BETHEL GOSPEL CHAPEL, MONTREAL, CANADA
In the early years of the twentieth century a number of immigrants arriving from the United Kingdom who had met in simple fashion to worship the Lord in the ‘Old Country’, started to meet in the same way in the storefront of a building situated at 2481 St. Antoine St., Montreal. They were known as ‘Plymouth Brethren’ and their meeting place as the ‘Gospel Hall’. This was actually one of the first assemblies in the province of Quebec. They met for breaking of bread and gospel preaching and over a period of time their numbers increased. They started a Sunday School on Sunday afternoons which attracted some of the children of the neighbourhood.
Just as believers came to Montreal from Britain, so too did some arrive from the West Indies, via Nova Scotia, and joined the testimony. Over time other Afro-Canadians became Christians and came into the fellowship of the assembly. A good number of the British brethren soon set up another testimony in another part of the city. The name ‘Bethel’ was added and Bethel Gospel Hall became predominantly West Indian. The numbers were small but the brethren were faithful; it was not congenial to meet during the bitterly cold winter months.
In the 1940’s and 50’s, through person to person witnessing and special gospel efforts, many folks of African descent were saved, baptized and added to the assembly.
One outstanding evangelist who held meetings at Bethel was Mr. B. M. Nottage, one of the four well-known Nottage brothers from the Bahamas. The brothers were instrumental in building up many assemblies in the USA. Brother Nottage’s labours bore much fruit; many professed faith in Christ under his ministry.
The late 1950’s brought many more young believers from the West Indian islands augmenting the number in the assembly. Youth activities also drew many to the testimony.
Montreal was the venue of the 1967 World’s Fair, better known as Expo ’67. To prepare for this event many properties were expropriated by local government to construct an expressway. The rented assembly building was one of them. At this time the Lord provided space in a local community centre where the testimony was temporarily housed for five years.
The city of Westmount, within Montreal, is one of the most affluent municipalities in Quebec. It has been the place where many prominent businessmen and politicians lived. A quaint church building was erected there by a group of Baptists well over a hundred years ago for their meetings. They sold it to another group and the building changed hands a few times by groups whose numbers had grown too large for the building. Bethel had been looking for a building of its own for a long time. In the spring of 1972 this church building, located at 4250 de Maisonneuve Boulevard. West, in Westmount, became available. Bethel purchased it and it became Bethel Gospel Chapel; the change of name had to do purely with government dealings.
This edifice, a three-storey structure, accommodates 250 people in the main auditorium where the floor is gently sloped and the pews curved. There is also a large balcony. To provide more space, particularly for youth activities, a basement was excavated some fourteen years ago. The renovations done at that time also included suitable facilities for serving food at the annual three-day Thanksgiving Conference. The trusses which are of timber were reinforced with steel. There are Sunday School classrooms, a nursery and caretaker living quarters. The acoustics are excellent. Absolutely no alterations can be made to the façade of the building as it is deemed a heritage building.
The Lord has richly blessed the assembly throughout the years. The number in fellowship has remained around one hundred, although because of the language situation in the province of Quebec, for economic reasons many young members have emigrated to Englishspeaking parts of Canada, mainly Toronto. By today’s standards, the Sunday School, Friday Youth meetings and Vacation Bible School are very well attended. Those who, with the help of the Holy Spirit, directed the assembly in its early days have all passed into the presence of the Lord. The present leadership continues to follow the New Testament pattern and trust this will continue unto the appearing of our blessed Lord.
Visitors to Montreal will be warmly welcomed at the assembly.