In 1837, a group of people from New Kent came into Hanover County and formed the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church. In 1843, the congregation now with twenty members erected a sanctuary at a cost of$1,500.00, which is still in use today. These years were the beginning of Bethlehem’s ministry to the Old Church community. During the Civil War the countryside was ravaged. Beulah Church, which was established in 1840, was destroyed. Mercifully, Salem Church, established in 1813 and Bethlehem were left undamaged. On May 14, 1872, Hanover Presbytery granted permission for the three congregations, Beulah, Salem and Bethlehem, to be united as one congregation. These churches became known as the Samuel Davies Church. This was a unique organization of three congregations, three church buildings, administered by one ordained minister. Bethlehem functioned within this framework for one hundred years.
The winds of change were sweeping across Hanover County and as the Old Church community began to grow, Bethlehem questioned whether it might support herself separate from Samuel Davies Church and whether it could support a full-time minister. On January 14, 1973, a Commission of Hanover Presbytery organized Bethlehem Presbyterian Church with a rich heritage and a membership of 130 persons.
During this time, the facilities were expanded to include a wing on the east side of the sanctuary, which became the Education Building. The willing, working hands of the congregation carried out construction of the new wing, and the new addition was dedicated on May 3, 1981.
In 1983–1984, the former sanctuary (now “The Chapel”), was renovated through the gifts and hard work of the congregation. A new Rodgers electric organ was purchased, and a new white steeple was added to the church. The newly decorated sanctuary was dedicated at a “Homecoming” service on September 9, 1984.
During the next decade, the congregation grew and activities increased. In order to accommodate this growth, the congregation enlarged the Fellowship Hall, added two bathrooms, and built a new kitchen. Construction was completed in February 1992.
Then in 2010 the congregation formed a Building Committee to erect a new sanctuary. Construction on this 1.4 million dollar endeavor began on June 6, 2011. Just twelve months later, on June 3, 2012, Bethlehem dedicated its new sanctuary “to the glory of God” in a historic worship service with over 300 in attendance. Along the way, a columbarium was erected in 2002, an outdoor chapel was constructed in 2002, a new picnic pavilion and tables were added in 2009, and a new playground was constructed in 2013.
Bethlehem celebrated its 175th anniversary on September 30, 2012 in another “historic” event with hundreds of friends, new and old, worshiping and rejoicing together in the faithfulness of God to our congregation. By faith, Bethlehem can continue to build on the ministry that was established generations ago by our ancestors, and pass this heritage on to future generations. Through Christ we will continue to meet the challenge to follow God’s will and Christ’s command to…
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28.19-20, NRSV)
(A detailed history of Bethlehem and its ministry, along with several historic pictures, is available for the asking in the Church Office.)