Bethel AME Church Hosted the 150th Session of the Florida Annual Conference
By Christal Searcy and Bre-Shara McCall
Senior Staff Writer and Outlook Writer
Early in the morning on Sept. 15 hundreds gathered in a small barricaded area on West Orange and Wanish Way to celebrate the start of the 150th Session of the Florida Annual Conference at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Florida.
They stood near Bethel AME to celebrate the conference’s start with a parade courtesy of Florida A&M University’s Marching 100 Pep Band. Leading the parade was Bishop Adam J. Richardson, along with members of the conference and the FAMU Marching 100. Voices filled the air as everyone sang out loud to “Every Praise.”
Immediately following the parade, Bishop Richardson gathered the crowd near the entrance of the church to share a few words about the historic occasion.
“In the early days, following the Civil War, concerts and festivals and picnics were favored activities sponsored by the AME Church – Bethel AME Church to be particular.” He then went on to quote historian Robert Hall. “ ‘One African Methodist gathering, was like a parade.’ ” Richardson paused as he looked up at the crowd, who began clapping and cheering. In his closing, he left the audience with these faithful words, “the doors of the church are still open and the best is yet to come.”
Richardson then called Rev. Dr. Julius Harrison McAllister, Jr., pastor of Bethel AME Church, to the lectern.
“This is a signature moment in the life of the church,” McAllister said. “One hundred fifty years where mothers and fathers were faithful to the call, they were committed to their faith in God and they knew they were setting a solid foundation that we would ultimately have an opportunity to build upon.”
Dana Boykin, ordained deacon and member of the 11th Episcopal district, started off the week saying she was looking forward to a full week of exciting events.
“I’m looking forward to ordination services, opening night, closing nights and Friday night when the pastors receive their appointments.”
The annual conference is an opportunity for the people of the church to listen to informative reports, attend inspiring seminars and enjoy fellowship.
Rev. McAllister said he appreciated the gathering personally, because this also marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Bethel AME Church.
“This meeting is especially meaningful because we pause to remember how 150 years ago, recently freed slaves came together in faith to start a Church and thus an Annual Conference devoted to the uplift of Christ and His people,” said McAllister, Jr. “Now some 150 years and more than 100 churches later, Florida Annual Conference is still uplifting God and His people.”
The Tallahassee community and prominent figures came out to celebrate and appreciate this historic occasion. FAMU President Elmira Mangum was greeted with the Rattler’s signature hissing.
“It’s always great to be in the house of the Lord,” she said. “The annual conference is truly a remarkable event. It’s remarkable because 2,000 people from 140 churches came here to celebrate the organization’s 150 years of service.”
“To the people of Florida and to the community I admire your theme intentional about ministry because I am certainty intentional about my ministry and purpose for being at Florida A & M University,” added Mangum.
Congresswoman Gwen Graham, D-North Florida, shared her appreciation for being at the event in a gratifying speech.
“I credit the amount of love and support that I received in my efforts to have an opportunity to represent this district to the absolute best of my abilities. I’m gonna thank y’all for all that you do for service to your communities and for helping every day because I feel that same mission inside of me,” said Graham.
“Thank you for all that you do and I believe as a member of Congress my responsibility is to follow y’alls lead to do what helps people, to do what serves people and to make a difference in people’s lives by making the right decisions,” added Graham.
The 150th Session of the Florida Annual Conference continued with an opening worship service on Sept. 16 and a closing worship service on Sept. 18.