Touching People, Transforming Lives
Greater Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church’s (GBMBC) beginnings reflect much of what makes Bethesda unique and distinctive today. In 1882, our 31 charter members strategically chose the name Bethesda, literally the “House of Overflowing Mercy,” to symbolize the promise of God’s transformational restoration for all people who were in need as reflected at the “Pool of Bethesda” mentioned in John 5:1-14.
Since our inception, GBMBC has been a source of respite for those seeking a place of restoration during difficult times. Withstanding the fire that destroyed the church in 1900, the tumultuous Great Migration of African Americans to Chicago during the 1920s, the race-induced bombing of the church in 1925, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s, and the current economic upheaval, Bethesda has served as a station of hope and healing for its congregants and community at large.
Today, the Bethesda legacy continues. We are a hopeful people, and we offer a healing place where the promise of God’s transformation is possible. Our name serves as a guiding light for our ministry outreach. We are touching people, transforming lives, changing families, nurturing children, honoring seniors, developing leaders, and inspiring God-given talents and gifts to positively impact upon our community for Christ.
Transforming Lives through Education
Although Bethesda offers a continuum of ministries centered on spiritual development and social welfare, our most far-reaching impact has been in the area of education. For nearly three decades, the Saturday Free School Ministry has provided tutoring, mentoring, and college admission test preparation, for disadvantaged youth and special needs children. Additionally, our Eli T. Martin Missionary Society has supported over 150 students through the provision of $150,000 in scholarships. Most recently, we extended our educational outreach to include reading and computer literacy classes for adults. At Bethesda, we fundamentally believe that education transforms lives by increasing job readiness, empowering stronger families, improving economic conditions, and overall revitalizing our community.
Touching People through Ministry
Recognizing that all people are made in God’s image and are loved by God, Bethesda reaches across cultural, social, economic, and racial lines with practical acts of love within the church and the community.
- Our Breakfast Ministry provides weekly worship services, prayer, and a Sunday morning meal to the hungry and homeless in our community.
- Our Helping Hands Ministry promotes the independence of our members who are mentally and/or physically challenged by rallying volunteers to do routine shopping, home improvement, and by providing transportation for worship service, personal appointments, and other activities.
- Our Seniors Ministry (also known as Older, Wiser, and Loving Saints – OWLS) provides a weekly time of enriching fellowship, food, fun, and lifestyle/health awareness activities for the elderly in our church and broader community.
- Our Imani Ministry provides a creative, educational, safe, and nurturing environment for children to learn teamwork skills and grow in character though the use of fine arts medium and expression in worship.
- Our Fellowship of Christians United for Service (F.O.C.U.S.) serves our neighbors by providing new and gently used apparel through a community-wide Clothing Drive; offer referrals for housing, medical care, financial, and mental health services through our Annual Social Service Fair; and by hosting a fun, safe day of out-door activities through our youth-targeted SummerFest as a respite to the violence experienced every day.
Touching People through Partnerships
At Bethesda, we believe that holistic ministry that serves the needs of the community demands partnership, networking, and teamwork amongst various organizations committed to transforming the community. As a church, we are actively connected to the community and other social service, civic and academic organizations, including, but not limited to:
- The Washington Park Consortium
- Alderman Pat Dowell, 3rd Ward
- American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago
- Partners for Sacred Places
- University of Illinois at Chicago – The Chance Program
- Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (C.A.P.S.)
- Ada S. McKinley Social Service Organization
- Community Mental Health Council
- Gamaliel of Metro Chicago
- South Side Health Initiative sponsored by the University of Chicago
- National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
- Sororities (Delta Sigma Theta; Alpha Kappa Alpha; Sigma Gamma Rho)
Transforming Lives through Music
Bethesda has a renowned reputation for its music and creative arts ministry. The Sanctuary Choir, anchored by the vibrato of our historic Moeller Pipe Organ, is an accomplished ministry of the church. For 50 remarkable years, we performed George Fredrick Handel’s Messiah as a church in collaboration with many renowned soloists, singers, and musicians in the Chicagoland area. Currently, our Bethesdan Choir is captivating audiences with its extensive musical repertoire of spirituals, gospels, and contemporary and traditional gospel music. Each year, we welcome many members from different faith traditions to sing in our annual production of Glenn Edward Burleigh’s Christmas cantata Born to Die. Additionally, we make our sanctuary, with its extraordinary natural acoustics, available for community performances by local and national artists, as well as college, university and other faith-based institutional choirs. At Bethesda, we appreciate music as the universal language of the soul and as an instrument of transformation.
Touching People, Transforming Lives
Bethesda is more than a place. Bethesda is more than a building. Bethesda is ministry – we are touching people, impacting our community, and transforming the lives of those impacted by the circle of life. Through our education, ministry, partnerships and music outreach efforts, Greater Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church (GBMBC) continues its mission of “Loving Our God, Living Our Name!” Our continuum of holistic ministries, activities, and partnerships address the physical, social, mental, economic, and spiritual needs of individuals – especially the needy, forgotten, and defenseless. We provide an estimated $500,000 in public value to the Washington Park Community.