Today I opened my old high school scrapbook in search of the address of the church I attended as a teenager. I wanted to learn what happened to Bethany Baptist Church and hoped to find a photo for my article at the new Catholic genealogy blog, CatholicGene. Unlike Catholic churches that tend to stay put for decades, protestant churches are inclined to come and go with their aging congregations.
Bethany Baptist Church in Whittier, California was a big church for its time when my family attended in the 1960s and 70s. We had two Sunday morning services, Sunday School, evening service, midweek service, and activities everyb day of the week. It’s gone now, the members merging into other local congregations, moving away from the area, going on to their heavenly reward.
Protestant church properties are often re-purposed. Sometimes they are converted to restaurants, homes, or theaters. Our old church property remains a church community and is now home to Zoe Christian Fellowship where dance and music are a regular part of the worship service.
I did find the address on Mills Avenue in Whittier, but I found something even more important to me. Securely glued to the construction paper page I discovered my original baptism certificate. I might have missed it, except for my handwritten note, “I am baptised, finally!” Inside a plain envelope was a 30-page religious booklet copyright 1906, 35th printing 1966, What Saith The Scripture? And buried within the pages, was the handwritten record of my baptism and church membership.
This is probably the only surviving record of these milestone events, and I nearly missed them. Our church was not a part of any large district where records would be maintained, and I have no idea what happened to the church records when Bethany dissolved.
My mother’s baptism certificate is a lovely large-size “real” certificate — it looks important. My grandmother’s is printed on a 5 x 7 card and was overlooked in a box of miscellaneous paper ephemera for years. Sometimes old records hide in the most unlikely places. If you’ve been missing a religious record, look again. You never know what you might find.