Bethel Baptist Church

By Gladys Deadmond

Bethel Church

Bethel Baptist Church is the oldest Missionary Baptist Church in Marion County according to the records of the church and those in the history of Marion and Clinton counties. Bethel Baptist Church celebrated its 177th anniversary on May 17, 2009.

On May 14, 1832, three pioneer Baptist preachers, who were active in evangelism and organization or Baptist churches, Elders James Mason Peck, James and Moses Lemon met at the home of Col. James Jolliff and organized the Bethel Baptist Church. Col. Joliff had organized a Sunday School two or three years before. Rev. Samuel Shook was the first pastor. Plans were begun in 1865 to relocate the church and it was moved to the present location, three miles southwest of Odin, on the farm of Samuel McClelland, on one acre of land surrounded by homes of the children and descendants of the pioneer members. In January 1877, the deed was read to the church and the trustees instructed to have it recorded in the Marion County Court House in Salem, IL. The present new church facilities were dedicated to the Lord on Sunday, March 3, 1985.

Probably one of the biggest and strongest parts of the Bethel Baptist church history is Rev. Irvin Smith and his wife, Rose. Rev. Smith was the pastor for the church for more than 43 years and led many to the Lord during his ministry in the Odin area. He taught us music, led us to Christ, performed many weddings, made many hospital visits and was always willing to counsel anyone. He taught us to love everyone. Bethel was known then as the most loving Church. Even after his retirement, Rev. Smith remained an active member and continued to add to his legacy as a true "Man of God".

Pastor Greg Williams was called to Bethel in 1994 and his excitement and enthusiasm really caught on during his short tenure and the church grew tremendously. In May, 2000, the church celebrated their 168th anniversary at which time they dedicated a new addition to their present building. The new addition was named in honor of Irvin and Rose Smith. In February, 2009 the church voted to have Rev. Bill Price of Salem, IL be our interim pastor for three months.

The oldest member from the Bethel Baptist Church is Rosalie McClelland. She has been a member for 79 years. Other older members are Doris Myers, Theresa Smith, Esther McClelland and Mary Holstlaw; all are active members and prayer warriors when health and weather permits. Some members are descendants from the original church members that organized Bethel Baptist. The church has been on the mountain tops and sometimes in the valleys but God still has a plan for all of us. The present church and fellowship building were built debt free. "Praise the Lord".