Bethel AME continues to stand strong 150 years later
By Kiaira Nixon
Members of Bethel AME are standing on the shoulders of their founder – 150 years later.
Several years after the Civil War, a group of former slaves left St. George Methodist Church in Philadelphia after being mistreated. They went on to form what is now the African Methodist Episcopal church.
Seventy-eight years later and hundreds of miles away in Tallahassee, Rev. Robert Meacham experienced the same struggles the group in Philadelphia once went through. Although, Blacks were now considered freed they were forced to worship in the balcony of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church. Meacham took action by leading 116 other freed men away from the church.
The group constructed its first building on Duval and Virginia Street. The church stayed there until relocating to its current site in 1982. Now, in the heart of Tallahassee’s southside, on the corner of Wahnish Way and Orange Ave, Bethel AME continues to be a pillar in the community earning its place as Church of the Year.
“Bethel A.M.E Church has always been on the caring side of ministry by putting the love of Jesus Christ in action,” said Rev. Julius McAllister Jr., who pastors the current church.
While Bethel’s longevity has made a cornerstone in the community, it hasn’t gone unnoticed. The church was selected for recognition as the Capital Outlook’s Church of the Year for 2015.
Bethel AME has done more than serve spiritual nourishment. Take for instance when it was a popular place for FAMU students to get a meal.
“They had a meals program and a collegiate choir,” said Darryl Jones, executive director of the church’s community developmental corporation. “It was a wonderful welcoming place for a college student and that’s why I joined and been a member now for 27 years”.
Many of the programs that attracted Jones are still in place today.
“We want to show that we are an extension of our faith and an extension of our Christ,” Jones said.
Still growing its outreach programs, Bethel AME created milestones by hosting what has become an annual “Women’s History Program. It provides dinners to college students on the first and third Sunday.
The church also has hosted a health extravaganza that offered free health screenings to over 150 people.
McAllister and his congregation have also contributed to the quality of life in the Bond community, located less than a mile from the church. In 1995, the church started Bethel CDC (Community Development Corporation), an initiative to build and rehab affordable homes in the area. Almost 100 families have benefitted from the program.
“We really believe home ownership is the key to advancement and stability within the community,” Rev. McAllister said.
Bethel AME continues to make a profound impact by providing inspiration and encouragement to all people without discrimination. A Life Recovery Center is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center located on Georgia St. The church hosts a place of residence for addicts while in treatment.
“We try to give them a second chance in life,” McAllister said. “Their current situation is not their final situation,”