Mt. Bethel has a rich tradition of
historic Christian Worship. Part
of what makes Mt. Bethel unique is
its long and active history. We are
standing on the shoulders of
yesterday’s men and women of faith,
who founded Mt. Bethel Baptist
Church over two hundred years ago. The
gospel of Jesus Christ has been
proclaimed from our church since
1767 – nine years prior to the
· 1767-1800 ·
Mt. Bethel Baptist Church began with
eighteen people who lived in Warren
but attended church in Scotch
Plains. Due to the difficulty of
traveling to Scotch Plains for
services, they began meeting in
their hometown under the leadership
of Mt. Bethel’s founding pastor, Rev.
Henry Crosley. The church was
named after its first site, which
was a hill in Warren called Mount
Bethel, located on what is now
called, "Old Church Road." Bethel
literally means “House of God” in
Hebrew. The Mt. Bethel Meeting House
was a small structure (pictured to
the left) which housed a gallery. It
had separate entrances for men and
women and a large sycamore tree in
front of the building, a sacred
biblical symbol of seeking God with
The church’s second pastor, ordained
in 1775, was Rev.
Abner Sutton. He was also one of
its founding members; in fact, the
Sutton family helped establish the
community of Warren. The church grew
rapidly under Rev. Sutton, and
eighty members were added by baptism
in 1785 and 1786, a time of great
spiritual revival in the area. Also
during this time the Meeting House
was disassembled and moved by
ox-drawn wagons from "Mt. Bethel" in
Washington Valley to Stony Mountain
picture on google map). Rev.
Sutton served until he died at age
fifty in 1791, and he is said to be
the first person buried in the
church’s adjacent cemetery.
Rev. Sutton was succeeded by Rev.
Jacob Fitz-Randolph, who served
from 1791-1794, and then Rev.
Lebbeus Lathrop, who served from
1794-1805. Records show that these
pastors’ salaries were still being
paid in pounds and shillings.
· 1800-1900 ·
The church continued to experience
growth under its next pastor, Rev.
John Ellis, who served from
church covenant was
adopted in April of 1813 which bound
its members, among other things, “to
watch over each other… and not to
suffer sin upon anyone… to bear one
another’s burdens, to cleave to one
another and to bear one another’s
weaknesses and infirmities with much
After Rev. Ellis, the church
experienced three years without a
pastor until Englishman Rev.
Mr. Elliot began
serving in 1816. He served until
1818 and was succeeded by Rev.
John Watson, another Englishman
who served from 1818-1826. During
this time there was a building
renovation, and a revival which
occurred in 1822 bringing twenty
more members by baptism.
In 1827, Rev.
Morgan R. Cox became
the eighth pastor and served until
1848. Church meeting minutes from
this time have survived, recording detailed
accounts of church discipline and
revealing the church body’s
insistence on holding each member
accountable; the church was clearly
committed to holiness and spiritual
maturity. During this time the
church experienced two more
revivals, adding thirty members in
1832 and another forty in 1837.
The ninth pastor was Rev.
Edward C. Ambler, who served
from 1848-1851. The Fall of 1850
brought the greatest revival
experienced yet in the area, and 107
people were added to Mt. Bethel’s
congregation by baptism. One of
these converts was David Bird, a
local hotel owner. He had served
whiskey at his hotel for decades,
but after he became a Christian he
and some others decided to roll the
hotel’s barrels of whiskey outside,
smash them, and let the contents run
down the street! Mt. Bethel was now
up to 220 members, and Rev. Ambler
decided it was time to plant a
sister church with eighty of Mt.
Bethel’s wealthiest and most
influential members. The church was
planted across town on the North
side of the Dead and Passaic rivers;
this was the birth of Millington
Baptist Church, which is still
The tenth pastor was Rev.
Jacob Timberman, who began
ministering in 1852. It was during
this time that a weekly prayer
meeting was established as well as a
Sabbath School. However, the
following years proved to be
difficult for Mt. Bethel. Some of
these difficulties included
theological disputes, strict church
discipline issues, and unnecessary
divisions within the church body. By
1854, there seems to have been two
groups meeting in the same church,
Thomas W. Haynes preaching
to one faction in the morning andJohn
to another in the afternoon. A
biography of John Crampton can be
The exact nature and reasons for the
division is unclear, but was
described by the church clerk in
1854: “The church is now destitute
of a pastor, and in a very unsettled
state. Its peace has been disturbed
for several months, and there are
serious divisions amongst us; we who
were weak at the strongest have
become more weak, and now have to
mourn over the desolation of our
beloved Mt. Zion.”
Despite these troubling
circumstances, Mt. Bethel pushed
forward. Several pastors served the
church over the next two decades,
although the exact dates of their
service are not clearly recorded.
They included Rev.
Thomas H. Cole, Brother Taylor,
Andrew Hopper of
Millington Baptist, Mr.
William Pike (who
served from 1862-1866), and
T. Simpkins. The pulpit was
sometimes filled by Rev.
Zelotes Grenell, who also served
at Millington Baptist. Rev. Grenell
held several meetings in 1871 and
1872 where many were converted and
baptized in the mill pond on
Mountainview Road, in the middle of
winter. Of this time we know that
the ice was being broken for
baptisms, and one woman exclaimed,
“Christians, if your heart be warm,
ice and snow can do no harm!” In
later years, the use of the mill
pond for baptisms was replaced by a
baptismal at Millington Baptist
· 1900-2000 ·
After these transitional years, Rev.
Peter Gibb from
Scotland and also of Millington
Baptist Church became the pastor of
Mt. Bethel in 1871, serving until
1911. In his nearly forty years of
ministry at Mt. Bethel, he was
called a “model country pastor.” He
had a deep appreciation of hymnology
and provided singing lessons. He was
described as a popular,
sweet-spirited man who was faithful
to the church. He preached a total
of 6,260 sermons before he passed
away at age seventy-eight.
Following Brother Gibb was Rev.
William H. Mount. He was called
as pastor in 1913 and revitalized
the Sunday School program, serving
faithfully with his wife until he
died in 1931, bringing out nearly
all of Mt. Bethel for his funeral.
Next was Carl
H. Voss, who served from
1931-1933 and organized Warren’s
first Boy Scout troop. James
A. Howell served
next from 1934-1940, during which
time the Meeting House was painted
and repaired, and youth services
began meeting in the evening. In
Dudley Bahrenburg was
called and served until 1946,
instituting the church’s first Good
Friday services and purchasing a new
organ. He was succeeded by Earl
B. Mowen, who served until 1948.
After this, Rev.
Stanley Formanek was
called, and he served as pastor
until he retired in 1965. During
this time, Mt. Bethel severed its
connection with the American Baptist
Convention to become an independent
Baptist church and united with the
Independent Fundamental Churches of
America in 1956. Rev. Formanek
encouraged renovation by fixing up
the balcony and installing new
for a new church building were also
being considered. Then Rev. Formanek
announced a gift of one and a half
acres of land, including a house,
from Hazel, Janice and Leon Zeglio.
Ground-breaking ceremonies for the
new building were held in 1957, and
services began in the basement of
the building in 1959. The new
building was dedicated and Mt.
Bethel’s first indoor baptismal
service was held on Easter Sunday,
April 17th, 1960. As for the Mt.
Bethel Meeting House on Old Church
Road, it is still standing today and
is quite possibly the oldest Baptist
church building in New Jersey. It is
listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
Rev. Formanek was succeeded by
interim pastor Rev.
John Givens of
Scotch Plains. In 1966, Rev.
Floyd C. Alley became
the first full-time pastor and
served for ten years. In 1976, Rev.
Charles Renken, who was a
missionary in Venezuela, pastored
for ten years before returning to
the mission field. In 1987, Rev.
Robert Damrau became
the pastor and served for about a
decade, during which the church
celebrated its 225th anniversary. In
David R. Babbitt began
to serve as pastor.
– Present ·
Dr. Babbitt served faithfully from
1995 until he retired in 2008 to
teach at Liberty
University. He was a diligent
expositor of the Word, and
concurrently served as dean and
professor at Philadelphia Biblical
University. He built into the hearts
of his students a genuine love for
the Word of God. One of his
students, Mike Perna, served as
Youth Director and Outreach Director
at Mt. Bethel. Another one of his
David Hentschel, was called to
serve in the Summer of 2009, and is
our current pastor.
Since its original eighteen members
in 1767, Mt. Bethel Baptist Church
has remained faithful to the call to
preach the gospel and to make
disciples. It has served as a
training ground for new ministers
and is a strong supporter of world
missions. It has remained faithful
to conservative evangelical theology
and has been a constant presence in
the community; but the focus of
history is not about the successes
of any particular church or
individual. Rather, it is about the
triumph of the one true God, through
our Lord Jesus Christ, who is
building His church. On the great,
wide stage of the drama of human
redemption, Mt. Bethel has been
privileged to play a small role. It
is a story of grace and love, and we
pray that the Lord of all history
will continue to find us faithful to
His call and use us for His purposes
in the future. To Him be the glory
forever and ever!
Griffiths, Thomas Sharp, "A
History of Baptists in New Jersey."
Barr Press Publishing Co.:
Hightstown, New Jersey, 1904.
the East New Jersey Baptist
Association, pages 25-31, 1872.
accessed online at http://www.geocities.com/baptist_documents/1872hist_mbbc.html
Newsletter of the Warren
Township Historical Society.
Vol. 1, No. 8, Fall 1992.
Siegel, Alan A. The
Mount Bethel Baptist Meeting
House, Cemetery and Church,
Warren Towship Historic Sites
Committee, Warren Township, New