Bethlehem Church is located just above Saxapahaw and the beautiful Haw River Valley. It was founded in 1822 by the Rev. Elisha Mitchell (a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, for whom Mt. Mitchell is named) and eight other men. The following January, James Morrow provided land for the purpose of raising a church building. James and his brother William Morrow II, were instrumental in raising the Bethlehem Meeting House. Had you observed the region's growth you would have seen that by turns of both piety and love of liberty, the Presbyterians in western Orange County advanced the ideals of American democracy through the pursuit of learning, decency, and religious freedom.
At Reconstruction's beginning in 1865, church members encouraged freed slaves to join the congregation; and by 1867, 21 African Americans were members among a total congregation of 60 communicants. Sunday school at Bethlehem included 50 "Freedmen" by enrollment; and many babies and children of the newly freed were presented for baptism.
Early efforts to support education in the local community begin with raising funds to support earnest youth at school; including Bingham School founded by William Bingham who worshiped at Bethlehem Church from 1845 until his death in 1865.
Today, the congregation at Bethlehem looks with expectation to our 200th anniversary in 2022. We are wrestling with what it means to be the body of Christ in the 21st century. As our world continues to change, we seek to remain a congregation that like the tree in Psalm 1 puts down deep roots into living water which yields its fruit in season.