There is no doubt as to the age of he old Congregational Church, now
Bethel Community Church. The corner-stone, laid April 17, 1890, is still very
evident near the Center Street entrance.
J.O. Jennings, longtime president of the First National Bank, led the group
that organized the local church. The rest of the men on this committee included
G.W. Urie, Martin Mason, U.S. Shelly, J.C. Sloan, and George H. Topping. The
cost of the church, including the lot was $16,000. The seating capacity was 500
people, according to the Ashland Advertising Gazette, published in 1896. The first
pastor was the Rev. S.B. Hershey from Ashtabula.
Shortly after the church was completed, the parishioners planned to build a
parsonage nearby. The house at 308 Center Street, on the west side was built on the
land either donated or purchased from neighbors on each side. It was completed in 1896, the year after Center Street was paved with brick.
The size of the congregation at the church had decreased over the years, and it was difficult to keep a pastor. When the First Presbyterian Church burned on December 3, 1933, the church council offered
their sanctuary. The Rev. Harold Andrews served both denominations. By 1936 the new Presbyterian Church was dedicated, many former Congregationalists united with the Presbyterian Church.
The Peace Lutheran Church had outgrown their church at the corner of Broad and West Main Street and bought the new vacated Congregational Church in 1944 at a cost of $4,750. Much repair and remodeling had to be done including digging out the basement area. By September 9, 1945, they were ready for their dedication. Charlie Buchanann was in charge of renovation.
Henry Guth donated the stained glass window in front of the church. The windows on the sides and at the Center Street entrance
were also replaced with stained glass as memorials to church members. On September 2, 1982, The Peace Lutheran Church relocated in their educational wing of their new church on Smith Road. By 1985, the
sanctuary was opened.
Meanwhile, the church on Center Street was eventually purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Earl Hawkins, who deeded it to the Ashland Community Arts Council. After the closing of the Arts Center in 2007, Ezekiel Church purchased the building, bringing the structure back once again to
a place of worship.