The history of Methodism in Ona began around 1803 when Rev. William Steele, a traveling preacher, was sent to explore this part of Virginia. Ten years later, a camp meeting was held on the site where Bethesda would be built. With Bethesda’s continual movement to stay within the connection of Methodism, it has not shrunk from change. The most recent change came in 1968 when the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church united giving us our present name: Bethesda United Methodist Church.
It is interesting to look at all the ways our church has changed and yet stayed the same. Bethesda’s steeple has been seen perched atop a hill in Ona on the same site since 1839. The church’s history dates as far back as 1804. The first Methodist’s in the Howell’s Mill area first met in homes and were served by many circuit riders.
The notion of maintaining the balance between continuity and change has not been only in our name, but also in the actual church building. The original building, a log structure, was completed around 1840 and housed both Methodist and Presbyterian communions. The next incarnation of the Church was a frame structure built in 1875. That building served both groups until the 1890’s when the Presbyterians moved to Milton. That structure served Bethesda until 1982 when our current brick building was dedicated. Change and Continuity is a theme of Bethesda. We still have picnics with fried chicken and chocolate cake, and we still work and play hard to serve God and community. Yet, the most important constant about our little church atop a hill in Ona is that for all who enter here, it is truly “A Place of Peace”.
The United Methodist Church is a global denomination that opens hearts, opens minds and opens doors through active engagement with our world. The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
John Wesley and the early Methodists placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United Methodism today.