Biserica Baptista Bethel was founded by german emigrants in 1902. Anaheim (German for “House near Santa Ana River”) was at that time a real German Colony, 40 miles southest of Los Angeles.
In the sixtieth year of our denomination, the North American Baptist Conference, the forty-fifth year of Anaheim, and the 126th year of our national independence, in the year the telephone and the radio were invented, and one year before the invention of the aeroplane, on Thursday the 23rd of October, 1902, sixteen Baptists gathered in the home of S. Hemmerling on Lincoln Avenue at Villa Place for the purpose of organizing a church.
The Rev. John Berg opened the meeting with a hymn, the reading of Psalm 1, a talk, and a prayer. Then the group proceeded to organize the church and decided to call it “The Bethel Baptist Church of Anaheim.” The following became charter members: Rev. and Mrs. John Berg, M. Hemmerling, Mrs. J. Hemmerling, Mrs. E. Schacht, S. Hemmerling, Mr. and Mrs. G. Spingath, G. Schneider, Mr. E. Wedel, Mr. and Mrs. L. Bressel, Mr. and Mrs. P. Berg, Mr. and Mrs. J. Wedel. Of these, S. Hemmerling was the last to pass to his heavenly reward on March 27, 1952.
Rev. John Berg, a former pastor of the First German Baptist Church of Anaheim, was unanimously elected pastor of the new church; M. Hemmerling, clerk; J. Berg, J. Wedel, P. Berg, G. Schneider. S. Hemmerling, trustees; J. Wedel, G. Schneider, deacons; J. Wedel, treasurer.
· October 25, 1902. Articles of Incorporation signed at Court House in Santa Ana. Purpose of church declared to be “the promotion of the moral and religious nature of its members and the worship of God.”
· November 19, 1902. Lord’s supper celebrated for the first time.
No sooner had the church been organized, when it was decided to build a house of worship. Two lots were purchased on Lemon Street at Broadway for $350 and a building committee was appointed, consisting of J. Berg, J. Wedel, and G. Schneider.
· December 25, 1902. Congregation celebrates Christmas in new building, though walls are not yet plastered and windows have to be covered with canvas to keep out rain and cold.
· April 12, 1903. New church dedicated. Building valued at $2,200. Prior to service church settles its differences with First German Baptist Church of Anaheim.
· April 27, 1903. Church recognized as duly constituted Baptist church .
· June 7, 1903. First baptismal service, with 13 persons following their Lord in baptism and total of 16 uniting with the church. Baptism held at Cornwall reservoir because church has no baptistery.
· Sunday School organized with J. Wedel as first superintendent, P. Berg, assistant superintendent, and D. Wedel, secretary.
· October 19, 1903. Young People’s Society organized with 24 members. Purpose: to train its members in the presentation of literary programs. J. P. Wedel was president, S. Hemmerling, vice-president, D. A. Wedel, secretary, M. Hemmerling, treasurer.
· Choir begins with Dan Wedel calling together a dozen people who love to sing.
During these early years the membership of the church was recruited from laborers and farmers, most of whom had large families and supported the church at considerable sacrifice to themselves. There prevailed among them a warm and homelike spirit. The church was a family of families; hospitality abounded, and every member endeavored to be a missionary. The members, having been converted from a worldly life, gave convincing testimony to the saving grace of God in Christ. Grouping by ages was unknown. Father, mother, and children sat together in church.
. 1926. The greatest project was building of the new sanctuary. The Women’s Union had already started building a fund. The church responded to the challenge and pledged $25, 000.
On September 12, 1926, the cornerstone was laid of our present beautiful edifice. The dedication of the completed structure was held on February 27, 1927. The value of the new church was placed at $41,000. That year Bethel also celebrated its 25th anniversary in conjunction with the California Association. Membership had grown to 220.
1927 Church adopts resolution granting pastor an annual vacation of one month.
. September 21, 1930: the church dedicates a beautiful Estey pipe organ at a cost of $2,000.
· In 1931, for the first time the question of language arises; the younger generation has difficulty following the sermon in German. In 1932, baptismal candidates are addressed in English for the first time.
· Church adopts a church covenant in 1935.
· Baptismal service in 1936, for the first time conducted entirely in English.
· In 1937, church decides to hold an English service on the fourth Sunday of every month.
· 1938. Church decides to hold Sunday evening services in English and to add a brief English message to the German Sunday morning service.
· After May 1942, the church holds a German worship service prior to the Sunday School period. All the other services are now entirely in English.
from the Anaheim Newspaper (February 27, 1927)
New Church to Start Sunday
German Baptists begins Rites Tomorrow to run tree days.
Dedication of the new $40.000Bethel German Baptist Church wich now stands ready for occupancy on the old church site, corner of Broadway and Lemon streets, is to be celebrated by a series of special services Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, with pastors of many other Anaheim churches and other proeminent Baptist churchmen from all parts of the State taking a proeminent part, Rev. O. R. Schoreder , pastor of the local church announced this morning.
Formal dedication ceremonies will mark the regular church services Sunday Morning, which will be held in German with the Rev. William Kuhn D. D. general secretary of the General Missionary Society of the German the German Baptist Churches of North America giving the dedicatory sermon and the Rev. William Ritzmann of San Francisco leading the invocation.
German services will also be held Sunday evening at 7:30 with music by the Choir of the First German Baptist Church of Los Angeles as a special feature.
Monday evening will be featured by a special fellowship meeting, in German, with addresses by various German Baptist pastors gathered here from all parts of the state.
The Rev. G.E. Lohr of Lody will deliver in German a sermon on “The House of God , a Place of Soul Saving Work” .
Istoricul Bisericii romane
Romanii au ajuns la Bethel in anul 1990. O misiune inceputa de fratele Petru Popovici in Hollywood, Ca. (1983) si transformata in biserica dupa venirea pastorului Daniel Branzai din Detroit, Mi, dupa o scurta sedere in Glendale, Ca. s-a mutat in Anaheim. Initial, ea a fost gazduita de o biserica americana “Magnolia” (720 N. Magnolia Ave.) North American Baptist Association a hotarat mutarea romanilor in cladirile Bisericii Bethel, unde ramasesera doar foarte putini membrii si acestia foarte in varsta.
Cele doua adunari au fuzionat in anul 1991, membrii romani fiind incorporati in Biserica americana.
Inceputurile Bisericii noastre sunt legate de lucrarea misionara a primei biserici baptiste din Los Angeles. Ani de zile, credinciosii din aceasta biserica au strabatut distante lungi, cercetand pe romanii din dealurile Hollywoodului si cautand sa “smulga din foc” pe cati mai multi. Dupa acesti ani de cautari, biserica a socotit ca a sosit vremea sa transforme punctul misionar intr-o biserica de sine statatoare. Fratele Petru Popovici, pastorul bisericii, a luat legatura cu Daniel Branzai, aflat pe atunci la Detroit si l-a invitat sa vada locul si lucrarea. Vizta a fost facuta in Ianuarie 1983. Daniel Branzai a revenit apoi impreuna cu sotia, Daniela Branzai si cu fetita lor Christina. La apelul facut de Petru Popovici, un grup “misionar” s-a desprins din prima biserica pentru a forma nucleul celei de a doua, in Hollywood. Iata numele lor:
BABUT LIDIA SI TEODOR
CRISTEA MONICA, ANCA SI iOAN
CIUCUR EMILIA SI IOAN
DUMITRU ELISABETA SI EMIL
GHITEA IOANA, ANA-MARIA, ADINA, PAULICA SI PAUL
GHITEA STEFANIA SI NICU
GRADINARU VIORICA SI DORU
MOTZ MARIA, NICOLETA, EUGEN SI SIMION
HATEGANU DORINA SI GELU
DRAGHICI MINA SI GEORGE
PAULESCU PERSIDA SI NICU
SPIRESCU TATIANA, CORINA GEORGE SI IOAN
Cu un total de 39 de membrii, biserica si-a inceput activitatea in cladirea Bisericii Episcopaliene “Sfantul Stefan” din strada Yucca, Hollywood. Serviciile au fost joi seara si duminica, numai serviciul de dupa-amiaza.
A fost o vreme de inceput, cu mult entuziasm, jertfa si credinta. Membrii locuiau la mari distante de Hollywood si au avut de infruntat traficul greu de pe autostrazi. Inchinarea a fost simpla, cu multa rugaciune si cu staruinta asupra Cuvantului.
Ziua de joi a fost aleasa pentru a da ocazia membrilor celor doua biserici sa se viziteze reciproc. Multe persoane din prima biserica au folosit ocazia, sprijinind lucrarea din Hollywood cu prezenta si cu ajutorul lor material. De altfel, jumatate din salariul pastorului celei de a doua biserici a fost suportat pe timp de un an din caseria primei biserici.
Dupa aproximativ doi ani petrecuti in Hollywood, biserica s-a mutat in Glendale, in cladirea Bisericii Adventiste din strada Vallejo Dr. Un numar de noi emigranti s-au adaugat la numarul membrilor care a ajuns astfel la la 50 de eprsoane, plus copiii lor. Mutarea a inlesnit bisericii sa aibe amandoua programele de duminica, deoarece adventistii se adunau sambata.
In aceasta perioada ne-am imprietenit si am colaborat frumos cu Octavian Cureteu, pastorul bisericii romane adventiste din Glendale si cu familia preotului Cornel Avramescu, sponsorat pentru venirea in America de biserica noastra. Dansul a construit mai tarziu cladirea bisericii ortodoxe din Anaheim, la mica distanta de unde este acum si biserica noastra. Prietenia de atunci mai dainuieste si astazi. In 1985, Biserica noastra s-a mutat din Glendale in Anaheim, in cladirilr Bisericii Baptiste Americane din strada Magnolia.
Inca un numar de aproximativ 50 de membrii de la Bellflower au fost incurajati de fratele Petru Popovici sa se alature bisericii din Anaheim. Adunarea a ajuns astfel la aproximativ 100 de membrii.
In anul 1988, Asociatia North Baptist a hotarat sa invite biserica romana sa se alature bisericii Bethel din centrul istoric al orasului Anaheim. Dupa aproximativ doi ani de servicii separate, adunarea romanilor a fost rugata sa se integreze in membralitatea bisericii americane si sa mosteneasca astfel trecutul si toate proprietatile ei actuale.
In anul 1990, Biserica Bethel a cumparat terenul viran adiacent si a construit o foarte necesara parcare, devenita si ea intre timp insuficienta.
În anul 2002, biserica Bethel Baptist Church a serbat Centenarul!
In anul 2008, la 25 de ani de la infintare, biserica noastra numara 190 de membrii, plus copiii lor.
În 2012, biserica l-a ales ca păstor asistent pe Doru Brezoi.
În anuil 2013, am avut bucuria să aniversăm 30 de ani de la înființarea bisericii române.
(despre soarta acestor romani vezi “Tranzitie”)