Bethlehem Star Baptist Church History
The Bethlehem Star Baptist Church was organized on a Thursday night, January 9, 1947 at Ballard’s Temple, in the 1200 block of West Sheridan with the following ministers present: Rev. J.D. Provo, Chairman, Rev. S.S. Fairley, Rev. E.A. Keith, Rev. W. K. Jackson, Rev. J.A. Jones, Rev. F. E. Rankin, Rev. J. T. Abram, Rev. J. M. Albritton, Rev. W. T. Watts, Rev. A.A. Griffin, Rev. M.L. Brown and Rev. J.A. Reed, Sr. The name “Bethlehem Star Baptist Church” was suggested by Bro. S.F. Flowers, and so it came to be. After the church was organized, 41 members were added.
On Sunday, January 12, 1947, Sunday School began at 9:45 a.m. with Sis. Ollie Suber in charge. Attendance was 65. Morning service began at 11:00 a.m. with Rev. W.T. Watts bringing the message “Looking unto Jesus”, taken from Hebrews 1:2. BTU began at 6:00 p.m. with Sis. Katherine Ingram in charge. Attendance was 64. Night service began at 8:00 p.m. with Rev. W.T. Watts preaching from James 1:12, “Trials and the Crown”. Offering for the day was $87.88 and 22 members were added to the church.
Charter members were: Joel and Lenora Downer, Juanita Arnold, Sunny and Elizabeth Flowers, Katherine Ingram, Polly Barr, J. Vance and Maggie Jenkins, Carrie Brady, Ransom and Rosie Leonard, Mattie Crimes, Leroy and Rebecca Parks, Venus Elliott, Willie Mae Campbell, Rev. Lewis, Robert and Ada Parks, Zeralda Mack, Eddie Roberts, Beulah Martin, Christine Stewart, Mentory Nichols, Jordan and Lula Stewart, Sis. Rodgers, Jack and Ollie Suber, Sis. Ross, Willie and Emma Watson and Minnie Suber.
Rev. W.T. Watts officiated at Bethlehem Star until a decision was made to call Dr. Jacobi C. West. In the spring of 1947, the Bethlehem Star Baptist Church, being a newly organized church and sensing the need of a strong dynamic leadership, extended a unanimous call to Dr. Jacobi C. West. He accepted the challenge and led the Bethlehem Star Baptist Church in successfully becoming a renowned church of great influence across the city.
In 1948, the property at 9 South Ellison was purchased from J.D. Diggs. At that time the lower auditorium was a boarding house. The building was renovated and the church body moved to 9 South Ellison. The first officers working together in leadership were: S.F. Flowers, Chairman of Deacon Board; Miles Stewart, Deacon; J.D. Stewart, Deacon; Jack Suber, Deacon; Robert Parks, Deacon; Mary E. Flowers, Mission President; Emma Watson, Choir President; Maggie Jenkins, Pianist; Ollie Suber, Sunday School Superintendent; Katherine Ingram, BYPU Director; Venus Elliott, Church Clerk & J. D. Stewart, Treasurer.
With the strong hand of God and the divine leadership of Dr. J.C. West, the following accomplishments were completed: The building at 9 S. Ellison was erected in 1953 (the builder was G.E. Chiles); The property at the corner of Sheridan and Ellison was purchased in 1968; Improvement of the lower auditorium; Installation of cooling system; Carpeted the sanctuary and pulpit furnishings and pews were purchased.
On Sunday, May 25, 1975, at approximately 9:00 a.m., the Lord saw fit to call Dr. Jacobi C. West home. For 28 years, he served as Pastor of the Bethlehem Star Baptist Church. Through this man of God’s life many souls and lives were blessed.
After the passing of Dr. West, Rev. Kendricks officiated until the church called Rev. B.U. Smith in May of 1976. While Rev. Smith served as Pastor, Rev. James C. Coats was called to preach. During this time further improvements were made on the lower auditorium. In July 1977, Rev. Smith resigned as Pastor of Bethlehem Star.
In November of 1977, Rev. James C. Coats was called to lead us to higher glorifications in the Lord. Since that time the following were established: an active witnessing program, the establishment of a building fund, a “new members” class. In 1985, property was purchased for a new building (Lots 1-13, block 3, Wails 2nd Addition, AKA 2704 N.E. 24th St.); two deacons were added, Dorsey Wardsworth and Raymond Pickett, Sr., and one associate minister, Rev. Ransom Stanfield was added. Bethlehem Star has been blessed with the following sons in the ministry: Rev. Benjamin Ingram, Rev. R.D. Redic, Rev. John Black, Rev. Macon L. Tucker, Rev. W.K. Arnold, Rev. J.C. Coats and Rev. Ransom Stanfield.
On December 14, 1986, a ground-breaking ceremony took place. Many hours of prayer, planning and design went into what would become the new home of the Bethlehem Star Baptist Church. Now after 40 years as one organized body of Christ, we were prepared to move from 9 S. Ellison to 2704 N. Highland.
On the first Sunday in September 1988, we had our first service in our new home. Since this move, we established a Scholarship Committee and “Evangelism Class” has grown with our first graduating class of 8 students in May of 1992. With the direction of the Holy Spirit, the leadership of Rev. J.C. Coats and the strength of Rev. Robert Hubbard, many souls have returned home to become a part of this richly growing body of Christ.
In January of 1995, the property east of the church was purchased and in October of 1996 final negotiations were made for the purchase of the four lots north of the church. As of November 21, 1999, through much prayer and God’s people working together, God blessed us to be debt free of all properties including the mortgage on the existing building.
On July 11, 2000, the trustees of Bethlehem Star Baptist Church signed the note for Phase II of our expansion project. On November 15, 2000, the first tree and some concrete slabs were removed for progress to begin. One year later, July 2001, the Phase II Expansion Project was completed.
On July 22, 2001, a dedication service was held with the Rev. Arthur R. Martin, Pastor of the Solid Rock Baptist Church of Paris, Texas, preaching the dedication sermon.
From the year 2001 to 2005, God continued to move in a mighty way and the Bethlehem Star family continued in “Kingdom building”.
In 2005, God sent Rev. Rodney R. Payne and family to Bethlehem Star to serve as Assistant Pastor. Because of the knowledge, the inner strength, the insight and the leadership ability that God had given Rev. Payne and under the tutelage of Rev. James C. Coats, Rev. Payne became the leader approved by God.
In 2006, Sycamore Street (just west of the church) was renamed Dr. James C. Coats Boulevard.
In 2008, Rev. James C. Coats, after 31 years as a devoted and committed servant of God, announced his retirement. The Bethlehem Star Baptist Church voted Rev. Rodney R. Payne in as the new Pastor effective January 1, 2009.
Installation services for Rev. Rodney Payne took place on January 11, 2009. The theme for this occasion was “A Servants Submission to God’s Commission”. Rev. Lawrence Kirk of St. John Missionary Baptist Church was the speaker for the morning service. The installation message was given by Rev. W.B. Parker, Pastor Emeritus of the Loving St. James Baptist Church. Special music guest was the Male Chorus and Mass Choir of the Loving St. James Baptist Church. Charge to the Church was given by Rev. L. Mike Woodberry, Pastor of the Unity Baptist Church. Charge to Rev. Payne was given by Rev. James C. Coats, Pastor Emeritus of the Bethlehem Star Baptist Church. Sister Ollivett Brothers of St. Jude Baptist Church gave Words of Encouragement to the First Lady, Sister Thelma Payne. Rev. George Young, Pastor of the Holy Temple Baptist Church gave the installation prayer.
In 2009, 68 members were added to the membership. Rev. Payne instituted “Children’s Church” and because of the response of the youth it has gone from one Sunday to three Sundays a month. Ministry Leaders’ sessions began every first Wednesday of each month. The “Gate-Keepers” ministry under the leadership of the Brotherhood was instituted as well.
In 2009, Rev. Calvin Conner and family became a part of the Bethlehem Star Family and has since been appointed as Associate Minister. Two Deacons were ordained: Bro. Sam Brown, Jr. and Bro. Al Adams. Sister Jessalyn Conner, Sister Sandra Brown and Sister Sally Smith were appointed to the Deaconess Ministry. Brother Myirs Shirley accepted his call to the ministry and was licensed. Because of the growth of the church, the plans for Phase III Expansion began.
The Lord continued to bless our ministry. In 2010, 68 members were added to the church family.
The very next year, in 2011, we began phase three of our building expansion which included a Children’s Church (Big City), a Little Star School and Nursery, and a new finance office along with a new Pastor’s study. In March of the same year we purchased property located at 2729 N.E. 24th St. to further expand our effort. We began “live streaming” of our 8:00 am 10:45 am services with an average attendance of 32 people per Sunday from different countries all over the world. Rev. Eugene McCarrell was appointed to the position of Associate Minister, and Sister Roxie McCarrell was added to our Deaconess ministry. We also welcomed 78 new members to our church family that year. Deacon Joseph Smith was appointed to the Deacon Ministry and Sis. Coilette Smith was appointed to the Deaconess Ministry.
In 2012, we completed a new parking lot located at 2701 N.E. 24th Street. Brothers Charles Jackson and George Bland were both ordained as Deacons. Sister Loretta Jackson and Sister Denice Bland were appointed as Deaconesses. The property located at 2729 N.E. 24th was named the “Ransom Miller, Jr. Memorial Park”, in recognition of his being a charter member, a Deacon, his commitment, dedication and his faithfulness to the Bethlehem Star Baptist Church. A dedication ceremony was held during the Homecoming Service in November 2012. We welcomed 72 members into our church family that year.
After serving for 52 years as Minister of Music, Deaconess Joyce Knight resigned and Deacon Joseph was appointed Minister of Music.
Going forward into 2013, we saw continuous growth in many areas. This is evident in the revitalization of our Young Adult Ministry, our Music Ministry, our Youth Department and our Christian Education Bible Study. A business meeting was held on November 13, 2013 to discuss and vote on the possibility of purchasing the property located at 2724 N.E. 24th Street. The vote was unanimous in favor of adding this property to allow continued expansion of our church. God blessed us with 52 new members in 2013.
The year 2014, saw an amazing increase in attendance for Fulfillment Hour (Sunday School), Wednesday morning Bible study and Wednesday night Bible study. 41 new members were added and 11 were baptized. Among the new members were Rev. Brent & Sis. DeAdra Cornish and family.
Praise Beyond The Wall was a spectacular worship experience bringing churches, pastors, choirs, soloist and many workers together to bear witness of the Good News of Jesus Christ. This took place outside the walls of the church and under the “Big Tent”. BSBC hosted the 2nd Annual Collaboration Musical that brought four churches together for a spiritual uplifting service. Those churches were: Bethlehem Star Baptist, Northeast Missionary Baptist, Tabitha Baptist and Paradise Baptist Church.
The Young Adults and the Youth Department continued to be a vital priority enhancing the body of Christ.
BSBC hosted the 2014 National Evangelism Conference. There were 250 people in attendance from ten different states. There were nine graduates from the state of Oklahoma.
Sensing the need to help our children in school, – “ASAP” (After School Achievement Program) was instituted. Volunteers made themselves available to tutor school students in grades 6 thru 12. Parent Prep Academy was also instituted to help parents better understand their role in helping their children in school.
BSBC continued to be a blessing to our community by providing food for 50 families at Thanksgiving and 50 families at Christmas.
God continued to show Himself strong in 2015 as we witnessed Sis. Tolonnie Shirley’s appointment to the Deaconess Ministry. Also 54 new members were added to our church family. Of those added, 16 were candidates for baptism.
We experienced the power of God as we gave witness to over 1000 saints attend the first East Collaboration Service between (Bethlehem Star, Northeast Missionary, Paradise, and Tabitha Baptist churches). This wonderful service took place at the Reed Convention Center in Midwest City, Oklahoma.
The increase in our membership and (specifically) the increase of our youth necessitated the organization of “Teen Town Church” for ages 13-15.
God continued to show Himself mightily as the loan for the property was paid off and the parking lots were repaved.
As we continued our quest to show love and honor to those who paved the way for us to live in a country that we can worship freely, we honored eight veterans (aged 75 years old or older) with a very special American Flag and certificates during our Annual Veterans Day Celebration. They were: Rev. Dr. James C. Coats, Bro. Eugene Jackson, Deacon Ransom Miller, Jr., Rev. Charles Martin, Rev. Johnson Vickers, Deacon Raymond Pickett, Sr., Bro. Hurley Blackmon and Bro. Phil Runels.
God! In His infinite wisdom, saw fit to call home our beloved First Lady Emeritus, Deaconess Mary Coats. She fought the good fight. Now she is home resting with the Lord.
Bethlehem Star Baptist Church will continue to: Live in the Love of God, Walk in the Will of God and Experience the Power of God.