About Our Pastor
Since October of 1992, Rev. David Scudder has faithfully pastored Bethel Chapel. Leaving a pastorate in Plymouth, North Carolina, he and his family made the transition to this inner-city ministry with excitement and eagerness to begin the work to which God had called them. He has a heart that longs to see revival in the Juniata section of Philadelphia and this nation.
The Establishment of Our Church
It all began in the year 1899, when the Lord laid upon the heart of C. Clay Green a need for a gospel work in the vicinity of 25th and York Streets. After much prayer, a small group of Christians, under his leadership, began a teaching ministry in a small rented house located at 2329 North 25th Street. Bethel Sunday School, or 25th Street Mission as first known, was organized March 19, 1899 with thirty-two pupils attending. C. Clay Green, Superintendent, taught the older pupils, Mrs. Blue taught the younger pupils and H.P. Green, Secretary, played the organ. A few weeks later, a New Testament Church was organized with Brother C. Clay Green chosen to be pastor.
In five months, the ministry had outgrown its original rooms, so renovations were made to increase the space for meetings. After seven fruitful years, ground was bought on York Street, below 25th Street, and a chapel was erected. The new chapel was named Bethel Chapel (House of God) and held its first service on November 21, 1906. In this tiny chapel, the simple gospel was preached and men, women, and children came to a realization of their need of Christ. In the ensuing months, God led Pastor Green to give up his grocery business and devote full time to the ministry.
As you entered the chapel, there was a sign which read “Think – What would Jesus Do?” Since this was long before the days of air conditioning and automatic heat, a hand fan would be handed to you in the summertime. In the winter, you would be warmed by the heat pouring forth from the two pot belly, coal burning stoves on each side at the rear of the chapel. There were three sections of pews – one on each side and a double section in the center. At the front and to the right, there was a pump organ. Scripture verses such as John 3:16 and Romans 3:23 were on the walls. Because there were no bathroom facilities, you would have to venture through the yard to the outhouse. Despite what we would call inconveniences today, believers were faithful in attending services. Within the walls of the chapel, lives were being changed and families were coming to Christ. After twenty years, one hundred and sixty had been baptized and the Sunday School had grown to a membership of two hundred and twenty pupils with fifteen officers and teachers.
God Led Bethel Chapel Church to Juniata
In 1928, again under God’s direction and after many hours of prayer, a piece of ground located on the corner of K & Lycoming Streets in Juniata Park, was purchased. While services continued at the York Street location, a house located at 4038 “O” Street was rented where Sunday School classes were held on Sunday afternoons. God soon enabled the purchase of a used chapel building which was moved to the new location site. Thus, a new phase of the ministry began. Many from the congregation on York Street continued in their attendance and support at the new location. The tiny chapel on York Street was eventually sold to a black congregation and to this day is still an active church.
Juniata in the year 1928, was not as we now know it. To the north and to the west of Bethel were wide open fields filled with sun flowers. K Street, north of Hunting Park Avenue, was a dirt road. Sunday School Picnics were held at Juniata Park and were great times of fun and fellowship.
In 1936, God took Pastor Green home to be with Himself. By this time, Bethel was a rapidly growing church and Sunday School. God was truly blessing His work.
God Allows Bethel Chapel Church to Grow in Juniata
Early in 1937, God brought Algernon Jackson to pastor the congregation. Prior to being called to Bethel, he was a milkman. In 1943, the mortgage on this chapel was paid off and a celebration was held at the Whittier Hotel. By this time Bethel was bursting at the seams. There was a real need for more Sunday School facilities and a larger church. A room was added onto the side of the chapel and a portion of the basement was excavated and finished for Sunday School rooms (current Nursery). This work was done by the men of the church. Pastor Jackson served faithfully as under-shepherd until he was led by God to a pastorate at Cherrydale Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia. His last service was on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 1951.
Rev. Anthony Cuneo was called as pastor and served about one and a half years. The Lord then provided an interim pastor in Rev. Gordon Ceperly for another year.
In December 1955, God sent Rev. Robert Thetford to continue this ministry. Because of continued growth, construction of our present sanctuary was begun in 1956. To reduce the cost of construction, the men of the church worked tirelessly. Our present church was erected around the small frame chapel, allowing continued use of the old chapel until the new building was almost completed. These days were not without some problems. As the winter months approached, there were Sundays without heat. As construction neared completion, we learned that, as with most new construction, costs were greater than estimated. In spite of the costs, the Sunday following the building’s completion, all rose to sing “How Great Thou Art.” Now in a new and larger building, Bethel continued to be a lighthouse in Juniata Park. On June 26, 1966, Pastor Thetford having completed the work God had called him to do at Bethel, was led to a pastorate in Memphis, Tennessee, the city where he had ministered prior to his call to Bethel.
In September 1966, Rev. Blair Hills, who had been serving as Superintendent of the Helping Hand Mission, was called as pastor. Under his leadership, a bus ministry was begun to reach out to the unsaved. During his ministry, some major construction work was required on the front of the building. To finance this work the mortgage was increased and extended for ten additional years. Again God’s faithfulness was evidenced as He enabled us to pay off the original mortgage in just a little more than two years after the original mortgage expiration date of October 1976. Pastor Hills’ ministry continued until 1976.
In the fall of 1976, as the search for a new pastor began, the Lord directed Rev. Robert Boyd to serve as interim pastor. He was a great encouragement to the congregation during his two and one half years of ministry.
In July 1979, Rev. Harley Towler was called, but served only until November of the same year. The Lord again provided for our needs with yet another interim pastor. Rev. John Clements began in January 1980 and served until April 1981.
In April 1981, Rev. George Law was led to Bethel by God, leaving a position as visitation minister at Bensalem Baptist Church. Under Pastor Law’s direction, Bethel began a Christian School in 1984, with an enrollment of twenty- two students. Steve Taylor served as the first principal. This ministry continued for eleven years, with Tom Abbott and Tom Horton also serving as principals. Many improvements to the building were also made. In the spring of 1992, Pastor Law left Bethel to serve as pastor of Mountaintop Baptist Church in Mountaintop, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Donald MacCullough became Bethel’s next interim pastor and served for several months.
Where Bethel Chapel Church is Today
Following the leading of the Lord, in October 1992, Rev. David Scudder accepted the pastorate of Bethel Chapel. Leaving a pastorate in Plymouth, North Carolina, he and his family made the transition to this an inner-city ministry with excitement and eagerness to begin the work to which God had called them.
How marvelous it is to see God’s faithful leading over the last one hundred years. With grateful hearts, we thank Him! May God continue to bless as Bethel endeavors to be a lighthouse in Juniata Park, pointing many to the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.”