Our History

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Bethany Free Presbyterian Church officially came into being in July, 1967. Mr Woolsey Smith, (a founder member of the congregation) takes up the story:  

Woolsey Smith
Woolsey Smith

"In early 1967 it was felt that a Free Presbyterian witness should be commenced in Portadown. Rev. Lawson Barr, the student minister of Armagh Free Presbyterian Church was approached about the possibility of getting Dr .Paisley to have a Gospel Campaign.

After much prayer and consideration, Dr. Paisley was asked if he would come to Portadown to conduct a mission. He readily consented and arrangements were made for the mission to commence in June, in a tent. 

A site was sought and Mr. W. R. Thornton very kindly gave permission for the tent to be erected on his ground at Brownstown Road.


The Campaign got under way from about the middle of June, and enjoyed much blessing, with large crowds in attendance each night.

Over ninety souls professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. 

After the mission, plans were made to commence a Free Presbyterian Church in the town." 

The local newspaper, (the Portadown News), on 7th July, 1967, reported the following, concerning the proposed Free Presbyterian Church in Portadown:

"Addressing upwards of 1,200 people at a close of Gospel rally in the tent on the Brownstown Road on Wednesday evening the Rev. lan Paisley announced that he is opening a Free Presbyterian Church in Portadown.

It will be the 21st to be opened' in Ulster. 

The Church has booked the Town Hall for three months and services will begin on Sunday morning at 11.30 when the preacher will be Mr. Paisley.

Preacher in the evening at 7 p.m. will be the Rev. Lawson Barr, who already has charge of the Free Presbyterian Churches in Armagh and Tandragee and who will have oversight of the Portadown congregation until an appointment is made.

Mr. Barr said he expected "opposition" when the times of the services are made known - they coincide with the times of the local Protestant Churches' services. 

Mr. Paisley stated that plans for the erection of a new Church in Portadown are being prepared." 


On the 9th July, the first service was held in Portadown Town Hall, conducted by Dr. Paisley. Over 300 people gathered for worship, and one soul was saved. The following Lord's Day, another precious soul came to the Lord Jesus Christ.

From that time onwards, the pulpit

Rev Fred Greenfield
Rev Fred Greenfield & Wife (1971)
was supplied with various ministers and students, under the direction of Rev William Beattie, until, in 1971, Rev Fred Greenfield was installed as the first minister of the Church.  



Dr Paisley
Dr Paisley Cutting The Sod
The congregation met in various places, including the Town Hall and Corcrain Orange Hall, and it soon became clear that a permanent Church building was required.

In 1970, the Lord answered the prayers of His people regarding a building, and a sizeable portion of land, situated in Levaghery Gardens was purchased, and the first sod was cut by Dr Paisley, at a special service, on 27th February, 1971.

Rev Greenfield received a call in 1973 to the Mount Merrion Church, in Belfast, and Rev Frank McClelland was appointed as Interim - Moderator.  


In October 1973, the present minister (Rev Kenneth Elliott) received a call for the Portadown Church, and he was ordained, and installed as minister, on 7th November, 1973.

Rev Elliott & Family
A young Rev Elliott & Family (1971)

On Saturday, 31st May, 1975, Dr Paisley performed the official opening of the new Church building, and preached the first sermon in it. Following this, a Gospel Campaign was conducted by Dr Paisley.

From the autumn of 1975, and throughout the next twelve months, a dramatic increase in the attendances occurred. 

Many people were being converted through the preaching of the Gospel, and many were separating from the ecumenical movement and the World Council of Churches.

On 23rd April, 1977, a new suite of rooms was officially opened, which included a main assembly hall. Sunday School rooms and a large Bible Class room.

The Sunday School continued to grow, and in April 1983, another building had to be erected to provide for the children who could not be accommodated in the original Sunday School complex. 

In 1988  an Independent Christian School was launched, giving parents the choice to take their children out of secular-based state education into one where they would be taught in a Christian environment, governed by Christian principles.  


Bethany Free Presbyterian Church has always had a vision for reaching into the community (and farther afield) to bring the message of the Gospel directly to the people.     

Just a few  examples of this, over the years:

In  December  1979, the Church held two special "Bring a Friend & Family Nights" in the Central Markets in the town. Large numbers were present, and at the "Bring A Friend Night" around 900 people were addressed by Rev William McCrea.

In October, the following year, a special march of witness was conducted from the centre of the nearby Killicomaine Estate to the Sunday School complex - over 500 children were addressed by Dr Frank McClelland that day.

First Church Building
Building Before Recent Renovations

Many Gospel campaigns have been held over the years, both in the Church  building and in Gospel Tents - taking the Gospel right into the centre of the community. Young men from our Church been called into the Christian Ministry.  


Men and women have been called into the fields of the world as missionaries to bring the glorious message of the Gospel to those less privileged than ourselves. 



The youth fellowship also holds open air services in the summer months around the town.

More recently, the Family Night Service has been "revived" - on a more regular basis - on the last Sunday of each month. Many great nights have been enjoyed in these Family Nights - with great singing, stirring testimonies and the faithful preaching of the Word of God. We know that the Lord has worked in hearts at these services, as well of course, as at the "ordinary" weekly services.     


The Church has recently completed another major building project on its complex. Extensive refurbishment of its facilities has taken place. At a cost of more than one million pounds, extra rooms have been provided, and the auditorium has undergone a major re-design, and enlarged to almost twice its size.

The re-opening took place in April 2005.

To see photos of the new auditorium and facilities,



To God be all the praise and Glory for all that He has done for us, and for all that we believe He will do for us by His Grace.

"Hitherto hath the LORD helped us." (1st Samuel 7:12)

¦ About Us ¦ Our Minister ¦ Our History ¦ Our Purpose ¦

Motto Text

".. always abounding in the work of the Lord..." 1Cor15:58

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