In 1935 Rev. Leo R. Murphy and his wife (Helen) accepted the call to pastorate Bethany. Many ministries were developed during their leadership, and Bethany was recognized as one of the “outstanding” Black churches in New York State and in Area V of American Baptist Churches. Some of the highlights of their Pastoral service included:
- A great increase in membership
- Establishment of eight (8) missionary circles
- Creation of the Women’s Union
- Burning of the church mortgage in September 1944
- Establishment of the Men’s Fellowship
- Purchasing of another Parsonage
- The formation of the 100 Voice Choir
- Creation of special programs to reduce the church’s debt
- The ordination of Rev. Albert Rowe on June 16, 1962.
In 1964 because of Syracuse’s City Urban Renewal Project and the building of highway Route 81, Bethany Baptist Church, with sadness, worshipped for the last time on East Washington Street on July 17, 1964. Bethany purchased a new home of worship located at 601 Irving Avenue. Bethany’s new church homes’ edifice was larger with seating for seven hundred (700) people and a Fellowship Hall with seating for three hundred (300). The sanctuary was redesigned with the added construction of a baptismal pool in the sanctuary.
Bethany members had their first service in their new home on July 24, 1964. Rev. Murphy and his wife, church officers, choir, Sunday school children and members marched through the city singing praises from our previous location on East Washington Street to Bethany’s new location on Irving Avenue. Bethany members celebrated the day with Rev. B.C. McCarley, Pastor and congregation of St. John’s Church of Buffalo, New York. On November 24, 1964 Bethany’s new home was formally dedicated.
After thirty-seven (37) years of dedicated service, (1935 – 1972) the longest pastorate of any of Bethany’s ministers, Rev. Leo R. Murphy and his wife (Helen) retired. Rev. Murphy and his wife enjoyed a successful fellowship marked by a well community established church that was free and clear of debt.
After Rev. Murphy’s retirement, a Pulpit Committee was chosen to select another leader for Bethany Baptist Church. Their search led them to Rev. Robert Rasberry, Pastor of Mr. Calvary Baptist Church of Springfield, Massachusetts who accepted the call to succeed Rev. Murphy. Rev. Rasberry was installed as the tenth (10th) Pastor of Bethany on November 25, 1973.
Rev. Rasberry came with his wife (Gloria) and his four children (4) Roslyn, Robert Jr., John and Denise. Rev. Rasberry was gifted with a rich record of Christian service, sound academic background and Pastoral experience.