They met in homes and various other places, including a community center, before building a basement which became their church home for several years. Finally, in 1949, with assistance from the general (national) church, and through many fundraising efforts by the members – such as selling dinners – the cornerstone was laid and construction completed for a church building at the corner of 12th and Liberty Streets. An addition was dedicated in 1984.
During the years from 1939 to 1968, Bethel was a part of the Central Jurisdiction, a segregated unit that was instituted to govern most Black Methodist Episcopal Churches, regardless of locale. Our Bishop was located in St. Louis, Missouri, and our Presiding Elder was located in Chicago, Illinois. In 1964, the Central Jurisdiction was abolished, and in 1968, Bethel Methodist Church, formerly Chicago District, Lexington Conference, St.louis Area, and Central Jurisdiction, became Bethel United Methodist Church, Flint District, Detroit Conference, Michigan Area, North Central Jurisdiction. The name “United” was added as a result of the merger between the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren.
Bethel United Methodist Church remained as the only African-American congregation of this denomination north of Oakland County until 1975, when the E.l. Gorden Memorial United Methodist Church was established by the Detroit Annual Conference. Throughout the years, we have been actively connected to sister congregations, as well as enjoying warm relationships with churches of various other denominations. For many years Bethel was involved in shared ministry with the Southside Ministries while located at 12th and Liberty, and we remain a part of Black Methodists for Church Renewal congregations across the nation.
In 2011, we celebrated 90 years of mission and ministry, and we paused to commend the leadership of several long-serving pastors who were shepherds on our Christian journey; The late Rev. Donald E. Morris, Sr, 14 years; Rev. Dr. Russell McReynolds, 18 years; and Rev. Alonzo Vincent, 14 years. Two outstanding pastors who preceded them were Rev. Arthur Davis and Rev. William Teague, both now deceased.
We also commemorate the date of October 6, 2002 when Bethel United Methodist Church’s history began a new chapter as we left one home and entered another, in Jesus’s name. When the Alpha Service was held on that date here at 1309 North Ballenger Highway; we were afforded the opportunity to create new traditions while honoring those memories from the Omega Service at our former location.
In July of 2005, history was again made when Rev. Dr. Tara Sutton was appointed as Bethel’s first female pastor. Rev. Dr. Sutton has since moved on to become the District Superintendent of the Crossroads District, of which Bethel is a member. She left a legacy, and paved the way for our newest female pastor, Rev. Faith Timmons. You can read more about Rev. Timmons by clicking here.
As we continue to serve the Lord in making Disciples for Jesus Christ, we are thankful for the vision of that small group of believers in 1921 – laying the foundation for our trust in a loving and faithful Creator – through 90 years of the Kingdom Building”. To God Be the Glory …
June Smiley Perkins,