Bethel Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest churches in Desoto County. It was organized in 1858 by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and in 1906 the Cumberland Church joined the larger Presbyterian body and Bethel became Presbyterian USA. The church’s first pastor was Rev. W.M. Foster and members would ride to church in buggies or two-horse wagons. The original church building had 10 foot ceilings, was lined with windows, and had handmade pews. In 1935 the old church building was torn down and the lumber was incorporated into the new building. In the late 1930’s long time member Ms. Yenti Owings organized the first Women’s Missionary Society at Bethel which continues to meet monthly under the new name of Presbyterian Women.
Early in Bethel’s history it was unable to hire a full-time pastor, but met each week for Sunday school. In 1953 Bethel hired its first full-time pastor Rev. W. Vernon Robinson. During Rev. Robinson’s time as pastor a new sanctuary was constructed in 1957 and the old sanctuary was converted into the educational building. In 1972 Bethel ordained its first woman elder, Annie Johnson Nichols. Rev. Jonathan Kelley became pastor of Bethel in 1979 after Rev. Robinson retired. Under Rev. Kelley’s leadership the Bethel pre-school opened in 1980. The pre-school continues to meet under the direction of Mrs. Nita Peyton. Bill Robinson, son of beloved pastor Rev. W. Vernon Robinson was the long time organist at Bethel and installed the current pipe organ in the Bethel sanctuary. The organ had been moved from First Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama and was heard for the first time on Easter Sunday, 2000.
Bethel PCUSA Church has a long history serving the community and continues that service by supporting denominational missions, hosting the “Lucky Charms” 4-H Club, Bethel Pre-School and Mother’s Day out, as well as supporting local organizations like OBC3 and First Presbyterian Soup Kitchen.
A dream came true in 1988 … Bethel Presbyterian Church acquired its first pipe organ.
This 1959 two manual instrument was built by Gabriel Kney and Bright. In 1988, thanks to organist emeritus, Mr. Bill Robinson, the organ found a new home at Bethel Presbyterian Church.
The organ, formerly installed in the chapel of First Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, Alabama, became available when the Alabama church decided to relocate. The organ was dismantled and moved by Mr. Robinson and Mr. Kerry Bunn of R. G. Capra Organs, Inc., Memphis, Tennessee, installed by Mr. Robinson and fellow church member with tonal finishing and revoicing provided by Mr. Capra.
The organ was the first in a number of collaborative designs by organ builder Gabriel Kney and organist-composer Harold Rohlig. The instrument features electric action and slider chests. Upon its arrival to Bethel, a multilevel combination and switching system, a record/playback system, and MIDI were provided by Matters, Inc., Hermosa, South Dakota. In 2006 the organ was further updated by Gregory P. Koziel, Koziel Organ Builders, Memphis, Tennessee: including a new 50 level memory system, new combination pistons and toe studs, tonal revisions, and visual placement of the 9-bell Zimbelstern.