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Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church – founded 1878 50 South Merion Avenue
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
625 Montgomery Avenue
Bethel was started as a mission in 1878, in the residence of John Hooper, a local minister. Although his wife was an unbeliever and his children were untrained in Christian doctrines, he conducted services in his home. Along with his friend George Barrick, they followed the form of Methodism, established by Richard Allen, a former slave, who had formed his own church in Philadelphia. Allen was the first Bishop to be elected and consecrated as head of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Hooper and Barrick held services wherever they could until Hooper's death two years later. Barrick carried on the services, with some help, for a year, until he was joined by Samuel Curtis. The main meeting place was at Dusty Hall on Buck Road, Haverford, although economic circumstances compelled them to move from place to place. Having ninety dollars in their possession, they attempted to purchase a plot at White Hall in Haverford. But the minister needed the money to support his family, so the group lost possession of the ground.

After an appeal to the Philadelphia Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, for the assignment of a minister to serve the mission, the Reverend J. B. Hill was sent in 1888. In the absence of a parsonage or church building, Pastor Hill, his wife, and their seven children, moved from place to place. Barrick and Curtis persisted and in 1878, were able to secure the piece of land at 50 South Merion Avenue. Here they founded Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church which now houses the oldest black congregation on the Main Line. The church added a community center in 1973.

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Because all authentic records of the founding of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Ardmore, have been destroyed, information has been obtained from people associated with the founders. Their accounts vary. Thus, there are three versions of the founding of Bethel. This account is based on Sunday school records substantiated by parallel facts of the founding of other AME churches in the area.


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