Bethany History

Bethany History

Organized under the Augustana Synod on August 27, 1891 as “The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Bethany Church”. In the summer of 1907 the church moved to the corner of West State and South 6th Streets where they remained until the new church was built 1996.

Beginning in 1914 Bethany joined with Emmanuel Church in Bradford for a time. In 1917, English began to be used for evening services, Swedish was used for morning services. In 1925 a Schantz Pipe Organ was dedicated at a cost of $2,450. During 1936-37 Immanuel Lutheran Church shared our building while their new church was being built. By 1937 all services were held in English.

In 1941 the church was reincorporated as “Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church” In March 1945 R. Edward Carlsom became the first resident pastor in 38 years. The church had been sharing pastors with Bradford, Smethport, Portville or seminary students. That same year, a parsonage was purchased at 221 N. Third St. In 1950 the present parsonage at 1105 Washington St. was purchased and the previous one sold.

On May 10, 1959 Bethany purchased the “church house” at 106 S. 6th St which was used for the office and Sunday School. 1963 saw membership standing at 303 baptized, 235 confirmed. Beginning in July, 1967 joint council meetings were held with Bethel.

In September 1973 – lay people began to read Lessons and assist with communion. In October, 1974 communion was offered to children in fifth grade. In 1984 communion was offered on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, except weekly during Advent, Lent and major festivals.

Ruth Beckman named the church her main benefactor in January, 1991. A committee was formed to search for a suitable building site, our current site and the new church was completed in 1996. Also that year Bethany and St. Stephan’s Episcopal Church formed a committee to start a homeless shelter and Genesis House was born.
In 2007 at Bethany’s Annual Meeting it was decided to help the Olean Food Pantry by providing it a permanent home, thus the Sandra Stimson Building was built on Bethany property. The building was named to honor Sandra Stimson, one of the founding members of the Bethany Food Pantry which eventually expanded with the help of other area churches and become the Olean Food Pantry. In 2010/2011, the Olean Montesori School used the Education Room as a temporary home when they had to quickly find new space.  Currently, the African American Center for Cultural Development is temporarily housed in the Education Room of the Stimson Building.