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Bethesda church to ring in its 250th anniversary

For 250 years, Bethesda Presbyterian Church near McConnells has remained a vibrant congregation.

Established in 1760 and chartered with the Presbytery in 1769, the current brick building was erected in 1820 and is the oldest in York County.

Today, the church will celebrate its semiquincentennial with guest speakers at the 11a.m. service, followed by a state historical marker unveiling and covered dish lunch.

The Rev. Charles Edward Raynal III, who counts among his ancestors members of the Bratton and Erwin families who founded the church, will speak at 11a.m. Raynal recently retired as director of advanced studies at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Raynal's grandfather, Frank Dudley Jones, wrote "History of the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina Since 1850." Raynal is writing a work that begins where his grandfather's ended. It's titled "Presbyterians in South Carolina, 1925-1985."

Also speaking during the service will be Winthrop history professor and York Mayor Eddie Lee.

Harold Walker, 78, has been a member of Bethesda for about 40 years. He joined the church after getting married and found he had four Revolutionary War-era antecedents buried at Bethesda's cemetery.

"Bethesda is one of the 'Four B's,'" Walker said, referring to the four earliest Presbyterian churches in York County: Bethel, Bethesda, Beersheba and Bullocks Creek. "Alexander Love, who named the county, is buried here."

Also buried at Bethesda is Col. William Bratton, a Revolutionary War hero who defeated the British forces at the Battle of Huck's Defeat, also known as the Battle of Williamson's Plantation.

While the 250-year history of the church includes many fascinating facts, church secretary and member Cheryl Hughes credits the church's longevity to the welcoming nature of the 256 active members.

"I joined because the people are so warm and friendly," Hughes said. She and her family moved to Rock Hill from Ohio six years ago and joined the church about four years ago. "They made me feel welcome from the first day I started working here (six years ago). It's a great place to raise kids in the church."