124 Years and Counting
The Lord continues to do wonderful and marvelous things for his people at the Star of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church. Thanks to our founder, the late Father Henry E. Duers and to the leaders that have followed, the history of our church which is a story of perseverance.
In 1889, the late Father Henry E. Duers of Windsor, NC, was residing in Yonkers doing missionary work. He willingly and diligently accepted the call to minister to the people of Ossining. Father Duers started a mission in Ossining, with a Sunday Bible class and a Wednesday evening Prayer service that regularly met in various homes in the community until the late Mrs. Annie Larkins offered her home as a regular meeting place for the Mission.
In November 1890, anniversary services were conducted at the First Baptist Church in Ossining where they celebrated their 100th year of the church. On November 12, 1890 Father Duers and the members of the Mission participated in the celebration. It was during the service that our church was recognized as an institution of God. Since the Christmas holidays were quickly approaching, Father Duers appropriately named our church The Centennial Star of Bethlehem Colored Baptist Church which began with nine (9) chartered members. Today our church is known as the Star of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church.
Under the leadership of Father Duers, the church family grew spiritually and numerically, leading to the need for a permanent house of worship. With constant prayer and strong belief that God truly takes care of those who love his Word, the Masonic Building on Spring Street was secured and worship services were held. In 1892 the first church was built at 148 Spring Street, where worship services were held for over 100 years.
Under Father Duer’s leadership, all indebtedness was paid off, including the mortgage on the church. One of the first contributions came from Mr. William Rockefeller, Mr. and Mrs. V. Everett Macy and Townsman, George W. Cartwright to name a few. The Citizen-Sentinel newspaper believed the liquidation of the mortgage debt of the church on Spring Street, between Broad Avenue and James Streets would be a fitting tribute to the Pastor’s thirty (30) years of work in Ossining. Under the guidance of this wonderful leader, Father Duers had a strong belief that his mission on Earth was human service and loyalty to mankind. Father Duers labored not in vain.
In memory of his powerful legacy, the Village of Ossining named a square in honor of Father Duers originally located at the intersection of Broadway and Brandreth Streets. This memorial was later relocated to Nelson Park. In 1924 Father Duers retired however remained active in the church and community until his death in 1940.
Following Father Duers pastorship, we had nine (9) pastors; Reverend Alexander A Cook, Reverend John J. Banks, Reverend Robert W. Washington, Reverend W. H. Skipworth, Reverend Julius W. Cofield, Reverend Gordon E. Henderson, Sr., Reverend Andy C. Lewter, Jr., Reverend Sherman R. Tribble and the illustrious, Reverend Dr. Arthur. L. Lewter.
In September 1993 Rev. Dr. Arthur L. Lewter became our tenth (10th) and he was not a stranger to the Star family. He had served as our Fall Revivalist for over 13 years. As our Pastor, he came to the Ossining community with great enthusiasm, energy and expertise. Under the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Lewter led this branch of Zion to higher heights. Among the highlights of his leadership Star ordained twelve (12) deacons, three (3) of which are women, consecrated fourteen (14) deaconesses, ordained two (2) preachers and licensed four (4) ministers as well as the naming of official church mothers. In 2011, the church acknowledged historical leadership with the first woman chairperson of our Deacon’s Ministry. Beginning in 2012, the Beacon Light of Westchester held a Community Block Party. The members of Star reached the community in a fellowship of music, food, games, testimonies and witnessing to the goodness of the Lord.
Through Pastor Lewter’s leadership, we held our groundbreaking ceremony for our new edifice on July 7, 1996. On May 3, 1998 our celebration parade was led by Pastor, First Lady Beverly Lewter, officers, leaders and members from 148 Spring Street to our new edifice at 304 Spring Street. “Truly this is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.”In 2008 Pastor Lewter led the church in beginning our Mortgage Burning Project.
Pastor Lewter’s vision for the church is to do more for the community led to an increase in the days of operation of our soup kitchen (Wednesday thru Friday), as well as our Wednesday’s Message and a Meal Service at 12 Noon.
The Star has been the place of celebrations of weddings, baptismal, new members receiving the right-hand of fellowship and Baby dedications. Star has truly stood over the years as the Beacon Light of Westchester, serving as a place of worship and praise to our Savior, a teaching house for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Star has served as a support system to those who celebrated home going services of loved ones, benevolence to others and fellowship among those in the house of faith.
In December 2012, Pastor Lewter announced his retirement due to his health issues. At that time, the Star Family planned a year-long celebration in honor of his leadership. Celebrating two decades of pastoral leadership and four decades of preaching the Gospel.
In February 2014, the church elected and consecrated a Pastoral Search Committee. As we move forward in preparing for the new undershepherd that God has ordained for us, the Star family is staying in prayer, in study and together in love. We trust God to give us a Pastor after his own heart to continue to build on our great legacy. To God be the Glory for the Great Things Ye has done!!
After 20 years at Star, Pastor Lewter leaves a rich elegancy of teaching us, reproving us, correcting us, correcting us and instructing us in all things pertaining to the righteousness of God. We are a Blessed people and we know God will lead us through this transitional period in our church history. "The Apostle Paul encourages us with these words, Eyes hath not seen, nor ears heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9.
The history of our church is an exemplary story of perseverance and undying faith which remains today.
To God Be the Glory for the Great Things He has done !!!