The Friendly Church at the Crossroads
Founded more than a century ago in Atlanta’s Grove Park neighborhood, Bethany United Methodist has called Smyrna home since 1964. Always a community church, Bethany was called “A Friendly Church in a Friendly Community” upon its inception in Grove Park and then became known as “The Friendly Church at the Crossroads” when it came home to its present location at the crossroads of Hicks Road and Hurt Road. Today, Bethany remains committed to that same spirit of love and community that has been such a part of its identity since its founding in 1915 as we carry out the ministry of spreading the light of Christ.
Our Bethany UMC family believes that it is imperative that we reach beyond our own walls to our neighbors in friendship and love. We reach out to others through missions like Habitat for Humanity, MUST Ministries, youth mission activities and mission trips. Active men’s, women’s, youth and children’s groups have active ministries. We provide loving care to more than 50 children during the week through our Parent’s Morning Out and welcome children to learn about Christ and the Bible at our Vacation Bible School.
We welcome you to become a part of our church family, and to help is continue the ministry that Bethany began more than a hundred years ago. Embracing the future while learning from the past, we work to continue spreading the light of Christ.
Founded in 1915 in Atlanta’s Grove Park
In the early part of the 20th century, Atlanta’s Grove Park area was sparsely populated. With an equally sparse presence of United Methodist Churches in the area, many local Methodists worried that followers would lose their church-going ways or move to other denominations. So it came about that that a group of community Methodists met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Coursey on April 4th, 1915 and Bethany United Methodist Church was born.
For some time, the congregation met in members’ homes. However as the group grew, this became impractical. A store house in the community became available and was rented as the first official home of Bethany UMC. With more room at their disposal, the congregation soon organized Sunday Schools with 35 members attending the first classes. Bethany continued to serve God and expand its ministries from this warehouse for three years. In 1919 however, the warehouse was suddenly sold and Bethany was once again without a home. Hospitable neighbors at Fortified Hills Baptist Church came to Bethany’s aid, letting the congregation use their building until other arrangements could be made, and so for more than a year Bethany held services every other Sunday at the Baptist Church and each Sunday Bethany children met with the Children of Fortified Hills Baptist for Sunday School. In 1920, Bethany purchased a small frame church formerly owned by Dr. E.W. Grove as an interdenominational church. Under its own roof at least, Bethany reorganized its Sunday School, formed an Epworth League (later the United Methodist Youth Fellowship) and expanded its church programs.
Loss and Hope in the Great Depression
Bethany spent twelve years of slow and steady growth in its small frame church which was soon too small to support the growing ministry of Bethany’s members who began planning for the rebirth of their little church. In March of 1932, the church was destroyed by fire. As members recovered from the shock of the fire and all that was lost, they realized that the future was actually brighter – now they had no choice but to build a bigger, better Bethany. With the country in the midst of the Great Depression, money was scarce, but trustees and stewards went from member to member to raise money. The committed congregation not only built the new church but did it in just four years. Many gave money that they could not afford to give, and those that had none gave by the work of their hands. The women of Bethany, untiring then as today, organized numerous fundraisers, and the children saved pennies to contribute to the building fund. During the time Bethany was without a building, services were held in a local school. By 1936, Bethany had a new building of its own in Grove Park.
The Move to Smyrna
Bethany’s new church home served faithfully for almost 30 years. By 1953, there were almost 850 members, Sunday School enrollment was at 579 members and the men’s, women’s and youth groups had all grown and increased their activities – far exceeding the capacity of the building’s facilities. In 1964, Bethany moved once again, this time to its present location in Smyrna, GA at the crossroads of Hicks and Hurt Roads. Living up to the revival image of the church, services were help outdoors weather-permitting until 1965. The McGrady Building was opened on March 3, 1965, and the congregation knew they were home. They did not rest however and began construction on the new sanctuary shortly thereafter. The first service in the sanctuary was held in August 1970. Since then, Bethany’s congregation has continued to grow in both size and service.