Bethany began in 1877 as a Sunday school class held at Richwoods School House. In 1880, it was officially recognized as a Baptist Sunday school and was adopted by the First Baptist Church. By 1881, increased attendance necessitated a larger meeting facility. First Baptist Church secured a piece of land on North Jefferson Avenue, where a chapel was built in 1882. In April of 1891, it seemed time for Bethany Baptist Mission to become a recognized Baptist Church. On December 29, 1891 Bethany Baptist Church was filed with the State of Illinois, Peoria County, listing its start date as May 10, 1891.
The North Jefferson plot was sold and the mission building was moved to the 1800 block of North Madison. The 1940’s marked a time of significant change for Bethany. Its missionary emphasis was coupled with a strong evangelistic approach. In 1943, the Bethany Baptist Broadcaster was born and was sent to men in the service. By 1944, the church had a total of seven missionaries.
In 1948 Bethany Baptist Church withdrew from the Northern Baptist Convention and joined the Conservative Baptist Association of America. Plans were in progress to build a new church on North Perry and it was completed and dedicated on February 1, 1953. In the following years, a pastor’s membership class was established as well as a fellowship fund to help members in need of financial assistance.
The church exploded in attendance! In August of 1961, after a vacation Bible School with 330 children, there was a glaring need for more Sunday school classrooms. On November 29, 1967, the congregation voted to buy the property on 7229 North Knoxville. Bethany continued to grow, and after much prayer, the congregation occupied the Knoxville building on August 1, 1976 with a dedication service on November 14, 1976. In the late 1990’s Bethany expanded the building to better serve the needs of continually growing Sunday school classes.
Bethany experienced 10 years of exponential growth, which included two church plants. In 2003, Bethany planted Living Hope Community Church in Bartonville, followed by Bethany Community Church in Washington in 2008. In 2004, Bethany purchased property on Heinz Lane, and began services at that location in the spring of 2010. The Heinz Lane location is the current the home of Bethany Baptist Church.
Adapted from: The Centennial History of Bethany Baptist Church, Peoria, Illinois, 1881-1991 by Charlotte Wallen.