In 1839 with fewer than five hundred people of color residing in the City of Detroit, the seed for Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was planted and nurtured by fifty Black Detroit citizens known as “The Colored Methodist Society”. The Detroit Common Council, known for encouraging religious worship activities, donated a site on Congress Street near Woodward Avenue for the Society to meet. A few weeks later a second building on Hastings and Coghan (Monroe) Streets, was donated.
The Colored Methodists Society chose to be governed by the principles of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination and on May 10, 1841, they became the founding members of Bethel A.M.E. Church. Later that year, the congregation moved to Fort Street, near Beaubien, to a building formerly known as Military Hall. In 1847, the growing congregation built a new edifice on Lafayette and Fort Streets for $2,300 and in 1889, constructed a new house of worship on Napoleon and Hastings Streets for $24,500. Over time, the Colored Methodist Society became a part of the workings of the Underground Railroad. In 1871 Ebenezer AME Church emerged from Bethel to become the second AME Church in Detroit.
By the early 1920’s, Bethel’s membership had flourished to over 2,000 and so had its influence within the Detroit community. Bethel offered the use of their facility not only for worship, but as a forum for prominent speakers and advocates. It served as a concert hall for popular entertainers and a meeting place for community and civic organizations. For the third time, the people of Bethel purchased property for $40,000 on the corners of Frederick and St. Antoine Streets erecting a spacious new edifice with an adjacent parsonage. The $250,000 structure was dedicated on June 7, 1925.
In 1930, under the pastorate of Rev. William H. Peck, The Booker T. Washington Trade Association was founded in Detroit. The association dedicated itself to supporting and promoting African American businesses, businesspersons, and other professionals. In addition, the Fannie B. Peck Credit Union, the first Black state-chartered credit union, in the United States, was chartered and successfully served the members of Bethel for 79 years.
In the early 1970’s, Detroit city planners chose to construct a boulevard cutting through the middle of the Frederick and St. Antoine property. Bethel’s congregation, under the leadership of Rev. Maurice Higginbotham, secured a prestigious and more visible site bordered by East Warren Avenue, I-75 (Chrysler) Freeway, and St. Antoine (Richard Allen Boulevard). In December 1974, Bethel’s current modernistic structure, designed by the renowned Black architect Nathan Johnson, was dedicated at a cost of $1.5 million.
Bethel continues to remain a beacon in the City of Detroit and stands prominent in its rich history. Bethel has participated in community outreach ministries including The Wilberforce Club, the Interfaith Youth Dialogue project with Temple Emanuel-El, Bethel Enrichment Summer Team (B.E.S.T), BAMEC Square Dancers, Nurses Guild, Angel Tree project, Food and Friendship, Zeta Phi Beta’s Stork’s Nest, Alcoholics Anonymous, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, NAACP, Agape (Liturgical) Dancers, the William H. Peck Scholarship Committee, Noel Night, Health Fairs, The Ministries Beyond the Wall Ministry, The Hope Ministry, Forgotten Harvest and much more!
With 182 years of existence, Bethel A.M.E. Church has a long, rich, and impressive history, producing one Bishop, three Presiding Elders and has nurtured scores of men and women who were called into the ministry.
Under the leadership of our current pastor, Rev. David R. Jarrett, Sr., Bethel A.M.E. Church is committed to serving the parishioners and community with the spirit of God’s love! We look forward to growth, to extending our hearts and a helping hand to those who will come and to a newfound resurgence of what God has in store for Bethel.