Bethany Church began as a Lutheran/Reformed congregation around 1789, when together they constructed a log meeting house. In 1861 a frame church building was constructed at the same location, Between 1854 and 1902 the Reformed people stopped participating, and in 1902 the Lutherans discontinued services and the union was dissolved. In 1903 the Reformed Church constructed a new building on site, purchased the Lutherans’ share of the property and continued the ministry of Bethany Church. A parsonage was constructed near the church in 1956 and on May 21, 1961 a newly remodeled sanctuary and a large addition of educational and fellowship space was dedicated.
Bethany Church is one of the oldest Reformed churches in North Carolina, tracing its roots back to 1789, when land was purchased from Frederick Miller in a community known then as Brushy Fork, for the purpose of “building a meeting house and other religious purposes.” The congregation began as a union effort of persons of Reformed and Lutheran faith. The church was for some time referred to as the Church of Fredericktown, in deference to Frederick Miller, from whom the land for the church building has been acquired. The first church building was erected shortly after land was available. It was a log structure known as a meeting house. this served the community until 1861 when a new frame structure was erected and the name was changed to Bethany Church. The church prospered over the next few years but by 1848 the congregation was in serious decline and all regular services were discontinued.
In 1848, a young man recently out of seminary named Thornton Butler came into the area and with the support of a few interested lay persons began holding “camp meetings” in August of 1851. The congregation was reassembled although the reformed people stopped participating in the joint camp meetings in 1854. In 1902 the Lutheran people discontinued holding services at this location and sought a satisfactory division of the property that up to this point had been jointly owned. The Reformed people received two acres of the property and immediately went to work to build a new church which was dedicated November 15, 1903. This continuing group of Reformed people bought and additional 4 acres of land from the Lutherans.
The church continued to serve the community while sharing pastoral leadership with at least two other nearby Reformed Congregations. Under the leadership of Rev. Hoy L. Fesperman in 1928, the building that had been constructed in 1903 was remodeled and Sunday School rooms were added. In 1935, just prior to the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Bethany Church, a fellowship-activities building was added to the property.
The most successful years of Bethany Church occurred under the leadership of Rev. Carl Kreps from 1956-1963. During this time, plans were developed to remodel the sanctuary and significantly enlarge the educational space. These plans were carried out so that the dedication of the remodeled and newly constructed building occurred May 21, 1961. Bethany was also now ready to become a self-supporting single parish, which they did that same year, with Rev. Carl Kreps agreeing to become their first full-time pastor.
In 1989 Bethany’s bicentennial anniversary was celebrated while Rev. Banks Shepherd served as pastor. The cemetery has many unique tombstones which are “pierced Baroque” in style. According to historians, these stones are found only in Davidson County in seven graveyards in an approximate radius of fifteen miles. It is believed they were made by a cabinet maker living in Abbot’s Creek area in the early 1800’s. The pierced stone bearing the earliest date is for George Nifong who died in 1797. Through the efforts of the congregation, the Bethany United Church of Christ cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places during their Bicentennial Anniversary year.
Bethany Church has a colorful history and a challenging one. Once it became a single church parish with adequate pastoral leadership its ministry expanded, and its influence within the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ was celebrated. Throughout its history it has practiced good stewardship both in terms of finances and sharing of talents.
Historical information collected from “Churches Related” Forty Years History of Churches and Related Ministries 1965-2005 United Church of Christ Western North Carolina Association by Dr. Donald P. Flick, Dr. Thomas R. Hamilton Published under the supervision of Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society Southern Chapter and authorized by Western North Carolina Association of the United Church of Christ Copyright 2008 by Western North Carolina Association of the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ