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Our History 

History of Bethel Tabernacle AME Church 

As one of the first established African Methodist Episcopal Churches in Brooklyn, Bethel Tabernacle has been important not only as a house of worship, but for also embodying the meaning of Weeksville, the 19th Century community which was founded by a group of black freedmen.


Although the cornerstone reads 1847 there is evidence that the Church was organized originally in 1818. Working with that theme it would then suggest that Weeksville organized around Bethel. In 1838, just 11 years after Slavery was abolished in New York State, James Weeks, a Stevedore and a respected member of the community, purchased a substantial plot of land from Henry C. Thompson who was also a free African American. By 1850 Weeksville was the second largest known African American community prior to the Civil War. During those times Weeksville was blessed with a higher rate of African American employment and property ownership than many other US cities.


So therefore it was obvious that the Weeksville community would be a final destination on the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves coming from the south. Again during the New York City Draft Riots of 1863, Weeksville was a refuge for African Americans who fled from racial hatred & violence in lower Manhattan.


At the height of its prominence Weeksville was home to many influential African Americans such as: Dr Susan Smith McKinney-Steward, the first female African-American Doctor in America, Junius C. Morel – a well known Principal of the Colored School # 2, journalist & activist and Moses P. Cobb, the first African-American policeman in Brooklyn’s Ninth Ward.


As of 2018, 48 of Bethel Tabernacle’s Pastors have been identified. Among the Church’s early ministers was the highly respected Rev.  Edward C. Africanus, Bethel’s first Pastor and an early advocate of freed blacks rights as well as abolishing slavery in NY State.  Rev. William H. Rogers, with Bishop Waymans in attendance, laid the commemorative 1847 cornerstone on Oct 1, 1868 for the second wood frame Bethel on this location.

Rev. William Fisher Dickerson who was Bethel’s Pastor in 1878 and eventually was elevated as the 13th Bishop of the AME Church in 1880.


Rev C. P. Coles who served 1925-28 erected the Brick Building on this site. He succeeded Rev. S. H. V. Gumbs who was elevated to the Presiding Elder of Manhattan. Rev Gumbs was returned to Bethel in 1935 by Bishop Sims to heal the great divide that had developed when Rev. L. H. Midgette was Bethel’s Pastor.  He used his own funds to save the church from foreclosure and served faithfully here until his death in 1950.


Bethel continued to be stabilized by the 19 years of Pastoring of Rev. Paul L. Wells in which with all our activities Bethel earned the nick name of the “Bee Hive” church.


During the 1975 Mid-Year Conference Rev. James Hill was appointed as Pastor. Shortly Rev. Hill recaptured the dream of expanding the church and negotiated with the City to acquire PS #83 with the thought of a larger Sanctuary, Head Start Center, meeting space and a sizable dining facility. A few years later we transferred the historic name of Bethel Tabernacle to 1630 Dean Street.


At a critical juncture in February 2006 Rev. Richard O. McEachern was appointed to Bethel and in a few months he had set our course to move forward with our development plans.  Rev. McEachern oversaw extensive renovations that would restore glory and honor to our historic location at 90 Schenectady Ave.


So in late Summer 2018 we have come full circle while we wait on the lord to order our future steps. Throughout the years we have been known as The Bethel Church at Weeksville and Bethel Tabernacle Community Church; Pastors have been appointed & transferred; Members have been born and passed away but it is God we serve.


Bethel Tabernacle, we have come this far by faith and we look forward to progressing in the moments ahead with the help of God our Father, Christ our Redeemer and Man our Brother.

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