On Easter Sunday in 1948, 57 people gathered in the “Upper Room” of a house, which was located on Larkin Street near the present Fellowship Hall. Of those present, 26 became the first members of the Westside Community Church. Its charter remained open until it registered 100 members, and the name was changed to Westside Community Methodist Church.
This house and another, affectionately known as the “Coach House” (because of its original use as an inn), were located on a three acre plot of land, then on the far west side of Madison. The two buildings once housed the YWCA Summer Camp and the Kiddie Camp.
In 1951, the church changed its name to Bethany Methodist Church. The first new building to be erected on the property in December 1952 was a multi-purpose building, which served as a fellowship hall, until the sanctuary was completed in 1957. Bethany continued to grow rapidly and to accommodate the needs of the congregation.
A booklet published on the first anniversary of the congregation states, “It was not a proud church in material things – there was no stained glass, no organ – there was little about the old frame building, in need of paint and repair, to inspire the passer-by to admiration. But there was a devout and earnest congregation, with a place to worship – the essentials of a church. Those attending that first service saw their hopes for a church stir to life, and they determined to nurture it to a powerful Christian tree.” Those hopes and determinations have continued to be significant characteristics of the congregation as members have reached out into the community, and the world with significant ministries.
Click here for a gallery of historical photos of Bethany.