Bethel Gospel Assembly, Inc., was uniquely born out of love when in 1916, two young girls - Mae Allison and another young girl, after receiving Christ as their Lord and Savior, applied for membership at a downtown church in New York City. They were refused membership to the church because of the color of their skin. As a result of this rejection, their steps were redirected to an entrance through which thousands were led to a saving knowledge of Christ. A young German member of the church, Lillian Kraeger, learned of their plight and suggested that they hold cottage meetings near their home in Harlem. Her commitment to the Lord led her to travel to Harlem to give leadership to the Bible Study classes. As a result of her commitment her family and the young man to whom she was engaged rejected her. She refused to forsake the ministry that was started in Harlem. The cottage meetings began in January, 1916, and continued to blossom. In November 1917, these believers secured a room for $10.00 per month on 101st Street and Madison Avenue in which services were held. Bethel Gospel Assembly was born on November 18, 1917.
From its earliest formation, Bethel began to involve itself in the Great Commission, as it supported the noted pioneer missionary, the Rev. Kenneth Spooner and his wife in their miraculous journey from the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia to the nation of South Africa in 1919. By 1930, the Missionary Department was formerly organized, under the leadership of Rev. James Barzey, who became Bethel’s first official Pastor in 1924. Throughout Pastor James Barzey’s leadership, thousands of dollars and countless boxes of clothing were distributed to the needy in South Africa, West Africa, India, the Caribbean Islands and various parts of the United States.
After the death of Rev. Barzey in 1965, a new leader was chosen, Rev. Ezra Nehemiah Williams. Having maintained a running count of 100 members by the early 60s the membership initially dropped to less than 50 upon the change of leadership; however by the early 70s those numbers were now running closer to 200 on a Sunday morning. Shortly after assuming the Pastorate and in obedience to the Holy Spirit directive –“sow abroad, you will reap at home” he had received directly following his installation, Pastor Williams began to run several crusades in the Caribbean, as well as accepting preaching assignments in South Africa and Liberia. With this new thrust in global missions, and true to the promise given him by God, the church began to grow. During his pastorate the church’s missions endeavors expanded to include the nations of Zambia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Canada, Haiti, Israel, China, Cameroon, Netherlands Antilles, Asia, India and Japan.
By 1982 Bethel’s congregation numbered 250 -300 and the search had begun for larger quarters. That search ended with the eyes of the Church Board fastened on the former JHS 120 – aka James Fennimore Cooper Junior High School, which also coincidentally was the Junior High School Ezra Williams graduated from in 1942 – the same year it was completed. On Wednesday, October 27th, 1982, while preparing to attend the NYC auction to bid the $300,000 upset minimum price for the long abandoned, graffiti-ed and vandalized school building, the Lord gave Pastor Williams this promise from out of the Word of God: “Behold I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared for you”. Exodus 23:20
On April 15th, 1984 this leap of faith was consummated with the dedication of our present location at 2-26 East 120th Street, Harlem. Within this 4 story, 80 room complex Bethel would establish many ministries that are impacting the Harlem community, spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically. In 1995 Bishop Ezra N. Williams established Urban Global Missions Alliance (UGMA). This organization was founded for the purpose of linking likeminded churches for the purposes of promoting Missions both home and abroad. This ministry was officially launched in 1997, and while small in size has impacted thousands in the Caribbean, South America and Africa primarily through its Medical/Evangelistic mission’s endeavors.
In December, 1999, after 33 years of faithful and distinguished service to the Nations, Bishop Ezra N. Williams, passed the Mantle of leadership to Rev. Carlton T. Brown, his spiritual son in the gospel. Under his leadership a new, exciting and expanded direction has been forged in providing services to the Harlem Community meeting the challenges of the 21st century. Upon his assuming the position of General Overseer of the Bethel Ministry, Pastor Brown immediately established the “Loving, Learning, Launching” church motto to describe the three fold focus of the ministry. In addition, to promote the World Evangelistic focus of the ministry, through Pastor Brown’s leadership Bethel established 3 missionaries on the field as well as to planted new churches in New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Atlanta. These churches became the Bethel Gospel Global Assemblies family with additional churches joining in Florida and New York City.
In addition to the growing number of churches state side, Bethel also gives leadership to 6 churches in South Africa’s Transkei, as well as the Harmony Estates ministry complex and Christian School in South Africa’s Northwest Provence (Bethel Gospel Assembly Ministry Trust) and the three Bethel Gospel Assembly churches in St. Vincent.
Bethel currently serves approximately 1,500 individuals in its two morning services and hundreds each week through the numerous programs conducted on a weekly basis. Our services are provided to those in need and who are seeking a better way of life. In 2010, Bethel will open the doors to its new on site 2000 seat Sanctuary and take ownership of 47 brand new apartments to be housed within a 28 story complex prominently housing 162 condo units built upon its 5th avenue courtyard. Bethel also plans to open additional community services including an in-house community fitness center and Café. Regardless of the change in the physical structure the Bethel Story remains the same, Committed to serving the community and impacting the world for the Glory of Jesus Christ.
BETHEL GOSPEL ASSEMBLY – A Loving, Learning, and Launching Church..