Resulting from a meeting held on Nov. 7, 1859 in St. Matthew's Church, the Halifax Sabbath School Association of the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia in connection with the Church of Scotland was formed. The following summer, the Northwest Arm Sabbath School opened on July 22, 1860, using the Dr. Cogswell Schoolhouse (the schoolhouse occupied the site of the present day St. James Anglican Church). In 1862, an unfortunate misunderstanding led to the loss of the Schoolhouse. However, on December 31 of that year, a room in a stone mill by the Arm was offered, and regular worship resumed. Increased attendance by 1863 brought the necessity for a new building, but subsequent loss of attendance in 1864 to the new Episcopal Church put these plans on hold. Regardless, in 1866, the Building Committee decided to proceed with a budget of, but not exceeding, $1,800. Land was donated and construction completed by August 13, 1867 on a location 'Beautiful indeed for situation is Mt. Zion, the joy of the whole earth' - Rev. G.M. Grant. (This original building still stands today on Fairmount Road, overlooking the Armdale Rotary and Northwest Arm; it has since been converted to a private residence, but much of the exterior architecture remains).
The Northwest Arm Mission prospered and, in the winter of 1896-1897, took several progressive steps. The mission was transferred from the Sabbath School Association to the Presbyterian Church of Canada. The name 'Bethany' was formally given at the evening service of May 2nd, 1897, and the hymn, 'When the Lord to Bethany Comes', was sung heartily by all.
In 1925, Bethany joined the church union after a large majority vote. However, it suffered the loss of several members as a result. Yet, despite this loss, a new place of worship was required and, on December 8, 1928, the new church was opened, located at the foot of Joseph Howe Drive. The second church still stands and has recently been renovated. A new hall was built in 1947, and the old hall was incorporated into the main body of the church in 1952.
Again, growth in the congregation required a new place of worship, and on September 14, 1958, the present Sanctuary was dedicated. (It is located behind the Joseph Howe Drive Church, facing Clinton Avenue).
The Joseph Howe Drive Sanctuary has served many functions since 1958 when it was retired as the main sanctuary for the Bethany United Church congregation. It has served as a chapel, a daycare, and a space for Sunday School classrooms. By the 1990s, it had fallen into disrepair and efforts were started to rejuvenate the building to better fulfill the needs of the congregation. Renovations commenced in 1999 and were completed in May of 2000, providing a hall (the Fellowship Hall), a modern kitchen and the church office. The woodwork and stained glass window of the Joseph Howe Drive Sanctuary has been meticulously restored and incorporated into a new chapel located beside the present sanctuary – a reminder that Bethany has had many blessings from its beginnings as a Sunday School to the congregation of today: a faith community ready for the challenges of the 21st century.