Bethany Baptist Church

"A Church Where Jesus Christ is Lord and Friendship is More Than a Word"

Rev. Dr. John W. Marks, Interim Pastor

Church History

On February 6, 1938, in an effort to develop their outreach ministry, the Dexter Boulevard Baptist Church (now the Covenant Baptist Church of West Bloomfield) initiated Sunday School classes in the basement of the George Ford Elementary School. After canvassing this neighborhood and recognizing the need for more extensive ministry, their efforts resulted in the formation of the Bethany Baptist Church.

On November 26, 1939, under the leadership of Reverend Benjamin Eicher, Pastor of the Garden City Baptist Church, Bethany conducted its first full worship service. The Sunday School parents voiced their need for Sunday Service and Reverend Doctor Rufus Tarver accepted the mantle, organized, and became the first Pastor of the Bethany Baptist Church.

Over the course of the next seven years, Bethany was lead by several different Pastors.

1941 through 1942       Pastor Harry Harsft
1943 through 1944       Pastor Howard School
1945 through 1961       Pastor Howard G. Eicher

Pastor H. G. Eicher served as Bethany's Pastor for sixteen very productive years. Under his leadership, for the meager sum of $5,000.00, the congregation purchased our first permanent site, the fourteen lots where we currently sit. Services continued at the George Ford School while plans to build a new structure were undertaken. The onset of World War II postponed the plans to build and a coal strike forced the congregation to move from George Ford School. As the face of the nation changed, so did the face of Bethany.

For a temporary home, the congregation purchased a commercial building at Plymouth and Greenfield. It required some remodeling as it was the former dance hall known as the "Oasis". That building also underwent a series of face lifts. It was subsequently remodeled into the Gala Food Market and is now the neighborhood McDonald's Restaurant. The sale of that building provided the seed money for building our current location.

On September 17, 1950, ground was broken for our current building and the construction was underway. For the next three years, the congregation moved back to George Ford School to conduct services. On May 3, 1953, the sanctuary was dedicated. Dr. Ruben Nelson, General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches, USA, was the keynote speaker for this auspicious occasion. This fact is noteworthy because during that time, the Catholic Church was the predominant religious edifice in the neighborhood. The church continued to grow in number and in 1957 a building campaign was launched. On September 21, 1958, that effort resulted in the ground breading of our current educational wing.

During Pastor Eicher's 16 years of leadership, the congregation grew from 75 members to approximately 400. The additions to the facility were completed and this Church grew into a beacon of hope for the community. In 1961, Pastor Eicher accepted a new call to ministry. He resigned and relocated to Iowa, were he pastured until retirement. Again, Bethany was lead by a number of different Pastors:

1961       Reverend Charles Carmen & Reverend Jay Miles
1961       through 1966, Reverend William Blount
1966       Reverend Edward Willingham
1967       through 1974, Reverend Kenneth T. Boyd
1974       through 1975, Reverend Hale Thornberry
1975       through 1982, Reverend Colin Thorne

In 1974 under the leadership of Pastor Hale Thornberry, the face of the Bethany Baptist Church family truly began to change in that the congregation slowly became racially integrated. Bethany gained its first African American members under Pastor Thornberry. We also found ourselves in a position to repay George Ford School for their many years of service to our congregation. In 1974, the George Ford School leased the top floor of our education wing to accommodate their student overflow.

In March of 1975, Reverend Colin Lester Thorne became the Pastor. Under his leadership, the Church continued to grow. We became a predominately African American congregation. The mortgage was burned and the church became debt free. In April of 1982, Pastor Thorne resigned and accepted the mantle of leadership of the National Baptist Memorial Church in Washington D.C.

During the summer of 1982, Reverend Samuel H. Bullock, Jr., answered the call to pastor this flock. In October of 1982, Bethany gained a new first family. Of exceptional note is the fact that Bethany now had its first African American Pastor. To this date, he continues to guide us according to the will of God.

Under Pastor Bullock's leadership, the Ministries of Bethany continued to develop and grow. In September of 1985, the Bethany Baptist Educational Center opened its' doors. Under the watchful eye and exceptional leadership of the late Mrs. Joan Anne Bullock, the BBEC became a model for educational excellence for infants, toddlers, and students from kindergarten through the eighth grade.

In addition to Morning Worship Service, a Sunday Nursery was opened for infants and toddlers. In the summer of 1986, because of the high incidences of youth crimes in the surrounding neighborhoods, a Youth Outreach Ministry was formed and continues to this day. To meet the needs of the Church Family and community at large, more than twenty different ministries have been established and continue to grow and thrive.

Under Pastor Bullock's leadership, numerous improvements and additions have been made. Most importantly, Bethany identified and developed a clearly defined Mission and Vision. We strive to "Glorify God and exalt the name of Jesus Christ through our Worship, our Witness, and our Work to expand the kingdom of God" while we as a congregation continue our efforts to "Become a Family of Faith reflecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ as servants of God in the Church, community and the world".

Seven lots east of the church were purchased and converted into a paved parking lot. The existing parking lot was improved and converted into a Department of Education approved playground area. Several vans and buses have been purchased. The building has been air-conditioned. To keep pace with modern technology, audio visual equipment was purchased and subsequently updated. Pastor Bullock has been instrumental in guiding the growth and development of more than ten men and women in their acceptance of the call to preach the gospel. In 2005, we added an 8:00 a.m. Sunday Morning Worship Service to the weekly schedule.

Today, Bethany proudly boasts twenty-four separate ministries. Each uniquely designed to meet the ever changing needs of God's people. It is our sincere prayer that God will continue to show us His Grace as we continue to "grow in grace".