Bethel was launched on September 21, 1917 when 61 people squeezed into a living room in north Philadelphia. This group, led by Pastor George H. Whitehead was committed to be a church that welcomed all people. As God blessed, the church grew, and with growth came the need for a larger property. Two row-homes at "B" & Allegheny were purchased & renovated, and the first service was held at this new location in December, 1929 - less than 2 months after the stock market crash!
In spite of the economic hardship of the depression, God's faithfulness was evident in Bethel’s continued growth. In January 1942, our founding pastor, George Whitehead passed away and was succeeded by his son, J. Wesley Whitehead. After serving faithfully for 42 years, Pastor J. Wesley Whitehead became Pastor Emeritus in 1984 and Dave Hine became pastor in January of 1986.
Soon after this, Bethel stepped out in faith to do something very unconventional at the time - launch two new churches simultaneously. Luis Centeno became pastor at the B & Allegheny site while a new church was launched at 7114 Oxford Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. Under Pastor Hine’s leadership God blessed both churches and allowed them both to be a reflection of the neighborhoods they were in.
In December of 1995, Pastor Dave Hine resigned to become part of a mission group. Robert Tarnoviski became the pastor in April 1996 and within a few years, Bethel was doing four Sunday services as it outgrew its property. So in October of 2004, Bethel Philadelphia Mills was launched when Bethel moved into and started leasing its current location - the old movie theater at Franklin Mills Mall. Through the sale of its Oxford Avenue site, the sacrificial giving of its people and some loans, Bethel was able to raise the almost $2 million needed to renovate the current site.
Since our move to Philadelphia Mills, we've continued to grow as we've seen hundreds give their lives to Christ and hundreds baptized. In addition to our numerical & spiritual growth, we've grown to be a truly diverse congregation, one that reflects the variety of races, ages & incomes found in our surrounding community.
We invite you to join us as God continues to write the next chapter in Bethel's history!
For a more detailed history of Bethel, click here.