The Late Rev. John Joseph organized and found Bethany Baptist Church on February 12, 1932. Under the leadership of Rev. Joseph, the founding fathers labored to prepare a meeting place at 327 West 126th Street, New York City. Rev. Joseph served as pastor from 1932 to 1934.
In 1934, Rev. Henry Brooks was elected as pastor. Bethany continued to progress and grow under the leadership of Rev. Brooks. Under his pastoral ship, the next edifice at 308 West 133rd Street was purchased. The idea of a well-organized church with specific duties for board and groups was formed.
Again the membership grew and the need for a larger edifice made it necessary for a larger church. The membership then decided to purchase the site on 153rd Street. Rev. Henry Brooks served as pastor from 1934 to 1954.
Rev. Brooks successfully led the church for twenty years with many new additions. In July 1954, Rev. (Pop) Brooks died and Rev. Elmer Brooks began his duties as acting pastor. On February 14, 1955, Rev. Elmer Brooks was elected as pastor.
On February 22, 1957, Rev. Elmer Brooks led the membership in their march from 133rd Street to 153rd Street to the new edifice. Under Elmer Brooks’ leadership, history was made as he laboured teaching and preaching the gospel.
Several church ministries were formed: The Chancel Choir, Mothers’ Board, Get Acquainted Committee, Church Aide Society, Host and Hostess Committee, Scholarship Committee and many others. Rev. Brooks served faithfully until he retired on May 29, 1975.
On August 7, 1975, Rev. Elijah Bennett assumed the helm. Under Rev. Bennett’s leadership several additions were made. The cross that stands as a beacon light to the community was erected, the church van was purchase, the Boy’s and Girl’s Scouts units were formed and five deacons were ordained. The housing committee was formed and Henry Brooks Senior Housing was built and opened in June 1994.
Rev. Bennett served as pastor from 1975 until June 29, 1994. In July 1994, a pulpit committee was formed and the Late Deacon Jasper Laster was elected as the committee chairman. The following committee members labored long and hard in a search for a pastor: Deacon John Harris, Trustee Pearl Jones, Mrs. Elizabeth Copeland and Brother Edward Muse. The Church continued to go forward under the leadership of Deacon Arthur Brown, Chairman, Deacon John Harris, Vice Chairman and the entire Deacon Board. Trustee Marion Cokley, Chairman, Trustee Darren Richburg, Vice Chairman and the entire Trustee Board worked side by side with Deacon Brown and the Pulpit Committee.
After much searching and praying for a pastor, on June 1, 1995, Rev. Robert W. Wright, III was elected as the fifth pastor of the Bethany Baptist Church. Rev. Wright was a young man with a vision for the church, spirit filled, humble and God loving. We were very proud of our pastor. As a new pastor, Rev. Wright brought new programs, some very basic and very important things to accomplish.
With God on our side, Rev. Wright along with the support of his Deacons, Trustees and members was able to add many new ideas and changes for the betterment of the church. Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Robert W. Wright, III, new Chairmen of the Boards were elected Deacon Steven A. Robinson, Deacon Tommie Laster, Trustee Darren Richburg and Trustee Pearl Jones. The Housing Committee was reorganized into the Dream Team. Deacon Steven Robinson was reelected as Chairman. Bethany Development Outreach at Mt. Morris Plaza reached completion and now the church is anticipating the start of Bethany Place. This project will include multifamily housing, a primary health care center, a pharmacy and renovation of our Church.
Rev. Dr. Robert W. Wright, III served as pastor of Bethany from June 1995 through October 2005. In 2006 a Pulpit Committee diligently searched for an Under Shepard to lead the congregation by the guidance and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The Pulpit Committee led by Deacon Theodore Copeland and members: Trustee Linzia Zimmerman, Sister Hattie Ballard, Sister Yvonne Plowden, Brother Lyndon Prince, Trustee Pearl Jones and Deacon Robert Knowles prayed that God would guide them as they continued to move forward by the power of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
The Rev. Dr. William L. Watkins, Jr. Stood in to support the church in every way that his service was needed by preaching our 1st Sunday Worship Services. Dr. Watkins also served as advisor for the Vacation Bible School. The Church continued to grow by the grace of God and the bonding together of Deacon Steven A. Robinson, Chairman, and the Deacon Ministry along with Trustee Darren L. Richburg, Chairman, and the Trustee Ministry and the Pulpit Ministry.
On February 2, 2008 God our Father under the guidance of the Holy Ghost led the church to elect Rev. Dr. Kris F. Erskine of Bryan College Station Texas, as the sixth pastor of the Bethany Baptist Church. We look forward to developing many new ideas and ministries services under Dr. Erskine’s leadership.
Compiled by: Mother Arvella Cokley
Deacon Steven Robinson
Sister Ruth Mc Leod