On March 21, 1921, thirty (30) former members of the Trinity Baptist Church in Ivy City held a fervent prayer meeting in the home of Reverend Pat Patrick.  As a result, eighteen (18) of those present became the founding members of the newly formed Bethesda Baptist Church.  

Realizing the need for a “place” of worship, these stalwart founders proceeded to purchase a lot on the corner of Capital Avenue and Kendall Street, N.E. A big brown tent was erected in 1921, where worship services were held until a more permanent structure could be erected.
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On April 4, 1922, the Church met for the purpose of calling its first pastor, the Rev. William Williams. Under his leadership, the church was incorporated and duly recognized on March 15, 1923. He was a man of great determination believing that a house of God should be fit and proper, and he set about to provide one. In 1952, Rev. Williams led the church to prepare and build a new and larger facility. Tragically, on February 6, 1953, Rev. Williams met with a fatal accident while on his way to a Building Program Business Meeting.
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The Church continued to work fervently on this project under the guidance of Dea. Forrest M. Hearns, who was Chairman of the Board Deacons. As a result of the congregation’s giving, loyalty to service, and devotion to Christ, the building was completed on June 19, 1953, and dedicated to the Lord on June 21, 1953.

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On the evening of April 9, 1954, the Rev. John D. Bussey was called to be the second Pastor of Bethesda Baptist Church. During his 35 years as pastor, Rev. Bussey, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, led the church to new fields, nobler heights, and more spiritually enriching goals. He was a strong advocate for what was “right,” gaining a Biblical education, and teaching sound doctrine. Under his leadership, an educational building was constructed and the erection of a new worship edifice began. Rev. Bussey went home to be with the Lord in September 1989.

During the critical period of Rev. Bussey’s declining health and passing, Dea. Willie Bowman, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Deacons, was called upon to share the mantel of leadership. The congregation willingly accepted his leadership and continued on a steady course toward the fulfillment of Rev. Bussey’s vision of God’s purpose and plan for this Branch of Zion. While completing the erection of the Sanctuary, Bethesda continued with the other “ usual” things, including: regular prayer meeting, Bible study, revival services, ordination of deacons, and initiating the John D. Bussey Scholarship Committee. The church continued to grow spiritually and numerically. Her financial position continued to thrive enabling us to purchase additional property, equipment and furnishings for the new Sanctuary. The Sanctuary was completed and furnished in June 1990. We marched into the new edifice on July 15, 1990, with an appropriate service of thanksgiving which included leaders of the faith community and elected off
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icials. In November 1990, God blessed Bethesda to call its third Pastor to continue the work of ministry for the cause of Christ.

Rev. A. Michael Black was installed in March 1991. Under his leadership, the church sought to bear witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the gospel to all that would hear. His evangelism thrust was to fulfill the Great Commission. During Rev. Black’s tenure, the church continued to grow spiritually and numerically. Rev. Black served as Pastor until March 2006.

In the absence of a pastor, the late Deacon Willie Bowman, Chairman of the Board of Deacons was called upon again to lead the church. He served prayerfully, faithfully and courageously. The church continued to hold regular worship and prayer services, Bible studies, Sunday School, and other ministry and community outreach activities. Further, the Sons of Bethesda were faithful in preaching each Sunday and serving wherever needed. When Deacon Bowman’s health began to decline, the church voted to appoint Deacon Frank Copeland to assist him during this period. Deacon Bowman went home to be with the Lord in February 2010. We give “Thanks to God … remembering (Deacon Bowman’s) work of faith, labor of love and patience in hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Thessalonians 1:3) Shortly thereafter, the church appointed Deacon Frank Copeland to serve as Acting Chairman of the Board of Deacons. With the Lord’s guidance and direction, we have continued to preach and teach Christ and fulfill the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20).

In May 2010, after a lengthy and prayerful search, the church called Rev. Gregory Williams to be the fourth Pastor of Bethesda and he served until July 2011. Rev. Williams emphasized biblical preaching and teaching and encouraged the congregation to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After Rev. Williams’ departure, we sought the Lord on how the church should proceed in the absence of a pastor. The Lord answered our prayers in a unique way by leading us to call the Rev. Vernon Lattimore as interim pastor in November 2011. Truly, the Lord is showing Bethesda again that His “ways are not our ways…”(Isaiah 55:8) We give God praise, glory and honor as we seek to faithfully do His will and look forward to where He will lead us.
In December 2014, God blessed us to call the fifth Pastor of Bethesda Baptist Church, Rev. Michael W. Palmer.  Rev. Palmer was installed in April 2015.  Under his leadership, the church was moved into the 21st century through the use of technology and social media with increasing community involvement; creating new ministries and revitalizing other activities and ministries, such as Girl Scouts, and the expansions of Children’s Extended Worship.  Rev. Palmer served as Pastor until August 2017.