Overview, Vision, Location
Bethel Church is an evangelical church affiliated with the Associated Gospel Churches of Canada (AGC). Established in 1874 on the outskirts of Kingston, the city has grown over the years so that Bethel is now firmly established in the downtown core of the city.
Bethel originated in the mid-1870s through the congregational church movement which arose from the religious ferment in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. Its adherents were then known as “Independents,” asserting the independence of the individual church from a denomination, which distinguished them from the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians. The Puritans who settled in Massachusetts in 1630 brought this Congregationalist or Independents' tradition to North America from England.
In Canada, the Congregationalism model emerged from both these American and English roots. One of the first Congregationalist churches organized in Kingston in 1831 was the Union Church, which was comprised of people not affiliated with the Anglican church who held evangelical and independent views. On May 21st, 1874, a meeting was held to organize a new Congregationalist church at what is now 314 Johnson Street. This church was known as Bethel Congregational Church.
Seventy-five years later, on May 18, 1949, Bethel Congregational Church joined the Associated Gospel Churches of Canada becoming Bethel Associated Gospel Church. Most recently, Bethel incorporated on May 1, 2019 as Bethel Church, Kingston, remaining under the umbrella of the AGC..
Through the 1950’s, Bethel continued and expanded its support of missionaries serving in northern Canada and around the world in Haiti, India, Africa, Lebanon, China, Malaysia,
Philippines and South America, to name some of places where our missionaries served. This support included monetary gifts and practical gifts prepared by women’s groups in Bethel who were also committed to several local aid projects. The Sunday School and youth programs grew significantly under the loving care of many dedicated volunteers. A church expansion project began in 1961 and the new space was dedicated in May 1962. Since that time, the historic building has undergone more renovations and additions, maximizing the use of the downtown space we occupy. The most recent sanctuary renovation occurred in 2021.
The 1970s saw a flourishing ministry to students, including the provision of meals and care packages by individuals and groups in the church. Our proximity to St. Lawrence College, Royal Military College (R.M.C.) and especially Queen’s made Bethel a welcoming choice for students looking for a church home while completing their academics. In later years, the ministry morphed into “Adopt-a-Student” which, pre-Covid, was a vibrant ministry we hope to reinstate.
Since its establishment in 1874, Bethel has a total of twenty-eight pastors, some in a temporary capacity as we awaited the Lord’s leading to our next senior pastor. Each man has contributed to the rich spiritual legacy of Bethel and empowered our people to “…grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We look forward to the next chapter in Bethel’s story under the leadership of the man God has chosen as our spiritual leader.
Bethel is a church home to 300+ worshippers of all ages and from all walks of life. Approximately 100 people are members.
With our proximity to three major post-secondary institutions – Queen’s University, the Royal Military College of Canada, and St. Lawrence College – our church family includes a significant post-secondary student population. Our post-secondary worshippers are with us generally from September through April, before leaving for home for the summer months.
Bethel’s congregation is also comprised of many life-long Kingstonians, some of whom have called Bethel their church home since childhood; families with children of all ages from newborn babies to high school grads; and a large number of young professionals - all people at different places in their faith journey, ranging from those seeking spiritual conversations to those who are committed Christ-followers. The congregation also includes people from various denominational and church backgrounds, and others who have no church background at all.
In-Person: Bethel traditionally hosts two identical Sunday morning worship services from September - June, one at 9:00 a.m. and the second at 11:00 a.m., with kids' programs available during the first service. In the summer months, after our post-secondary attendees have departed, we host one service at 10:00 a.m. During Covid, we adjusted regular programming to meet provincial and local regulations for in-person services. As of spring 2022, we are hosting two in-person services at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., and will be moving to one service at 10:00 a.m. in mid-April for the duration of spring and summer. Read more about our typical Sunday service here.
Online: Prior to the pandemic, we audio-recorded the weekly sermon and posted it to our website's sermon page. During the pandemic, we learned to use Zoom meetings, pre-recorded services on YouTube, and live streaming to Church Online Platform to reach our congregation at home. We currently live stream our in-person church service to Church Online Platform, and then post the sermon on our YouTube channel and on our website.
Responding to the Heart of God; Transforming the Heart of the City, the Nation and the World
At 314 Johnson Street, Bethel Church is located in historic downtown Kingston, within walking distance of the shores of beautiful Lake Ontario. We are in a highly-accessible location along a main downtown thoroughfare and bus route, just two blocks from the city’s main east-west artery and one block from a north-south artery that connects to Highway 401. However, Johnson Street is a one-way street so be sure to turn the correct way out of our (very small) parking lot!
Kingston is located where the St. Lawrence and Catarqaui Rivers meet Lake Ontario, which has been an important location for Indigenous peoples. Kingston's European settlement dates back to the late 1700s and became the First Capital of the United Canada in 1841. Much of this history can still be seen downtown in the beautiful limestone buildings, many of which are designated as historical buildings. New developments have also been added to the downtown core, giving the area an interesting architectural blend of past and present.
Bethel is in close proximity to Queen’s University and the business centre of the city. Within walking distance are Queen’s, two hospitals, stores, restaurants, coffee shops, banks, office buildings, businesses, sports fields, parks, other churches, schools, multiple-family dwellings, and single-family homes. Although there are long-time residents in the area, because of the proximity to Queen’s, many of the homes near Bethel are rented by students living in off-campus housing.
The accessibility of Bethel to students from the Royal Military College, Queen’s and St. Lawrence College, many of whom live within easy walking distance of the church, has made it, for many years, the evangelical church of choice for students.
The largest percentage of residents in this neighbourhood are aged twenty to twenty-nine. Primarily because of the student status of many residents in Bethel’s neighbourhood, there is an almost equal mix of those not in the labour force and those who are. Of those in the labour force, the highest percentage work in health care, followed closely by those in education, law, social, community and government services. More than half of the residents of this neighbourhood are university-educated. English is the language predominantly spoken in Bethel’s neighbourhood.
Artist: A.R. Cooke (1999)