History of Bethesda Apostolic Church
Pastors of Bethesda
1950 - 1981 District Elder John Parker Shaw
1982 - 2010 Suffragan Bishop John Horace Thomas
2010 - Present Suffragan Bishop Dale Ivan Shaw, Sr.
Bethesda Apostolic Church began in the year of 1945 as a group at 988 Stanley Street, New Britain, Connecticut in the home of Elder and Sister Boone from Arkansas. At the time there were only two followers, Sister Mary Gray and Sister Katie Bolden. The Bethesda Mission continued at the home of Elder and Sister Boone until suitable quarters for holding religious services was located at 24 Franklin Street. In 1946, Elder Boone returned to Arkansas and Elder Samuel Reed assumed oversight of the Bethesda Mission…In 1948, Brother Thomas Gray secured a building at 233 North Street and the Mission remained at this location for a period of four years under the pastorate of Elder Samuel Reed. In early 1950, Evangelist Martha Sapp took over the Mission, pastoring the group for a few months when illness forced her to give up and return to Waterbury.
In 1950, Elder John Shaw from Beulah Heights Church, of New Haven Connecticut was sent to New Britain by District Elder George Brooks to pastor the small group of saints, Sister Pearl Williams, Sister Patsy Wanza, Brother James Timmons, Sister Mary Gray and the three Baker Sisters. He was also accompanied by his wife, Sister Dorothy Shaw, and their children.
In 1951, we launched a Building Fund Campaign to purchase a suitable place for worship due to the current location being sold. An apartment building was purchased for 20,000, which required extensive repairs. At which time, Elder Shaw sacrificed $1200 of his personal funds. Lessie Simmons, Elder Shaw’s sister, mortgaged her home for $3000.00 which gave us a substantial amount to work with.
In September of 1952, we were able to move from North Street into the newly acquired building. The remodeling process and furnishing cost approximately seven to ten thousand dollars. Within a period of six years the cost for the repairs and finishing was paid off, with fifteen thousand paid on the mortgage, which left us a balance of $5,000 due. From January to October, the remodeling of the building was completed and dedicatorial and installation services were conducted by Bishop Samuel Grimes and District Elder George Brooks.
In 1953, our church was designated as one of the Religious Training Centers for the New Britain Public School System for release time of elementary and junior high students through the New Britain Board of Education.
In 1954, our church was incorporated as the Bethesda Apostolic Church by Attorney Joseph F. Morelli of this city; thereby relinquishing the name as Bethesda Mission.
In 1956 we launched a new building campaign to raise funds to build a new church building. From 1956 to 1961, a period of 5 years, our Building Fund Drive netted us over $20,000, which gave us sufficient funds to begin the Chapel stage of the new edifice. The Chapel was erected on the church property adjacent to the previous place of worship (181 Hartford Avenue). The new church was completed with furnishing on April 23, 1961, with seating capacity for 250 to 300. It was the desire of Elder Shaw to add a second floor to the church, but due to the city’s redevelopment plan this portion of the building was not completed.
In 1960, we also acquired a lot adjacent to our present property with a seven-room bungalow situated thereon. This was on 410 Elm Street.
In the early 1960 the church purchased a parcel of land in Berlin, Connecticut for camping activities, picnics, and other outings for the saints.
In 1961, during the fall season our Youth for Christ School was organized, serving our local church and the community with enrollment of 75 to 100 pupils. The Church also paid $500.00 to the NAACP National Organization and was the first church in the city to receive a Life Membership.
In previous years, 1953, we were designated as one of the Religious Training Centers, by the New Britain Board of Education. Public school students were released to attend religious training weekly from their classrooms. Due to the overwhelming number of students participating in religious training it became a necessity to purchase a church bus to transport students. The cost of the van was $2,200.
In September 1961, we were informed by the City’s Redevelopment Commission that our property was designated as a Route 84 connector of Public Highway Division. The Redevelopment Commission took possession of all church property in 1967, including the 410 Elm Street property in 1967.
In 1967, the State of Connecticut Public Highway Division took possession of the Hartford Avenue church property. We acquired a parcel of land at 249 Stanley Street at a cost of $24,000. The Sherman Construction Company of Bristol was awarded the contract to construct the church building on the purchased land. A groundbreaking ceremony took place on October 29, 1967. The building was constructed in five months at an overall cost of approximately $192,843.00.
In April 1968, we moved from Hartford Ave to 249 Stanley Street with dedicatory service on April 21, 1968, with notable guest from the New Britain community which included members of the New Britain Clergy Association, Mayor Paul J. Manafort, Chief of Police, R Haywood, Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Grantz and Alderwoman Cherry Howard. At this time a mortgage was negotiated with the Burritt Mutual Savings Bank in the amount of $64,100 to pay off amount owed.
In spite of the many oppositions, and disappointments, which are common unto men, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” I Samuel 7:12 “Because the people had a mind to work”. Nehemiah 4:6
June 1978, we celebrated the burning of the mortgage.
On January 26, 1981, after a brief illness at Mount Sinai Hospital the Lord called District Elder John P. Shaw from labor to reward.
In January 1982, the congregation purchases a Carillon and dedicated in memory of the late Pastor, District Elder John P. Shaw at a cost of $5,000. The church library was also dedicated in memory of District Elder John P. Shaw.
On April 18, 1982, Elder John H. Thomas was installed as the new pastor for the congregation. He pastored until the Lord called him home on March 26, 2010.
On June 19, 2010, Elder Dale I. Shaw, Sr. was installed as the new pastor for the congregation.
Many souls continue to be led to Christ and the journey continues.