Bethel Methodist’s roots reach to 1787
SINKING CREEK – Let’s travel back into time with the beginning of a little country church on Rt. 42 now named Cumberland Gap Road in the Sinking Creek Community of Craig County. Early records show the first house of worship that today is Bethel United Methodist Church was a log structure built in 1787 across the road in a grove of trees near the present-day parking lot.
That log structure was called Midway Church. The area was once a little village called Midway along the Cumberland Gap Turnpike.
Before the formation of Craig County in 1851, this area was the line between Botetourt and Giles counties. According to the sign over the front door, the church building as we know it today was built in 1870. It had only four windows and two doors. During the early years, men entered the church by the door on the left and women entered by the door on the right. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the church for worship service and Sunday school.
Sometime after 1920, the vestibule was added and men and women entered the church through the same door; however, they continued to sit on opposite sides. Bobby Keffer recalls during his growing up years at Bethel, the men wore suits and ties while the ladies wore dresses and hats. They were dressed in their Sunday best.
Bethel Church was “redecorated” in the late 1950s. The old wood stoves were replaced with oil heaters. The building was painted, new light fixtures, new carpeting, and new oak flooring were installed. The trees were cut from Katherine Keffer’s home place for this flooring project.
In 1967, the board voted to add Sunday school rooms, a kitchen, bathrooms and a basement. The carpenters for this addition were Bill Taylor, Joe Sublett and Bob Echols.
Many families have graced the doors of Bethel United Methodist Church. It has served four generations of some families, including descendants of early church members J. Watson Hypes, William Lewis Farrier, J. W. Trenor, Floyd Wallace, Frank L. Keffer, Denny Jones, Forest Keffer, Stephen Keffer and George Jones.
Bethel Church doors will be wide open on Sunday, Sept. 26, to celebrate 140 years. Everyone is welcome to be a part of the celebration, said the current pastor, the Rev. Penny Wilson. The morning worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.
Dr. Stephen C. Hundley, District Superintendent of Roanoke United Methodist Churches, will be the guest preacher for the celebration day.
Editor’s note: Information for this article was obtained from “The Story of Us,” compiled and edited by Jenny Bolte in 2010. Copies of the book will be for sale. Contact her at 540-544-7682 for prices and details.