Bethany Presbyterian Church has it roots in the same soil as the origin of the town of Bridgeville. In the late 1700’s, diverse groups of peoples from the east coast of “America” began to migrate westward. They had immigrated here to this new land, mainly from Europe, to find freedom from their native land’s persecution, suppression, and crowds. But as more of them came, they soon began to fill our East Coast and longed for more space in which to grow. So they crossed the “Blue Mountain”, the “Allegheny Mountain”, “Laurel” and “Chestnut” ridges to settle in the fertile valleys of western Pennsylvania. They of course brought with them their religious faiths. Among these were many people of Scotch-Irish descent, Calvinist in belief, or “Presbyterian” as the Scotch called it. They soon formed congregations and erected buildings in which to worship. One of these was “Bethel Church”, formed in 1776.
Bethany Presbyterian Church was born on April 20, 1814 when residents of Miller’s Run in Allegheny County made a request to the Presbytery of Ohio, then in session in Wheeling, W.Va., to form a congregation to be called Bethany. After due deliberation and the appointment of an investigating committee, consisting of Dr. John McMillan, the Reverend Joseph Patterson and Samuel Ralston, the request was granted on October 18, 1814 at Pigeon Creek Church.
In anticipation of the granting of the request, three acres of land located above the present Reichhold plant on Miller’s Run Road, had been purchased from Moses and Abraham Middleswartb at a cost of $40.77. Written records are not available concerning the first church, but it is assumed that it was erected in 1815. The building and the floor were made of bricks. Each pew holder furnished his own seat so that the pews varied in material and design. In general, they were simple slabs of wood with holes bored in them, pins inserted for legs and uprights with boards nailed to them for backs.
The new congregation of 40 members chose The Reverend Alexander Cook to be their new pastor. In 1815 they erected a house of worship on their new property and established an adjacent cemetery. By 1820 the congregation had grown to 92 members with the governing body of Session consisting of Thomas Alexander Jr., Moses Coulter, George Harriet, John Hanna and John Nesbitt. On January 3, 1821 The Reverend William Jeffery replaced Reverend Cook as pastor. In 1838 the growing congregation replaced their building with a larger brick structure measuring 50 x 70 feet. The new building was constructed by Cornelius Borland at a cost of $3,000.
After serving as pastor for 34 years, Reverend Jeffery resigned due to ill health and was replaced by The Reverend Cyrus S. Braddock in 1855. In the 1860’s the congregation felt the need to establish a mission Sunday School in the now growing village of Bridgeville. It was started in the schoolhouse at the upper end of Baldwin Street. This venture grew and by 1870, the present property along the Chartiers Creek was bought and a large wood structure, known as the “Lord’s Barn”, was built to house the mission. The cost of the building was $2,300. In 1875 The Reverend John F. Hill, D.D., replaced Reverend Braddock as pastor. On May 4, 1876 the Presbytery called into being, from the mission, the Bridgeville Presbyterian Church. There were 16 members with the Session consisting of Samuel Collins. William Andrews. Henry Poellot. John Dunlap, Lysander Foster and John Lesnett. There were now two congregations with Reverend Hill serving as pastor to each. In 1877 the congregations built a new large Victorian manse on a lot next to the “Lord’s Barn” property to house the Reverend Hill’s family, at a cost of $4,182.
The congregation of Bethany saw that the future of the Church was located not in the rural location in South Fayette but in Bridgeville. The town of it’s offspring. On April 23, 1884 Pittsburgh Presbytery appointed a committee to see to the combining of the two congregations. On June 3. 1886 The Reverend Virgil C. Sheeley was installed as pastor of the two congregations, replacing Reverend Hill. On April 9, 1888 the two congregations were merged by the Presbytery into one, the Bethany Presbyterian Church of Bridgeville, with 207 members. Plans were started almost immediately to build a larger building. The “Lord’s Barn” was torn down and by June 23, 1889 a new sanctuary stood on the property, complete with a bell tower and built of brick fired on the site. It was designed by James Campbell and built by Joseph Ross for $15,085.
On October 25, 1892 The Reverend Anthony A. Mealy, D.D. was installed to replace Reverend Sheeley. During his pastorate, a new pipe organ was added in 1908 and a new Sunday School building built in 1917. On December 10, 1934 The Reverend James C. Potter, D.D. became Bethany’s 7th pastor. In 1952 a new wing was added onto the Sunday School building and the old manse was torn down and replaced with a brick home. On June 5, 1955 The Reverend Ray H. Pierson was installed as the 8th pastor, and on September 10, 1961 The Reverend George S. Wilson became the 9th. During Reverend Wilson’s Pastorate the time to rebuild came again to the congregation.
In August of 1968 the sanctuary of 1888 was torn down and by October 5, 1969 Holy Communion was first held in the present sanctuary. It was designed by Ted McConnell and Associates and built by John Deklewa and Sons at a cost of $351,860. On December 12, 1971 The Reverend Clyde Brown became Bethany’s 10th pastor. Then on November 9, 1986 The Reverend Carl Engstrom, D.D. became the 11th. On June 26, 1994 the Reverend Daniel Hrach, became the 12th.
At the dawn of the new millennium Bethany Church was blessed with a most gracious gift from William and Grace McDivit. Upon their passing the McDivits willed to Bethany a most generous trust fund. The Session of Bethany was charged with creating a plan on how best to use this wonderful blessing. After much deliberation, the Charitable Trust Commission was established and began meeting in January of 2002.
The Charitable Trust Commission (CTC) started their work by asking questions like “What is the mission and nature of Bethany Church?” After considering the answers to these questions, consulting with all involved, interviewing all ministry groups at Bethany, and surveying the congregation, the CTC decided that Bethany needed to expand the current building that housed our ministries. The key aspects of the expansion included a new multi-purpose room, a new space for the choir during worship and a new rehearsal room, a social narthex, an enhanced library, a youth lounge, a major entrance from the parking area, expanded parking and other spaces. It was also determined that some of the existing areas of the building needed renovations. Since the scope of the expansion required more land than what was owned by Bethany, it was decided to raise the Manse and purchase some adjoining properties.
In spring of 2003 the Congregation of Bethany Church approved the plan to use the McDivit Trust Fund to expand and renovate Bethany Church. The plan required the approval for the change of call for the Senior Pastor to account for the loss of the Manse, the addition of 25,600 square feet of space, and obtaining a loan for the project. The action of the Congregation caused the Charitable Trust Commission to evolve into the Building Bethany Committee.
After interviewing several architectural firms the Building Bethany Committee (BBC) selected the firm of Ross, Shodner, Sterzinger, and Cupcheck (RSSC) to oversee the expansion project. The BBC charged RSSC to design the new space using a construction style and building materials similar to the present structure. The BBC also selected the construction firm of Deklewa to build the new addition.
The projected started with a ground breaking ceremony in June of 2004. Actual construction began that August. The new addition was completed in September of 2005. Renovation of the Christian Education wing was completed in December of 2005. The first service in the newly renovated Sanctuary was held in early April of 2006. The end result of the expansion project was a beautiful new building that doubled the space available to the ministries of Bethany. This included a 30% increase in seating for worship services and parking space. A dedication service was conducted in June of 2006.