History of Bethel Free Church

In 1880 to 1900 the Railway Mission were setting up ‘Mission stations’ throughout the country in response to the needs of railway workers and their families, who wanted to be able to hear about God and worship Him in a place that fitted their lifestyles. This meant sometimes arriving, or leaving a meeting half way through, possibly dressed in their working clothes (sometimes smelling of smoke, Steam Engines and grime). Workers of all grades would come with their families when they could, dressed how they could.

The Leeds branch of the Mission was started in June 1893 on 18th Avenue, New Wortley (now Third Avenue) in an old private School where in continued to hold meetings and be called the Railway Mission until 1980.

But, because all the railway sheds in the area had been closed down in the 1960’s and moved from Armley to the Neville Hill Depot; and the railway workers and their families were moving away as the whole area was being redeveloped it was agreed that the Railway Mission would hand over the property (or more accurately its replacement) to its Members.

Those attending at the time came from all walks of life and they decided to re-name the church:

  • Bethel - which means house of God
  • Free - because we are independent of any denomination
  • Church - a group of people getting together to worship God

The first service was held on 1st June 1980, some 87 years after the Railway Mission had first opened its doors, but the official opening of Bethel was 4th October 1980.

Since then Bethel has seen many people come and go as they move into and out of the area, but the central message that God’s love and salvation is for everybody regardless of class, background or job, who will put their faith in Him, has remained the same