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Church History

founders

The Historical Perspective


Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) was organized in August 1864, in what was then known as Camp Hamilton, New Tabb’s Field by Father Peter Sheppard. Father Peter Sheppard, who was a local preacher in St. John A.M.E. Church, Norfolk, Virginia, and six lay persons, Sisters Caroline Segal, Sarah Parker, Brothers Merrit Thomas, James Segal, Thad Peeden and Randall Gooden were instrumental in organizing the new church. The group built a house of worship on Oak Street, now Wine Street, in the City of Hampton. After several years of ardent and persistent labor, a lot was purchased, and the first brick church was erected on Lincoln Street in 1887. After 85 years of service, and numerous repairs and additions, the present sanctuary, pastor's office, classrooms, choir room and other office space was erected in 1972 under the pastoral leadership of the late Revered R. W. Wisner.

Realizing the need for greater expansion, an annex housing a fellowship hall, a modern kitchen, ladies and men's rest rooms, and storage space were added to the structure under the pastoral leadership of Reverend Leon B. Hall, Sr., our 45th pastor. These additions enhanced our ability to render ministry to the community.

During its early history, Bethel organized three churches: Butlers Farm A. M. E. Church in Hampton, Ebenezer A. M. E. Church in Phoebus, and St. Paul A. M. E. in Newport News. Butler Farm A. M. E. ceased to exist and Ebenezer A. M. E. Church was destroyed by fire. However, St. Paul A. M. E. Church survived and today is one of the outstanding churches in the Virginia Conference.

Bethel has entertained six sessions of the Virginia Annual Conference: the 13th in 1879, the 46th in 1912, the 95th in 1961, the 104th in 1970, the 120th in 1986 and the 139th in 2005. Twenty-seven Bishops, numerous Presiding Elders and 47 Pastors have served Bethel over its years.

Bethel experienced many varied accomplishments during its 143 years of continuous service as the only A.M.E. Church in the city of Hampton. The most noted are the many souls that have been saved, the high spiritual elevation of the church and the many members called to Ordained Ministry.

Bethel A.M.E. Church is a leader in the Virginia Annual Conference. Since 2005, we have hosted nearly every major meeting organized by the Second Episcopal District, including the inaugural Sons of Allen Retreat in October 2007. We thank God that He showers His blessings upon us enabling us to be a blessing to many smaller churches in the Virginia Annual Conference both spiritually and financially.
pastor2 Our 47th Pastor, The Reverend André P. Jefferson, Sr., came to us in July of the 2001/2002 Conference Year. He came with an attitude of love, compassion and inclusion. He is a man of God who declares Jesus is his reason for living. He has established as the focus for this year “Arise and Build” (1 Chronicles 22:9, Nehemiah 2:20). Consecration, Preparation, and Dedication will lead to Celebration! Reverend Jefferson is doing a marvelous job as Pastor. There is a sweet, sweet spirit in Bethel Church. New members continue to join this congregation and inactive members are reuniting with the church. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with him as Pastor.

Bethel is known as "The Church with a Smile." Our doors are open for community meetings and special attention is given to the needy, senior citizens, youth and families. Now in our 144th year, Bethel is called by God to live out our Church Motto: "God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother."