Our History

The exact date upon which Baptists in New Bethlehem began meeting regularly for worship is unfortunately lost to history. However, the First Baptist Church has long prided itself on being the first gathered congregation of Christians in the borough (Inc. 1853), in spite of the fact that the Methodists were first to construct a church building. During these formative years, cooperation between the two groups was so close that they shared meetings in a school-house for a time, until theological and practical difference drove them to separate services.

As our forefathers grew in their commitment to the doctrinal conviction of immersion upon a credible profession of faith and in their identity as Baptists, they organized as a congregation in 1851 and realized the goal of constructing a church building in 1852.

The first pastor of the church was Rev. Thomas Wilson. And although pastoral service in the early years was often intermittent, it was not long until the church had a regular supply of qualified ministers. One of the more notable of these shepherds was William Henry Houghton, who after ministering in New Bethlehem from 1918 to 1920, became a well know evangelist and went on to become the fourth president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

During the 19th century most Baptist congregations in our region were members of the Clarion Association of Baptist Churches, which cooperated with the national body of Baptists called the Triennial Convention, founded in 1814. After a North-South split prior to the civil war, Baptists on this side of the Mason-Dixon became members of the Northern Baptist Convention, formed in 1907; which changed its name to the American Baptist Convention in 1950; and again to the American Baptist Churches in 1972.

The theological drift towards liberalism in the twentieth century caused many Baptist churches in Clarion County to cut their ties with this denomination in order to maintain their commitment to Biblical fidelity. While some have aligned themselves with the General Association of Regular Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention, or the Conservative Baptist Association of American, First Baptist of New Bethlehem has decided to remain unaffiliated at this time.

2010 marked the 100th anniversary of the construction of our current church building. As we look upon the history of First Baptist Church of New Bethlehem as a testimony of God’s kind hand of providence over these past many years, we become even more excited about what is doing in the present to lay an even stronger foundation for the future advancement of Christ’s kingdom in our community and beyond.

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