Bethesda / History


During the year 1944 the Committee of the Gospel Standard Aid and Poor Relief Societies began to discuss the possibility of helping elderly people from our chapels who were no longer able to care for themselves and had no relatives or friends to look after them. Great concern was expressed about the welfare of our elderly friends who have lived all their lives according to Christian principles being compelled to spend their last days in the uncongenial atmosphere of secular old people’s homes.

The matter was originally brought forward by Mr. John Raven, then Chairman of the Gospel Standard Committee, and as a result a sub-committee was formed to examine any suggestions that might be made.

On 28th July 1944, this sub-committee met for the first time and the Gospel Standard Bethesda Fund was formed, the name Bethesda, which means “House of Mercy”, being taken from the Gospel according to John, chapter 5, verse 2. In his preface to the first edition of the Bethesda brochure, which was issued in 1951, Mr S F Paul, at that time Secretary of the Fund, stated: “In the case of the Lord’s people, who have been separated in heart and spirit from ‘the world which lieth in wickedness’, it may well be an added affliction to be taken from their homes and compelled to live with others who have no fear of God before their eyes; and the worldly influence and atmosphere of a public home would be distressing to them in their latter days. It was with an endeavour to remedy this that the Committee of the Gospel Standard Societies conceived the idea of establishing homes for the aged and infirm friends connected with our Gospel Standard causes of truth, so that they might be favoured in their declining days or times of affliction, to dwell with those who are like-minded with themselves, and to be cared for in a spiritual as well as a home-like atmosphere.”

This has always been Bethesda’s aim, and it is for this reason that certain forms of entertainment (such as television) are not permitted in our Homes. Some control may be exercised over other forms of entertainment and recreational activities. It is the sober, godly atmosphere that makes our Homes so attractive to the elderly people for whom they are provided, and it is the desire of the Bethesda Fund Committee that this may still be preserved.

The first Bethesda Home was opened at Redhill in 1948. This Home remained open for forty years until in 1988 it was converted into six flatlets for elderly people from Gospel Standard chapels wishing to live independently but with help on hand should it be needed. There are now two Bethesda Homes situated at Brighton and Hove (East Sussex)and Harpenden (Hertfordshire).