The beginnings of Bethany can be traced to the late 1930's when a number of Christian families took up residence in what was then the small urban district of Finaghy. Initially, a gospel witness began around 1938 to 1939 in the Kindergarten School. This building, adjacent to the church, still stands, albeit somewhat modernised!
The men who were principally involved in those early days, were men with a vision. They began to look at sites in the Finaghy area with the objective of building a permanent hall for Christian worship and outreach. To that end, a building fund was set up on 25th April 1939.
In the autumn of 1939, a Sunday School work began in the Kindergarten School, under the leadership of Mr. Gordon McKee.
With the outbreak of the 2nd World War in September 1939, plans for the building of a new hall had to be shelved, although the search for a suitable site continued.
Following a successful tent mission in the summer of 1944, conducted by Mr. David Craig, and Mr. Stanley Mawhinney, on the site which is now occupied by Finaghy Methodist Church, those in leadership considered the time was right to press forward. It was with much gladness that on Sunday morning, 3rd December 1944, thirty Christians gathered for the first time in the Kindergarten School to remember the Lord as a company of Christian believers, later to be known as "Bethany Hall Assembly". Of those who met on that Sunday morning, Mrs. Lydia McConkey is still a member of this fellowship. The Elders of the Fellowship at that time agreed that this ground should be purchased with a view to building a new hall. Unfortunately, owing to building restrictions following the end of the war, the erection of a building was delayed. But God was both faithful and gracious. A Christian businessman from Holywood County Down, Mr. Stephen Thompson, offered free of charge, a wooden hall which he had previously used for work amongst the troops. However, in the eight years that followed, the need for a permanent building became pressing. And so, in April 1954, plans were prepared by architect Matt Logan, and construction work under the supervision of William John Falloon soon commenced. Bethany Hall was officially opened on 10th September 1955. The wooden hall was re-sited at Craigavad, County Down where it is used for Christian work to this day.
The new 1955 hall was to serve Bethany well for almost 50 years. During that time, as the population of the Finaghy area grew in size, so the work at Bethany developed. In addition to the usual forms of service, many other activities were established to care for both young and old. A youth work, which flourishes to this day, had begun under the direction and guidance of Joe Stewart and Eric Hodge, a short time after the completion of Bethany Hall in 1955.
1963 had seen the beginning of Rally work, known as Every Boys Rally under the leadership of Eric Hodge and the late Stewart Hamilton. Shortly afterwards, an Every Girls Rally began, led by Elizabeth Milliken, Edith Sommerville and Winifred Tughan. The first Rally camp was held at Cushendall in August 1963, and from that time onwards, annual Rally camps were to be a significant and eagerly anticipated feature in the Bethany calendar. In April 1975, the Youth Centre in Finaghy Road North was completed to complement the facilities of Bethany Hall. This was to become a centre of effective activity and was ideally suited for Rally work. Each year a substantial number of younger church members spend part of their summer break in Scripture Union, CSSM and other seaside missions or summer camps, or join Gospel Literature Outreach teams in Great Britain or Europe. Others have joined overseas teams under the auspices of Brass Tacks which undertakes construction work in order to provide improved facilities for missionaries, churches or people in need. This Easter, a team of 17 from Bethany Church spent 10 days in Kosova running children's clubs, teenage groups and ladies programmes. They participated in Church services and helped provide support for needy families.
As time passed, the fellowship became aware of two problems. Firstly, Bethany Hall, after almost 50 years service, had become in need of extensive, costly repair, and secondly, it was apparent that its original design no longer fully met the changing needs of either the fellowship, or the community it sought to serve.
After a period of consultation and reflection, the membership endorsed a proposal to demolish and rebuild. A year later, the fruition of that work can now be seen and enjoyed. The present accommodation of almost 7,000 sq.ft. consists of a new 2-storey building, with a main worship area, minor halls on both ground and 1st floors, together with up-to-date kitchen facilities. A large open-plan foyer area, which had been lacking in the former building, has provided facilities for a recently commenced open house ministry.
Today, Bethany continues to have a full programme of services and activities for people of all ages, such as:-
- Parents & Toddlers
- Boys and Girls Rallies (both Junior and Senior) with great times at the annual camp
- Family Service and Sunday School
- Youth Fellowship
- Ladies Fellowship
- Fellowship Hour for retired persons
As we look back, we do so with a profound sense of gratitude to God for His grace and over-ruling providence during the past 66 years.
As we look forward, we acknowledge our complete dependence upon God and pray that in all our service for the Lord Jesus Christ, we who have been given a trust shall be found faithful.