The History of Bethel Pentecostal Church - Thedford
Bethel Pentecostal Church
Our church is affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, a fellowship of over 1100 congregations. We are located in the village of Thedford; a Municipality of Lambton Shores community. We became part of this community, first ministering from a store front, beginning in 1944 as the Thedford Mission and from our present location as Bethel Pentecostal Church since 1962.
It was January 1944 when the Thedford Full Gospel Mission opened its doors in the centre of town on the main street of Thedford. Mr. Burt Howland, a baker, had prayed for some one to come and begin a work. Some folk had been travelling to the neighbouring village of Arkona for services. Edith Middleton, a graduate of Ontario Pentecostal Bible School was visiting a Christian school teacher, Gertrude Ried, the previous fall and was challenged to come and start a work for God here. Edith contacted Rev. Harold Blair, who was then the District Superintendent of the Western Ontario District of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, to see what he thought. Brother Blair approved and sent her fifty dollars to help. God began to sanction this move in various ways, one being Edith would need a co-worker for help with the music. Grace Swanton, also a graduate of Ontario Pentecostal Bible School, was suffering with a bad back and felt the Lord saying, "If you go, you will be healed!" which proved to be true.
A store front was rented for ten dollars per month. The girls had to clean, scrub and paint. They bought 50 chairs and a piano, plus hymn books and Brother Howland built a pulpit of natural coloured golden wood to match the chairs. The window was covered with a wide venetian blind and a bristol board poster in blue with a scene of rolling sea and a light house. Edith was very artistic and printed John 3:16 on the poster. John Starkey, the local milk man delivered hand bills with the milk.
The opening day brought in a few older citizens of Thedford, plus interested friends from out of town. Head Office sent Rev. James Montgomery to minister that January day and launch this new work.
Money was scarce, but due to the sacrifice of Brother J. Ried and his daughter, Gertrude, who gave free room and board to the workers plus use of his Model A car they were able to pay the rent and small expenses.
The children's work grew so fast they were soon filled up plus found the building very hot with no window to open. They became aware of a building at the east end of main street available for rent, owned by Mr. Coultis and it had windows all along the side! Mr. Coultis painted it all up with bright colours and gave it to them for twelve dollars per month. There was a small back room for Sunday School and a small cloak room at the front with a nice display window for Edith's artistic talent. During Edith's tenure here many young girls came and were saved. Edith married Rev. Russel Anderson in 1947 and moved to the nearby community of Lucan.
Mervyn and Kay Yuke moved to Thedford having just graduated from Ontario Pentecostal Bible College. Kay, who graduated earlier had been in evangelism with her brother, Mel Holmes. She was a talented musician, speaker and prayer warrior.
In 1948 the congregation was able to purchase the first property of their own on the corner of Main and Royal streets. It had two stories, the upper was used for Sunday School and rally luncheons. Rev. Harold Kendrich came over from Exeter and helped raise funds for renovations. Our people gave sacrificially. The building was altered to make it suitable for church use, windows replaced, a platform built and a new front entrance added. The purchase price of the building was fifteen hundred dollars and a mortgage was backed by church families. Pictured left is Earl Yuke and Anna Borthwick in the doorway of our first church at their marriage in 1948.
Emphasis was always on Sunday School. Wednesday evening was always prayer and Bible study. Monthly rallies took place from church to church in the district.
A tent crusade was held in August of 1947 with Brother and Sister James Beam and many were baptized in the river while hundreds looked on. A story was going around about this time that people were paying two hundred dollars to get saved. This was reported to the police. Pastor Yuke and a church member went to the police to explain that this wasn't true. It was realized that the problem came about when the pastor told in the service that some new converts had started tithing by giving four hundred dollars from the sale of some property.
In spring 1950 the Thoman family came to minister. Sister Grace was the pastor and her husband, Samuel, helped in music with his violin. He taught the Bible class and Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study. Due to the kindness of the Thomans, we were able to purchase our first parsonage on Royal Street, two houses down from the church, for the sum of twenty-five hundred dollars. We already had the church mortgage, so Samuel loaned the church five hundred dollars and donated another five hundred dollars for the down payment. The rest was borrowed.
Street meetings were held on Saturday evenings in front of the church. Many evangelistic crusades were held with children's meetings in the upstairs of the church. Evangelists usually stayed in the pastor's home. The Thomans moved to Petrolia in 1958 where Samuel became the pastor.
A New Location...
Dan and Shirley Bjorkman came to pastor from Windsor. Young peoples and Sunday School flourished while they were here. Wilfred White came from Arkona to lead the young people part of this time. Wilfred went on in ministry and eventually became the head of the Canadian Bible Society.
During the Bjorkman's time here, the church was blessed with a donation of twenty-five hundred dollars from an estate. With this money, the pews we still have were purchased, plus the pulpit and communion table. The remaining money one thousand dollars went to the purchase of the land we now have our church and parsonage on. During this time, the mortgage was burnt on the church uptown at Main and Royal Street. In October 1961, Pastor Dan moved to Strathroy, Ontario.
Bill and Neta Loader came from Queensway Cathedral in Toronto in November. In January 1961 a new church was discussed. The project would cost twenty-five thousand dollars. The old church was eventually sold to the Village of Thedford as the Town Hall. The dedication service for the new building was held on December 2, 1962. Rev. Don Emmons of London Gospel Temple officiated. The ladies of the church tithed on their baby bonus cheques to purchase a hundred place setting of dishes as well as glasses and cutlery. The new property was large enough for a parking lot, tent meetings, activities and later a new parsonage. Pastor Loader put many miles on his car selling PAOC backed mortgage bonds.
Pastors who have served since moving to the current building...
1963 to 1965 Les & Donna Jobb
1966 Paul & Josephine McInroy (Bible college student, David Aide came to work with youth).
A small bus was purchased during this time to, bring children to Sunday School.
1967 Stuart Hunter served as interim pastor
1968 to 1970 David & Gloria Aide
1971 to 1972 Norman & Ruth Day
1972 to 1975 Tom & Laura Fodor (Baptismal tank installed).
1976 to 1977 Phil & Lois Stahl (new parsonage built on church property).
1977 to 1981 Ron & Darla Matheson
1981 to 1986 Del & Arlene Wells (Sam Welten worked with youth).
1986 Ted & Linda Vantroost
1987 to 1990 Arnie & Jennie Mains
1990 to 1994 Paul & Sharon Snow (Charles Coutu-youth pastor).
1994 to 1998 Tony & Jean Sommerdyk (Mark Isaac-youth pastor came in 1996).
1999 to 2000 Bill & Barbara Watts (Mark Isaac-youth pastor).
2000 to 2003 Mark & Catherine Isaac (Trevor Carnegie-youth pastor).
Last remaining lot adjoining church property was purchased in 2002.
September 2003 Dave Tigani interim pastor until starting as pastor
(Trevor Carnegie – youth pastor left Feb. 2006)
January 11, 2004 to May 13, 2012 Dave & Karen Tigani
May 20, 2012 Dan Helps interim pastor
July 15, 2012 Gerry Wilson interim pastor
Aug 5, 2012 Bob & JoAnn Acs to May 24, 2016
Aug. 21, 2016 Mark Isaac to May 13, 2018
May 20, 2018 Linda & Ron Dow to present