Bethany Congregational Church is one of two deep south Congregational churches pastored by Ambassador Andrew Young in the 1950s. The other is Evergreen Congregational, located in Beachton, a small community about twenty miles away. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1950s were a time of significant racial strife in this part of Georgia, and Ambassador Young is one of many who stepped up to the challenge. He met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during this time of service in Thomasville, and soon made a personal commitment to work with Dr. King and his colleagues at the Southern Leadership Council in Atlanta in 1960.
The history of Bethany Congregational goes back to the 1880s and the days of Reconstruction. The American Missionary Association, the missionary arm of the United Church of Christ, became very involved with providing education for southern blacks after the Civil War. A school was established in Quitman, Georgia in 1885 following the donation of a building for that purpose by Mrs. F. L. Allen of Connecticut. However the white community in Quitman gave the school a very hostile reception, and the school building was burned only six weeks after it opened.
The school then relocated to Thomasville the next year in a one-story frame building. The following year they relocated to a new school ground provided by Judge Hopkins, the Mayor of Thomasville – obviously quite a different reception from the previous local community. In 1891, the name of the school was changed to the Allen Normal and Industrial School. In that same year, it was decided to organize a church in connection with the school to serve boarding students and day students and their families. Bethany Congregational Church was completed later that year for that purpose.
Thus, the church was intimately connected with the Allen Normal School while it was in operation, and both played a very important role in this deep south location. Bethany has thrived since its inception and continues to serve the community of Thomasville today. The church is a significant example of rural black church architecture that is a feast for the senses. She is a beauty and we salute the loving support she has received from the community, much of it rooted in a difficult period of our southern history.
The interior floor plan of Bethany features a cross plan instead of the more typical rectangle design. Another sign of the relative sophistication and affluence of the congregation. The pews and carpet we see today were replaced in 1977.
The church sanctuary is filled with a warm bright light, welcoming worshippers to the space.
Bethany Church is adorned with beautiful, double-hung winows. All have two lights in the upper sash over one in the lower sash. It is possible that the present 2/1 windows may have originally been 2/2 windows that were altered to their present condition when the lower glass was replaced in recent years.
Here we a view of the altar, as well as the steep gabled roof which is framed with rafters that are supported by large wooden trusses that span the sanctuary.
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