BRAWLEY — The New Bethel Baptist Church of Brawley marked its 100th anniversary Wednesday, June 2, having originally opened in 1921.
The church was presented with a resolution of congratulations by the Imperial County Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting Tuesday, June 8.
Pastor Joe Conner of the New Bethel Baptist Church has been the pastor of the church for over 30 years and said he was proud to accept the resolution.
“It’s a gratifying moment for the church and just a testament to the hard work the church has done over the years serving the community of Brawley,” said Conner.
Conner has been involved with Bethel Baptist for a long time, with his own father being the previous pastor of the church before him. He called the milestone huge.
“Some businesses close within 5-to-10 years and here we are, 100 years later, still doing the same thing, still carrying on the main mission,” said Conner.
Pastor Conner said the church went through several difficult periods in its century of existence, having been forged in an era where African Americans were rarely afforded the opportunity to own businesses, wealth, or property. Conner said it spoke to the symbolic nature of the church that the church originated under those kinds of polarizing circumstances.
The church also weathered the turbulent era of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and the congregation was brought even closer together as a community, according to Pastor Conner. Conner said the main mission of the New Bethel Baptist Church is to lead and guide and serve the community through the teachings of Jesus Christ to obtain spiritual transformation.
He said he gets phone calls all the time from people he doesn’t’ know, but all of them offer their thanks for helping improve their lives.
“He called me in tears and said, ‘You saved my life,’” Conner said about an individual who called to thank him and the church.
According to Conner, at least a decade had passed since he had seen the man. Conner said the man thanked him for not kicking him out even though he was under the influence.
“‘You didn’t judge me, you didn’t ask me to leave, and I remember that sermon to this day and it changed my life,’ he told me,” said Conner.
Conner said it’s phone calls like those that let him know the church is having an impact on people’s lives.
“The people that we would say, the marginalized, the people that have been ostracized, those people that are dismissed as drug addicts and hopeless — well, our message is different. As long as they have breath in their body, they have hope. We’re hope-dealers man, we deal hope,” said Conner.
Bethel Baptist will not hold its formal celebration until later this year on December 12 to allow for more individuals to attend following COVID guidelines.