Bethel A.M.E. Church was founded in 1902 with Rev. DeShields as its first pastor. It is the sixth oldest organized religious institution in the Village of Freeport.
The first structure was built in 1910 on Henry Street, near Sunrise Highway under the pastorate of Rev. William Edwards. In 1924, it became necessary to move the church and parsonage. This was done by placing the buildings on rollers and hand moving (by men of the community) along Sunrise Highway to Helen Avenue as told to me by my father, Shavis Colter Sr., one of the movers, and also Stanley Chambers, a mover and former Church Historian.
When it became apparent the the church had to be moved again, a building fund was established by Rev. Harold F. Berry and continued by Rev. Beresford Barrow. This Move was accomplished under the dynamic leadership of Rev. S. Frank Emmanuel, who was appointed to Bethel in 1968. Bethel found a new home in 1974 at its present address, 420 North Main Street. "We have moved from Old Jerusalem to New Jericho", I often heard this coming from the Late Sis. Rosa Corse, a Trustee. I can remember the over-flowing crowd of worshippers sitting on the folding chairs in the sanctuary and into the vestible every Sunday. Rev. Emmanuel organized Bethel's Senior Citizen Center, and the Cathedral and Chancel Choirs. The Children's Choir was directed by Mrs. Margaret Emmanuel. Rev. Emmanuel also started the Acolytes serving every SundayIn 1978, Rev. Joseph Robinson became the spiritual leader Bethel. Under his guidance the existing church mortgage was liquidated. More pews were added to the rear of the sanctuary. His feet washing ceremony of the Acolytes during Easter week was his pride and joy. Rev. Robinson formed the first Boy Scout Troop here at Bethel. During his pastorate, Bethel was given recognition by the State Legislature for its outstanding service in our community and county.
In 1986, Rev. Simon P. Bouie was assigned to Bethel. During his tenure Bethel became computerized. A chair lift was installed for the elderly and handicapped. Two houses and a van were also purchased.
Rev. Harry J. White II was appointed in June 1994. His task was the lowering of the church debts, which was greatly appreciated by all the parishioners. While serving here, Rev. White achieved many accomplishments; The Bethel Bible Institute and The Burning Bush Ministry. Other ministries included; The Annex at 100 North Main Street, The Women's Ministry, The Healing Ministry, Evangelist Department, The Liturgical Dancers, The Youth Program (JAM-Jesus And Me). He re-established The Senior Program, established The Bradford Boardman Library, and the Radio Ministry. Rev. White's own creations are the two brick structures displayed on the front lawn. One of them is the two hands reaching upward with the inscription- "My Help Cometh From The Lord Which Made Heaven And Earth", Psalm 121:1-2.
Now at the beginning of this New Century, we look forward to even greater achievements. We look to our Youth as the leaders of our church in the future!
Bethel...The Church Fulfilling It's Vision..."TO GOD BE THE GLORY!"
About Bethel AME Church
Over two hundred years ago, African American worshippers at St. George's Methodist Church in Philadelphia were pulled from their knees during prayer by white worshippers. Richard Allen, one of the African Americans, asked that they be allowed to finish prayer and they then would leave and trouble St. George's no more. Prayer ended before the commotion did and Richard Allen led the African Americans out of St. George's Methodist Church. The year was 1787. In the days that were to come, Richard Allen and those few men and women founded the church that became the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The new congregation worshipped in a blacksmith's shop that Allen purchased with his own money. Allen, who later became Bishop Richard Allen, preached in the blacksmith shop, with an anvil as his pulpit, a doctrine of self-help. He taught the people that they should rely on God and their own resources to make a difference in their lives, their church and their community.