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Bethel Church began when several families started meeting in the Centennial School house a quarter mile north of the present church location, in approximately 1907. The Rev. J. C. Crawford of the Boone Biblical College, who was Superintendent of the Christian & Missionary Alliance District, sent several men to minister. One man was a returned missionary from Venezuela, Rev. James Minter. The first regular pastor was Rev. Wesley Armstrong who commuted from Boone. He married a lady from the church, Miss Nora Nervilla Nolan.
On June 20, 1907, a meeting was held to consider building a church. On December 21, 1907, a meeting was held at Herman Finestead’s home to make plans for building Bethel Church. James Quincy Stumbo was asked to locate the building spot, and he chose the current location, between the creek and Pleasant Hill Cemetery. Daniel H. and Susan (Stumbo) Nolan donated the plot of land for Bethel Church. James Quincy Stumbo and many others furnished the capital for the building. On Feb. 2, 1908, work was begun. Some went to the timber to cut down trees for lumber, some hauled rocks, and some brought lumber from town. Mr. Milligan from Woodward was the carpenter.
In short time the building was completed, and Rev. Charles Crawford dedicated it on April of 1909. There were 15 charter members. By 1910, a parsonage was built by James Quincy Stumbo, which was located ¼ mile north and ¼ mile east of Bethel Church.
On May 21, 1918, Bethel Church, Centennial County School house, and the parsonage were struck by a tornado. The floor and foundation were all that remained of the church building after the disaster. The tornado killed nine people in the Boone, Iowa, area. The men of the church united their efforts and cleared the wreckage. A special meeting was called to decide upon rebuilding the church. The new church was built on the same foundation.
In 1941, during the ministry of Rev. Lowell Bodie, the church became affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Rev. Edgarton Nix became Bethel’s pastor in 1948, and he was instrumental in organizing the Women’s Missionary Prayer Fellowship (WMPF). Also during his time at the church, several men dug out a larger basement to increase room for Sunday school classes.
In 1954, an annex was built on the south side of the church, making three Sunday school rooms and space for overflow crowds. In 1957, a home was purchased from Ralph Erickson and moved to the church lot to serve as a parsonage. Rev. Raymond Rupp and family moved into the renovated parsonage, which was dedicated on June 21. He was the first pastor specifically noted for giving the youth control of the morning services on a regular basis. Bethel celebrated its fiftieth anniversary (1958) during his tenure.
From 1963 to 1967, new paneling was put on the walls of the church by Bernard Price, pews were purchased from Trinity Lutheran Church in Boone, and the floors were tiled. Rev. James Medin did extensive work on the parsonage from 1967 to 1969.
In 1973, it was decided to make an addition on the east 24 feet of a new entrance to the church, an office for the pastor, and the basement under that. The pulpit was placed on the west end, and the pews were turned around. New carpet was added to the church and entryway. Also another section of dirt was removed on the west end to make a larger fellowship hall.
In 1979, the church was again enlarged 24 feet to the west, the interior completely redone, with new padded pews, as well as air conditioning. The congregation wanted to purchase additional land for much-needed parking space and lawn for the parsonage. Francis Walton Stumbo contacted George Doran, owner of the land, and he donated the additional land. Work was also being done on the present parsonage, making a family room, a new bathroom, and a double garage.
Bethel saw more growth as a building in 1980 when the sanctuary (today’s fellowship hall) was expanded. Dennis and Linda Morgan, members of the church, made the first stained-glass windows, which were “installed behind the new altar where they will catch the light of the setting sun.” The new extension was officially dedicated on October 19, 1980.
God had been granting growth in ministry and numbers through the 1980’s, so that when Rev. Ray and Sandra Hoke came in December, 1990, plans were already in place to build a new sanctuary over a basement that would provide much-needed classrooms and office space.
There was discussion at that time of the new construction being an all-purpose building that would accommodate both worship and sports activities for youth. The decision was made, however, to build a worship sanctuary and to dream of a family life center that could, in the future, accommodate activities for youth and young families.
Again, George Doran donated land to accommodate expansion of the building, bringing Bethel’s campus size to five acres. The sanctuary was inaugurated for worship on the first Sunday of 1993. Roger Oppedahl was the leader of this project that was completed, almost in its entirety, by the hands and skills of the men of Bethel Church. The new building was paid for before the next building project was begun.
In 1992 Bethel began its AWANA clubs for boys and girls. For the first 20 years, AWANA games were played on an oval-shaped “circle” in the old sanctuary/fellowship hall. The success of the AWANA ministry, with the desire for a full-sized game circle and a continuing interest in reaching youth and young families, were factors that kept alive the dream for a family life center.
New Bell Standard, New Parsonages, and New Daughter Church
The exterior profile of the church was further changed a few years later when the bell tower/steeple was removed because of water leaks, and the bell was given a new home on the present standard made for it by John R. Peterson. A new steeple, made by Jody Elliott, now adorns the new sanctuary.
During the 90’s, the congregation decided that the old farmhouse parsonage had served the Lord’s servants well and was ready for retirement. Two acres directly east of Pleasant Hill Cemetery were purchased from the Finestead estate, and in 1999 a new modular home was set on a poured basement to become the new parsonage. Bethel’s men joined and finished the modular home and built an attached garage.
By this time Bethel was being served by a full-time youth pastor, as well as by a senior pastor. It seemed good to the congregation that an on-campus parsonage for the youth pastor should be provided. This time the basement was poured, finished, and used as a youth room for a season before the upper story of the home was built. Then in 2004, the men went to work again and stick-built the lovely home that is the second parsonage or youth parsonage. Pete and Lyn Lillestolen and their girls were the first to occupy the new home. As of the Centennial Celebration in September of 2008, these homes are also paid for. To God be the glory!
After serving as a much-needed temporary home for two of our missionary families, the old parsonage was no longer considered usable. The final major project prior to Bethel’s Centennial Celebration was the complete removal of the old house, which became added parking space.
During the time the parsonages were being built, the Lord brought to fruition another dream that had been “biding its time” in the hearts of God’s people: planting a daughter church. About forty people of all ages became part of a “launch team” committed to the planting of a new Alliance church in Perry, IA. Pastor Rick Gates, his wife Cheryl and family moved to Perry from the Chicago area and began to work with the launch team here at Bethel. After a few months, they began holding their own services in the Perry elementary school. With commitment, hard work and God’s blessing, with help and oversight from the MidAmerica District of the C&MA, Crossroads Church began to grow. Today, they are a healthy Alliance church sharing the love of Christ with their community, occupying their own attractive facilities on the north side of Perry.
Bethel began its second century with the construction of the long-dreamed-of Family Life Center, which will provide a gym with a full AWANA circle, as well as new office, classroom, and storage spaces. In order to save money by not having to haul in dirt for the FLC foundation, 6.69 acres of woods and pastureland northeast of the senior pastor’s parsonage was purchased. On the campus that is now 13 acres, we look forward to developing whatever outdoor facilities will, along with the Family Life Center, enable us to connect with the people around us and share with them the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
In 2012, following a vote of the congregation, Bethel became fully accredited with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. On September 4, 2013, with interior work yet to be done, we began using the Family Life Center–called the Recreational Outreach Center (ROC). regularly for our Wednesday evening AWANA game time. It was dedicated to the Lord’s service on October 20, 2013.