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Bethlehem Baptist Church continues to expand

Date: 3/2/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

HAMPDEN -- Bethlehem Baptist Church is a church of growth. The reason it moved from Springfield to its current location at 216 Allen St. was that it needed more space for all its worshippers. Now, it needs more space again.

We ve tripled in size here, Brian MacLeod, senior pastor, said. We re on five acres here, and we ve been thinking of expanding at this location...but it would be nothing but building and pavement. It would be very urban.

That s why Bethlehem Baptist Church has decided to relocate down the road to the old Simkins Farm property at 119 Allen St. The land is made up of 31 acres, one-third of which is designated at wetlands.

We spent many years looking at what to do, MacLeod told Reminder Publications. We started talking to the owners of the farm a few years ago. In the summer of 2008, the owner of the property sold it to the church at a cost of $425,000.

The proposed new 32,000 square foot church would be able to hold up to 600 worshippers and would feature open space to gather and classrooms. The estimated cost for the new building, designed by WPH Architects for Ministry in Penndel, Pa., is $5 million.

We re planning on building a building, but sadly, we need to tear down or move the barn and house that currently sit on the property, MacLeod said. It s a lovely old farmhouse.

The church is looking for someone interested in moving the Simkins Farmhouse, which is more than 100 years old, within the next few months. The church is prepared to give this home to someone who would, at their own expense, relocate the house to his or her own lot.

MacLeod said Bethlehem Baptist is looking for its congregation to increase its giving to help pay for the new church as well as find someone who would want to move the farmhouse.

We ll have a capital campaign starting soon, starting in March, MacLeod explained. Pledges will be tallied at the end of the five-week campaign.

The pastor added that those who attend the March 14 service at 5 p.m. will receive a 16-page brochure, outlining what the church s plans are for the project.

This is a mixed blessing, MacLeod said. It s a good time to build because costs are lower, but it s a bad time because people are anxious [because of the economy]. It s an exciting time, a busy time, an intense time.

Bethlehem Baptist s expansion to a larger plot of land and larger sanctuary could happen as quickly as next spring, according to MacLeod.

Anyone interested in the Simkins Farmhouse or learning more about the new church project should call the church s office at 566-5572 or visit