuating numbers. Sometimes large accessions are obtained, and then again by death, removal, and other causes the membership is considerably reduced. At the time the present house was built it formed a part of Strasburg Circuit, and two preachers were placed upon it, Rev. Joseph S. Cook being in charge. Since then the circuit has been divided and altered, Bethel being now one of the appointments on Fulton Circuit, whereof Rev. F'. M. Brady has the charge, and is the only preacher now itinerating the circuit.

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