Even the grounds that surround Bethel Presbyterian Church in Clover, South Carolina, bear witness to the story of God’s faithfulness.
“The neat thing,” said pastor John Gess “is that they tell the story in tangible ways. When you’re on the property, you can see and experience God’s faithfulness.”
Bethel was organized in 1764 by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who settled in North Carolina and the South Carolina upcountry. More than 50 Revolutionary War patriots are buried in Bethel Cemetery, located on the church grounds. Among them is Thomas Neel, a War of Independence hero and a founding elder of the church. Many Confederate soldiers are buried there as well.
The Rev. Samuel Watson, whose 42 years of ministry represent the longest of any pastor at Bethel, was a grandson of Colonel Samuel Watson, a member of the South Carolina Provincial Congress of 1775-1776 and one of the framers of the state’s first written constitution.
Bethel, which predates even the founding of the United States, has been marking its 250th anniversary throughout the year with a series of celebrations and guest speakers. The church joined the PCA in July 1973, when the congregation voted unanimously to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS).
Though Bethel is a historic church it remains vibrant, having planted eight area churches. The church is located near Charlotte, North Carolina, where people from all over the world are relocating. Gess said that this year’s celebration has provided an opportunity for the church to introduce the community to the historic treasure in its backyard.
Due to its proximity to Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, Bethel has invested heavily in Reformed University Ministries as well as in the lives of seminary interns. Former Bethel intern Andrés Garza is now MTW coordinator for Northern Mexico, where the church played a predominant role in establishing the church-planting movement.
Bethel’s anniversary celebration began in January with the dedication of a marker designating the church as an official historic South Carolina landmark. Organizers also created an event they called “Colonial Days.” The weekend-long program featured tours of the church and cemetery, participants dressed in period costume, colonial games, weapons demonstrations, and a guest speaker.
“It was kind of an experiment that was very well received by the community,” said Gess.
The anniversary celebration’s grand finale in November included a service with guest minister Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III, chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary.
More information about Bethel Presbyterian is available on the church’s website: bethelchurchpca.com.