History of Bethel A.M. E. Church
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
(Excerpts as recounted by John H. Fisher, researched and composed by Michelle Long)
Bethel AME Church was founded in the midst of social, economic, and political change. The Fugitive Slave Law passed in September 1850 allowed escaped slaves to be captured and brought back to their masters. Slave catchers roamed the whole continent looking for black people.
On February 22, 1852, the Rev. George Taylor of Boston, Mass., dedicated the African Methodist Episcopal Meeting House, the Pioneer Meeting House for Negroes in San Francisco. Rev. Joseph Thompson was engaged to serve as minister. The meeting house was a rental that cost $45 per month and was furnished with a pulpit and sixteen benches at a cost of $100. In August of 1852 a lot was leased from the Presbyterian Church on Stockton St. and a new church was finished and dedicated.
In 1853 a new building was erected on the corner of Jackson and Stone Streets. It was named the St. Cyprian A.M.E. Church.
In 1861, a church was purchased from the Grace Episcopal Church at 1207 Powell Street and renamed Union Bethel A.M.E. Church.
Rev E. T. Cottonman was successful in building a new church in 1894. This church flourished until April 19, 1906, when the fire following the earthquake of 1906 destroyed the building. Immediate steps were taken to construct a new building. The cornerstone was laid June 5, 1913.
The church was moved to 916 Laguna Street on January 21, 1945. Union Bethel became Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 1949 - Rev. C. Wayne Love was appointed pastor. He was active in civic and religious community affairs.
During the period 1968-1972, under the administration of Rev. J. Austell Hall, a new sanctuary and an education building were erected. The Bethel A.M.E. San Francisco Credit Union was established in 1969. Under Rev. Hall, plans were made to build a 109-unit senior housing building, Fellowship Manor.
The construction of Fellowship Manor was completed under the direction of Rev. Howard S. Gloyd.
Rev. Cecil Whitney Howard was assigned to Bethel in September 1988. Under his leadership the last mortgage on the church was burned.
Rev. “J” Edgar Boyd was assigned to Bethel in October 1992. During his 20 year tenure, Bethel acquired the Prince Hall Apartment Complex; the Laurel Gardens Housing Development, and the Thomas Paine Apartments. Bethel also offered shelter to homeless families during the winter months and a food pantry ministry providing groceries to needy families.
In a forward move to bring physical accessibility to the Bethel Worship complex, on Sunday, 2, 2010 Bethel dedicated its new elevator and wheelchair lift.
In October 2012 Rev. John J. Hunter was appointed as Bethel’s pastor.
Rev. Philip R. Cousin, Jr. was assigned to Bethel as pastor on May 19, 2013. Rev. Cousin brought with him years of pastoral experience and community leadership to lead Bethel in a new direction.
Bethel welcomed Rev. Dr. Tyrone Hicks as pastor on September 27, 2015. Pastor Hicks promoted unity within the church body as he reminded us that “only what you do for Christ will last”.
On October 1, 2017, Rev Robert Ryland Shaw II was assigned to Bethel A.M.E Church. Known for his creative, metaphorical style of preaching, Pastor Rob believes ministry extends beyond the four walls of the church as he seeks to serve this present age. He is happily married to the Rev. Ann Champion Shaw, his partner in life and ministry who is an Itinerant Elder in the AME Church. They are the proud parents of little Ms. Raven Noel Lovelace Shaw and Master Robert Ryland Shaw, III. As the new “PROUD” pastor of Bethel, he considers this pastoral role an honor and a blessing.
The ministries of Bethel have weathered many social, spiritual and economic storms. Bethel leaves for the next generation, a clear testimony that an active faith in God and a strong belief in the power of unified families will provide the necessary strength to overcome the stiffest of odds. “We can do all things through Christ who is our strength.” Phil. 4:13