Our History


New Bethlehem Free Will Baptist Church was founded by Reverend James Stepney in July, 1948, at 1112 N. Gilmor Street.The other founding members were: Deacon William Holt, Sis. Gertrude Stepney, Sis. Maggie Lee, Sis. Viola Cook, Sis. Ida Troupe, and Sis. Annie Conaway. There were other concerned members as well. Sis. Annie Conaway was the first secretary of New Bethlehem, and Sis. Maggie Lee was the first treasurer and Mother of the church.

Reverend Stepney was the pastor until his death on November 22, 1976. Thereafter, several pastors served until the present pastor, Reverend Paul E. Lee arrived in 1978. All of the founding members stayed with New Bethlehem until they passed on, and the majority of the members-at-large stayed until they too passed on.

After a while, the church moved to the 1100 block of Whatcoat Street and worshiped with Reverend James Carrington. Later, New Bethlehem moved to 1129 N. Gilmor Street. Reverend Stepney lived to accomplish his dream of getting the building paid in full and enlarging the downstairs to accommodate the sanctuary. The members of the church did whatever they could to get the church paid for, too.

They earned money for the church by selling suppers every Friday night. Potato salad and pig feet dinners were fifty cents, crab cakes sold for fifteen cents, a slice of cake and a glass of lemonade sold for five cents each. Reverend Stepney did much of the carpentry work himself, including replacing the coal stove in the kitchen with a furnace.

By God’s grace and favor, New Bethlehem has come a long way since the days of Rev. Stepney. In 1993, the church relocated to its present location, where it continues to thrive. A major renovation of the sanctuary and fellowship hall was completed in 2005. In 2008 Reverend Lee was consecrated to the office of Bishop. The work, as well as the ongoing operation of the ministry, which is being built up under the teaching of Bishop Lee, was and is supported by tithes and offerings from the church body.