On September 21, 1917, 61 people crammed into a living room in North Philadelphia & acknowledged that God was leading them to launch a new church. As a result, “Bethel Mission” was launched the following week at Front & Cambria Streets with George H. Whitehead, Sr. as pastor.
God blessed and the church started to grow. With growth came the need for a larger property, so two row-homes at “B” & Allegheny were purchased & renovated, with the first service held in December, 1929, officially launching “Bethel Temple”…less than 2 months after the stock market crash!
In spite of the economic hardship of the depression, God’s faithfulness was clearly evident to Bethel Temple and they continued to grow as they reached more people for Christ. A new Sunday School building was built in July of 1938, and in 1941 Bethel Temple was completely debt free. Only God could have done this! With Bethel Temple on solid footing, the Lord called Pastor George H. Whitehead home on January 18, 1942. He was succeeded by his son, J. Wesley Whitehead.
In May of 1950, Bethel was able to purchase another building to expand further and to house its church offices. Throughout the 1950’s, Bethel Temple purchased 5 busses for transporting children & adults to Sunday School, and the Sunday School attendance quickly exceeded 1,000.
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, God once again asked Bethel to step out in faith to do something very unconventional… so they did. With a decreasing congregation that was all white in a neighborhood that was increasingly becoming Latino & African-American, Bethel came up with a plan to launch two new churches at once!
The existing site remained “Bethel Temple” under the leadership of Pastor Luis Centeno. Pastor Centeno began to reach out to the surrounding community and soon Bethel Temple was once again growing as it quickly became a church whose diverse leadership reflected the diverse community around it.
In December of 1995, after leading the successful transition of both Bethel Temple and Bethel Fellowship, Pastor Dave Hine resigned to become part of a mission group.
Robert Tarnoviski became the Lead Pastor in April 1996, and God continued to bless Bethel with increased growth. Soon Bethel was doing four Sunday services with only fifteen minutes between each service. Everyone knew this was not sustainable, so once again God asked Bethel to step out in faith... and it did.
In October of 2004, Bethel Franklin 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 that it cost to renovate the current site.
Since our move to Franklin Mills, we’ve continued to grow as we’ve seen hundreds give their lives to Christ and hundreds baptized. And 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!