New Bethel Baptist Church celebrates 100 years


Staff writer

YOUNGSTOWN — New Bethel Baptist Church, 1507 Hillman St., is marking its 100th anniversary this year.

The church recently hosted an Instruments of Praise Resurrection Concert “Sharing Our Story, Giving God the Glory” filled with praise, worship and giving glory to God through song.

The event was one of several hosted in March to kick off the 100th year milestone. Also last month a drama ministry was held as part of the celebration.

Rev. Kenneth L. Simon, pastor of New Bethel Baptist, said the 100-year celebration allows for the showing of glory to God.

Theodore Brown, assistant to the pastor, said the church is in the process of converting the former sanctuary in the older section of the church into a community center. He said the church is hoping to have the center open by June.

In February 2018, plans were unveiled for the renovation of the former sanctuary to convert it into a multi-purpose facility to expand ministry opportunities. The plan included recreational space for youth programs and a banquet facility for the church and community.

In July of 2023 the projected $250,000 was secured to begin the project, and in October 2023 the renovations began. The building, which will be named after the current pastor, will be called the “K. L. Simon Community Center.”

The new church was opened in 2004 with the church congregation worshipping in the church main sanctuary for 20 years.

Brown said the church on occasion would use the former sanctuary for events, including events in memory of former pastor Rev. Lonnie Simon, who served the church for 33 years and was Ken Simon’s father.

“His son followed in his footsteps and became the pastor,” Brown said.

The church theme for 2024 is “Sharing Our Story, Giving God the Glory.”

He said there will be a three-day celebration in June for the centennial, which includes a banquet, worship service with guest speaker and church picnic.

Brown said the community center will be made available for the public.


Church members working on the 100th anniversary have compiled information on the history of the church. New Bethel Baptist Church was organized July 24, 1924, and was first called Bethel Baptist.

The first service was held July 20, 1924, and the first pastor was the Rev. J. H. McDavis. The first pastor’s salary was $5 per month and the first church offering was $1.65.

Former church locations were 125 Manning Ave., and 209 Reserve St.

Rev. Lonnie A. Simon was called in 1962 and retired in 1995. He served 33 years and was regarded as one of the most progressive leaders in the church’s history.

On May 16, 1996, he was officially granted the position of Pastor Emeritus. The current pastor, Rev. Kenneth L. Simon, was called Sept. 28, 1995.

New Bethel moved to its present edifice, which had been purchased at a price of $57,000 in 1964.

The church has an active membership of more than 1,400.

Church members said the church’s motto — The Church that Cares and Shares — is demonstrated through work that is geared toward missionary services locally and abroad. Locally, food and clothing is distributed to needy families. The church also engages in an annual neighborhood outreach ministry that brings the gospel to the homes of families in the surrounding area.

On Oct. 23, 1994, members of the New Bethel church celebrated 30 years of ministry on the South Side.

In February 1998, Kenneth L. Simon unveiled and introduced to the congregation a vision for the church to build a new edifice. The vision was accompanied by a plan to finance the endeavor through a “Walk of Faith” pledge campaign. The goal was to raise $2 million toward the new structure.

On Sept. 22, 2002, ground was broken for the $3.5 million project. On Feb. 8, 2004, the new edifice was dedicated. Also, in June of 2004, on New Bethel’s 80th anniversary, the Memorial Brick Prayer Garden that was constructed between the former and new facilities was dedicated.

Have an interesting religion story? Contact Bob Coupland by email at bcoupland@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.


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