Worshipping God and establishing a spiritual relationship based on the teachings and studying of the Holy Bible illuminated by the Holy Spirit set the explicit standards for the purpose of this church. The history of New Bethel A.M.E. Church reveals its uniqueness from its simplistic beginning to its triumphant existence today.
As a bush tent, the founding fathers established Bethel A.M.E. Church located at 3754 Old Charleston Road; Johns Island (Red Top Subdivision), SC 29455 in the year 1888 of the Lord, deeded in the year 1908, and recorded in the County of Charleston, 1965. The land was given in two portions. The rear portion was given by Francis and Sarah Bennett and the front portion was given by the Robinson and Blake families.
Tellers of this church’s story recall the first permanent structure as a wooden building having a balcony constructed with a choir loft housing a foot-petal pumped organ. Church worshippers sat in the balcony as well as on the first floor of the sanctuary. Eventually, the choir area was moved from the balcony to the left side of the first floor of the sanctuary facing the pulpit; then, to the position it now resides.
Important to the church and for communities’ support systems, the bell from the tower tolled as a method to assemble individuals to disseminate information and/or to alert others as a call for assistance.
In its various stages of evolution, this church served the community in several capacities. Members of the church taught rudiments to those persons desiring to learn. Mrs. Mary Washington’s name remains prominent among those teachers.
Also in the early 40’s through the early 50’s Bethel A.M.E. Church functioned as a community clinic providing health care using resources from Charleston County Health Department and their doctors, and local midwives from the community — Mrs. Mary (Mamie) Dayson. Mrs. Camilla (Tonkey) Bowles, Mrs. Clara Fludd, and Mrs. Evelyn (Sophie) Brown.
One of the strategies to facilitate the church’s efficiency was the utilization of the circuit. Bethel was a member of the circuit with two other churches: Graham AME Church on Wappoo Road and St. Mary AME Church on Bear Swamp Road. On the first and third Sundays of each month the pastor held services at Graham AME Church, second Sunday of each month the pastor held service at St. Mary AME Church and the fourth Sunday of each month service was held at Bethel AME Church. The three churches had joint quarterly conferences which rotated between the church. Quarterly conference services were held during morning worship.
Contributing to the spiritualism and empowerment of Bethel, a list of Christians warriors, astute ministers, dynamic presiding elders, and erudite bishops enabled these authentic occurrences.
Some of the earlier warriors who contribute to the spiritual and financial growth of the church were Richard Sharper, Susann Devine, Mary Murphy, Susan Brown, Susie Collins, Moriah Gethers, Francis Bennett, Thomas Brown, Virginia Gardner, Sarah Ford, Sarah Brockington, Mary Fields, Mary Washington, John McCullough, Joseph Black, Richard Deas, Evelyn Brown, Herbert Blake, Hattie White, Louise Ford, Bessie Parker, Pearl Heyward Brown, Sarah Lucas Smalls, Freddie McNeil, Mike (Eastman) Heyward, Snow McKnight, Ruthell C. Blake, James Brockington. They served as stewardesses, trustees, class leaders, Sunday school teachers, Sunday school superintendent and church sexton.
These members combined their pragmatic approaches in applying their gifts to render service in expressing their love for God and Church: Allen Poinsette, Chester Wright, Esselene F. Waring, Elizabeth V. Heyward, Mazaline Waltkins and Birdie Mae McKinley Hart.