Bethany Presbyterian Church, a mainstay in the Bridgeville community, is officially celebrating its 200th anniversary on October 18 with the theme “Blessed to be a Blessing.”
The congregation kicked off the year with in-house activities and also participated in the Bridgeville Memorial Day Parade with a “singing float.” Their annual church picnic was held on Aug. 24 celebrating this milestone.
Upcoming activities include a radio skit on Sept. 21, Heritage Sunday on Oct. 12, a bicentennial celebration dinner and program on Oct. 18, and a special worship service on Oct.19 that will include music by an alumni choir. A book covering the church’s history and each of the 13 pastors who have served is undergoing production.
Their history began in April 1814 when a group of people living in the Millers Run area traveled to the northern panhandle of Virginia to petition the Presbytery of Ohio, which was in session at that time, to establish a congregation. They had already chosen the name Bethany and had boldly purchased land from the Middleswart brothers to build a meetinghouse. Initially successful with the request, they then purchased additional land for a burial ground. By June, however, the pastor of the congregations of Bethel and Lebanon churches raised objections and asked for a reconsideration because several members had left Bethel and were set to join Bethany. After further review by a committee and a site visit, the Presbytery ruled in their favor and Bethany Presbyterian Church was now officially established on October 18, 1814.
By 1816, the first brick meetinghouse was built and the congregation now stood at 40. By 1838 they had 196 members; the tiny church was torn down and a new larger brick building was built at the same site. By 1860, Bethany started a mission in Bridgeville in a wooden chapel, called The Lord’s Barn, built on the site of the present-day church. Rev. Cyrus Braddock held Sabbath services at the Bethany Meeting House in the mornings and at the Bridgeville Chapel in the afternoons. In 1876, a petition was presented to Pittsburgh Presbytery (the former Ohio Presbytery) to organize the Bridgeville group into a congregation. Talks of merging both sites began in 1882 and, on March 31, 1884, the membership of both churches joined to become the Bethany Presbyterian Church of Bridgeville. The burial ground on Millers Run still remains, with the last burial completed in 1946.
In 1914, the church celebrated its bicentennial with a new brick building with a steepled bell tower built in Bridgeville, the old meetinghouse on Millers Run torn down and all the bricks sold for $110. By 1953, a pastorate, an educational wing had been added. In 1968, the present church was built. In 2001, under its twelfth Pastor Rev. Daniel Hrach, following the receipt of the McDivitt Charitable Trust, the congregation purchased additional land for continued expansion and, by 2006, a great room, a chapel, a new Bethany meeting room, additional classrooms, a welcome center, a new bell tower, a new library, offices, and a new kitchen were constructed, doubling the size of the facility.
On Sept. 26, 2010, the Rev. John G. Hamilton, D.M. was installed as the thirteenth pastor. The congregation currently has more than 810 members. The church has many activities and actively support the community with a food bank and preschool. They also hold numerous spiritual and social events.
For more information about anniversary events or the church in general, call 412-221-5132.
Charlotte Smith is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at 724-693-9441 or [email protected].