Bethel United Methodist Church – 160 Years in Spartanburg
Spartanburg was a small courthouse village in 1856 when Mrs. Electa Button Leverton invited some of her Methodist friends to attend worship services in her home on Morgan Square. History does not record how long this group of friends continued their meetings there, but out of their fellowship grew a church. Moving to a small frame structure on the road to Union, the fledgling church had no minister until 1879. Students from Wofford College helped lead worship services until the Annual Conference sent a minister to what they called Spartanburg’s “Mission Church.”
The congregation continued to grow, and in 1882, moved to a lot on the corner of West Hampton and South Spring streets. During the 1880s, the church became self-supporting and adopted the name Bethel. Just twenty years later, the congregation was talking of moving again. Bethel moved in 1907 to the corner of South Church and Lee streets, building a beautiful sanctuary that many older members of the church still remember.
Growth, both physical and spiritual, has been a constant theme in the congregation’s history. As its ministries grew, the church expanded to meet its members’ needs. Bethel members recognized their obligation to the larger community when they built the “one day church” in May 1910, a church that still stands as El Bethel United Methodist Church. By 1930, women at Bethel established the Bethlehem Center to serve the needs of the Highland community. The thriving youth department, along with large and active adult Sunday school classes, caused the church to build additional buildings on the South Church Street block. By the end of World War II, the need for a larger sanctuary was evident. The current sanctuary building was dedicated in 1953, the education building was completed in 1966, and the activities building in 1987. Since the 1960s, the church has added a child enrichment program, and the special education department, started in the late 1960s, has served special needs members throughout the community.
Provided by Phillip Stone – Church Historian