In 1974, the first woman, Mrs. Annie Mae Epps was elected to the Trustee Board. 14 years later, in November 1988, Evangelist J. Esther Rowe became the first woman ordained to the gospel Ministry by the Bethel Baptist Church. In January 2002, Flora Carr was installed as the first female Chair of the Trustee Ministry.
Prior to and since Reverend Rowe's ordination, several sons of Bethel were licensed and or ordained into the ministry. They included: Reverend J.E. Jones, Reverend Clemor McKnight, Reverend Richard Nelson, Reverend Haywood Bellamy, Reverend Stanley Bellamy, Reverend Craig Jenkins, Reverend Kenneth Jenkins and Reverend Frankie Barnes. Over the years, there have been other associate ministers at Bethel; namely Reverend Samuel Rush, Reverend Robert Suggs, Reverend Samuel Walker, Reverend Kinzer Pointer, Reverend Charlie Riggins and Minister Tony Boyd. Bethel was also blessed to have had Evangelist Alice Hardin and Evangelist Ollie Jones Scott as members for many years.
Reverend Stanley submitted his resignation early in 1996. Deacon Horace Hammonds, Chairman of the Deacon Ministry became the ranking officer. He, along with the Associate Pastor Reverend Samuel Walker, assumed the responsibilities that came with having no pastor.
During his years at Bethel, Reverend Walker proved to be a valuable asset to both the Pastor and the Church. He taught the New Members Class for several years and provided immeasurable assistance to the office and members after Reverend Stanley's retirement. After Reverend Walker's death, Deacon Hammonds was left alone to shoulder the load until September 1997 when the Church called Reverend James Cobbins of Lynchburg VA. to become the fourth pastor of Bethel.
Under Reverend Cobbins leadership some of the ministries that had become inactive were reorganized. Among them were the New Members Class and Bible Study. Major repairs and maintenance projects were completed, among them the gas storage tanks that were left underground in the parking lot were removed. The property was formerly a gas station and was donated to the Church through efforts Mr. Eugene Soule. Mr. Soule was employed by Sun Oil Company. Under Reverend Cobbins leadership the Church also liquidated a sizeable loan in two years and made major repairs to the parsonage.
Reverend James Cobbins submitted his letter of resignation as Pastor on July 11, 2003. Deacon Jerome Harvey assumed the leadership of the Church until the Pulpit Committee selected Reverend Eric S. Shaw, an Associate Minister at Antioch Baptist Church in Hempstead, LI. He was installed on December 12, 2004.
Reverend Shaw brought with him a vibrant energy and a lot of spirit seen and felt throughout the church. He assumed the responsibility for teaching Wednesday Night Bible Study and the attendance has increased dramatically. The Children's Choir and the Twelve Tribe's ministry was re-organized. The Reverend ES Shaw Choir and the Young Adult Ministry (YAMS) were organized. The Church sponsors a successful Twelve Step Program. Many new members have been added to the congregation. During the 2005-2006 year there was only one month that baptism was not held. Bethel has also increased its attendance and participation in the Association. On April 29, 2006 for the first time in many years Bethel received the banner for attendance at Central Hudson Association 5th Saturday Session and the had its first Men's and Women's retreat at Silver Bay Resort in Lake George. The Sunday School Department was reorganized and implemented a Men's Class.
Several very costly projects have been completed under Reverend Shaw's guidance. A new heating and cooling system has been installed. Major renovation has been completed on the Allen A. Stanley Education building, a new roof has been installed on garage and we are preparing to replace the roof on the Earl St. garage that houses the Church bus. The vacant lot next door to the Church was purchased and converted to a beautiful courtyard that is enjoyed by our members and the community.
Reverend Shaw has a compassionate and kind spirit that enables him to relate to individuals from all walks of life. He is both comfortable and confident conversing with those considered high ranking and with the homeless. As a result, Bethel has been blessed to embrace and receive individuals from all walks of life.
The members of Bethel have a long history of rising successfully to meet whatever challenges they face; whether it is a fire that left us homeless, urban renewal that displaced our membership, recessions & job loss that affected us financially, or homelessness and drug addiction that has claimed so many of our young people. There are still problems to be solved and obstacles to overcome but we know we will succeed because as we look back over the years not only can we say "Look where he brought us from" but we can also say "He did not bring us this far to leave us".