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Friday, 20 June 2014

Bethesda Missionary Temple turns 80!

the building Bethesda dedicated in 1949 on Van Dyke and Nevada Avenues in Detroit, Michigan
by Archibald Thackeray

On June 17 the Bethesda Christian Church (formerly Bethesda Missionary Temple) turned 80!

Bethesda became the flagship church for what was called the Latter Rain Movement of 1948. Pastored by a woman - M. D. "Mom" Beall - it was one of the largest churches in America in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Today, it is pastored by the founder's granddaughter, Analee Dunn. [UPDATE - On June 12, 2016, Analee Dunn became pastor emeritus, turning over the senior pastorate to Patrick Visger.]

Mom Beall opened Bethesda as a Sunday School for children in her eastside Detroit neighborhood on June 17, 1934.
Mario Oliverio
I first went to Bethesda in the 1950s. I have great memories of Mario Oliverio leading worship ... Harry Beall leading the tremendous choir (Michael Green, pastor of the Lifegate Church in New Orleans, once wrote in Ministry Today magazine that the choir's power reminded him of a 747 taking off a runway) ... James Beall masterfully leading the services ... and M. D. Beall preaching oh-so-briefly - but dynamically!

Back in the day, Bethesda had a great male quartet with singers like Bill Defibaugh, Bob Krause, and Ron Wein ... the Temple Tones trio of Joanna Jones, Linda Mayo, and Joan Gay were a blessing ... the Smith family also brimmed with talent ... soloists who ministered over the years were Bethesdans Buddy Mack, Steve Morrison, Cynthia Bailey, David Dahlstrom, Edward Stingley, Patricia Lynne Basch, and Cheryl Beisel ... plus, special music was often provided by the likes of Andrew Culverwell, Archie Dennis, Charles and Paula Slagle, or Jimmy and Becky Pearce.

Iverna Tompkins
The convention speakers I heard challenged, informed, and edified me - women like Violet Kiteley, Charlotte Baker, Iverna Tompkins, Fuchsia Pickett, and Rachel Titus ... and men like Kemp Holden, Garlon Pemberton, Dick Iverson, L. H. Hardwick, John Gimenez, David Schoch, Moses Vegh, Max Wyatt, Paul Walker, John Meares, Charles Green, Charles Simpson, Kevin Conner, H. Beecher Hicks, H. L. Chesser, Trevor Chandler, Ernest Gentile, Ern Baxter, Frank Damazio, Paul Paino, Owen Shackett, Daryl Merrill, Winston Nunes, Travis Rogers, Bob Benson, Jim McAlister, Ron Cottle, Emanuele Cannistraci, Paul Stern, Judson Cornwall, and Arlie Whitlow.

And I haven't even addressed the beautiful sound of voices raised in worship spontaneously - yet melodically (countless thousands have described the sound as a "heavenly choir")!

Briefly here is a history of the Bethesda Missionary Temple of Detroit (now Bethesda Christian Church in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights):

Macy and Phil Baer
1934 ... On June 17, Myrtle Beall opens Bethesda Tabernacle, a Sunday School for children in a storefront facility on Nevada and School Streets in Detroit ... monthly rent:  $30 ... Myrtle Beall was ordained by the Assemblies of God  ... Phil Baer was named treasurer-for-life.

1936 ... the church moves into a portable building that seated 250 - cost:  $800

1937 ... an addition to the portable building increased seating to 350

1939 ... the church constructs a basement building with seating for 500-600 (the building did not progress beyond the basement level because of World War II shortages)

1943 ... church begins a radio ministry, America to Your Knees

1946 ... Patricia Doris Beall marries J. Peter Gruits (June 15) ... James Lee Beall marries Anna Mae Broyles (July 3)

1948 ... James Lee Beall joins Bethesda's ministerial staff ... the church begins building a sanctuary to seat about 1,800 as a pay-as-you-go endeavor (no loans from a bank!) ... total cost:  $350,000 ... Myrtle Beall travels to Vancouver to hear speakers associated with a revival that had broken out in North Battleford, Saskatchewan ... revival breaks out at Bethesda on December 5 upon her return to Detroit

1949 ... Pentecostal pioneer Stanley Frodsham visits Bethesda and recognizes that the church was experiencing a true revival ... the church dedicates the new sanctuary on February 13 ... the church, which had been prophesied to be an "armory," begins having services six days a week for three and one-half years as people from around the world flock to the revival

1950 ... Bethesda leaves the Assemblies of God, becoming an independent, non-denominational church ... The church also sponsors evangelistic meetings with teenaged evangelist Little David Walker; some of the meetings are held at the State Fairgrounds, drawing thousands

1951 ... Myrtle Beall speaks to the hundreds gathered from around the world at the Dixie Camp Meeting in Houston, Texas ... Bethesda begins publication of a magazine, Latter Rain Evangel, edited by Patricia Beall Gruits ... Harry M. Beall joins the ministerial staff as music director

1954 ... Harry Monville Beall marries Patricia June Criswell (September 25)
Harry and Patricia Beall

1955 ... Patricia Gruits teaches the first youth catechism class; her teachings will eventually be developed into a book, Understanding God

1958 ... Bethesda is featured along with other Pentecostal churches in the June 9 issue of Life magazine

1959 ... Patricia Gruits teaches the first adult catechism class

1962 ... Lightning strikes and destroys the basement church ... Patricia Beall Gruits' catechism book, Understanding God, is published

1964 ... an educational building is erected to house a chapel, Sunday School rooms, and offices ... on the weekend of Bethesda's 30th anniversary, the Detroit Free Press runs a feature story with the headline, "She Turned a Tire Shop into a Church" (see article below)

1970 ... the M. D. Beall building is added to the sanctuary, facilitating a new platform for the sanctuary, as well as adding additional Sunday School rooms and a choir room

1972 ... the church acquires a 25,000-square foot building across Van Dyke Avenue ... this adds to the church plant a dining room, kitchen, and yet more Sunday School rooms ... purchased for $75,000 at public auction ... the building was named for Phil Baer, the long-time church treasurer

1973 ... Harry Lee "Pop" Beall, 86, dies ... church begins Bethesda Christian School (K-3, adding one grade each subsequent year)
James Beall at World Conference (1974)

1974 ... James Lee Beall speaks at the World Conference on the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem (other speakers included Kathryn Kuhlman, Corrie ten Boom, David du Plessis, Pat Robertson, Jamie Buckingham, J. Rodman Williams, Gen. Ralph Haines, Costa Deir, Art Katz, Willard Cantelon, and Charles Farah)

1975 ... Peter and Patricia Gruits are called to pioneer a mission in Haiti ... Analee Beall and Dennis James Dunn marry

1977 ... high school addition built and includes classrooms, library, gym, kitchen, racquetball courts, sauna, and workout rooms ... Bethesda begins a television ministry that will end in 1982

1979 ... founder and pastor Myrtle Beall dies at 84 ... she is written about in the New York Times'
Myrtle Beall
bestseller, A Walk Across America

1980 ... The Gruits' Rhema International opens a medical facility in Haiti

1982 ... church purchases 92 acres in Sterling Heights for $1.46 million

1986 ... Bethesda Christian School moves to Frazho Road in Warren

1988 ... church gets a new name, Bethesda Christian Church, as Sunday services begin at the Sterling Heights property

1989 ... dedication of the sanctuary and church plant in Sterling Heights

2000 ... Pastor Harry M. Beall retires ... Analee Dunn becomes associate pastor

2004 ... Pastor James Lee Beall retires and installs Analee Dunn as the senior pastor

2013 ... Pastor emeritus James Lee Beall dies at 88

2016 ... Analee Dunn retired from the senior pastorate, turning it over to Patrick Visger on June 12 ... Pastor Harry M Beall dies in Arizona

BCC building trivia:  exact seating capacity is 2,895 ... building size is 194,000 square feet ... baptismal pool is 20' x 6', using 1,500 gallons of water ... church has parking for 1,150 cars ... dining room and chapel both seat 500 ... the performing arts center seats 520

Bethesda's 30 anniversaryBethesda's 30 anniversary · Sat, Jun 13, 1964 – Page 6 · Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) · Newspapers.com Anniversary and dedication convention 1971Anniversary and dedication convention 1971 · Sat, Jun 19, 1971 – Page 10 · Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) · Newspapers.com

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