Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church began in 1839 when fewer than 500 people of color resided in the City of Detroit. From this small group, was organized “The Colored Methodist Society,” which became a part of the Underground Railroad. The Detroit Common Council encouraged religious worship activities and granted them their initial meeting site ... a building on Congress Street near Woodward Avenue. A few weeks later, the Common Council donated another building to the Colored Methodists, located on Hastings and Coghan (Monroe) Streets.
On May 10, 1841, the Colored Methodists decided to associate with, and be governed by, the African Methodist Episcopal denomination and 50 members organized themselves as Bethel A.M.E. Church. Later that year, the Congregation moved to Fort Street, near Beaubien, to a building formerly known as Military Hall. By 1847, the growing congregation managed to build a new edifice on Lafayette and Fort Streets for a total of $2,300. Over time, and after giving birth to Ebenezer A.M.E. Church (1871), Bethel Congregation purchased ground to build a new house of worship on Napoleon and Hastings Streets in 1889 for a total cost of $24,500.
Bethel A.M.E. Church continued growing in numbers and influence in the Detroit community. By the early 1920s, Bethel’s membership had reached over 2,000, and offered their facilities to be used not only for worship, but as a forum for prominent speakers and advocates. It also served as a concert hall for popular entertainers of the era and a meeting place for community and civic organizations. Property located at the corner of Frederick and St. Antoine Streets was purchased for $40,000 and a spacious new edifice, including an adjacent parsonage, were built and completed for over $250,000. This magnificent structure was dedicated on June 7, 1925.
From Pastor William H. Peck, Detroiters saw the formation of the Booker T. Washington Trade Association, an organization for the support and influence of black business persons and professionals. The Fannie B. Peck Credit Union, the first black stated-chartered credit union in the United States, successfully served the members of Bethel for 79 years.
In the early 1970s, Detroit city planners decided to construct a boulevard down St. Antoine that would cut through the middle of our Frederick and St. Antoine property. Bethel Congregation, under the leadership of Pastor Maurice Higginbotham, secured a prestigious and more visible site bounded by East Warren Avenue, I-75 (Chrysler) Freeway, and St. Antoine (renamed Richard Allen Boulevard). Bethel’s current structure was dedicated in December 1974, at a cost of $1.5 million.
Bethel has participated in many 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, a food pantry, 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 and much more!
With 178 years of existence, Bethel A.M.E. Church has a long and impressive history. Bethel has produced one Presiding Bishop, three Presiding Elders and nurtured scores of men and women as they 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 Church and community with the spirit of God’s love!