A BRIEF HISTORY OF BETHANY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
1901 First services held at Jessup St. School on Saturday, Apr. 26. Dec. 22 the cornerstone
was laid for a new building.
1902 The North Berwick Evangelical Church was dedicated July 5 with Bishop Stanford present. The project cost $3,300.
1903 The North Berwick church was named a Station separate from Columbia Circuit with Rev. Shaffer, pastor.
1925 The educational unit, costing $37,000 was dedicated on Sept. 13 with Rev. Fleckenstine as pastor.
1946 The name of North Berwick Ev. Church was changed to Bethany Evangelical United Brethren Church.
1951 Ground was broken on March 10 for a new Sanctuary. Rev. H. H. Jacobs laid the cornerstone on July 15.
1952 Bishop Epp dedicated the Sanctuary on September 21.
1953 Bethany hosted the Central PA. Conf. Annual Session.
1960 The property at 116 Summerhill Ave. was purchased. It is now a Church office and small group meeting area.
1966 A new parsonage at 1700 Pine Street was dedicated.
1970 A three manual Rodgers Organ was dedicated. A goal of $15,500 was reached within the next three months.
1980 Plans were accepted to remodel the balcony of the Sunday School.
1982 An experimental youth ministry with Bethany, Bower and First UM Churches was begun. Shaffer House became the residence for the Director.
1983 A goal of $11,000 was set to erect a ramp leading to the Sanctuary level of the Church. The goal was reached in two months and the ramp erected.
1985 A Lay Witness Mission was held in Feb. The Sunday School hit a record of 335 in attendance in the Fall Rally Day.
1986 Shaffer House is employed by the Church as a residence for the Custodian and family.
1987 Extensive remodeling of classroom space, both the main floor and in the basement was completed.
1988 Our debt, which stood at $42,000 in July of 1987, was paid in full. Bethany set a goal for
the year 1989 of hiring a full-time Assistant Pastor. The Over The Hill Club was organized in Jan of 1988.
1989 A new roof was installed on the church along with numerous other improvements. Three members celebrated 75 years as a member of Bethany, (Maude Pollock, Martha Collins & Lee Banghart).
1990 We had several special events during the year, the highlight being the Mt. Zion Baptist Choir, Rally Day attendance hit 223. A van was purchased with a goal to secure a second, Advent Devotional written by Bethany folks were published while a Nativity Scene came alive on December weekends! A Prison Ministry was started with about a dozen people participating in it.
1991 Many members gave exceptional gifts: New handicapped restroom on the main level by Alice Stephens. Sanctuary was air-conditioned by a gift of $30,725 by Don and Bunni Meske, Pew Bibles were dedicated in memory of Janice Harmon, $5,000 inheritance for missions & a 4th octave of bells from the Gayle Zeart estate. Educational Trust from Fay Dendler, two sets of Altar vases from Glovene Youngkin, a Telex Video Projection unit from Lloyd & Trudy Johnson, Holly trees in memory of Janice Harmon & in honor Earl & Lois Heimbach. In May a second van was purchased. We all smiled for the Pictorial Directory and sang from new hymnals.
1992 29 people joined our fellowship, attendance for Worship and Sunday School remained constant, air-conditioning was added to the Kindergarten and Nursery rooms while a new furnace warmed Bethany House. The sound system was completely renovated, Sanctuary painted, new computer/printer purchased for the office while 8 members were renewed with a trip to the Holy Land. Bethany offered its first Holly Trail to raise funds for Missions and hosted Bishop May for a day in the District. A fifth octave of Bells was ordered and Highest Praise choral group organized.
1993 Bethany was chosen by the Central Pennsylvania Conference to participate in Church Growth with Integrity. Following weeks of information gathering, Rev. Bill Easum of Texas visited Bethany for a church consultation. A building fund was established in Feb. to begin an account for future development. A gift of $250,000 was pledged to motivate additional giving. Missionaries Pete & Carol (Heim) Unseth came home in June for a year of leave. Bethany gave over $6,000. for flood relief in the Mid-west. Christmas Eve Service was the largest in decades. Bethany joined Habitat for Humanity. A second Vespers Service was added on Sunday Evenings.
1994 A devastating Winter cut programming and attendance for the first two months. The highlight came in August with the hiring of Mrs. Amy Kacyon as full-time Assistant to the Pastor in the area of Youth and Children. A contemporary worship service at 11:15 a.m. was started in June with 56 persons in attendance. A congregational vote approved hiring Centura Associates for preliminary drawings. An additional $90,000+ was pledged towards a growing Building Fund. A Pioneer Club was started for grades 1-4, with a membership of 20+ while Youth Fellowship grew above 30 members. Largest attendance was for the Annual Bell Concert with 525 at the two performances.
1995 History was made on Sunday, March 12 with a Church Conference voting to proceed with building a $1,300,000. addition. Construction can begin when $700,000 is received. Twenty-six youth attended a weekend retreat at Wesley Forest. Death claimed 19 members while 14 joined. The Building Fund grew by $492,594. and a public auction was conducted on the rainiest day of ‘95. People found Christ at a Lay Witness Mission in Oct.! After one year 40+ children belong to Pioneer Club. Organist Marlene Eckrote celebrated 35 years at the console. Our favorite missionaries returned to Berwick due to Pete Unseth’s health. Bethany noted for ministry to youth & children was featured in the Conference newspaper. Additional ministry was given with Grief Support Groups.
1996 Lori Gibbs came on Staff as Assistant to the Pastor. Bethany hosted for the District The Rev. Olaf Parnament of Estonia as World Missioner.
The Building Committee met on May 9 with Bill Oberdorf of Centura Associates to review bids of 9 contractors. Hepco Construction of Selinsgrove was the low bidder for General Construction ($886,400), Dent Plumbing & Heating ($34,158), Dent Plumbing & Heating ($87,925), and I. Ray Zimmerman Electrical ($88,450). On Pentecost Sunday (May 26) Groundbreaking services were conducted by District Superintendent Rev. C.Raski Fuller for the new addition which will contain 16 new classrooms, fellowship hall and stage, recreational area, kitchen and office. The old educational unit will experience remodeling for a new library, church office, nursery, classrooms. Every area will be accessible by elevator. Members came in droves to dismantle Bethany House (formerly parsonage, currently Church Office) to save $8,000 demolition fees. Properties at 135 Summerhill Ave ($79,900) and 1836 Jessup St. ($37,500) were purchased for a parking lot and garage. The home at 1836 Jessup was restored by volunteers as a residence for the Assistant to the Pastor.
The Bell Choir traveled in June to Portland, Maine to participate in the National Bell Festival and was featured at a tri-district service to welcome Bishop Neil Irons to Central PA. Bethany’s member Paul Dauenbaugh accepted a full-time U.Meth. pastorate at Jerseytown and the Unseths moved to Texas to teach for Wycliffe. The “Rock” was formed to voice support for Scriptural Christianity in United Methodism. Pioneer Club reached over 50 members. A “Live” Nativity was a huge undertaking/success as Bethany portrayed the birth of Christ at the Columbia Mall every day from Dec. 13-24. Nearly 200 members participated! By year’s end the new addition was 50% complete.
1997 We won’t forget this year. The culminating event happened on Sunday, July 20 at the 9:00 a.m. worship service as the District Superintendent Rev. Raski Fuller consecrated the new facility. After a year of dust, moving, dust, temporary quarters for classes and offices, more dust, daily decision making, painting, and still more dust; finally the temporary inconvenience became a permanent improvement. Bethany survived a $1.5 million addition/renovation. Thanks be to God! Land adjacent to the new parking lot (behind 1836/1840 Jessup St.) was purchased for a garage which was built by Bethany volunteers. Parking lots were paved, the Bell Choir traveled to Ithaca, N.Y., the first Gospel Celebration was held with a full house, Bethany hosted the yearly District Men’s banquet and the women organized under the name “Encouragers.” Our first community craft show was held in Nov. and the first Bloodmobile in December. The Mall Live Nativity was repeated and the Children’s Department presented a Christmas Program. Pioneer Club reached 60+ and Bethany received 36 members (20 by Confession of Faith). To God be the Glory! Money received for the Building Fund stood at $762,705. The debt is $850,000.
1998 An auction held in the big room was both a social & financial success ($15,250.75). In March the Administrative Board passed a proposal for a “Christian” Day Care/Preschool. Mrs. Cristie Bacher was hired as Director of Bethany Blessings with 27 children enrolled. The Pioneer Club had 69 children registered and participated in the first annual “Kids for Kids Hike.” Attendance just missed 500 for Easter (by 3) and sailed over 400 for Christmas Eve (largest in recent years). Volunteers refinished the pews & Pine St. doors. Stained glass windows were installed on the wall of the old stage. Youth ages 10 - 18 were enlisted for an Acolyte ministry. At Annual Conference Pastor Dennis received the Harry Denman Award in Evangelism. Bethany Youth hosted “Overtime” following football games. The Building Fund debt stood at $787,000.
2001 2001 was an exciting year for Bethany as we celebrated 100 years as a church. The anniversary celebration was kicked off by Bishop Neil Irons on Sept.10, 2000. During the following months we had guest speakers, who had served our church or went out from our church to do Christian work. Our speakers were: Dr. David Keller, Rev. Tom Harmon, Rev. Larry Hummel, Rev. Dr. Jeff Rarich, Rev. Paul Daunbach, Rev. Randy Heacock and Pete Unseth. Lori Landry and Denise Roberts provided special music on separate Sundays. April 29, 2001 was our Anniversary Sunday with Rev. Dr. Sammuel Sheffler speaking followed by the release of 350 balloons, a slide show from the past and a meal in the big room. Lee Banghart was honored for being a Sunday School teacher for 75 years.
2002 We had Tim Kauffman here for a Saturday night dinner/concert followed by three nights of revival services. We have 86 kids in our Pre School/Day Care now. The boys & girls in the Sunday School department presented the Christmas play Heavenly Harrold during the Sunday School hour with an attendance of 210. At the end of 2002 our Building Fund debt is at $634,000.
2003 This year was a great year here at Bethany. We had two dinner concerts featuring The Dixie Melody Boys and The Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet. Our Pioneer Club continued to flourish with over 65 children enrolled. Pete and Carol Unseth visited us on June 15th for a Special Mission Sunday. In August, the Youth Fellowship journeyed to McColl, South Carolina on their annual Mission Trip. The 40 Days of Purpose program was in October and November. This Program helped to unite our Church and to use our gifts to the glory of God. December brought a lot of activity as we continued the Live Nativity at the Columbia Mall. Bethany also hosted a Christmas Bell Concert with choirs from Danville, Townhill, and Millville participating along with our own choir. Bethany Blessings sponsored our first ever display at the Christmas Boulevard called “The Pine Tree Parable”. Bethany Blessing Pre-School/Day Care continues to as an outreach to our community with an enrollment of 87 children.
2004 What a great time of fellowship here at Bethany! We began the year with an Auction to benefit the building fund. Bethany hosted our annual Lenten Services this year. In March, we hosted Heartbeat Productions, a music based youth ministry. In May, we had our Spring Bell Concert along with the Kid’s Choir Musical. Also in May, David Ring was our special speaker for our Spring Rally Day. In August, VBS had a wonderful turnout of over 100 kids. The Bethany Beacon’s Softball Team won the League Championship. September brought the beginning of our Praise and Worship Service on Sunday Mornings at 11 am. In October, the Wehry Family joined us for a message in song. December was filled with the Live Nativity at Columbia Mall, a Christmas Bell Concert, A Night of Christmas Music, and the Candlelight Christmas Eve Service (370 attending). Our Pioneer Club continued to minister to children on Wednesday Evenings, and Bethany Blessing Pre-School/Day Care continued as an outreach to our community.
2005 We began the year again with an Auction to help raise money for a full-time youth pastor. We hosted Heartbeat Productions again in the spring. In May, there was the Kid’s Choir Musical. June brought the Creation trip for the Pioneer Club teens, and also a visit from our missionary friends, the Unseths. In August, VBS was a success with its VIVA Mexico theme, and Youth Fellowship took a group to teens on their mission trip. The Bethany Beacon’s Softball Team won the championship trophy. The musical group “Renewed” gave a concert in the fall. December was filled with a Christmas Bell Concert, A Night of Christmas Music, the Candlelight Christmas Eve Service, and the Christmas Day Cantata. Pioneer Club continued to meet on Wednesday Evenings, and our pre-school continued as an outreach to our community.
2006 We hosted the Methodist Charge Conference. Father Dominick Mammarella was the speaker for Rally day. Bethany Softball placed second after losing by 1 run and going into overtime. Damien Scoblink took a truck load of toys to children in South Carolina for Christmas. Youth Fellowship attended “See You At The Pole” rally at Town Park in Bloomsburg. We continued to send cards to members in the hospital. The second service is going strong. Vacation Bible School was well attended. Pioneer Club gave grades 7 and 8 their own classes. PC now goes from ages 3 to 12th grade. The ladies from Bethany attended the Lenten Teas at Lightstreet, took turns with the other churches providing food and had the largest attendance of the other churches.
2007 We once again hosted the Methodist charge conference. A drama and puppet group for our youth was started called Psalms. Rally Day was a success with Police Chief Brennan being our speaker. YF once again went to the “See You At The Pole” rally in Bloomsburg. Bethany was involved with bringing speaker, Bob Lenz to the area schools during the day with a big rally at the High School at night. This was very successful. True Heart, a gospel harmony group was here in October. Damien continued his mission trip to South Carolina. Our youth program continued to be strong. The Bethany Beacons softball team won the league championship. We had over 100 children for VBS. December was filled with the live nativity at the Columbia Mall, our Christmas bell concert and Candlelight Christmas Eve service. We also started prayer squares for people needing prayer.
2008 YF went on their annual retreat to Wesley Forest. They also went to Creation, held a free car wash, and attended Meet You at The Pole Rallies. The YF also changed their name to BYG-Bethany Youth Group. Sunday School’s name was changed to Sunday School/Learning Hour. Bethany continued to support SCMM (Summer Cooperative Musical Ministry). We celebrated Rally Day with a continental breakfast and speaker Dr. John Trathen. Bishop Middleton came to discuss a merge of the W/B/Scranton District with part of Lewisburg. Family Matters Sunday School class began selling gift cards with the proceeds benefiting Bethany. Bethany is being considered a hub for the computer ministry by Mission Central in Mechanicsburg. We again took up a collection of toys, coats and toiletries for the annual mission trip to South Carolina. We continue to have good attendance at Pioneer Club, YF (BYG) and Vacation Bible School. It was decided not to do the Live Nativity at the mall this year. The Women’s Encouragers was discontinued and replaced with a weekly Bible study for women. The Wehry Family performed in concert. We held a Ministry Fair in September with 41 booths. Pioneer Club sent Christmas cards to the vets at the VA Hospital in Wilkes-Barre. Our annual Bell Christmas Concert featured, Bethany Bells, JIGS and Wesley Bells from Nescopeck.
2009 A great time was had at the Mid-Winter Picnic. We had two successful clothing give aways. We also collected shoes and coats to be given away to those in need. The DS showed us a film at church conference about some friendless churches; hints were given on how to become a friendlier church. The summer picnic at Ber-Vaughn was a big hit. Vacation Bible School, Pioneer Club and BYG Room Ministries all continued to have good attendance. Pioneer Club made Christmas cards for the VA Hospital which were well received. P Club also passed out door hangers in the community inviting people to come and worship with us. Our boy and girl scouting programs are growing. We held our Ice Cream Social in August. This was our last year to make apple dumplings. We gave out computers to needy families and delivered a truck load of toys to families in South Carolina. We had three worship services in the fall about the giving of our time, talents and treasures. We finished with a Consecration Sunday where we committed our tithes to God and had a beautiful catered meal in the Big Room.
2010 Valentines were given to the Vets at the Veteran Hospital in Wilkes-Barre. They really looked forward to the homemade valentines. In Feb we also had our annual mid-winter picnic which seems to grow every year. Any left over food is taken to the Beyond Violence Women’s Center. On Rally Day we combined for both services. Special speakers were Jason Welch, Tyler Hazlett, Scott Bower, Art Leffler and Alice Stephens. Alice was honored in both Sunday School and in church for being a Sunday School teacher for 50 years. The Boy Scouts had Scout Sunday and sold flowers at Mother’s Day. The Girl Scouts also had their Scout Sunday. Pioneer Club ended with the children bringing their parents to the last meeting for a meal. Awards and badges were handed out. Flowers were given to all mothers on Mother’s Day. We had Youth Sunday with various youth giving their testimonies. Election Day was held in November and so many people came to eat that we ran out of food! An old fashioned Rally day was held in the fall. All adults and children had a contest and the kids won! A new class for young adults called Solomon’s Porch started. Consecration Sunday was held with a catered meal. We collected shoes and coats. Damien Scoblink and some of our youth took donated toys and toiletries to South Carolina. We are now part of the Susquehanna Conference.
2011 We began the year with the winter picnic. We had over 100 in attendance. The weather up to this point was snow (almost every day) and cold and still we cooked outside on the grills. On Palm Sunday each person received a palm branch to place on the cross in front of the sanctuary. On Maundy Thursday we had 13 adults and children speak and extinguish a candle. The youth group was in charge of the sunrise service. The summer picnic was held at Ber-Vaughn and was well attended. Our church debt of $200.000 was paid off anonymously. We are still in talks about the future of the baseball field and it made the Press-Enterprise. Some of the Stained Glass windows were leaking and so was the bell tower. The windows are now fixed. Cracks were fixed in the parking lot. Pastor Joe Brady retired and Pastor Dwaine Krebs came to be our new pastor. We had pictures taken for a new picture directory. We held our 3rd Consecration Sunday where we talked about attendance and tithing. The youth held a rally here for See You At The Pole. We had a very bad flood that affected our local community. Pastor started up the PDA teams-Prayer-Dream and Action. Damien took youth once again to South Carolina in August and in December 2 youth went back down with another church. The Bell Choir gave a Christmas Concert. We had a Children’s Christmas Pageant also.
2012 The youth went on their annual weekend retreat to Wesley Forest. T-mobile placed wires up into the bell tower for cellphone service. The bell tower now has a roof on it. Joan Harmon continues to teach a Bible class. We did not have a mid-winter picnic this year. This is the first for “A Taste of the Wild”. We held a spring and fall clothing drive. In June, Bethany hosts the Summer Cooperative Musical Ministry in the Big Room each day for two weeks. The craft show is always a hit. Vacation Bible School and Pioneer Club was well attended. A new roof was placed on the parsonage. Consecration Sunday was held in November with testimony from different people. We had a number of people going on the mission trip to Guatemala. This has changed many lives. ARK Ministries was started, and gives many an opportunity to serve. Another ministry that began in 2012 was the Angel Card ministry. A Community Meal began in September and was held each Wednesday. The Quilting Group met weekly, sending each quilt to the homeless. The Pee Dee mission is still going strong with the youth from the church going to South Carolina to pass out toys and toiletry items. The Bell Choir performed during December and we had a Christmas Children’s program. Both were well attended. Christmas Eve we had three services held at 5, 7 and 11:00 pm.
2013 There are several ongoing projects that we have had for a number of years such as Quilters (make sleeping bags for the homeless), the Pee Dee Indian used toy drive, Ark Ministry, Pioneer Club (going strong), Easter Egg Hunt, Community Meal, Summer Cooperative Musical Ministry (SCMM), Ice Cream Social, Christmas Handbell Concert, and the Craft Show (which will be taken over by Bethany Blessing next year) as well as adding some new ones like our holiday Ugly Sweater Contest/Hanging of the Greens party. We hired a new church secretary. Damien Scoblink was appointed as the new Youth Director. We started some Christ-centered small groups that are a gathering place. Aluminum can recycling was started with the proceeds going toward future mission trips to Guatemala. Bethany is now a Stephen Ministry Church. A children and a youth Library are now up and being used. The Extra Mile giving continues each month with the Evangelism and Missions committee choosing recipients. This year, donations were made to Agape, Mi Refugio School, Friends of Israel, Loving Choices and several others. A new Bible study on Thursday, regarding the signs of His coming was begun. Fly tying classes was held by the Freestone Fly Fishers Club. The youth and some adults went on a mission trip to South Carolina to serve God and others. They helped with a wheelchair ramp, drywall, fixing roofs and more. They have had these trips for a good number of years. A new Sunday School Class was started for young adults. It focuses on your walk with Christ in today’s world. The Chancel Choir has disbanded. Bethany Youth Group has a new outlook and a new name, B.O.D.Y. (Bethany’s Open Door Youth Group). The praise team also changed its name this year to P.S.A.L.M.S. (Praising Our Savior and His Love through Musical Service) and has several new members. A fellowship/coffee area in the overflow section of the sanctuary was put in place and has been a successful place to meet and fellowship before, after and between worship services.
2016 We purchased the property next to the church on Pine Street. The house has since been razed and the ground leveled. The plan is to make part of it the playground area for the children of Bethany Blessings day care so they will no longer have to cross Summerhill Avenue to reach their play area. The church launched their new Sunday School program called "Deep Blue," which helped kick start our children's ministry again.