A church’s greatness is not judged by its size or its wealth, but by its spirit and its willingness to do God’s will; with that being the standard, we (at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church of Elizabeth), lay claim to being a great church.Our church is what it is today, because of our trust in God, the leadership and efforts of those who came before us.
In 1956, a very energetic and anointed man from Georgia by the name of Rev. Charles Edward Young started a mission in his home located on Governor Street in Newark, New Jersey. Rev. Dr.Young started this great work with the help of his dear wife, beloved mother and a few faithful members. Their labors came to be organized into the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. As God increased the ministry, adding to its membership, Rev. Young was able to locate a place of worship on Rankin Street in Newark.
Rev. Young was such a dynamic personality that the congregation continued to grow under his pastoral leadership. It was not very long before the congregation outgrew the building and the need for a larger house of worship was announced. The search for a new church home began.Rev. Young’s vision led to the purchase of our current church home, 856 East Jersey Street, here in the great city of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Dr. Young, New Bethel continued to grow. Pastor Young established the first two choirs, Choir #1 and Choir #2. Other church ministries were soon added – the Sunday School Department, Board of Deacons, and the Trustee Board were three of the earliest. Dea. Edwards became the first deacon of New Bethel. Rev. Young also saw that the first church van was purchased. The pastoral skills and leadership qualities which he possessed led Rev. Young to be elected Moderator of the Baptist Church Association. While pastor, Rev. Young also recorded gospel music albums which included live recordings of morning services, where all of the choirs (now the Senior Choir, Gospel Chorus, & the Young Adult Choir) could be heard singing God’s praises. Rev. Young could also be heard delivering the word of the Lord – preaching “One Thing”.
Pastor Young gave the church its first motto; New Bethel became known as the Church with three ships: friendship, fellowship, & worship. Living by the spirit of this church motto, New Bethel continued to grow. In a few short years, the mortgage was burned and the cornerstone was laid. Rev. Young answered another call in life and soon moved to respond to another vision.
Under Rev. Young’s leadership there was a young man, who had proven himself dedicated to serving New Bethel. He was the Superintendent of the Sunday School Department, a Sunday school teacher, a Trustee, and an ordained Deacon. Rev. Samuel Lee Carter was licensed and ordained by Rev. Young. In 1976, after the departure of Rev. Young, Rev. Samuel L. Carter became pastor of New Bethel. Rev. Carter, gave us our present motto, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Under his humble, yet strong leadership the church continued to grow – progressing spiritually and financially. The sanctuary was improved and the exterior beautified. The dining room and kitchen were also renovated. Three deacons were ordained and the Nurses’ Ministry and Male Chorus were established. In 1986, Rev. Carter became ill and entered retirement relocating to Georgia with his loving wife, First Lady Vernell Carter. They have since been called home to be with the Lord.
Rev. Joseph Robinson, Sr., an associate minister of New Bethel, under Rev. Carter, was chosen to oversee the church and congregation during the interim period we were without a pastor. In 1987, Rev. Leamon Hines, another associate minister, under Rev. Carter was called to pastor at New Bethel. He served New Bethel from 1987 until 1989. During his tenure, the Inspirational Choir was established and the Music Ministry continued to grow as well as the Sunday School Ministry. During the time between Rev. Hines’ departure and the spring of 1990 – Associate Minister, Rev. Joseph Robinson, was again called on to serve as interim leader. Both faithful servants, Associate Minister, Rev. Robinson, and former pastor, Rev. Hines have been called home to be with the Lord.
In the early spring of 1990, Rev. Orlando Thomas Riley, Sr. accepted the call to lead New Bethel. Rev. Riley, the godson of our late Deacon & Deaconess Walter S. McElveen, was no stranger to New Bethel. God in His infinite wisdom, had introduced Rev. Riley to the New Bethel family, through his musical gifts under Pastor Young.
Rev. Orlando T. Riley, Sr. preached his inaugural Pastoral sermon on the first Sunday of April, 1990. Under Pastor Riley’s leadership New Bethel purchased additional church vans, two buildings -- 858 and 860 East Jersey Street, and updated the church sanctuary and kitchen. The parking lot was paved, and over $50,000.00 of improvements were made to the building.In addition, he called a seasoned woman of God, Rev. L.V. Williams, to assist him in pulpit duties; Pastor Riley also ordained two women ministers – Rev. Denise Thomas and Rev. Taria Riley-Ricks; Pastor Riley ordained additional deacons and installed new trustees. The number of church ministries increased to over twenty, and God’s people continue to serve him through such efforts as the Soup Kitchen, the Concern Ministry, and the Sunday School Ministry. In the fall of 2014, a young man reared in New Bethel, Tyshon Davis, Sr., became a son of New Bethel, preached his trial sermon and joined the pulpit associates of New Bethel.
Pastor Riley has spearheaded New Bethel’s participation in the New Hope Missionary Baptist Association, Inc., resulting in the recognition and acknowledgment of our youth, men, and women serving in Association offices. He also leads the church participation in the General Baptist Convention of NJ, Inc. Rev. Riley has increased church fellowship with churches across denominations – Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic and Presbyterian, English speaking and Latino congregations. Pastor Riley will celebrate his twenty-fifth Pastoral Anniversary this June 2015, thereby making him the longest serving pastor of New Bethel since its establishment.
In 2015, Pastor Riley instituted corporate prayer with a Sunday evening prayer line and weekly thought-provoking message. As we, the New Bethel Family, continue to trust God and look to Him for direction, we pray for more great works to be accomplished in us and through us. We thank God for New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, and the many years of longevity that we have thusly been blessed with, remembering the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew16:18).
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”
To God be the Glory,
Officers and Members of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church of Elizabeth
Rev. Orlando T. Riley, Sr. – Pastor/Moderator