The History of Bethlehem Baptist Church
The Bethlehem Baptist Church was the reality of a dream born in the minds of a few dedicated Christian women who felt the need for a Baptist church in the area of Jericho, North and South Woodbury. In 1893, Sister Nannie Brinkley, Sister Sarah E. Jones Bowman, Sister Mary Bryd, Sister Elizabeth Beverly, Sister Lucy Stanley, Sister Mollie Thomas and Sister Mary Watson formulated the idea of starting a church.
In the beginning they had no meeting place, so they met from house to house. Their first meeting was held at the home of Sis. Mollie Thomas who lived in Jericho, New Jersey. In 1896, they were granted letters from the Seventh Baptist Church of Camden, New Jersey to form the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Woodbury, New Jersey. Brother Moses Thomas, Sister Zena Thomas, Brother Emmett Hardy, Brother Richard Miller, Sister Mary Moody, Brother Joseph A. Jones and Sister Mary Byrd were the first members to begin the legacy of the Bethlehem Baptist Church.
During the year of 1896, under the leadership of Reverend John Thomas, they secured Scottish Hall, located on South Broad Street, near Penn Street in Woodbury and received their charter in the same year. Later they moved to Green Street and were incorporated in the year of 1898.
In 1904, Reverend John Thomas was called to minister in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Reverend Stephen E. Harris was called to Bethlehem Baptist Church while it was still a mission on Green Street. Reverend Harris was ordained from the Monumental Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and continued to serve the members of Bethlehem. With the love of Jesus in their hearts, the members worked and made plans to purchase a lot on Carpenter Street in Woodbury. Reverend Stephen E. Harris erected and laid the cornerstone of Bethlehem Baptist Church in 1906 and 1915. He served as shepherd of the flock until he resigned in 1922, leaving a debt free church.
Following the pastorate of Reverend Stephen E. Harris, Bethlehem has continued to grow and prosper as the Torch of Leadership was passed to faithful men of God. Reverend Edward M. Smith was called as Pastor in 1922 and served until his death in 1946. He served during the Great Depression and greatly impacted the members’ during those trying times. Reverend I. S.Fisher served as Pastor in 1948. From 1949 to 1952, Reverend Marcus G. Wood served as Pastor where under his administration the church parsonage was built on Carpenter Street. In 1952, Reverend Theodore People was called to Pastor. From 1952 to 1957. renovations to the Carpenter Street edifice were completed under his administration.
Reverend Charles E. Thomas was called to Pastor from 1957 to 1968. During Reverend Thomas' administration, the members expressed their desire to build a new church. Under Reverend Thomas' leadership, efforts to strengthen and expand, work on the new church began. The present building was completed in 1963. As the membership grew, God saw fit to send Reverend Thomas to the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. In the interim, the church continued to march on with the noble assistance of Reverend E. Vincent Cream and Reverend William Suiter.
In 1969, Reverend E. Vincent Cream was ordained by the Bethany Baptist Association of South Jersey and became the Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Under Reverend Cream’s leadership, the liquidation of the church mortgage became a reality in November 1973. Reverend Cream served until 1989 when he founded Macedonia Baptist Church. Reverend Dr. Horace Guyton became the Pastor of Bethlehem in 1990; he was known for his love for the youth and served until his death in 1995. From 1995 to 1996, Reverend W. D. Willis served as Interim Pastor and gave Bethlehem wisdom, guidance and direction as he preached God’s Word.
In the year of the church’s 100th Anniversary, in December 1996, Reverend Wilbur D. Winborne Sr., was called to serve Bethlehem Baptist Church as its 10th Pastor. On March 16, 1997, Pastor Winborne was installed and continued the work of the ministry that was started long ago. Pastor Winborne brought an enthusiastic and upbeat spirit to Bethlehem. He established a Nursing Home Ministry, Leadership Training and Certified Biblical Counseling Training. Pastor Winborne was called back to his home church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 31, 2013 to be the Senior Pastor after that church's pastor was called home to be with the Lord.
In December of 2016, Minister Jimmy Lindsay was called and assumed the position of Pastor-Elect until his departure in August 2017. On August 27, 2017, Pastor Glenn D. DeShields was called to serve as the Interim Pastor. On April 15, 2018, Pastor DeShields was installed as the 11th Pastor as the baton of the Pastorate was passed to him from Pastor Dr. Wilbur Winborne, Sr., the 10th Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in an Installation Service that filled the church as both churches, (19th Street Baptist Church of Philadelphia, PA and Bethlehem Baptist Church), united to honor God for the work of both pastors. Over 18 churches were represented in the historic, spirited and blessed Installation Service as Pastor Dr. Wilbur Winborne, Sr. delivered the installation sermon and presided over the spirited Installation Service. Pastor DeShields serves as the 11th Senior Pastor of this historic church.
Through faith and perseverance of dedicated Pastors, committed People and the Power of the Holy Spirit, we look forward to a blessed and exciting future. We will continue to Praise, Worship and Serve to God's Honor and Glory until Jesus Christ comes again!