In 1986, a Dutch woman, Maria Blom, received a God-inspired prophecy that there were to be three projects set up in Birmingham. These were to be called: Gilgal, Jericho and Bethel and the first of these was to be located in a specific building in Small Heath. Gilgal was established as a women’s refuge at this location in 1994; Jericho began its life as an advice service for unemployed people but later became a social enterprise in 1998 in Balsall Heath, offering paid work experience with training for the long-term unemployed. Two other projects grew out of Gilgal and Jericho; these were called Stepping Stones and Good Neighbour Centre. The vision for Bethel was not given until 2001; it was to set up a healing and healthy living centre in Birmingham’s inner city, with a two-pronged ministry: healing and healthy living.
Initially a network of Christian organisations with a similar vision was piloted during 2001-4. Each of these 30 organisations was supporting people with needs, through prayer and/or counselling or rehabilitation. Bethel facilitated meetings of these organisations, to enable them to share, support and pray for one another and a directory was also produced, listing the activities of 30 organisations. In 2004, Bethel was formally established in its own right, by setting up a steering group, with the purpose of providing services which were not covered by the other organisations in the network. This group became a management committee with trustees in 2006, when Bethel Health & Healing Network registered as a company limited by guarantee (May 2006) and a charity (September 2006).
During 2004-2006, various activities were piloted or developed; these included healing services, counselling and prayer ministry. Various forms of prayer ministry were reviewed, including Ellel, theophostic (TPM), Safe Place Prayer Ministry and Bethel Sozo ministry.
In 2006, a partnership was formed with the Azadi Trust and PNM (UK) Ltd., to offer a parish nursing service, based at Azadi House in Sparkbrook and offering health advice there for the local community. Out of the parish nursing ministry of Mary Carroll, a new project was formed – the Doula Project – the aim of which was to provide support to isolated pregnant women, mainly asylum seekers. This project received 3-year funding from Comic Relief in 2009. The work was later commissioned by Birmingham South Central Clinical Commissioning Group (BSC CCG).
During 2010-11, a healthy-living project was established in Small Heath with funding from the People’s Health Trust. This project offered a Bhangra Dance class for women and a ‘Walk for Wellbeing’. Although successful, this project was discontinued, as funding was only for one year. A counselling service was also established at about the same time but stopped in 2015, with a view to reviewing whether a ‘Listening Service’ might be more appropriate.
Initially based in Sparkbrook, as the services grew and developed Bethel’s office base was moved to Balsall Heath in 2015, to be located with a partner organisation, the Jericho Foundation.