Bethel has had over 100 years of successful ministry in the nation’s capital. Here is how it all began:
The first Pentecostal services in Ottawa were conducted in the fall of 1908 when several cottage prayer meetings were held. However, no permanent work was established.
In February and March of 1911, a number of full-gospel ministers and workers gathered in Ottawa to hold a convention. The services were held in Queen’s Hall at the corner of Bank and Somerset streets. Large crowds gathered for these services with many attending from the surrounding Ottawa Valley. The Pentecostal message was new and it attracted wide interest. Powerful miracles of divine healing, which accompanied these services, had a great impact on the surrounding area. Following the convention, Rev. R.E. McAlister remained in the city to pastor the new congregation. A smaller hall was obtained and regular services were held.
In June 1912, a revival campaign was held in the Howick Pavilion on the exhibition grounds. The guest speaker was Rev. Daniel Awrey, from the United States. Other early pioneers of the Pentecostal movement were also present.
In the fall of 1912, Rev. R.E. McAllister resigned from the pastorate and was followed by Rev. J.L. Hart, who ministered until 1913. Rev. Charles Baker then took charge of the assembly. The services were held at 312-314 Lisgar Street. Rev. A.M. Otto, who had been publishing a gospel paper, became an active worker with Rev. Baker.
In 1915, Rev. Baker left Ottawa and Rev. R.E. McAlister returned to minister for a brief period until Rev. George A. Chambers was called to be the permanent pastor.
Rev. Chambers felt led to call a convention. Special speakers were Rev. A.H. Argue and the noted Persian evangelist, Andrew Urshan. A great revival broke out, stirring many of the surrounding churches. The congregation was forced to vacate the hall on Lisgar Street so they secured an upstairs hall over the Fern theatre at 411 Bank Street for their regular services.
In 1919, Rev. George Chambers resigned the Ottawa pastorate and Rev. Harvey McAlister served as interim pastor until Rev. R.E. McAlister returned to assume the pastorate in the fall of that year.
Since R.E. McAlister was appointed General Secretary Treasurer of the newly formed Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, with Rev. George Chambers as General Superintendent, the first national office of the P.A.O.C. was situated in Ottawa.
It was decided that the official voice of the P.A.O.C. should be Canadian Pentecostal Testimony (later renamed The Pentecostal Testimony). Rev. R.E. McAlister was named editor of the paper. Thus, in December, 1920, in a second-story mission hall over a movie theatre in the national capital on a table made from a storm door and wooden boxes, the first issue of The Pentecostal Testimony rolled off the press.
The February, 1921 edition of the Testimony, a folded single sheet, contained these interesting reports: A real revival seems to be on in the Ottawa assembly. Evangelist Walter McAlister is with us. People’s lives were being transformed, people receiving the baptism in the Spirit, also, youth meetings are being held Friday evenings and Sunday School on Sunday afternoons. A second item appears as follows: Ottawa assembly making steady progress.
R.E. McAlister was succeeded by Rev. William Pocock and then Rev. A.S. McCready.
In 1925, the first church property was purchased at the corner of Lyon and McLaren streets. At one point shortly after 1925 the church building was partially destroyed by fire. Considerable difficulty faced the congregation in finding a suitable place to worship. They met in various halls, finally returning to the Queen’s Hall at Bank and Somerset streets.
Over the years, the church continued to grow and in 1938, a superstructure was erected and dedicated to the glory of God. It was called “Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle”.
Bethel has been served over the decades by a succession of pastors who have sacrificially lead the congregation: L.C. Hall, J.D. Saunders, C.B. Smith, W.G. McPherson, Kenneth Haystead, Howard Kerr, Allan Mallory, Gordon Upton, James MacKnight, Stewart Hunter, Don Feltmate, Douglas Stiller, Paul Cassidy, David Blakely and Carl Strutt.
Shortly thereafter, Rev. Kerr left Bethel to return to Argentina. He was succeeded by Rev. Allan Mallory who remained until the fall of 1957. After a brief but fruitful ministry Rev. Mallory was forced to resign because of poor health.
Through the years Bethel initiated many innovative outreach programs to the community programs which impacted the community. These include radio programs, phone messaging, Billings Bridge Shopping Centre services, Sunday School bus programs. One of these would be our radio program, started under the ministry of Rev. C.B. Smith. It continued for many years until the mid-eighties. Rev. Gordon Upton instituted a unique message by telephone, called Minute Message. As already mentioned, we held outdoor church services on Sunday evenings at Billings Bridge Shopping Centre and community engagement and outreach presentation.
Bethel has always been, and will continue to be, a missionary-minded church. Our engagement and reach is both global and local.
Throughout our history we have always believed that God’s plan to reach the world is through the local church and Bethel has been key in the planting of churches in the area including Perth, Russell, Carleton Place, Kemptville, and in Ottawa itself at Woodvale, and Orleans Community.
While our history is important to us and we always build upon the faithfulness of those who have gone before what lies ahead is where our focus is! Our prayer is that the years ahead be greater than the years that are behind.