A unique celebration brought two local churches together on Sept. 27, when Bethel Baptist Church rejoiced in reaching its 72nd church anniversary. The congregation of Bethel Baptist invited Pastor John Murray, from the First Baptist Church in Hawthorne, to present the main message of the day and included participating members from that sister church to share in the service’s program.
From the opening call to worship, the entire service was filled with excitement. The first portion of the program had meaningful points shared by members of the Bethel Baptist Church. Debra Jenkins opened her heart with personal feelings about what the church meant to her. Jenkins was transparent in saying, “This is my home – we make up the church. It’s not the building; it’s about us being in one accord. We need to love one another by talking to each other and be the church God intended us to be.”
Deacon James Walker held up a plaque that listed the founding men of the church and read through the historical outline of Bethel Baptist’s humble beginnings. The original organization was only a handful of 14 members, under the direction of Rev. Carl P. Narducci. As time unfolded, the church moved from G Street to the corner of 10th and B Street, purchasing two lots in 1945. By the late forties, with $800 donated by eight members, the construction of the first church began. A succession of pastors and members came through to assist in building this body of Christ, but in April 1955 the church edifice was destroyed in a fire. Under the leadership of Rev. J.E. Davis these members persevered to restore a new church building as they continued to thrive within the community.
Since 2004, Rev. Robert E. Cox has served this congregation within this community. This pastor has not only stood in their pulpit, he has served beyond the walls of the church to minister to people. He teaches and disciples individuals; outreaches families and developed relationship with other community pastors. Rev. Cox expressed his thanks as he admitted that the church has come a long way, not only in years but in experience. “Today our church is still alive and well. To God be the glory for it.”
A sense of unity transpired as the two congregations shared their songs and scripture. Pastor Murray, a transplant from Iowa to Hawthorne in 2014, shared a message which challenged both church groups. Murray asked how each congregation can go from 72 years to 75 years and further. He confirmed the like-mindedness of the faith that only God can move people to salvation and that people are not one event, but rather a process of grace.
A wonderful time of food was prepared and held at the USO Convention Center. The celebration was continued as the two groups became one, eating and sharing together. The rich heritage from both churches was acknowledged and shared as a blessing within the town of Hawthorne.