Our Mission Statement
To know Christ and make Christ known.
Our Vision For the Future
New Bethel Presbyterian Church is a community of believers who have served God and His people for over 235 years and who continue to seek to know Christ and to make Him known in a fellowship of love, worship, and service.
Our Church History
"The Church in the Forks"
Tennessee's Historic Pioneer Congregation
Initiated under the leadership of the Reverend Joseph Rhea in 1777
Organized by Presbytery under the leadership of the Reverend Samuel Doak in 1782
Serving Christ and His Church for over 235 years, the New Bethel Presbyterian Church remembers its treasured history as it moves forward in its service to God.
Our congregation was founded by Joseph Rhea and organized by Samuel Doak. The Rev. Dr. Joseph Rhea laid the foundation for our congregation after visiting this area in the 1770's. As a chaplain in a military campaign to restore the peace between area Indians and pioneers, Rhea fell in love with East Tennessee and decided to make this his new home. He returned to his Maryland home, and he convinced his family and many members of his Piney Creek Church to move with him to Sullivan County. While many families made the move in 1777 and 1778, Joseph Rhea died before making the trip and never got to live in Tennessee. The settlers became a congregation without a pastor or building. It became known as the Church of the Forks, so named because of the proximity to the confluence of two rivers.
The Reverend Charles Cummings visited East Tennessee briefly in April 1777. He urged the settlers to build a house of worship, which they did. The house of worship was completed in July 1777, but was destroyed by Tories in 1779.
The Rev. Samuel Doak (1749-1830) moved into East Tennessee and began his ministry with settlers in Sullivan County and throughout the area. He is regarded as Tennessee's first minister. Unlike Rhea, Cummings, and others before him who simply came into Tennessee for brief mission visits, Doak was the first minister to make his home in Tennessee. Considered our state's great evangelist, Doak established 25 churches. Theodore Roosevelt once wrote of Doak as walking behind an old gray horse loaded with a sack full of books, crossing the Alleghenies along the blazed trails to the Holston settlements. The stern, God-fearing preacher became a powerful influence for good. Doak completed the work started by Rhea when, under his leadership, Presbytery officially organized the Church of the Forks in 1782. At that time, Doak gave the church its name by recalling the Bethel Church at Staunton, Virginia, where he had first preached.
In keeping with Doak's priorities, a school was also organized with the New Bethel Church. James Gregg, Sr., one of the elders on the session, served as the first teacher in this first school of Sullivan County. A portrait of Samuel Doak hangs in New Bethel's narthex. He had always refused to sit for his portrait, but two of his students conspired and engaged him in conversation while an unseen artist sketched his likeness.
Log cabins served the congregation until 1873 when the present sanctuary was built. The brick was made on site. The bell was shipped from Philadelphia.
The graves in the churchyard date from 1790, when an unknown traveler was found on the grounds at the church. The fallen stranger's horse was still with him, and in a saddlebag was a small stone inscribed with the letters "I. G." The small stone became the stranger's grave marker.
With a treasured history, the New Bethel Presbyterian Church continues to serve God. We are moving into the future with an excitement and joy.
We believe the holy scriptures of the Old and the New Testament are the Word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience, and that acceptance of God's standards and values offers to the world an authentic Christian counter-culture.
We believe in the one and only true God, one in essence and three in person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who executes His decrees in creation, providence, covenant, redemption and justice.
We believe in the forgiving grace of God wrought in Jesus Christ’s atoning work and the regenerative ministry of the Holy Spirit for those who repent and believe.
We believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.
We believe in the sanctity of life.
We recognize God’s sovereign power, grace, and mercy.
We believe that New Bethel Presbyterian Church wants to be a disciple-oriented family of faith and is pursuing that goal.
We affirm the essential tenets of reformed theology.
Our nine elders that meet monthly, work to lead and serve the church. We are a Bible-based congregation that offers Sunday School classes for all ages, a women’s circle, and church-wide Bible study. We have an Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Christmas Eve communion services, plus communion on the first Sunday of each month during the regular church service. Our church participates in community Easter Sunrise and Thanksgiving Services. We also support Grandfather Home for Children (as part of the Children's Hope Alliance) and our Presbytery Camp at Banner Elk, NC. We have an on-going food pantry and the food is taken regularly to support our community food bank and Haven of Rest in Bristol, TN. We join with the community for Vacation Bible School every summer and a special Decoration Day near Memorial Day. We support "The River" ministry in Johnson City and we also fills shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child, each Christmas. With a treasured history, the New Bethel Presbyterian Church continues to serve God after 235 years and is moving into the future with excitement and joy.