Prepared by Marlene Simmons, Jean and Jack Morrison
IN THE BEGINNING........
It all started at 702 Adams Avenue in Huntington, West Virginia on February 7, 1960 when the Reverend Gene C. Wilson, his wife Ruth and three daughters, Karetha, Gay and Kay [twins] joined with Lucy Maynard, Wanda Skidmore, Linda Skidmore, Charles Skidmore, Juanita Johnson, Martha Johnson and Marlene Mc Cloud to hold the first service. [Twelve individuals, does this have any Biblical significance?]
Seventeen months later, on June 25, 1961, the church relocated to 556 Washington Avenue, Huntington, West Virginia. The facility was an older home remodeled to accommodate the needs of the congregation. Brother Glen West, Superintendent, dedicated the church on April 6, 1962.
In May of 1962 the first revival was held by Evangelist Raymond Jacobs and his wife Janet. Several people were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.
A historic event took place in September, 1962 when Brother West and Stanley Lyons met with Pastor Wilson and the Bethel Temple Congregation and Pastor M.A. Grof and the First Assembly Congregation, Roby Road, Huntington, West Virginia to vote on a possible merger of the two church bodies. The vote was unanimous and the merger was accomplished October 7, 1962. Jean Morrison was elected Treasurer.
The first church wedding between Gene and Willa Nicely took place on December 7, 1962.
According to plan, ground was broken on August 18, 1963 for the new church facility. This structure was located on the corner lot next to the old building. Pastor Wilson and Church Adherents completed construction in early 1965. Several unforeseen events took place such as after a heavy rainy season the south wall of the building collapsed causing considerable delay and expense. The Lord provided and the first service was held in March of 1965.
Much to the chagrin of the church body Pastor and Sister Wilson tendered their resignation April 5, 1966, with an effective date of June 5, 1966. He accepted a pastoral position with the First Assembly of God in Wytheville, Virginia.
The Reverend Ronald Eugene Connally, his wife Barbara and children Jon, Karen and Timothy filled the pulpit for about 10 months from 1966 to 1967. During this period the basement area of the church was completed.
An outstanding miracle occurred after a tragic accident happened when Neil Ott, son of Bob and Yola Ott, broke his neck playing football for Huntington High School. Many prayers were offered and Neil completely recovered.
The pulpit was filled in 1967 by the Reverend Hubert L. Tomlinson and his wife Ada Ethyl had two children, Lois and Sharon or better known as Shary. Tomlinson was a graduate of Central Bible College, Springfield, Missouri. He also studied at Youngstown, Ohio and Kent State University. Both were ordained ministers as well as accomplished musicians. They traveled extensively in evangelistic work and previous to Huntington pastored a number of churches in Michigan, Ohio and Florida. Pastor Tomlinson tendered his resignation in 1968 and died in October of 1999. His wife Ada is now living with their daughter Lois in Westerville, Ohio.
During the years of 1968 and 1969 the Reverend Clinton Rogers, his wife Gladys and their two children Jerry and Sandy ministered to Bethel Temple. Both brother and Sister Rogers were prayer warriors. He was also an excellent teacher of prophecy.
Pastor Clinton Rogers' son Jerry Rogers, his wife Sue and their two children, Melissa and Jay served as pastor from 1969 until 1972.
The Reverend Samuel Pack and his wife Vicki and two sons Sam Jr. and Paul filled the pulpit at Bethel from 1972-1974. The church participated for the first time in a Christian Basketball League and without outside help established the reputation as a competitive team. The experience was most enjoyable.
Another memorable miracle took place when Steve Morrison while playing quarterback for the Vinson Midget Football League suffered a broken neck. Fortunately, a doctor was in the stands and insisted that he not be moved until proper equipment arrived to transport him to the hospital. X-rays revealed two fractured vertebras and three vertebras knocked out of line. Steve was placed in traction for several days. Members of Bethel and the community maintained a ceaseless prayer vigil. Jim Matovich and Bill Warnick offered a special prayer and immediately the restlessness which had persisted for several days subsided. Later the doctors, while examining the latest x-rays, were astounded as no breaks were evident. Steve has never suffered any pain or felt any discomfort from the accident since God touched him.
The Reverend Clinton Rogers again took over the leadership of the Assembly and served the second time from 1974 to 1979. Pastor Rogers resigned due to health issues and the realization that he would be physically unable to lead the church in physical and spiritual growth. Both Pastor Rogers and Gladys are now deceased.
A choir was started under the direction of Jean Morrison, who had absolutely no skills in the field of music. She answered the call of God and the Lord sent talented people and the choir grew. Outreach to prisons, nursing homes, district events, and county fairs followed. This is an example of what God can do when you are willing.
FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.....
Shortly after Pastor Rogers' resignation and prior to his last service we had a visit from the Reverend Laird Fain. He had been awakened that Sunday morning by the Lord and instructed to visit our church. He was unaware of Pastor Rogers' resignation. It was evident to several members of the congregation that this was the leader Bethel so needed to lead the people to a new and higher spiritual level. Pastor Fain filled the pulpit for several weeks before agreeing to serve as the next pastor.
In September 1979 to June 1986 Pastor Laird Fain, his wife Jean and three children Dana, Gary and Joyce served as pastor of Bethel Temple. Immediately, things began to happen. A church that was unable to purchase a water fountain due to a lack of finances started negotiating for the church and property owned by the Jewish Synagogue at 900 9th Street, Huntington, West Virginia. Negotiations resulted in a purchase price of $250,000, with the stipulation that $50,000, be paid within 60 days. Miracle after miracle occurred. People who had never visited the church contributed substantial amounts toward the down payment. A vacant lot owned by the church in the vicinity of Washington Avenue was sold on the last day, without an examination of title to verify ownership. This was an exciting time as God continued to pour out his blessings on the congregation. The facility was purchased in 1980 and extensive remodeling began. Miracles did not cease after purchase. An example is while remodeling in the front of the sanctuary a need arose for a crowbar. Larry Langley expressed this wish and upon looking down saw a crowbar that had apparently been left when the facility was under construction in 1925. Coincidence? We don't think so!
Without question the most dramatic production at Bethel took place in 1982. The drama reflected on the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The series of events started on Good Friday when a group carried the cross from Ritter Park to outside the church where the tomb was located. All weekend the youth dressed as Roman soldiers guarded the tomb and on Sunday morning the stone was rolled aside. During the sunrise service the choir sang "IN THIS TOMB" which contains the words, the tomb is empty, Praise be to God! These activities were witnessed by hundreds of visitors and covered by the local media, including television and the Herald-Dispatch.
Kathryn Sizemore contributed funds to replace the 'Star of David" stained glass window, located in the balcony, with the "Dove". Several years later, in need of extensive repairs, the window was restored to its original condition with the generous gift of Maurice and Bettie Lockwood.
The Mac Dildas' located an elevator in the Milner Hotel [better known in the city as a house of ill repute] and arranged for the unit to be disassembled and reassembled for use in the house of the Lord. The work was accomplished under the guidance of Larry Langley and his capable assistants.
Pastor Fain designed and assisted in the installation of a baptistery in the Fellowship Hall. Several generations have now utilized this wonderful addition to acknowledge their salvation. All of these conveniences were either donated or installed at a minimum cost to the church.
Every day men and women worked on the restoration of the church. Men worked late into the night after working their regular jobs during the daylight hours. Women prepared lunch and dinner for the workers and friends were invited to share our vision and a "free" meal. Many amusing things happened such as--one day for lunch there was only one cherry pie for dessert and twenty plus individuals to feed. Marlene Simmons decided to slice the pie into slices about one inch wide. A comment was made by Larry Langley that it was the first time he had a piece of pie one cherry wide.
Eventually, the building was remodeled and the church began to grow. People from all walks of life visited and became members. When a special need became evident an individual with the skills required was there. Electricians, Air Conditioning, Elevator men and so forth were there when we needed them. God surely blessed.
In March of 1987 and continuing through June 1992, Pastor Robert L Peterson, his wife Terri and two children, Robert Jr. and Rebecca ministered to the congregation. Biblical history indicates that a high percentage of people saved occur when they are teenagers. Thank God there are exceptions as under Peterson's preaching Jerrell Simmons, Judge Al Ferguson and Jack Morrison gave their lives to Christ.
The Reverend Robert Holland, his wife Dolly and two daughters, Brenda and Leah took over the leadership in August 1992 and they served faithfully until May 1998. Many things were accomplished during his tenure as pastor. The church indebtedness was paid in full and the church celebrated with a Home Coming and Note Burning Service conducted by Superintendent Steiding. The house at 918 9th Street was torn down and the lot paved for parking. The house at 916 9th Street was purchased and utilized for a part-time Youth Pastor, Scott Golf. It also served as space for our Royal Rangers and a Sunday School Class room. A new church van was purchased to transport members to church and outings. Sunday school teachers were certified and through the Reaching the Ready Ministry over 900 homes in the neighborhood were canvassed.
Pastor Holland is fluent in Hebrew and the Greek Languages and in later years served as a teacher for AD-SOM, school for young ministers located at Ghent, West Virginia, headquarters for the Appalachian District Assemblies of God.
Nicole Pettry was appointed as a part time Super Church Director and did an outstanding job with the children. Several plays, skits and musical performances were performed and were of great inspiration to the church body.
The Reverend James L Dennis, his wife Myra, and two daughters, Andrea and Amber became the pastor in June 1998 and served until April 30, 2000.
Pastor Dennis spent many hours ministering to the sick and hospitalized. He demonstrated a great compassion for the suffering and their loved ones.
Jean Morrison who had served in the capacity of Secretary/Treasurer elected to retire after 37 years of service. Jerry Bunn filled the position of Treasurer for the next six months and then Jack Morrison was appointed Treasurer by the Board.
Reverend Jeffrey M. Johnson, his wife Lisa, and three lovely daughters, Mallory, Bethany, and Emily became pastor in September 2000 and served the congregation until January 2003. This was Pastor Jeff's first church as a Senior Pastor having previously served as Youth Pastor in Versailles, Kentucky.
In July 2001 Bethel Temple hired our first full time Youth Pastor Mike Pierce, his wife Susie and two children Micaiah and Christian ministered to our youth and adults until December 30, 2004. While associated with our church he was able to attend AD-SOM Classes at Ghent, West Virginia and obtain his license to preach. Pastor Mike and family were and are dearly loved by the congregation.
A major renovation of the kitchen was completed in 2002. The project was financed by donations from Bob and Anne Weber. Many people contributed labor towards this endeavor. Special thanks to Ron and Jean Ann Maynard as well as employees of Aerofab for their assistance. A plaque has been placed in the kitchen in honor of "Weber's Eatery".
It is no secret that September 11, 2001 had a profound impact on our pastors' life, especially after traveling to New York City and ministering there for a week during the most tragic event to occur on our continent. On September 11, 2002, he conducted a well attended city wide remembrance at Harris Riverfront Park.
Pastor Johnson was subsequently given ecclesiastical endorsement as a home missions' chaplain to the Fire Service by the Chaplaincy Department of the Assemblies of God and accepted a position as a fulltime firefighter with the Lexington, Kentucky Fire Department and Associate Pastor at King's Way Assembly of God in Versailles, Kentucky on a part-time basis.
For nineteen months the church was without a Shepherd. During this time the pulpit was filled with outstanding individuals. Howard Hellwig, a missionary, ministered to Bethel for several months and was well liked by young and old. He has a tremendous knowledge of the Word and was well prepared each week. Ron Blevins, a candidate for the position of pastor also served for several months and at his own request elected not to accept the position because of family concerns. Jeff Bush, Chairman of the Board, did an outstanding job during this period, arranging for speakers each week and also leading the Pastoral Selection Committee in the search for the right individual to lead our congregation to a new spiritual level. Our thanks to all ministers who participated and served our needs and to the selection committee who spent many hours reviewing resumes, meeting with candidates and interviewing applicants by phone.
Reverend Rollin Joe Phillips, his wife Cecilia and four children, Joseph, Lauren, Kennon, and Madeline were elected by an outstanding percentage to serve our congregation in September 2004. Pastor Joe has many years of experience in evangelism and as a Youth Director. He is well educated, well traveled, and well liked by everyone. What a blessing to have him and his family here at Bethel Temple. Our church has experienced a spiritual and numerical growth in a very short period. We are looking forward to what God has in store!
Articles of Incorporation were prepared March 1, 2006 and filed with the West Virginia Secretary of State on March 16, 2006. Our exact name is now: BETHEL TEMPLE ASSEMBLY OF GOD, INC.
Our men's restroom was completely refurbished and remodeled in 2007, thanks to the generosity of Bob and Anne Weber. This project had been in the planning stages for several years waiting sufficient funding.
Pastor Phillips tendered his resignation in May with an effective date of June 2007. His desire was to return to Evangelist pursuits as well as minister to the youth. He is associated with the First Assembly of God in Concord, NC and is fulfilling his dream.
The pulpit was quickly filled on July 29, 2007 when Pastor Douglas Johnson, his wife, Crystal, and two children: Lauren and Corey, accepted the leadership of our congregation. Previously he served for six years as Pastor of the First Assembly of God in Tazewell, VA. We are blessed by his excellent preaching skills and well rounded capabilities as an Administrator and Leader.
Thanks to Tara Hardwick for sponsoring our radio program five days a week on station WEMM (107.9 FM) in Huntington, WV. The fifteen minute sermons started in January 2008 and will continue indefinitely. Pastor Johnson is the featured speaker.
Charles Thomas (Tom) Winters, a true prayer warrior, died February 29, 2008. He served many years as Deacon, Trustee and as a member of the Church Choir.
A major project to remodel our sanctuary including foyer, sound booth, and stage was started in February 2008 and completed prior to Easter Sunday. The majority of the labor was provided by members of the congregation with decoration assistance from the ladies.
We suffered a great loss on April 1, 2008, when former Pastor Laird Fain, the eighth pastor of Bethel and the seventh person to hold this position, died. His ministry and leadership abilities were outstanding and will long be remembered.
Jean Morrison, a charter member of Bethel, died and went to be with the Lord on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2010. She served as Secretary/Treasurer for 37 years, organized and directed the choir as well as taught Sunday School for several years. Her leadership in various capacities will be missed.
TO BE CONTINUED......
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