History: The history of a church is more than bricks and mortar, dates and events, buildings and budgets. It is written in large letters in the purpose of God, the commitment of His people, and their love for the Lord and for one another. A recitation of historical facts never does justice to the life of a church, however it is through our history that we catch a glimpse of God's work in the lives of those that have come before us, and the work that continues through us today.
The town of Bethany began in 1906, a year before Oklahoma’s statehood. For many years there was no Baptist Church in the area. Then in 1926 Putnam City Baptist Church was organized and began serving the northwest section of the county. In 1929 a group of Baptists attempted to establish a church, but the building in which they were meeting was demolished by a tornado in 1930. Meetings were held in the Oscar Reno home, one of the college buildings, and in other places, but no permanent satisfactory meeting place could be secured. The group was never very large and its numbers began to dwindle. It finally disbanded in 1932.
In April 1945, a recommendation was presented to, and approved by, the Putnam City Baptist Church to established a mission in Bethany. On May 20, a committee was authorized to call a meeting of all interested parties in Bethany to make a report to the Church. The first meeting was held in the Donald Moulton home, with subsequent meetings in the J.P. Montgomery furniture store. R.K. Miller was asked to be mission pastor. After several weeks the mission group moved to the Bethany Municipal Auditorium (now the high school auditorium) and continued meeting there until the Church was constituted and a permanent building erected.
On August 8, 1945, Putnam City Baptist Church authorized the purchase on the corner of SW 2nd (now NW 37th) for the location of the Bethany mission. A brush arbor was set up and a revival was held with George Stone, pastor of Mustang Baptist Church as evangelist. The mission was formally constituted as the First Baptist Church of Bethany in the Bethany Municipal Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, September 30th, 1945. Sixty-nine members of the Putnam City Baptist Church transferred their membership. Seven others joined the same day. The charter membership role was kept open for a month and in November there was listed a total of ninety-four members.
In October, 1945, George Stone was called to be the Church’s first pastor. Meanwhile, the Church continued to meet in the city auditorium until the completion of the Church building in March, 1946. In 1950, George Stone resigned as pastor and Ernest M. Cox was called to serve the Church. He served until his retirement in 1963. Additional space was provided when in 1952 the Church building was remodeled and the west wing added to the original structure. In the next year the two lots adjoining the property to the north were purchased and a surplus Army barracks building was moved to the site in 1954.
In March, 1959, the Church voted to establish a mission along Council Road, on land which had been purchased by the Oklahoma County Baptist Association. On June 30, 1963, that mission became Council Road Baptist Church.
After the retirement of Ernest M. Cox, Joe K. Bissett was called in September to serve as interim pastor. Two months later the church asked him to assume full pastoral status. Early in 1964 a committee was appointed to study the church’s needs and possibilities with reference to a building program. The committee recommended and the church concurred that all the church buildings be torn down and be replaced by a modern brick structure. In August, 1964, the church began meeting in Bethany high school auditorium where the church was constituted nearly nineteen years prior. These temporary quarters were used during the removal of the old church building and the construction of the new $160,000 church plant. On April 18, 1965 Easter Sunday, the church entered its present building.
Melvin Hoffman was called to serve the church as pastor, in October, 1966, and a new educational wing was added in 1970. Lin Jones came to pastor in August, 1973. Another educational building was constructed in 1976 leaving space between it and the education wing for a future sanctuary.
M.H. “Matt” Koonce came to serve as pastor in July of 1980. Charles S. Lloyd assumed pastoral duties in June, 1991. Larry Wetwiska, current Minister of Music, came to serve the church in that capacity in January, 1984. David Fell became Youth Minister in July, 1992.
Additional property has been added by purchasing, lot by lot, much of the block located just to the south of the of the Fellowship Hall. The building on the corner of 36th and Mueller is serving as our youth center and there used to be a white house just across 37th from the sanctuary that was our College & Career center.
In September, 1996, Charlie Womack became our current pastor. Larry Wetwiska remains our current Minister of Music. Zac Workun was our Youth Minister from April of 2007 and through July of 2011. He left to begin his seminary studies at Duke Divinity in the fall of 2011. Candace Dixon became the Youth Minister in November of 2011.
The Church broke ground on a new Sanctuary in March, 2003. The first official service was held July 18, 2004. The new sanctuary features state of the art multimedia systems, while maintaining a traditional atmosphere. The building of the new Sanctuary allowed our past Sanctuary to become a full time Fellowship hall.
These are the facts and figures. But the true story of this church is written in the hearts and lives of people and can never be put into words. The future of the First Baptist Church of Bethany is as bright as the promises of God. Building on the past we lay the foundation for the future. For our past blessings we say, “To God be the glory; great things He has done!” May his hand of guidance and blessing be upon us until Jesus comes again.