On Sunday June 1, 1969 Bethesda Temple of the Apostolic Faith was organized. At that time Bethesda shared a building with another ministry located at 2520 Memorial Drive, S.E., Atlanta, Georgia. Bethesda’s official members consisted of its Founding Pastor and his family: Bishop Stewart Reese, Jr. (formerly Elder Stewart Reese, Jr.), Lady Navoria, and their children, Stewart III (now Elder and Pastor), Lavoria Denise (now Evangelist Lavoria D. Reese), Bernard Isaiah (remained in Seattle during the beginning stages of Bethesda and now deceased), Norman Elton (now deceased), and Bernita Ann. The shared building became unfeasible and the family began to seek the Lord’s will and direction to locate to other facilities.
Bethesda Temple was reorganized on February 9, 1970, holding services at 453 North Ave, NE, Atlanta, Georgia. Elder and Sister Reese, filled with a burning desire and zeal for winning souls, began a door-to-door campaign in the community. From this campaign approximately thirty students were enrolled in the Sunday School.
In June of 1971, Urban Renewal forced Pastor Reese and congregation to relocate to 180 Pine Street, N.E., across from the Atlanta Civic Center. Through dedication, consecration, prayer and fasting, God set His approval upon Elder and Sister Reese and their ministry. Door-to-door canvassing continued at this new facility. Old and young were invited to Sunday School and church services, and the Lord added to the church by saving souls and bringing in saints to assist in the building of His kingdom through this great ministry.
Once again Bethesda was affected by an Urban Renewal project. However, the $2,500 check that accompanied this project enabled the church to move to 208 First Avenue, S.E., Atlanta, Georgia. By that time Bethesda had eight adult members.
In 1974 the church adopted its motto, “We can! We shall! We will!” Today, this motto may be found in and around the property.
The church building where Bethesda worshipped was literally falling in. So in January 1978 groundbreaking commenced on the construction of the new edifice. On Sunday, October 21, 1979 the new building was dedicated by the late Bishop Benjamin T. Moore with the theme: “We’ve come this far by faith.”
Bethesda Christian Academy was established in August 1984 and was dedicated to “Excellence in Education” for children of the community. After being in service for seven (7) years, the school consisted of an Early Childhood Learning Center for infants to preschoolers and an Elementary Academy for 1st to 10th grades.
In 1986 the church purchased thirteen (13) acres of land at its current location on Austin Drive in Decatur, Georgia, a major transitional period for the Pastor and Congregants. The Lord was with the congregation as they worshipped at Snapfinger Elementary School, a rented Church Building on Shamrock Drive, and in the Red and White Tent that was located on the new Bethesda property.
The decision was made to develop the property in three (3) phases. Phase I consisted of the Fellowship Hall, Administrative Offices, Paved Parking Lot, and Landscaping. The first service was held in the Fellowship Hall on November 28, 1991, Thanksgiving Day. Phase II was completed in September 2001 and included the beautiful Sanctuary and Balcony (seating capacity 1800-2000), Offices, Bookstore, Prayer Chapel, and many other amenities. In 2001 Bethesda Temple officially changed its name to Bethesda Cathedral of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. Should the Lord tarry, Phase III of development is slated to include recreational facilities and a home for the elderly. We give all praise to God for this time of physical and spiritual growth in Him.
The Lord is Faithful and through the devotion of our Founders, Suffragan Bishop Stewart Reese, Jr. and Lady Navoria Reese, the congregation of Bethesda has flourished and continues to be anointed. Bishop Stewart Reese, Jr. has consistently been recognized and honored throughout the community. Still, it takes a dedicated and spiritual man of God to follow the leading of God’s Spirit. After experiencing numerous health challenges, Bishop Reese retired from his position as Pastor. In the spring of 2011, Bishop Reese appointed his son, Suffragan Stewart Reese, III as Pastor of Bethesda Cathedral of the Apostolic Faith, Inc.
Prior to his appointment as Pastor, Suffragan Bishop Stewart Reese, III served as Assistant Pastor of Bethesda Cathedral, Church Administrator, President of Austin Drive Community Development, and Assistant Teacher of the New Member’s Class.
Under his leadership, Bethesda continues to thrive, with souls being added to God’s Kingdom weekly. In June 2011 the church celebrated 42 years of ministry. In fall 2012 the Austin Drive Community Resource Center opened on Glenwood Avenue. Today the center provides food, clothing, GED classes, a Parenting Café, summer camp, and many other community services.
Elder Stewart Reese, III, with First Lady Wanda Reese at his side, continues to preach the unadulterated Word of God, proclaiming God’s power, love, and saving grace. He leads the church in its sponsorship of revivals, conferences, retreats, and numerous other enriching programs and activities. He is also well-recognized throughout the Community and is often called upon to minister and teach.
Under the leadership of Pastor Reese, Bethesda began Live Streaming during Watch Night Service December 31, 2013. Our Sunday Morning services continue to be Live Streamed from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. Elder Stewart Reese, III has been instrumental in developing a greater forum for ministerial training and participation. In 2013 all ministry leaders and staff were presented with a certificate in recognition of their service and a catered lunch was prepared in their honor. On February 9, 2014 ministry and auxiliary leaders participated in a competitive Ministry Fair. During this fair, Bethesda members connected with and signed up to participate in various ministries in the church.
Elder Reese has continued to encourage and support programs and activities such as the Women’s Annual Prayer Breakfast; Mothers’ Day Essay Competition; Kidney Walk; Quarterly Community Family and Friends Dinner; and Evangelism through Austin Drive Community Development.
In 2014 Pastor Reese was instrumental in the success of the Easter Egg Community Extravaganza, Striving for Excellence Conference, the Fall Festival and Hallowed Night of Praise, and the Toys for Tots Campaign.
We are confident that with such a strong leader at the helm, the vision of our Founding Bishop and First Lady will continue to be realized. Even more, God’s plan for Bethesda Cathedral of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. is sure to flourish as souls are Baptized in the Name of Jesus, filled with the precious Gift of the Holy Ghost, and carry out the Great Commission, first to our own community and then to the world.