Unlike other churches of its time that remained active, and from time to time were renovated and improved, Bethel Chapel remains as an historical record of its beginnings.
The great door is designed to symbolize the scripture "I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:9). These doors are portrayed in a painting entitled "Chapel Doors" by the renowned artist, Robert Bateman (1967). To this day, a hand-forged key is used to open the doors.
The original wooden pews have been scraped and painted after being used in the Kilbride Community Hall for some time, and are now in place again on the wide pine board floor.
The unique pulpit has doors on either side of the minister's bench. The fence surrounding the pulpit was a feature in these old churches.
The original wood stove is also in evidence in the Chapel.
There are six windows in this little structure with forty-five panes each. Most are the original.
There is no electricity, so the immediate neighbours kindly allow an extension cord to be run from their home in order to supply electricity for the annual service.
When the 100th anniversary of Bethel Chapel was celebrated in 1953, the Board of Trustees consisted of Gordon Coverdale, Elmer Foster, Arthur Harris, Ross Harbottle, and treasurer, Harvey Prudham.
Many descendants of early pioneers are buried here. The churchyard shows changes over the years in the style of stones. There are elegant stones and there are small ground markers.
There is a handmade stone of local fieldstone. Lawrence Peer made it for his son at the age of twelve years. The heart-shaped stone in the centre symbolizes the love he had for his son.
Regardless of style, through the years each stone has opened the floodgates of memories of loved ones. Even for those with no loved ones buried here, the stones have messages. Although the chapel was not built until 1853, there is a grave for the infant daughter of David and Elizabeth Steuart, dated July 13th, 1851.
John Prudham's great grandson, Harvey, donated more burial space in 1969, which is mainly restricted to families of the district.
The glory of the churchyard is the groves of oaks and pines, which are sprinkled here and there amongst the graves.
The current fence was donated in 1972.
The ramp was built in 2014.
Once every year the descendants return to pray, to sing, and afterwards to wander among the gravestones and think about what life must have been like in rural Halton County in the 1800's. Remarkably, many families still live in the area.
Through the annual service and the generosity of the descendants, the graveyard and the small chapel have been kept in excellent condition. The original walls of lathe were plastered in 1975 and painted in 1976. The walls have been repainted in 1988 and a steel roof was installed in 1993. The Bible of 1866 was restored in 1996. The collection plates have been donated in the memory of James and Olivia Ayton and George and Alice Coverdale..
In 2002, Bethel Chapel received the honour of a Heritage Award from Burlington's Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC), now known as Burlington Heritage. Quoted from the Hamilton Spectator at the time: “Keeping a frame structure like this is excellent authentic condition for 150 years is a testimony to the strength and integrity of many generations – not only its first builders – but also those who have continued to build it anew for the generations yet to come. This past June (2002) a workshop on the Heritage of Ontario Cemeteries was co-sponsored by Heritage Burlington LACAC and the Ontario Historical Society. One of the presentations was a virtual tour of 25 heritage cemeteries in Burlington; of these, none was more admired by the workshop participants than the pioneer cemetery of Bethel Chapel.” The plaque is on display in the chapel.
It is also remarkable that Ron Coverdale has maintained the grounds since 1950. 2014 marks his 65th year of care and love for these very precious grounds.
In 2003, the Board of Trustees consisted of: John Pegg, Betty Essig, Ron Coverdale, Donald Coulson Sr., Bruce Coverdale, Tom Foster and Margaret Coulter.
In 2008, we completed further expansion of the cemetery. The land was donated by the current owner of the old Prudham farm, Mr. J.E. Allan.
The Bethel Chapel is a Designated Property as officially designated in 2015 by the Burlington City Council under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Those sitting on the Board in 2017 are Ron Coverdale, Donald Coulson, Anne Koopman, John Hepburn, Patti Marquardt, Donna McMullen, Bruce Nicholson and John Pegg.