Church History

Church History

The first Bethel Congregation was affiliated with the Associate Church and under the care of the Presbytery of the Carolinas (Associate Church).  The first congregants were mostly Scots-Irish Seceders.  They gathered for worship at a wooden building, a “meeting house,” on the corner of Vanderhorst and Fairfield Streets in Winnsboro, the current site of Bethel ARP’s “Old Cemetery.”  The congregation often worshipped with Covenanters, part of a Covenanter Society that met in Winnsboro.  In 1842 elders of Bethel Church met with the Reverend Thomas Ketchin with the purpose of reorganizing the Congregation of Bethel so that its members might adhere to the faith professed by the Associate Reformed Synod of the South.  In 1842 the Congregation of Bethel Church of Winnsboro along with its elders reorganized as the minutes state “under the Lord’s cause as professed by the Associate Reformed Synod of the South.” 

Members of the Congregation expressed an early zeal for evangelism and outreach.  Rachel Elliott Rosborough along with her husband, Dr. Neill Pressly, became the first missionaries of the ARP Church to serve in Mexico.  In 1871 the Women’s Benevolent Society, a forerunner to the Bethel Women of the Church, was organized to serve the needy of the Congregation and community.  The church began home missions in 1874.  In 1881 the installation of the first deacons was recorded.  Regular Wednesday evening prayer meetings were instituted.  In 1883 the Junior Christian Union was begun-the first in the denomination.  Beginning in the War Between the States, Bethel committed its youth in uniformed armed service.  At the beginning of the 20th century there were approximately 200 persons on the roll of Bethel.  In November 1903 Bethel hosted the “Centennial Synod” meeting during which the present sanctuary was dedicated.  The ministry of the church and the service of its members continued to build on the foundation laid in the previous century.  Bethel served the pastoral needs of Ebenezer ARP (“The Old Brick Church”) up until it become officially inactive in 1921 and continued in a custodial support. 

In 1946 the first Vacation Bible School was held and the Congregation voted to include the use of hymns in the worship service.  In 1976 the organ built and installed in 1911 was reconditioned to its current state.  Bethel’s facilities were built and improved through the love and contributions of its members.  The Sunday School building with facilities for kitchen, dining and social activities was built in 1937.  Bethel men and women served in the Armed Services and their auxiliaries in each of the major armed conflicts of the 20th century.  Sixty-three men and women served in the two World Wars, two in the Korean War, and nine in the Vietnam War.  Four of those members made the supreme sacrifice in service of our Nation. 

God’s providence and blessing in Bethel’s life are manifest in the pastors who sustained and nurtured its spiritual life. On December 2nd, 2012, Reverend James McManus became the thirteenth in a succession of ordained pastors to serve Bethel for 170 years.

(This account of the history of Bethel ARP Church is taken in large measure from Nelle McMaster Sprott’s book “History of Bethel ARP Church of South Carolina.”)