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Bethany Baptist Church
BBC History

"Finally my brethren farewell" was the sermon text preached by Rev. Watson on February 7, 1960, as he and many members left to organize a church. |t was at the Baker's Mortuary (Gladys Memorial chapel) in Oakland that he and 212 persons met on Tuesday, February, 9, 1960 to organize. |t was at this meeting the name “Bethany” (a place of rest) was chosen. Rev. Watson was elected pastor as long as he desired. All officers were elected. A laborious task was ahead.

Sunday, February 1 4, Sunday School and worship services were held with the sermon text "They had a mind to work." Forty-two persons joined the fellowship on that day. Saying to the congregation and giving encouragement, he said, "I'm not wrapped up in a building, I'm concerned about people, I will stick a spade in another piece of ground.” Yes, they had a mind to work. The congregation grew, they soon moved to the St. George's Hall at 24th and Grove Street, Oakland. They came together with love, togetherness and cooperation, determined to build a place of worship for future generations. The work began: while in the process of becoming a church, they were also looking for a lot to build on. |n August, 1960, Mother Ella Hunt brought to Rev. Watson's attention the key system lot on 55th and Adeline, where we now stand. In May 1961, the Articles of Incorporation were filed in the City of Oakland, Alameda County and forwarded to Sacramento, CA. A list of charter members and Board of Trustees was attached.

The work was on: Special Projects by departments and auxiliaries planned activities as fundraisers. Negotiations to purchase the lot had started. Ground breaking services were held, Sunday October 15, 1961, Rev. A. J. Iverson, Pastor of Paradise Baptist Church, Los Angeles, was guest speaker. Work was continuing…the lot had now become a place to gather on Saturdays for projects such as barbecue dinners, chicken dinners, head cheese, ice cream, collards, and cakes being sold to raise money. There was sacrificial giving by the hundreds of dollars or what ever amount they had to give.

An architect was working with Pastor and members to draw up plans, making Bethany wheel chair accessible where anyone could enter. Stepping out on faith, Rev. Watson truly had a vision. When negotiations for a loan seemed impossible, he stepped in. Finally with the S.B. Odell Realty, a loan was secured and granted in March, 1964. The Romley Construction Company began work on April 7, 1964. A dream was coming to fruition. There were many who did not live to enter the doors of Bethany, but knew everything would be alright.

Sunday, October 18, 1964 was a glorious day in the history of Bethany. A motorcade was lead by Rev. Watson, contractors, officers and members for the ribbon cutting. We entered Bethany with thanks and praises to God. God made it possible for Bethany and New Hope to come together before the “Great Day". Rev. J. T. McCullum, pastor was guest speaker for the occasion. Each year (the third Sunday in October) is the Homecoming Day Celebration, former members are invited to come home.

Cornerstone laying was Sunday, August 26, 1973 with Rev. Will Hardeman, guest speaker and Rev. J. S. Pough, Grand Master in charge of the ceremony. Work continued, each Saturday, dinners were sold throughout the city. Till this day, ail departments and auxiliaries continue to have annual day projects.

We were continually showered with many blessings: November, 1975 a church bus was dedicated. The bus was to be used to bring seniors and children to Sunday School and church. Always concerned about Bethany, and because he knew his health was failing, Rev. Watson called Deacons, Trustees, and others to his home to give instructions and asked that a scholarship be established in his name. Friday, evening, August 18, 1978, he went home for eternal rest. Each third Sunday, a memorial service is held; during the year a scholarship banquet is held.

For Bethany, dark clouds began to hang overhead, we could not see our way. April 1980, Dr. M. J. Williams became a Moses for us, leading us out of the wilderness. Mortgage burning service was Sunday, March 8, 1981. February 1985, we celebrated our twenty-fifth “Silver Jubilee” anniversary. On January 14, 1998, while preaching at an annual revival in Oklahoma, Rev. Williams passed; again we were in the wilderness.

In1998 and 1999, Rev. C. H. Reynolds was a God send, helping to sustain Bethany's fellowship. He passed on February 16, 2000.

On November 30, 2000, it came to pass that Rev. Robert E. Daniels was elected to pastor Bethany; his stay was brief. He served until May, 2003. Dr. Tyrone Pitts, General Secretary of PNBC (Progressive National Baptist Convention), aided us in procedures and guidelines for a smooth transition. Interim pastor, Dr. L.P. Lewis came to us in June, 2003, giving us leadership, and continues to take us through a healing phase. “To God Be the Glory”

There is still work to be done. God will supply all our needs: protection, courage, contentment, and patience, if we "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand.”

Authored by Maudess Cowan

Bethany Baptist Church
5400 Adeline St.| Oakland, CA 94608 | PH: 510-654-8747
Church School 9:15 a.m. | Morning Worship - 11 a.m. | Tuesday Prayer & Bible Study - Noon and 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.