History of Bethesda Evangelical Church
In the mid 1920's a group of Christians, wanting to start a distinctive Biblical witness formed a "Undenominational Mission". One of the active members was Mrs W Greenow and in 1928 she had a Mission Hall built in Lion Street, Hay on Wye.
In 1940 the group were being led by Robert Rowland, a student Pastor from the Barry School of Evangelism. After his study ended he was persuaded to stay on as Pastor of the Fellowship, where he remained for 5 years. During this time the Hall was rented out (possibly in connection with the war effort), and the members arranged to rent the Primitive Methodist chapel in Oxford Road. This was not in use owing to the union of the Wesleyan and Primitive branches of the Methodist Church a few years previously. Records show that there were up to 40 people attending services at that time.
In 1942 the members decided to change their name from 'Undenominational Mission' to 'Independent Evangelical Church'. 'Bethesda' was added in 1944. They were already members of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. ( fiec.org.uk ) After a while the Oxford Road building developed leaks in the roof and became unusable. They had offered to purchase it, but the Methodists were not willing to sell at that time. However, in 1945 the Hall had become available again and the members decided not to continue renting it out as it was needed again for their own meetings.
In 1953 after repairs had been carried out, 8 years of negotiations taken place and several changes of Pastors, Alderman D G Watkins bought the Primitive Methodist building for Bethesda Evangelical Church. The Church building itself was originally built in 1865, Methodists having been active in Hay since 1770 or earlier. A manse for Bethesda was purchased in 1968, just before Rev. Ben Illingsworth was called to be Pastor.
The fellowship has never had a large number of members, but witness has continued down the years to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev Ben Illingsworth was pastor until 2009. The Church was then without a pastor for about 5 years, until Rev Gordon J Bingham became pastor in November 2013 until present. From the end of 2013 to December 2015 the Church building underwent major renovation. A first floor was installed together with a lift, stairs & toilet. Downstairs a creche, kitchen, a toilet for disabled & a good size Hall was installed.