Bethel Healing Home
Bethel Healing Home
The year 1898 marked a turning point in Parham's ministry, and a new environment for the young Parham family. It was then, on Fourth and Jackson Streets in Topeka, KS, when Parham opened his Bethel Healing Home. Bethel's mission was to provide a temporary resting place for those needing to receive divine healing and grow in their faith, as Parham believed the later was necessary for the former.
The target demographic for the home included the two-thirds of unchurched residents of Topeka, and those ill or disabled. Bethel was inviting to all denominations, and intentionally scheduled its services and Bible studies around other church services in Topeka to avoid interference. The average stay for visitors to Bethel was two weeks, and they accepted visitors from out of state.
Morning and evening prayer, Sunday school, and what Parham called Sunday morning "holiness" were offered weekly. Parham's Healing Home also included employment matching that linked Christian employers and employees, a temporary orphanage service, and was home to Parham's Apostolic Faith publication. Printed on the last page of the January 1900 edition of the Apostolic Faith is a cost for lodging in Bethel; "$4 to $7 a week, unless they are worthy poor when other arrangements will be made".
In opposition to the poor medical services and physicians available at that time, Parham was in a good position. His services to those in desperate need were free. If the healing failed, it was simply evidence of the individual's lack of faith, not the credentials of Parham. If the healing succeeded, it helped spread Parham's notoriety. Other than the financial burden of this operation, there was little to lose for Parham by way of reputation.
Parham's Work Outside Bethel Healing Home
In addition to the multilayered ministry within the confines of Bethel, Parham was also active in the social welfare of Topeka's poor and homeless. Parham's efforts included working to convert, house, and find employment for prostitutes in Topeka, working with Topeka's Industrial League to secure vacant land and seed for the poor to plant vegetables. Also, on New Year's day, 1900, Parham feed three hundred homeless Topekans. He also attempted to raise funds to send to famine-stricken India. He advertised and requested funds for his various ministries and welfare projects through his Apostolic Faith publication.
Apostolic Faith Publication
The Apostolic Faith publication served as an advertisement for Bethel and other Christian services in Topeka and around the country. Sarah Parham describes the publication as one that "was filled with wonderful testimonies to healing and sermons containing the teachings of the Home" (Parham 39). These testimonies served as advertisements for Bethel and its services, as well as a form of fundraising and recruitment. It was also lauded as a publication without "any tobacco advertisements in it, nor anything that defiles" (Parham 41).
This publication was not unique in the religious landscape of the turn of the century. Many periodicals within the Holiness movement were being published, and many of the articles in them were published in Parham's Apostolic Faith. The publications are evidence of the influence that reached Parham and shaped his doctrine in years to come.
The paper was originally published weekly, but soon it was only able to survive as a monthly paper due to financial difficulties. Parham's hope that the paper would help cover the costs of Bethel not covered by lodging expenses soon proved ineffective. Although it was mailed as far as New Orleans, it was not as successful as Parham hoped. Parham eventually halted production in 1900, only to reviving his publication later in Baxter Springs.
Click here to read Parham's Apostolic Faith publications.
Financial Struggles and Failing Health
Parham soon lost interest in his ministry at Bethel. There were clues that Parham was in need of something more in his ministry. First, the financial situation at Bethel was unsustainable. The Apostolic Faith, a $500 startup venture, was originally a one dollar yearly subscription which was published weekly, then monthly, and finally bi-monthly at a discounted rate of fifty cents.
Since his time at Bethel, his family grew to five, a daughter and a son both born within their time in Topeka. After a nervous breakdown in 1899, continued health problems, a lack of expected success, and financial difficulties, Parham needed something else in his life. To reset, he delegated his responsibilities to two Holiness preachers working for him, and pondered his next career move.